IBM flash memory tops 1 million IOPS

Two-and-a-half fold speed increase claimed

IBM has claimed a major breakthrough in flash storage, with a research project that's delivering data transfer speeds of more than 1 million input/output operations per second, two and a half times faster than the industry's fastest disk storage.

IBM's Project Quicksilver combines solid-state flash memory with IBM's storage virtualisation technology. "Quicksilver improved performance by 250% at less than 1/20th the response time, took up 1/5th the floor space and required only 55% of the power and cooling," according to IBM.

IBM says Quicksilver is two and a half times faster than its own SAN Volume Controller coupled with IBM's DS4700 storage. It would also be two and a half times faster than technology from Texas Memory Systems, which says it has the world's fastest storage with an IOPS rate of 400,000.

Flash storage is starting to catch on with enterprise customers as vendors such as EMC promise faster speeds and more efficient use of storage with solid-state disks. Speeds are typically orders-of-magnitude lower than what IBM is claiming to have achieved. Sun, for example, says it plans to sell 32GB flash drives that deliver about 5,000 or more write-IOPS and at least 30,000 read-IOPS.

IBM says it has been selling solid-state drives in some BladeCenter servers since June 2007, but didn't say when Project Quicksilver might result in a marketable product.

Quicksilver is a collaboration between engineers and researchers at the IBM Hursley development laboratory in England and IBM's Almaden Research Centre in California.

"Performance improvements of this magnitude can have profound implications for business, allowing two to three times the work to [be completed] in a given time frame for . . . time-sensitive applications like reservations systems, and financial program trading systems, and creating opportunity for entirely new insights in information-warehouses and analytics solutions," IBM states in a press release.

Despite its potential to improve data transfer speeds, IBM says Project Quicksilver's flash technology is not about to replace today's hard disk drives. Instead, it will be part of a "complete, end-to-end systems approach" to storage, the company says.

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