IDF 2007: Intel promises SSD in 2008

Solid state hard drives could matter more in the data centre than on notebooks.

While flash storage is common in portable devices and most PC companies, including Intel, are talking about putting the first solid state hard drives (SSD) into notebooks, the chip giant reckons that the technology is actually most likely to have the biggest impact in the data centre.

So claimed Pat Gelsinger, senior Intel vice president and general manager of digital enterprise group, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco this week.

"Today if you go to a big data centre and you're trying to run a big transaction engine, you're asking 'How many hard drives do I need to put in place?' and the decision is not based on capacity but on IOPS; 'How much bandwidth can I feed into the database?' or 'How many transactions can I put through the compute infrastructure?" and "How many hard drives do I need to buy based on the aggregate IOPS to feed that machine?' A lot of those hard drives are only 10 per cent or 20 per cent full and they're there simply for bandwidth not for capacity," he said.

"In those configurations SSD is out of this world. You get 10 or even 50 times [improvement] on IOPS. It's overwhelming. We believe this will revolutionise the storage industry and the data centre of tomorrow."

Prices are significantly higher; Super Talent launched a 128GB SATA drive in 3.5" and 2.5" at the show that costs $4,000 and its 64GB drive is between $1,000 and $2,000 (comparable to the prices HP is charging for notebooks with a 64GB SSD).

Super Talent plans to bring out a 256GB drive soon, which is a much higher capacity than SanDisk and Samsung have today. But Intel didn't provide details about what capacity drive it will launch next year. For the data centre the lower power consumption and heat generation will matter more than capacities, Gelsinger predicted.

For notebooks, Intel's general manager Mooly Eden says SSD is 'inevitable'. "It's fast, rugged, with much better reliability and consumes much less power... If the numbers on TCO are big I expect enterprise to adopt it even faster." In recent research, InStat found that almost half the business users looking for a new notebook already rank being rugged as a key feature.

Eden expects economies of scale to drive down prices as they have with small flash storage. "Absolutely it will be there but the question is how fast we go there; it will still be a premium system because of cost then as price goes down you will see it going into the mainstream. You'll see it in 2008 but in 2010 we'll see the volume."

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