All flash is not created equal. Enterprise-grade flash is more durable, reliable, and has higher read/write speeds. Here are the top 5 enterprise flash storage companies that are revolutionizing the storage industry.
It's no secret that flash-based storage is hot -- hot that is, from a popularity standpoint. Since there's no spinning platters or sweeping actuator arms in flash-based SSDs, there's almost no heat generated from devices that use flash storage. And that's good news for those who pay the electric bills to keep uncomfortably cool data centers uncomfortably cool. Flash-based drives, having no moving parts, also generate no noise, so you can imagine how their widespread use will affect not only data center temperatures but also the noise level.
More important to enterprises than just raw speed, is reliability and durability of storage. It's a well-known fact that flash storage enjoys an initial speed burst but then settles in on a steady state speed benchmark. Enterprises look closely at this steady state speed rating as well as the long-term durability of a drive. Companies have to be sure that the extra money they spend on SSDs gives them the return in years of continued use.
Enterprises use flash storage in a variety of ways from direct-attached storage arrays to hybrid storage solutions. Flash storage for database instances is also very popular in enterprises because of the improved performance. For databases, however, the key numbers to look at are the random write IOPS and the sequential write MB/s. Consumer flash products, unless they're considered professional grade, perform at much lower rates than enterprise-grade flash.
SSDs are well known in the IT industry as the single best upgrade to boost performance, to reduce noise, to reduce power consumption, and to reduce heat generation. Here's how one flash-based SSD stands up to a comparable HDD.
Comparison Chart: Toshiba 15K HDD vs. Flash-based SSD
|15K SAS HDD SAS 2.0||6GB/s SSD SAS 3.0|
|600MB/s transfer||500MB/s sequential read / 250MB/s sequential write|
|200 4K read/400 write IOPS*||90,000 4K read/17,000 write IOPS|
|1.6 million hours MTBF||2.0 million hours MTBF|
|8.7 Watts ||6.5 Watts|
|5 yr warranty||5 yr warranty|
* IOPS estimated from various technical reviews.
As I mentioned, all flash memory is not created equal. You'll see SLC (single-level cell) and MLC (multi-level cell) in both consumer and enterprise disks. Enterprise quality is much higher than consumer. So SLC and MLC consumer grade flash isn't directly comparable to enterprise-grade SLC and MLC flash. Typically, MLC flash products are less expensive than equivalent capacity SLC products.
Finding the Best Flash Storage
Today we review the five most influential flash storage companies revolutionizing the data center by bringing the fastest and most reliable storage yet to the enterprise. They are in alphabetical order and are all primary manufacturers of flash storage and flash-based SSDs, which means that these companies not only manufacture the raw flash material but they also manufacture the completed SSD products. They also sell flash memory to other SSD and flash array manufacturers.
About the Author
Ken Hess is a technical author, columnist, blogger, writer and system administrator. He writes on a variety of topics including Linux, open source software, databases, virtualization, Windows and Apple products.
All of these companies have research and development flash laboratories where storage scientists and designers work on memory technologies that are two revisions (or more) ahead of what's currently on the market.
The SSD products listed in this article are enterprise-level flash disks suitable for enterprise-class servers as primary directly attached storage (DAS) or as part of a tiered SAN array. Additionally, the SATA disks can be used in workstations and laptops as well. The price points for SATA architected drives are very affordable -- even in the consumer market.