Monday Aug 11, 2008

A glimpse into Netapp's flash future

The latest edition of Communications of the ACM includes a panel discussion between "seven world-class storage experts". The primary topic was flash memory and how it impacts the world of storage. The most interesting comment came from Steve Kleiman, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at Netapp:

My theory is that whether it’s flash, phase-change memory, or something else, there is a new place in the memory hierarchy. There was a big blank space for decades that is now filled and a lot of things that need to be rethought. There are many implications to this, and we’re just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg.

The statement itself isn't earth-shattering — it would be immodest to say so as I reached the same conclusion in my own CACM article last month — with price trends and performance characteristics, it's obvious that flash has become relevant; those running the numbers as Steve Kleiman has will come to the same conclusion about how it might integrate into a system. What's interesting is that the person at Netapp "responsible for setting future technology directions for the company" has thrown his weight behind the idea. I look forward to seeing how this is manifested in Netapp's future offerings. Will it look something like the Hybrid Storage Pool (HSP) that we've developed with ZFS? Or might it integrate flash more explicitly into the virtual memory system in ONTAP, Netapp's embedded operating system? Soon enough we should start seeing products in the market that validate our expectations for flash and its impact to enterprise storage.

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Adam Leventhal, Fishworks engineer

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