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April 22, 2002—In this issue:
- Solid State Disks Can Increase SAN and Application Performance
2. NEWS AND VIEWS
- EMC Sues Hitachi; Hitachi Countersues
- Hitachi and IBM Team Up
- Cast Your Vote for Our Reader's Choice Awards!
- Get One Step Closer to Certification at CertTutor.net
- Featured Thread: Clustering
5. NEW AND IMPROVED
- Storage Appliance for Growing Companies
- Expanded Storage Solution
6. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
(contributed by Elliot King, [email protected])
The need to increase the data-access speeds of Storage Area Networks (SANs) might mean that solid state disks (SSDs) will finally emerge as a mainstream storage technology over the next several years. At least, that's the view of some industry analysts and the hope of vendors such as Imperial Technology, which recently announced SANaccelerator, a data-acceleration device designed specifically to improve SAN application performance.
SANs have emerged as a preferred solution to connect large-capacity storage devices to collections of servers. The fast access to data that SANs provide has been one of the primary factors driving SSD growth. Fibre Channel, the current de facto standard protocol for the majority of SAN interconnects, supports line speeds of as much as 2Gbps, with low overhead and minimal latency. But in some high-transaction processing scenarios, that kind of speed still isn't good enough.
When they face performance concerns, companies often try to resolve the problems by brute force, adding servers and disk drives to spread the workload. Michael Fisch, an analyst with The Clipper Group, argues that the bottleneck in a SAN often isn't the network but the disk drives. (See the URL below for the research bulletin "Imperial Technology's Solid State Disk—Satisfying the Need for Speed in a SAN," published in early April.) For a server to access stored data, the disk platter must spin and a magnetic head must move to the correct position to complete the read or write. The 150 I/O per second transaction limit of one rotating disk drive can pose a real problem.
Using SSD technology might be the solution to the need for speed. You can define pure SSD as DRAM, backed up by a rotating hard disk drive with integrated battery backup. The primary storage medium is a solid-state semiconductor. Because this approach eliminates the need to synchronize a read/write head with a rotating disk while still permitting random data access, SSDs can offer significantly faster access times. At the same time, SSDs are much more resistant to physical shock, vibrations, and temperature changes than conventional disk drives. SSDs range in capacity from 134MB to 51GB.
SSD technology isn't new. Over the past 20 years, SSDs have carved out a distinct, slow-growing niche. You typically find SSDs in large-scale enterprises or utility-grade storage environments and as components of vertical solutions. The primary barriers to more widespread SSD use have been cost, storage density (which is less than conventional disks in a comparable form factor), and the need for battery backup and a controller.
But a combination of improved technology and changing circumstances has refigured the cost/benefit ratio for SSDs. Importantly, even as SSD technology improves, its cost is dropping rapidly. For example, Curtis, which claims to be the price-performance leader in the SSD area, contends that the current cost for its SSD technology has fallen to $3 per megabyte.
Internet and digital communications continue to fuel the need for higher-speed transaction-processing systems, which keeps widening the gap between disk I/0 performance and CPU MIPS performance. Because SSDs have close to zero-seek latency, systems can use SSDs to recapture CPU cycles lost during I/O operations. In I/O-intensive applications, SSD vendors claim that application performance can improve from 200 percent to 500 percent. Finally, the emergence of a virtualization layer in SANs will make it easier to incorporate SSDs.
The changes in technology, cost, and need have led IDC analysts Massaki Moriyama and Robert Gray to conclude that end users with transaction-intensive applications should consider the benefits and leverage of incorporating SSDs into their storage infrastructure. Moriyama and Gray argue that SSD technology can help unclog sluggish applications.
As Moriyama and Gray see it, companies can best use SSDs as a file-caching technology to improve application performance rather than disk performance. Users should install SSDs as disk volumes in the storage network to store frequently accessed files. Moriyama and Gray contend that SSDs provide the most value when users direct a high percentage of the disk-I/O requests to a relatively small number of files.
Deployed in this way, SSDs can improve the performance of a wide range of applications, including Internet-based applications (e.g., email, Web hosting), relational database and data-warehousing applications, online transaction processing (OLTP) and networked systems, video processing, high-speed data acquisition, and high-performance swap files in multitasking systems.
The greatest obstacle to adopting SSDs might be the lack of end-user awareness—but that should change soon. The investment community has latched onto the SSD technology, and at least a half-dozen corporations currently use SSD technology.
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2. NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Keith Furman, [email protected])
EMC filed a lawsuit against Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and Hitachi with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) and in US District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts. According to EMC, HDS and Hitachi are infringing on six EMC patents. Four of the patents are related to EMC's Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) and TimeFinder software. The other two patents are related to data migration and storage of mainframe data. EMC maintains that Hitachi's Hitachi TrueCopy (formerly known as Hitachi Open Remote Copy—HORC), Hitachi Open Asynchronous Remote Copy (HOARC), and ShadowImage products violate its patents.
EMC claims it has tried to resolve the patent claims with HDS and Hitachi for the last 4 years, but hasn't been able to resolve the concerns. EMC is asking the ITC to block importation of Hitachi's infringing software, which is sold by HDS in the United States.
Initially, Hitachi released a statement that said EMC's lawsuit was without merit and it planned to vigorously defend its products. Hitachi then filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma claiming that EMC violates 8 of its software patents. Hitachi owns more than 1200 US patents in the field of data storage.
Watch out EMC—Hitachi and IBM are teaming up! Hitachi and IBM have announced plans to form a business alliance to help develop advanced-storage technologies and products. The multiyear alliance calls for both companies to research and develop new open standards-based technologies for next-generation storage solutions.
A big part of the new alliance will be a common approach to virtualization. The new approach, based on IBM technology, will let customers easily manage all their networked storage systems as a single resource.
Hitachi and IBM's agreement doesn't stop at just research and development. In an addition to the announced business alliance, the two companies have stated that they intend to combine their various Hard Disk Drive (HDD) operations into a new standalone, joint-venture company. The new company will include selected HDD assets, employees, facilities, and intellectual property from both companies. The new company will research, develop, market, and sell HDD products. After formation of the company, Hitachi expects to own 70 percent of the joint venture and will pay for IBM's HDD assets.
Which companies and products do you think are the best on the market? Nominate your favorites in four different categories for our annual Windows & .NET Magazine Reader's Choice Awards. You could win a T-shirt or a free Windows & .NET Magazine Super CD, just for submitting your ballot. Click here!
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(One message in this thread)
Alex wants to create a cluster for his company's Exchange servers in different cities using either NSI Software's GeoCluster or Double-Take. He wants to know whether anyone has used either of these products with Exchange, and if so, how it performs, how much of a hit the network takes, and how easy the product was to install. To read more about the problem or offer your expertise, use the following link:
5. NEW AND IMPROVED
(contributed by Carolyn Mascarenas, [email protected])
First Internet Alliance (FIA) Storage Systems Group announced POPnetserver 4500, a Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliance that provides up to 640GB of storage capacity. The POPnetserver supports four variable volume types and features four hot-swappable, front-load removable drives. The NAS device costs $4499 for the 640GB model. Contact FIA Storage Systems Group at 949-940-6565.
StorageTek and LSI Logic announced that they have expanded their line of cobranded storage solutions with the 14-drive D173 open-systems disk subsystem. The D173 is available in 10-drive and 14-drive enclosures with a maximum storage capacity of 5.4TB. Contact StorageTek at 800-786-7835 or LSI Logic at 866-574-5741 for pricing information
6. CONTACT US
Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:
- ABOUT THE COMMENTARY — Elliot King, [email protected]
- ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL — [email protected] (please
mention the newsletter name in the subject line)
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Copyright 2002, Penton Media, Inc.