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August 31, 2010

In the Flesh? Reflections from the Flash Memory Summit

Steve Campbell

Well it has taken me a week to finish this second piece on the Flash Memory Summit.  Thought I had already done it but alas no such luck, must be suffering from single bit memory error followed by cache miss.

From an exhibit viewpoint no real change, lots of activity on the show floor, but pretty much same as day before.  The big moment was to come in the form of Steve Wozniak’s Keynote, Solid State Hybrid Drives – The Key to a Huge SSD Market, in the early afternoon.  Something to look forward to, or so I thought, having read his book iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon…. Here was one of the founders of Apple doing a keynote on memory, solid-state memory, and how it would change the world and drive the market.

Unfortunately, for me at least, it seemed that 95% of the keynote was about Apple and Steve Jobs and very a little about solid-state hybrid drives and the role they would play in the SSD market.  It was more like a walk down memory lane, interesting I am sure for those who do not know the Apple story.  Hell, I’ve read the book and seen the movie.  As far as a peak in to the future of memory, nada.  Based on this talk, I think his next book should be titled – Cult icon to iWas.

In my last blog, I listed five things I thought were critical to the adoption of solid-state storage in the enterprise.  These are Standards, Real-world examples, Reliability, Price and Killer Applications.  To this list, I will add a sixth must have, specifically software to do Auto-tiering. 

SSDs are worth it if they are dedicated to data that’s read frequently, such as information in a database or popular multimedia content.  However, what’s most often used and what’s currently popular can change over time, and not all the data in a particular LUN (logical unit number) may qualify.

Flash storage is growing in popularity, no question about that, it is a powerful tool for users that want to improve the speed of access to frequently used data, such as information in a database to popular multimedia content 

Certainly some users understand how their workload gobbles up system resources and slows down throughput as the IO bottleneck.  These are the lucky one.  The majority of user and potential users may have some idea but if you move the wrong data into solid-state storage, you are leaving performance on the table.  Auto-tiering software with the ability to analyze data usage and access patterns will aid in the process of determining what goes where.  Auto-tiering software is not new.  Vendors such as EMC and BlueArc use this for their own hierarchical storage systems. 

There are vendors offering auto-tiering solutions, just not at this event, developing tools for hierarchical storage management.  Imagine for a moment having a smart set of tools to ensure that the right data is in the right place at he right time fro maximum throughout.  Sweet

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