EMC Makes Solid State Drives More Efficient


EMC (NYSE: EMC) today unveiled its long-awaited technology for ensuring that only the most critical data winds up on pricey solid state drives (SSDs).

EMC, which has been the early leader in enterprise SSDs thanks to its partnership with flash drive maker STEC (NASDAQ: STEC), today unveiled the first generation of its FAST technology, which stands for fully automated storage tiering. The second generation of the product, expected to be released in the second half of 2010, will allocate data at the sub-LUN and sub-volume level, among other features.

For now, the technology works at the LUN level, moving data between SSDs and Fibre Channel and SATA hard drives based on user-defined policies that EMC says can be set through the FAST wizard in minutes. The technology also monitors changes in data access patterns.

EMC offers the example of a VMware ESX cluster with 4 percent flash drives and 96 percent Fibre Channel drives reducing I/O contention by 68 percent and boosting disk response time 2.5 times with FAST technology over an all-Fibre Channel system.

In the future, EMC sees FAST as part of a more efficient data storage infrastructure that also includes thin provisioning, data deduplication, compression, spin-down technology, cloud archiving and deletion, a progression EMC calls "fast, thin, small, green and gone."

Bob Wambach, senior director of marketing for EMC's storage division, said EMC eventually sees the combination of high-performance flash drives and high-capacity SATA drives replacing Fibre Channel drives. "I do not think that they play in that equation," Wambach told Enterprise Storage Forum.

"I do think this changes the dynamics of what people buy and how they optimize," he added.

EMC isn't alone in offering SSD tiering capabilities — Sun Microsystems, Compellent, 3PAR, Symantec and BlueArc are some of the other vendors working on the technology — but EMC was first to market with enterprise SSDs nearly two years ago and has dominated the market so far thanks to its partnership with STEC. STEC recently said that EMC was hanging onto SSD inventory longer than expected, but Wambach said EMC is pleased with the pace of SSD adoption.

"We're pleased with flash adoption and really don't comment on inventory levels," he said.

Wambach said FAST is one part of a move toward greater IT automation. "In the future, infrastructure is going to have to be much more automated," he said.

FAST technology is available now for EMC's Symmetrix V-Max and Clariion CX4 networked storage systems and Celerra NS unified storage systems. Pricing starts at $5,000 for Celerra and Clariion systems and $22,000 for Symmetrix, which includes a larger minimum capacity and other advanced features.

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