EMC predicts lower flash storage prices

But disk won't be supplanted, vendor says

EMC executives predict that flash storage technology will be nearly as inexpensive as high-end disk drives within two years. Most disk drives will continue to offer lower prices than flash, though, ensuring a long life for disk technology, they say.

At the storage vendor's recent annual EMC World conference in Las Vegas, EMC CEO Joe Tucci said "The one thing that will change the storage industry more than anything else over the next 10 years is the advent of flash technology".

Tucci touched on flash technology only briefly, with more detail being provided by EMC storage president David Donatelli.

By the end of 2010, flash will achieve "near price parity" with the highest-speed Fibre Channel rotating drives, Donatelli said in a speech. While Donatelli said EMC can't control the market price because it doesn't build the chips, flash prices are dropping much faster than those of disk, he said.

"I really believe flash technology is going to significantly change the way storage products are designed and developed over the next coming years," he said. "It's here today. It's already making a big impact."

When EMC announced plans in January for 73- and 146-gigabyte solid-state drives using flash memory, it said customers would pay a premium of less than 10% when upgrading four drives to flash. That premium depends on a customer replacing four 146-gigabyte hard disk drives with four 73-gigabyte solid-state flash drives.

EMC tests show that flash is 30 times faster than its fastest rotating drive when measured by Input/Output operations Per Second, Donatelli said. And while EMC's fastest rotating drive provides a response time no better than six milliseconds, flash response times are a millisecond or less no matter how busy the system is, he said. Donatelli thinks flash storage will be broadly implemented over the next couple years, mainly for an organisation's most mission-critical applications. Despite the rise of flash, EMC expects a long life for the disk drive market, particularly ATA hard drives.

ATA drives currently cost about 60% less than Fibre Channel storage, and will continue to be significantly less expensive than flash for the foreseeable future, EMC said.

"The spinning disk drive is going to be around a long time," Donatelli said. "ATA is going to continue to get very dense and offer incredible price and power performance, meaning it's inexpensive to buy [with low power requirements]."

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