Dell Lowers Cost of Flash With Mainstream Read-Intensive SSDs

(Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images)

[entity display=”Dell” type=”organization” subtype=”company” active=”true” activated=”true” deactivated=”false” key=”dell” natural_id=”fred/company/1260″]Dell[/entity] have fired the latest shot in the ongoing Battle of Flash by announcing they will begin supporting TLC 3D NAND flash drives in their SC Series storage arrays. [entity display=”Dell” type=”organization” subtype=”company” active=”false” key=”dell” natural_id=”fred/company/1260″]Dell[/entity] are calling this variety of flash Mainstream Read-Intensive drives, and claim to be the first to support these drives in enterprise storage arrays.

[entity display=”Dell” type=”organization” subtype=”company” active=”false” key=”dell” natural_id=”fred/company/1260″]Dell[/entity] has partnered with Samsung, using the flash company’s 3D NAND drives as the first drive type validated for use with [entity display=”Dell” type=”organization” subtype=”company” active=”false” key=”dell” natural_id=”fred/company/1260″]Dell[/entity] storage. [entity display=”Dell” type=”organization” subtype=”company” active=”false” key=”dell” natural_id=”fred/company/1260″]Dell[/entity] plans to add other drive manufacturers as their drives are tested and validated.

“The number one reason why solid-state drives are not all pervasive today is price,” said Harmeet Malholtra, Director of Storage and Solutions for [entity display=”Dell” type=”organization” subtype=”company” active=”false” key=”dell” natural_id=”fred/company/1260″]Dell[/entity] APJ. “The $/GB price used to be very high, and then become moderately high, and now it’s getting very close to some of the fastest hard drives.”

And he has a point. Given the choice of flash over 15k RPM drives, when you look at what you’d get for the same money, why would you buy the spinning disk? Flash is ten times faster for reads, and nearly 20 times faster for writes. Flash is just qualitatively different, something we’ve known for some time now. The challenge has always been affordability, which is now falling away.

While [entity display=”Dell” type=”organization” subtype=”company” active=”false” key=”dell” natural_id=”fred/company/1260″]Dell[/entity] may be the first, expect other vendors to follow suit quickly. That spells more trouble for the likes of Quantum, Seagate, Barracuda, and Qlogic who haven’t been doing that well lately. Customers will have even fewer reasons to buy lots and lots of 15k RPM drives in order to get the performance and capacity they need. We can expect the other flash vendors, such as Sandisk and [entity display=”Toshiba” type=”organization” subtype=”company” active=”true” activated=”true” deactivated=”false” key=”toshiba” natural_id=”fred/company/4399″]Toshiba[/entity], to grab more market share away from spinning disk vendors, as Dell and others multi-source their drives.

“We will multi-source, similar to spinning drives and the other technologies we have,” confirmed Malholtra. “The ones we’re announcing now have been tested and jointly developed with Samsung.”

Malholtra was also at pains to point out that Dell’s Data Progression intelligent data placement technology means the SC series arrays can use these new mainstream drives as another storage tier. Customers can still get great performance using write- or read-intensive drives, but instead of using spinning disks, Data Progression will move colder data onto mainstream read-intensive drives.

While calling this a hybrid array would confuse everyone, that’s essentially what’s going on here, but instead of putting fast flash in front of slow spinning disk, we have fast flash in front of not-quite-so-fast flash.

For customers concerned they may be getting a lower quality product as well as a lower price, fear not. Dell will be providing the same length of warranty you’re used to seeing from drives in these arrays. “We’re not saying that because these are 3D NAND drives they get a lesser warranty, as compared to the rest of the system,” Malholtra said. “We were amongst the very first vendors to offer a full five year warranty on all kinds of flash drives, and not just the write-intensive drives.” Expect to see five year warranties on these mainstream read-intensive drives, too.

This article first appeared in Forbes.com here.

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