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NetApp flashes array SSD

Another STEC win

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NetApp's Jay Kidd has told SearchStorage that the company's storage arrays will have solid state drives (SSD) announced for them by the end of the year.

Currently NetApp has a two-pronged flash strategy. The first is to have flash caches in its array controllers, the Performance Accelerator Modules (PAM). PAM I is deliverable now and uses DRAM. PAM II was announced last Friday and provides up to 4TB of single level cell (SLC) flash for a controller. It accelerates read I/O for everything in the attached array that is accessed through the controller.

Kidd said that NetApp would be using a native SAS interface for the SSD. STEC, the main supplier of enterprise flash drives to the storage array industry, has a SAS interface for its ZeusIOPS SLC drives. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers understands that NetApp will be using these STEC drives. This is another terrific design win for STEC.

According to the StorageSearch website, Hitachi GST and Intel are jointly developing a SAS interface SSD but this isn't ready. Toshiba has a SAS interface SSD but it supplies flash for laptops and not enterprise arrays. SandForce is developing a SAS interface SSD but it is not ready. The expected Pliant SSD is also expected to have a SAS interface.

Seagate will have its enterprise flash drive out by the end of the year and this is expected to have a SAS interface, not a Fibre Channel (FC) one. That's curious as one would think a Seagate FC SSD would be a drop-in replacement for a Seagate FC hard disk drive. Rakers says he is repeatedly informed by STEC that no other supplier is developing Fibre Channel interface SSDs.

STEC has recently announced it will produce a multi-level cell (MLC) version of the ZeusIOPS SSD, also using a SAS interface. This will cost less than the SLC Zeus but it will need OEM qualification before adoption.

None of the other competing array SAS SSD suppliers have product, and when they do six to nine months will be needed for OEMs to qualify them, giving STEC a clear run until then.

It's understood that NetApp has not previously announced its array SSD ship intentions because it doesn't see any meaningful revenues from them, at least in the short-term. ®

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