First it was Intel. Now, Big Blue is keen on solid-state drives.
IBM said Thursday it is testing a 4-terabyte, high-speed solid-state drive array targeted at the enterprise, as the technology giant gives its imprimatur to flash-memory-based storage.
For years, flash memory cards--the first mass-market SSDs--have been limited to digital cameras and music players like the iPod. But SSDs are now poised to hit technological critical mass in terms of storage capacity, speed, and availability as they find their way into everything ranging from tiny netbooks to massive enterprise storage arrays.
High-performance enterprise storage is where IBM comes in. Engineers and researchers at the IBM Hursley development lab in England and the Almaden Research Center in California have demonstrated performance results that outperform the world's fastest disk storage solution by more than 250 percent, according to IBM.
Under the rubric Project Quicksilver, IBM coupled solid-state drives with its storage virtualization technology to achieve a sustained data transfer rate of more than 1 million input/output per second (IOPS), with a response time of less than one millisecond in a 4.1-terabyte rack of SSD storage. SSDs are being supplied by Fusion-io.
By comparison, Intel is commercially shipping SSDs (X25-E Extreme) that individually achieve random data reads of 35,000 IOPS and random writes of 3,300 IOPS. In a 3.8-terabyte storage array using 120 SSDs, Intel claims 4.2 million IOPS.
IOPS is a crucial benchmark for large customers that process credit card information or run reservation systems, for example.
"It's feasible that we could get it commercialized within 12 months," said Charlie Andrews, director of product marketing for IBM systems storage. "Right now we have a screaming (fast) system, but there's more work to be done in terms of long-term reliability and integration with systems applications. We don't want to get distracted with 'push the hardware.' We want to focus on the solution piece first," he said.
Compared with the fastest industry benchmarked hard disk drive system, Quicksilver not only improved performance by 250 percent but did this in less than one-twentieth of the response time, one-fifth of the floor space, and with 55 percent of the power and cooling requirements, IBM said.
"Performance improvements of this magnitude can have profound implications for business, allowing two to three times the work to complete in a given time frame for classic workloads," the company said in a statement.
IBM's said its first implementation of solid-state drives was for select IBM BladeCenter servers in June of last year.