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iSCSI on the Rise

Another solution to cost, of course, is to ditch Fibre Channel (FC) and make do with iSCSI using existing Ethernet networks. As well as saving on equipment and networking, there is also the factor of training. If you don't have the in-house personnel already in place, educating existing staff on the esoterics of FC can be expensive — as it can be to recruit in a new team.

Lee Caswell, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Pivot3, tells the tale of a casino in Las Vegas that already had an FC storage network set up. When it came time for a massive upgrade of its surveillance system, it decided to dump its old low-capacity FC RAID array and move to iSCSI. That new surveillance system can house 300 TB.

"The difference in cost in FC is $4 to $5 per GB, versus $1.5 for iSCSI," said Caswell. "Where a company has never erected an FC SAN, I'd recommend they move directly to iSCSI."

The strength of iSCSI is also shown by the fact that 2008 marked the acquisition of two of the major iSCSI players by Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) (EqualLogic) and HP (LeftHand). Expect it to continue to thrive in 2009.

Flash Gordon — Moore, That Is

Anyone who remained on the fence about the future of Flash-based SSD drives was quite possibly swayed by the enthusiasm of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) co-founder Gordon Moore towards flash (see Intel Sees Gold in Solid State Storage).

Many others are also getting firmly behind SSD. Jason Schaffer, senior director of storage products at Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA), is one example.

"Flash technology will radically change system/storage design and data center efficiencies," he said.

As well as its currently available Hybrid Storage Pools (designed into Open Solaris to enable flash to be optimally used within the storage and memory path of server and storage devices), and 100GB (read optimized) and 18GB (write optimized) flash SSDs in the Sun Storage 7210 and 7410 Unified Storage systems, Sun has big plans for SSD.

"We plan to ship further flash technologies from a variety of suppliers in both servers and storage systems throughout 2009," said Schaffer. "We expect to see both changes in how storage architects achieve higher storage performance as well as how software vendors write their code to leverage flash for higher application performance."

The performance of flash, he said, will quickly expose the network as the bottleneck once more and drive storage architectures to incorporate more direct attached storage (DAS) than is used today.

Meanwhile, Jieming Zhu, an HP distinguished technologist, predicted that SSD will emerge as tier zero storage. As such, it brings much faster access rates than the fastest FC disks.

What makes this trend toward SSD so fascinating is that its high price should be putting it out of reach. Yet it appears to be one of the few technologies that will transcend economics in the months ahead. And therein lies a silver lining for the storage sector.

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