Speeding Small Blocks Of Data--For A Price - InformationWeek

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Speeding Small Blocks Of Data--For A Price

Pity storage administrators in the Internet economy. They're adding storage capacity at an unprecedented pace, but performance issues linger. In many companies, a storage infrastructure that could process 13 E-mail messages per second before the company spent $250 million on additional capacity now handles ... well, just 13 E-mail messages.

Solid Data Systems Inc. says it can reduce the problem, albeit for a steep price. The disk vendor next week will ship its Excellerator 600 Ultra, a solid-state file-caching system that stores 536 Mbytes to 2.7 Gbytes of data. The unit isn't designed to replace disk-level storage, but to speed the transfer of small blocks of critical information in storage infrastructures. The company says its product offers about 100 times the input/output performance of device-level disks--for about 100 times the cost. Most existing storage architectures can't yet take full advantage of solid-state performance, but Solid Data says companies with I/O bottlenecks can expect to see throughput at least triple.

Stockmaster.com, a Cupertino, Calif., startup that provides online investment information, says the Excellerator has been crucial to its launch. Before using the device, data was stalling for four hours on a Sun Microsystems E450 server--a real problem in a market in which customers want up-to-date information. "We couldn't go public with our product," says Walter Reed, StockMaster.com's director of operations. With an Excellerator in place, blocks of data make their way from a satellite through the Sun server to users in 10 milliseconds. The company paid $12,000 for its 512-Mbyte Excellerator, which it chose as an alternative to implementing a $70,000, 240-Gbyte Sun RAID storage system.

So, Stockmaster.com paid more than $23 per megabyte vs. around 29 cents per megabyte. But Aberdeen Group analyst David Hill says users shouldn't be deterred by the apparently higher cost of solid-state storage. "More and more customers are having problems with increases in content information," he says. "They can throw more servers and storage at it, or this technology means they won't have to buy them all." The Excellerator starts at $9,950.

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