Sun aims to flood servers with solid-state drives

Flash-based SSDs will improve application performance on servers and save on energy costs, Sun says

In a bid to remove hard drives from servers, Sun on Tuesday announced that it will offer solid-state drives (SSDs) later this year as a replacement for spinning disk drives.

Flash-based SSDs will improve application performance on servers and save on energy costs by consuming up to five times less energy than hard drives, the company said. Flash drives are also known to be more rugged than hard drives as they have no moving parts.

By mid-2009, flash SSD will be on most servers, said John Fowler, vice president of the systems group at Sun. It will deliver more storage capacity than RAM and improve overall server performance, Fowler said.

Barring datacenters, the adoption of flash storage has been slow in the enterprise due to high cost per gigabyte. A 128GB SSD costs $460, or $3.58 per gigabyte, compared to $60 for a 160GB hard drive, said Krishna Chander, senior analyst at iSuppli. It will take three to four years for SSDs to come to parity with hard drives on price, Chander said.

However, as opposed to Fibre Channel hard disk drives, which is witnessing a 40 percent year-on-year price decline, flash-based SSDs price per gigabyte is falling between 50 to 70 percent annually, Fowler said. As the prices fall, SSDs will ship in larger volumes, Fowler said.

Sun's SSDs will be optimized for MySQL database and other leading applications, according to the company. The drive will work with Solaris ZFS (Zettabyte File Systems), the file system for the Solaris OS.

The drives will start shipping in the second half of this year. Pricing information or storage capacity of the SSD drives was not immediately available. Sun said users will be able to try the drive for 60 days before buying it.

A number of companies recently announced in the SSD storage products. Intel on Tuesday introduced an 8GB SSD and said it would make a 16GB SSD available in the fourth quarter of this year. Seagate last week said it would offer SSDs to top-tier companies starting next year.