Solid-State Drive Tech Breaks a Few Records

Faster, cheaper and better? High-end SSDs get more price/performance bang for the buck.
Posted February 11, 2008

Judy Mottl

Pushing the envelope in solid-state drive (SSD) performance isn't anything to scoff at. But industry-watchers are far more excited about the potential impact that Texas Memory Systems' latest results could have in encouraging enterprises to adopt the technology.

The vendor's RamSan-400 SSD product hit 291,208.58 input/output requests per second (IOPS), with an average response time of 0.86 milliseconds -- a record for benchmarking tests conducted through the Storage Performance Council (SPC), a storage industry association and standards body.

Prior to the testing -- aimed at simulating typical online transaction processing environments -- IBM had held the SPC-1 performance record for a system built around its System Storage and SAN Volume Controller.

Perhaps just as importantly, the latest test results also set a new price/performance record of 67 cents per IOPS.

According to the SPC, the audited benchmark results validate that high computing performance can be achieved at a reasonable cost.

"This makes the assertion that the technology can deliver at a price that's reasonable and demonstrates outstanding performance," Walter Baker, the association's administrator, told "It's not the end-all or be-all -- nothing's hit that level -- but if a enterprise needs speed and performance, it can be achieved at a good cost."

The news comes as RAM- and flash-based SSD are gaining prominence, but the high costs and low capacities compared to magnetic media have thus far limited uptake among enterprise buyers.

RAM-based solutions like Texas Memory's differ from flash-based offerings by nearly eliminating I/O wait time -- flash offers fast read rates but far slower write capability -- and application performance similar to hard disk RAID systems.

Solutions based on RAM are typically much more pricey than flash offerings, however, with prices at about $700 per gigabyte compared to a $150 range. Additionally, both types are dramatically more expensive than magnetic media.

The news also comes shortly after enterprise storage giant EMC began adding flash-based SSDs to its high-end Symmetrix DMX-4 systems -- a move lauded by industry experts as signaling to businesses that flash-based storage may be ready for prime time.

However, one industry analyst noted that many of today's enterprises are taxing limits in compute workloads and RAM-based SDD could prove to be the right solution for specific needs.

"This technology is still costly, much more expensive than smaller flash-based SSD options, but then again, the two approaches meet different needs," Jim Handy, an analyst with Objective Analysis, told . "The question is whether you need one big system, a powerful system like Texas Memory's, or can you get needed results in smaller, flash-based solutions that cost much less."

"What this [benchmark results] will do, however, is help make people much more aware of the performance you get with pure SSD," he added.

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