Enterprise SSDs to soar through 2015

SSD data center market to grow to $4B over next five years, says research firm

A new research report predicts that the number of solid-state drives (SSD) in enterprise servers and storage systems will explode over the next five years, increasing by a factor of 50.

The report also states that the enterprise SSD market is likely to grow at 55% per year through 2015, when overall SSD revenues will approach $4 billion, nearly 17 times greater than 2009 sales. Meanwhile, unit shipments will increase from 150,000 drives today to more than 4.1 million in 2015. The report, titled "Enterprise SSDs: Technologies & Markets," was conducted by research firm Objective Analysis.

"Solid-state drives have already enjoyed explosive growth in the enterprise, and this growth will continue through 2015," said SSD analyst Jim Handy, the report's author. "IT managers have found that they can significantly reduce their IT spend while increasing throughput by replacing enterprise hard disk drives (HDD) with a technology that initially appears to be much more costly."

The report further states that SSDs reduce storage system hardware requirements and reduce total cost of ownership, power and floor space.

The report states that enterprise hard disk drives are threatened by SSDs, which have initially replaced hard drives at a 10:1 ratio -- meaning a single SSD replaces 10 hard drives. That number will drop to 2.5:1 by the end of 2015.

SSDs are being used in corporate data centers to either replace 15,000-rpm Fibre Channel drives or add a higher-performance level of storage above Fibre Channel for applications such as relational databases or streaming video.

The performance advantage that SSDs offer is tremendous. A single SSD, for example, can produce as much as 16,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS). In comparison, a high-end 15,000-rpm Fibre Channel drive maxes out at 200 IOPS.

SSDs were originally aimed at enterprise-class data centers, with the highest-quality single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash chips used to ensure the highest performance and reliability. However, today, multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash, which stores more than 1 bit of data per flash memory cell, offers higher capacities than SLC and is approaching the same performance and reliability levels as SLC through the use of special firmware in the drive's controller.

Dean Klein, vice president of memory system development at Micron Corp., a fabricator of NAND flash memory chips and SSDs for enterprise-class data centers and consumer products said a storage administrator can replace as many as 30 Fibre Channel drives with a single SSD. Storage admins will often short-stroke hard disk drives in order to increase performance. Short-stroking involves setting up drives so that only the outer sectors of a drive's platter are accessed by the read/write head, but that wastes most of the drive's capacity.

According to the 104-page Objective Analysis report, there are 22 key enterprise applications for SSDs. "The enterprise SSD market which saw rapid adoption in transaction processing systems in recent past, is now experiencing even stronger growth in large Internet systems," the report states.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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