Earlier this week, EMC took the industry slightly by surprise by announcing The Flashtastic DMX-4 (my name, not theirs). On the one hand, there is not much new here. The announcement details EMC's use of new memory chips to create an SSD drive (through OEM partner STEC) for the new Symmetrix array.
SSDs have been around for a long time, and to date have received limited success. See our earlier post, SSD Or Not, The World Needs IOPS. But while SSDs have been available in other disk-based storage systems and as entire systems themselves, this is the first time a large storage systems vendor has put some heavyweight marketing muscle behind the memory-based performance message.
But more importantly, and maybe timed with the industry fan fest of the largest flash memory buyer in the world...Apple/Macworld*, EMC announced the use of flash memory as part of their newfangled SSD. Flash has received a lot of attention recently, primarily in the consumer market, but no one doubts that it will have an impact on the enterprise.
There are endless angles on all of the implications this flash media type will have on the market. Think of it like a Fibre Channel or SATA disk discussion, or Fibre Channel compared to Ethernet networking discussion. While these are important topics, the media rarely makes the entire solution, but merely serves as a springboard. The heavy lifting is how that media gets applied to the data center, which architectural approaches are most effective, and how to get the most bang for the buck in applying the new technology. This will likely apply to all new versions and flavors of both memory and disk going forward.
The EMC flash-based SSD was an important announcement for 2008. But my takeaways are the following:
- There is resounding agreement that data centers need more memory to compensate for the server-storage performance gap. And that memory needs to bring storage up to a performance level more equal to that of modern compute architectures.
- People are tired of over-provisioning mechanical disk for performance. The Wall Street Journal quote from our previous post makes that loud and clear.
- Defining factors in delivering data center performance are likely to center around architectural deployments and media management as opposed to the media itself.
There are plenty of topics to continue here. In one of our upcoming we'll consider the question, Is Caching A Tier?
*to further this point, check out the main banner at www.emc.com and see the Apple influence on their home page