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IBM touts SSD data management software for its servers, arrays

It's now offering solid-state drives on its Power6 server line

May 21, 2009 03:01 PM ET

Computerworld - IBM is now providing management software across all of its servers and storage arrays that identifies the most highly accessed data and migrates it to solid-state disk (SSD) drives to improve application performance.

The company also announced today that it is offering SSDs in its Power6 iSeries server line. IBM already offers SSDs from STEC Inc. as an option in its xSeries blade server line and DS8000 enterprise-class storage arrays.

Clod Barrera, chief technical strategist for IBM systems storage, said that by using SSDs to store highly accessed data, such as that which resides in relational databases and Web applications, application performance can be improved eightfold. "We asked ourselves, 'Isn't there a sweet spot or a place where we can move the indices plus hot tables for better performance?' and the answer is yes," Barrera said. "By moving only a fraction of the data, response time was [eight times] better than the hard-disk-drive-only baseline."

Based on IBM's testing, the new SSD offerings, combined with the Smart Data Placement tools, can reduce the physical footprint of the storage needed by about 80% and energy consumption by up to 90%. That's because SSDs use less power, and less frequently used data can be moved off primary servers and storage.

For example, a bank running a DS8000 storage array in support of DB2 for z/OS and SAP can improve business performance by more than 30% and reduce the physical storage footprint by 60%. That would reduce the bank's energy consumption by more than 70%, IBM state in a statement.

Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis in Los Gatos, Calif., said special management software for SSDs is not unique, but it's pretty rare.

"I have heard from SSD makers that the addition of an SSD to a system can bring about an immediate improvement, but this improvement pales in comparison to the improvements possible through the use of an SSD with well-tuned software," he said. "Not everyone has the programming manpower to hand-tune their software, and products like IBM's provides an off-the-shelf means of attaining a boost in line with the improvement afforded by hand-tuned software."

Many enterprises are interested in SSDs because they can be a cheap alternative to other "contorted ways" of getting fast storage, Handy said.

High-performance storage arrays use 15,000 rpm Fibre Channel hard disk drives to get data throughput up, compared with standard 5,400 to 7,200 rpm SATA drives. In addition, advanced storage arrays often "short-stroke" a number of Fibre Channel enterprise-class hard disk drives by using only the outer tracks of the platter, where the data pours off the disk faster.

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