Sun aims to redesign the data centre hard drive mix

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Sun aims to redesign the data centre hard drive mix

Sun Microsystems is hoping that its new range of solid state drives (SSDs) will lead the way in re-engineering the data centre around Flash drive technology.

The new 2.5in 32GB SSD is designed to sit at the front end of servers, and uses specially designed software dubbed Solaris ZFS to integrate traditional platter hard drives and newer, faster SSDs.

Michael Cornwell, lead technologist for Flash memory at Sun, said that the system uses the SSDs for fast reading and writing, while backing up the data on platter hard drives for reliability and to use the lower cost of storage inherent in the older technology.

"We have used rotational media storage since the phonograph was invented in 1880," he said. "We think it's time for a dramatic change."

Power consumption is one of the key selling points for the technology. Datacentres could save some power by using SSD technology, which has far lower power requirements than platter drives. But more important is the reduction in the power needs of platter drives, which can be run less often and at lower speeds.

"Flash will never reach the hardware cost level of conventional hard drives, just as hard drive technology has never matched tape storage on price," said Adam Leventhal, Sun's senior staff engineer for Sun Fishworks.

"But if you separate the capacity of hard drives with the performance of SSD, each system can do what it does best."

Sun is to begin selling 14 servers with Intel's 32GB X25-E Extreme SSD drives, with plans to expand the range to include most of its servers by the end of the year. However, in the future the firm is looking to build SSDs directly onto the server motherboard.

To this end, Sun has open sourced a 24GB SSD module using advanced Flash chips, dubbed Server SLC, from Samsung.

The new chips are built to be highly fault tolerant, giving three years' constant operation in any usage pattern, and will be available in SATA and SAS versions.

The company has promised that the modules will be royalty-free, and is submitting them to the JEDEC solid state standards board for ratification.

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