Flash! Ahhh, Ahhhh...

Looks like 2008 is the year Flash has moved from its home planet in the consumer space and has entered Enterprise IT. 

EMC announced its Flash-based Solid State Drives (SSD) for its enterprise disk arrays in January; and today I can talk about some (not all) of Sun's plans with Flash - or to be more accurate - our plans for an entire systems product line of Flash-based technologies for the enterprise...

Read today's announcement here...

First of all - is Flash part of Sun's Open Storage plans?  Yes - not only part; but a critical part.  Remember Open Storage is industry standard hardware + open source software.  Having the option between HDD and SSD storage platforms will give Sun Open Storage customers a HUGE advantage in designing their storage systems.

We have also been designing our open source storage platform, OpenSolaris, and our storage file system, ZFS, to manage volumes or data pools based on SSD OR HDD storage platforms. (Let's also not exclude the economic tape tier with our media management and HSM open source projects!)

Read more about Flash in Open Storage here...

As you can read in today's announcement, our Flash-based server and storage product lines will be delivered in the second half of 2008 - at that time I can blog more on the detailed product lines and specs; but all I can say now is that they are pretty darn cool and innovative.  What also separates our Flash-based efforts from other competitors is that we are simply not announcing Flash as part of one product or as a product feature - we are introducing a new product line with multiple options that span storage and server systems.  

Lastly, our Sr. Disk analyst Bruce Norikane gives an excellent example of Flash benefits when he is educating internal audiences on the advantage of Flash in the enterprise.  The example is excellent because it is so simple.  We all know that Flash's largest benefits are efficiency (Eco) and speed.  But just how big is Flash's performance advantage?  When you put yourself in an application's shoes, their is a HUGE response time gap when you are saving your data to Volatile storage like L1 Cache and RAM vs. saving data to Non-Volatile storage like disk, tape and optical.  SSD is Non-Volatile storage that can offer an application a response time more than 1,000x faster than HDD disk!

Now applications think in nanoseconds, which can be a little abstract in human terms.  So let's take a look at the tables below - but instead of looking at nanoseconds; we'll look at seconds.

Without Flash:
In Human terms; if 1 nanosecond = 1 second. 

Storage Device
Storage Wait Time
 L1 Cache (Volatile)
 1 Second
 RAM (Volatile)  1 Minute
HDD Disk (Non-Volatile)  58 Days

With Flash:
In Human terms; if 1 nanosecond = 1 second. 

Storage Device
Storage Wait Time
 L1 Cache (Volatile)
 1 Second
 RAM (Volatile)  1 Minute
Flash / SSD (Non-Volatile)  20 Hours
HDD Disk (Non-Volatile)  58 Days

Long live Flash! 

 ------------------------------------------------ Updates-----------------------------------------------------

Great info in Johnathon Schwartz's blog: Anything But a Flash in the Pan


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My storage team and I focus on three of the most important aspects in any industry: customers, competitors and market trends. There is insight to gain and share in this role, so here is our take on Sun and Storage.

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