Solid-state disk (SSD) technology is one way to tackle the problem. SSDs are expensive, and enterprise-grade SSDs are outrageously expensive. Is there a better way to do this?
One company, an Israeli startup called Anobit Technologies, wants to solve the problem by making cheaper forms of flash memory perform just as well as today's more expensive forms. The former use multi-level cell (MLC) flash technology that is less expensive but also less reliable. The latter use single-level cell (SLC) technology that offers better long-term reliability but also costs a lot more.
In simple terms, Anobit's technology uses software to make MLC technology as reliable as SLC. That, in turn, could allow companies using SSDs to turn to cheaper products without trading off performance or reliability.
Another startup, Kaminario, has a different approach. It's developing a DRAM-based solid-state storage appliance that stores application data in what are essentially big memory arrays, while using traditional hard drives for backup. It, too, claims that its technology can deliver a cost advantage over enterprise SSD technology.
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Which approach will win? I think that Anobit's technology is probably more important right now, in terms of driving down the cost of business-ready SSD technology. The company claims that a number of SSD manufacturers are jumping on board, and the results could show in the high-end SSD market during the next year or so.
But for companies with really demanding applications, like those working in financial services, Kaminario's approach is also very promising.
Right now, all of these developments are most relevant for midsized firms that require advanced storage infrastructures -- and that are willing to pay the premium those solutions demand. But as with all of these technologies, the long-term benefits will trickle down, allowing smaller firms to work with technologies that are limited to enterprises today.