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Sun stretches for Flash dance

SSD option in every server by 2010

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Sun Microsystems is completely smitten by Flash memory technology. The company today has vowed to start rolling out Flash-based products by the second quarter of 2008, and plans to offer SSDs in its entire server lineup in only two years time.

Of course, Sun isn't the only data center vendor talking about adopting the technology — although few companies are as eager to embrace SSDs as a replacement or complement for traditional spinning disks so soon.

Price is the main concern. Although Flash memory chips are quickly saturating the consumer market, putting high-speed, high-reliability SSDs to work for data center storage is a different beast altogether. A traditional spinning disk drive may be many times slower and require substantially more power, but from a price-per-gigabyte standpoint, Flash has a long, long ways to go.

Sun claims that this year will prove to be the pivotal tipping point for Flash technology. The price of enterprise-class Fibre Channel hard drives has gone down 40 per cent year-over-year in the last decade, according to Sun, while Flash SSD price per gigabyte continues to fall between 50 to 70 per cent annually.

Last month, EMC's storage boss David Donatelli said he expects enterprise SSDs to match the price of high-speed Fibre Channel disks as soon as 2010.

But Sun has even greater ambitions for the technology. System marketing CTO Shane Sigler told El Reg not only will SSD prices drop sooner than that, but Sun will be offering Flash drives in every server they make by 2010.

Sun will be first be using SSDs in hardware running I/O hungry applications such as MySQL and Exchange. Sigler promised both new and current products will have a Flash-based option.

"We've only just scratched the surface," said Sigler.

As for which vendor Sun will be using for its SSDs, Sigler was only willing to offer one of what is apparently a few contracts they are working on.

"Let me put it this way, we did do a presentation about Flash with Intel at IDF." ®

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