With the quickly falling prices of Flash memory and the quickly rising number of vendors bringing solid state drives and Flash memory modules to market, the final barriers to the widespread adoption of these technologies have been breached.
Solid state drives and Flash memory modules are alternative technologies to the traditional spinning hard drive for storing data and, in some cases, to the more expensive memory chips which in servers and storage often act as cache memory.
Solid state drives and Flash memory modules offer multiple-times the performance of traditional spinning hard drives. And, because they have no moving parts, they use considerably less power than the traditional drives. However, because they are built using Flash memory chips instead of spinning platters, they are much more expensive than hard drives.
Whether such products start to put a noticeable dent in the market for traditional hard drives in the foreseeable feature is an open question. What's not in question is the expected growth for these devices. IDC, for instance, expects the SSD market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54 percent between 2008 and 2013.
Where the technologies are used varies. Customers may put SSDs in arrays in place of spinning disks to serve as primary storage, where their much higher performance compared to hard drives more than makes up for the price premium paid for the technology.
EMC in early 2008 was the first major storage vendor to add an SSD option to enterprise-class storage arrays, an option that has since become available from all its peers and competitors.
In some cases, SSDs can actually lower the cost of storage. For many high-performance applications, customers may often "short-stroke" their hard drives, or configure their hard drives so that only a small portion of the capacity is used to cut down on the seek time for data and increase throughput. This results in higher performance, but at the cost of much lost capacity. The use of SSDs in many cases may result in lower costs because of the increased utilization of storage capacity.
Customers are also putting SSDs or Flash storage modules in front of arrays to serve as a storage cache. In this case, the SSDs or modules are not actually acting as a primary storage device, but instead temporarily hold data which receives a lot of read requests, or hits, to speed up application performance.
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