Hitachi GST flash drives are hitting the streets and, at last, ending STEC’s monopoly in the supply of Fibre Channel interface SSDs.
EMC startled the enterprise storage array world by embracing STEC SSDs (solid state drives) in its arrays last year as a way of dramatically lowering the latency for access to the most important data in the arrays. It has subsequently delivered FAST automated data movement across different tiers of storage in its arrays, ensuring that sysadms don’t have to involved in managing data movement at a tedious and time-consuming level.
In the computer world the data center is often the measure of all things in terms of speed and performance. Time was, the disk drive interface of choice was the SCSI drive and then it’s higher speed evolutions Fast/Wide UltraSCSI. But then a new interface hit that used fibre optic cables to move storage out of the computer box to a separate box that managed all the hard drives in one spot and this was called a Storage Array. The new connector/cable combo was named Fibre Channel and it was fast, fast, fast. It become the absolute brand name off all vendors trying to sell more and more hard drives into the data center. Newer evolved versions of Fibre Channel came to market, each one slightly faster than the rest. And eventually Fibre Channel was built right into the hard drives themselves, so that you could be assured the speed was native Fibre Channel 3Gigabytes per second from one end to the other. But Fibre Channel has always been prohibitively expensive though a lot of it has been sold over the years. Volume has not brought down the price of Fibre Channel one bit in the time that it’s been the most widely deployed disk drive interface. A few competitors have cropped up the old Parallel ATA and Serial ATA drives from the desktop market have attempted to compete. And a newer SCSI drive interface called Serial Attached SCSI is now seeing some wider acceptance. However the old guard who are mentally and emotionally attached to their favorite Fibre Channel drive interface are not about to give up even has spinning disk speeds have been trumped by the almighty Flash memory based solid state drive (SSD). And a company named STEC knew it could sell a lot of SSDs if only someone could put a Fibre Channel interface on the circuit board, allaying any fears of the Fibre Channel adherents that they needed to evolve and change.
Yes it’s true STEC was the only game in town for what I consider the Fibre Channel legacy interface in old-line Storage Array manufacturers. They have sold tons of their drives to third parties who package up their wares into turnkey ‘Enterprise’ solutions for drive arrays and cache controllers (all of which just speed up things). And being the first-est with the most-est is a good business strategy until the second source of your product comes online. So it’s always a race to sell as much as you can until the deadline hits and everyone rushes to the second source. Here now is Hitachi’s announcement they are now manufacturing an SSD with a Fibre Channel interface onboard for the Enterprise data center customers.