Solid State Storage and the Mainstream
In 2008 I was on a panel at WinHEC alongside other SSD and disk industry participants. The question came up – When would SSDs become the default option rather than a premium? Most answers came in a form of – there are places where both disks and SSDs make sense. When my opportunity to comment came, I replied simply “five to ten years,” which added a bit of levity to the panel where the question had been skirted.
Now that several years have passed, I can look back at how the industry has moved forward and I decided that I was ready to update my prediction. In a part of the market there is an unrelenting demand for additional capacity. There are enough applications where capacity beats out the gains in performance, form factor, and power consumption that come with SSDs to give products that optimize price per capacity a bright future. With disk manufacture’s single focus on optimizing cost per capacity, performance optimization has been left to SSDs. In applications that support business processes where performance and capacity are both important, this is a profound shift that has really only begun. SSDs are not going to replace disks wholesale, but using some SSD capacity will become the norm.
One of the aspects of a market that moves from niche to mainstream is that the focus has to shift towards designing for mass markets with a focus on price points and ease-of-use. After looking at the market directions I reached the following conclusion: the biggest winners will be the companies that make it easiest to effective use SSD across the widest range of applications. I conducted a wide survey of the SSD industry, weighed some personal factors, and moved from Texas to Colorado to join LSI in the Accelerated Solutions Division.
Today LSI announced an application acceleration product family that fully embraces the vision of enabling the broadest number of applications to benefit from solid state technology, from DAS to SAN, to 100% flash solutions. The problems that SSDs solve and the way that they solve them (eliminating the time that is spent waiting on disks) has not really changed, but the capacity and entry level prices points have, allowing for much broader adoption.
Using SSDs still requires sophisticated flash management (which is still highly variable from SSD to SSD), data protection from component failures, and integration to use the SSD capacity effectively with existing storage – so there is still plenty of room to add value to the raw flash. In the next wave of flash adoptions, expect to see a much higher attach rate of SSDs to servers. A shift is taking place from trying to explain why SSDs would be justified, to explaining why SSDs are not justified. In this next phase reducing the friction to enable deployment of flash far and wide is the key.