IBM Gets Stoked About Solid State Storage

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New research from IBM (NYSE: IBM) claims the vendor’s solid state disk (SSD) storage efforts can outperform the fastest hard disk drive (HDD) storage systems by 250 percent.

IBM’s SSD storage research — with assistance from Fusion-io and code-named ‘Project QuickSilver’ — is an “ongoing cross-IBM initiative” for developing integrated information infrastructures, according to a press statement.

“The ultimate benefits of solid state will require software, management and systems capabilities — with IBM being uniquely positioned, with its deep research and development capabilities and broad product and services experience, to unlock that potential,” stated Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM System Storage.

That means faster and cheaper data storage and retrieval as data-access delays associated with HDDs are eliminated, according to IBM. The vendor is investigating how SSDs can be used in middleware, hardware, operating systems and even applications across both the server and storage infrastructure.

IBM’s research news comes as storage vendors want new technologies that provide speedier capability for improved system performance. The problem with SSDs is the high price point, however, and that aspect has kept it tied to high-performance computing (HPC) environments in which cost is not a big issue and every second counts.

But as SSD prices drop rapidly — analysts claim as much as 40 to 50 percent annually — the drives are getting greater attention by both vendors and enterprises. Some vendors, such as Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: JAVA), have predicted SSDs will be saturating storage systems as early as next year.

“IBM doesn’t see SSD as a be-all or end-all technology,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “What they’re doing is quantifying how far the technology can be pushed.”

IBM is no stranger to SSDs, given its early push on the server side in integrating the technology into its BladeCenter servers in mid-2007. The vendor has not indicated when its SSD storage technology will be ready for commercial launch, but called Quicksilver a “significant step forward.”

“This is not about replacing today’s hard disk drive with a new form factor; this is about having a complete, end-to-end systems approach and that’s not something EMC, HP or Sun can match,” IBM stated in the release.

IBM describes SSD as having “great potential,” but noted it is “still an expensive emerging technology that developers have yet to figure out how it can truly provide the business value clients want.”

“The question remains: How can solid state device technology be implemented and optimized in a cost-effective way that brings value to clients?” IBM asked.

Obviously, EMC (NYSE: EMC) believes it has already answered those questions given its SSD initiatives this year.

EMC was the first storage vendor to announce SSD integration, initially with its high-end Symmetrix product in January and then a month ago in its Clariion CX4 midrange system.

“IBM’s efforts are analogous to what EMC’s approach is,” King said. EMC recognizes the technology is not a solution for every storage need, but as an absolute need for the HPC environment, the analyst noted.

It’s a similar scenario of when EMC began pushing SATAdrives into its Centera product line about five years ago. That tech strategy pushed Fibre Channel up the performance ladder and propelled tape storage to a deeper backup role, King explained.

“When EMC did that, everyone squeaked because the cost was higher, but within six months all vendors were delivering the same products,” said King, adding that in researching SSD capabilities, IBM may add another rung to the storage performance ladder.

“IBM deserves a pat on the back for researching the potential instead of simply rolling out something out. They’re looking at SSD as a secret sauce and want to take it to the next level,” King said.

Article courtesy of

Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl is an experienced technology journalist who has served as a senior editor, reporter, writer, and blogger for InformationWeek, Investors Business Daily, CNET, and Information Security Magazine, as well as other media outlets.

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