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Squeak! - the Solid State Disks Buyers Guide - 2003

by Zsolt Kerekes editor of - September 2003

I contacted every manufacturer of SSDs to get contributions for this article.

It covers the price range from $50 to $2 million and is designed to give you an accurate idea of what kinds of products are suitable for different budgets.

For more complete SSD manufacturer listings see our SSD directory which was the #1 most popular subject accessed by readers in Q2 2003.

Products below are listed in approximately ascending price order.

The Solid State Disk (SSD) market will double in size this year and is the fastest growing segment in the storage market. By 2012 it could be a bigger market than the NAS market is today. SSDs have been around for decades, but were previously too expensive to be considered for most applications. The cost per gigagbyte has now dropped to the level where SSDs are having a disruptive effect on how computer networks are designed.

At the high end computer buyers can achieve higher performance from their applications at lower cost by replacing typically half of the processors in their servers with SSDs. At the low end SSDs are becoming the transfer medium of choice for small quantities of personal consumer data. If you're looking at SSDs for the first time this buyers guide will give you an idea of what's available organised by budgetary price.As SSD pricing follows memory pricing, the capacity you'll get in these price bands will increase over time.

section 1 - Solid State Disks from $50 upto $3,600

The low end of this price range includes flash memory based SSDs connected by USB used in a similar way to floppy disks - to transfer data between PCs. But we also start to see the appearance of acceleration products, such as RAMDisk acceleration software for $49 from Cenatek. At the $1,000 mark we start to see PCI cards, and even SSD flash NAS systems.

Cruzer Mini, from SanDisk, is one of the world's smallest flash memory drives and uses the latest USB interface technology to achieve the maximum data transfer rates possible today.

The portable storage devices initially are being sold in two capacities – 128 and 256 MB - with suggested retail pricing of $49.99 and $79.99.
news image SanDisk ... SimpleTech
SimpleTech's USB Flash Drive plugs directly into the USB port on a PC or Macintosh. Measuring just 2.7" x 0.75" x 0.31", the Flash Drive's low-profile design does not block other USB ports when plugged in, and fits easily into a pocket, purse or briefcase for convenient travel. The SRP is $49.99 for the 128MB USB Flash Drive, $89.99 for the 256MB USB Flash Drive, and $179.00 For the 512MB Flash Drive.

 IDE3000 M-Systems offers two SSD product families for embedded applications in this price range. The IDE 3000 come in 2.5" and 3.5" form factors and offers capacities up to 1Gbyte at a budgetary price of less than $500. Typical applications using this product include:- point of sales systems, ATMs, gaming machines and factory automation systems which all need low storage capacity but with top data reliability and the need to reduce maintenance costs.

Cenatek offers solid state disks based on an innovative PCI-based form factor, making our SSD units very cost-effective, easy to install and easy to use. Rocket Drive's entry-level pricing for 1 GB capacity boards start at $499 without memory and $1,199 with memory. End-users such as gaming enthusiasts and multimedia editors truly appreciate the affordability of these units.

Our most popular model is the Rocket Drive with 4 GB capacity which is available as a board only for $899, or populated and tested with certified memory for $3,599. Rocket Drive supports Windows 2000/XP/NT, Red Hat Linux 7.3/8.0, FreeBSD, and Solaris 8/UltraSPARC II platforms, and can be found in use today on GIS, financial/trading, and other transaction-intensive database systems.
Cenatek's Rocket Drive
Professionals using data-intensive applications such as AutoCAD, Oracle, mail managers, and HTML document conversion software also appreciate the scalability and high speed performance of CENATEK's PCI-based solid state disks. Extending the life of existing infrastructure (e.g., not having to upgrade their workstations or servers) translates into cost- and time-saving benefits, in addition to the increase in productivity gained by using Rocket Drive. With an access time of 0.6 microseconds, Rocket Drive has been benchmarked by our customers at over 35,000 I/O operations per second and has provided transfer rates over 5X faster than that of hard disk drives.

NAS-168F rugged solid state NAS from IEI Designed for a niche market where storage space is required in harsh conditions, the NAS-168F, from IEI, has been implemented in trains, factories and warehouses across Asia, Europe and the continental USA.

This compact desktop unit can be stored anywhere and is available with up to 5.8 GB capacity. It has been used in Mass Rapid Transit systems across Asia to store digital image data whilst journeying from station to station. When it reaches the terminus, data can be uploaded into a laptop and transferred wirelessly (or using the wired LAN) to a central storage location. Running on the in-house developed firmware - a Linux based OS - the flash disk NAS-168F is simple to set up and manage.

With prices starting at around $750, the NAS-168F makes storing data in hazardous environments very much affordable.

TiGi's TiGiJet data-throughput accelerator is manufactured and tested in an ISO 9002 certified facility, assuring consistency and reliability for mission-critical environments. TiGiJet is proven to increase data response of applications and databases by 800% or more. In some environments, such as Oracle and SQL, performance gains in excess of 2100% can be acheived. Because of its unique modular design, TiGiJet can install in the SCSI drive slot of most any server or storage system as a hot-pluggable device. Budgetary pricing:- 2GB, low profile - $3,495 TiGiJet
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SSD Manufacturers (in 2003)

please note:- since first compiling this article - some companies have gone out of business and their entries are no longer listed.

Altec ComputerSysteme

Apacer Memory America

BiTMICRO Networks


Communication Automation


DataDirect Networks

Hagiwara Sys-Com





MTI Technology


Silicon Storage Technology

Simple Technology

Solid Data Systems

Targa Systems Division

Texas Memory Systems


Trekstor USA


Winchester Systems
Solid State Disks... How Fast is Fast?

The world's fastest storage currently clocks in at 750,000 IOPS and it's made by Texas Memory Systems. But as with cars, high performance comes at a high cost, and the fastest is rarely going to be the most cost effective solution. Texas Memory Systems' own bread and butter product is their (slower) 250,000 IOPS system. There's a wide range of speed options available from competing vendors at different price points to suit different applications budgets.

But even a 50,000 IOPS SSD can still give you a two to three times speedup compared to hard drives in RAID systems on choked storage networks. So speed, price, ease of integration and expandibility are all factors you have to look at, just like as with other parts of your IT infrastructure.
SSD ad - click for more info
section 2 -Solid State Disks from $3,600 upto $25,000

In this price range we start to see products which can perform a significant speedup to mid range servers.

Platypus Technology Platypus Technology says that their entry level QikDRIVE 8 is their most popular product. The QikDRIVE is a PCI module that plugs directly into the server or workstation, to provide 2 to 8GB of storage.

One customer tripled the performance of their farm of 6 Email serves, saved four times the cost of the QikDRIVE, and freed 4 of the 6 servers for other uses.

Another customer doubled the performance of their Mechanical CAD/CAM workstation applications by adding QikDRIVE.

Budgetary price for the QikDRIVE is $3-$5k depending on capacity.

M-Systems offers 2.5" IDE Plus Fast Flash Disks for embedded applications with upto 21.5Gbyte capacity. Budgetary price for 21.5GB is less than $11,000

Type of applications using this product include:- core networks telecommunication systems as optical switches and wireless base stations due to the ability to comply with NEBS Level 3 (Network Equipment Building Standards) and the free maintenance solution (reduce total cost of ownership).
F-SSDs go where winchester disks fear to tread ...
Fibre Channel Solid State Disk from Curtis
The Nitro!FC from Curtis provides 2Gbps Fibre-channel compatible plug and play Solid State Disks in a standard 1" high 3.5" SCA drive footprint.

Nitro!FC provides a 2 hour data retention in battery backup mode and optional internal mechanical disk backup

Budgetary MSRPs are as follows:-

2GB - $4,750

4GB - $7,000

6GB - $9,000

8GB - $11,000
Higher up the capacity range, and also from M-Systems... FFD 3.5" Ultra Narrow SCSI with upto to 34.8Gbyte with a budgetary price less than $20,000.

Type of applications using this product:- retrofitting narrow SCSI mechanical disks in telecommunication ,military and aerospace systems with solid-state disks to provide better reliability in PBX voice switches and rugged computers.

FFD 3.5" Ultra Wide SCSI with capacities upto 34.8Gbyte at budgetary price less than $22,000 are used for digital data recorders, reconnaissance, radar and telemetry systems due to the need to operates at up to 80,000 feet with high shock and vibrations common in fighters and helicopters.

In addition there is the need to fast erase (sanitize) the data on emergency without the ability to retrieve it. No need for drivers - product is approved by Sun Microsystems as Solaris ready.

Higher up the capacity range from TiGi are the following 3.5" models... TiGiJet EXP, aimed at standalone application servers and database servers, is a Half Height SCSI SSD. 4GB costs approx $,4995. 6GB costs approx $,7495. The TiGiJet FC, has a fibre-channel interface, and is due to be launched in September 2003. 6GB costs approx $8,495

TiGi also makes rackmount SSD systems. The TiGiJet Station provides a convenient 4U rack-mounted solution for network file caching or data caching where there are particularly large databases that need instant access. It can also be implemented as a high-speed storage device where I/O intensive content, such as video or graphics, needs to be accessed by multiple concurrent users. This product can be attached to multiple servers via four 2GB or SCSI 160MB/sec connections. TiGiJet Station provides up to 72GB of non-volatile solid state storage. It also has built in fault tolerance and redundant power and cooling to assure reliable performance. Pricing starts at $14,500

Platypus Technology says that dedicated server applications benefit from the rack mounted QikDATA X3 solid state storage array. QikDATA provides 4 to 16GB of storage in a 1U package which can be configured for redundancy, as two completely independent sub-systems. It connects to the server's PCI bus with 1 or 2 dedicated HBAs.

For high availability mission critical applications such as Oracle or SQL Server, the QikDATA can deliver 10x to 13x performance improvement, compared to a RAID Hard Disk Drive solution.

Fibre Channel connectivity is also available by using QikDATA X3 with a QikLINK interface. A 16GB QikDATA X3 has a list price of $24,900.
SSD ad - click for more info
section 3 -Solid State Disks from $25,000 upto $2,000,000

Even if this price range is outside your budget today, it's worth taking a look for next year's IT budget. SSD pricing could halve during the year following the original publication of this article, as a result of improved technology, greater competition and economies of scale.

Platypus Qiklink For high end SAN enterprise applications, Platypus Technology, says up to 8 QikDATA X3 units can be combined together and used with a QikLINK interface to provide a maximum capacity of 128GB and 4 Fibre Channel ports.

The QikLINK Fibre Channel interface can be used in either Switched Fabric or Arbitrated Loop configurations. Multiple sub-systems used together provide Terabyte solutions.
Starting price for such a solution would be a single 16GB QikDATA with a 2 port QikLINK interface which lists for $37,500.

The TiGi DataManager, from TiGi, is an intelligent data-throughput acceleration system with storage management capability. It uniquely combines SAN, NAS or both processes simultaneously. It optimizes performance of networked storage by automatically copying frequently used data to high-performance solid state media found within the system or located elsewhere in the network. TiGi DataManager
Working like a "DBA in a box," TiGi DataManager eliminates time-consuming, manual prioritization of data and intelligently assigns data blocks to solid state devices located throughout the enterprise - efficiently combining them all into one virtual solid state accelerator. When optimized to applications and overall data size (total storage requirement), the DataManager can achieve 100% of all writes and 80% percent of all reads acknowledged by solid state. Pricing starts at $35,000

RamSan-320 from Texas Memory Systems Texas Memory Systems' RamSan-320 - "The World's Fastest Storage" - is available in a range of capacities.

RamSan-320; 16GB; $36K-$48K

RamSan-320; 32GB; $60K-$72K

RamSan-320; 48GB; $84K-$96K

RamSan-320; 64GB; $108K-$126K

Texas Memory Systems' RamSan-330 provides from 16GB to 64GB of fast external RAID cache with sustainable rates of 3 gigabytes per second bandwidth and 250,000 IOPS. It can be transparently added to existing RAID systems. Budgetary pricing starts at $46k

At the top of the Texas Memory Systems range, the Tera-RamSan is the ultimate storage device. With a storage unit based on SDRAM, it has an access time measured in microseconds instead of milliseconds as is usually found on rotational devices.

The Tera-RamSan utilizes 32 RamSan-320 (SSD storage) modules, known as the World Fastest Storage®.

The Tera-RamSan provides an astonishing 2 million IOPS, a 1024 gigabyte capacity, and 128 2-Gbit Fibre Channel links. It requires 2 racks and 5000 watts.

The Tera-RamSan represents our solution to realistic requests from a broad range of entities from the U.S. Military to Fortune 500 companies who have requested Terabyte solid state disks for applications such as database acceleration, high definition video access/editing, OLTP, data retrieval, ERP, and SAN storage. Lower SDRAM prices make the Tera-RamSan a realistic competitor to other Enterprise storage solutions with much smaller RAM caches. The Tera-RamSan offers industry leading price-per-IOPS.
The Tera-RamSan incorporates specially designed 2-Gbit Fibre Channel interfaces that include performance-enhancing hardware to reduce I/O latency to under 20 microseconds. With I/O requests being served so quickly, an order of magnitude more requests per second are executed by a single Tera-RamSan interface as compared to other Fibre Channel interfaces.

By scaling RamSan devices to 32 units (4 Fibre Channel links per unit), the Tera-RamSan is the ultimate storage solution for high-performance applications in total IOPS and total bandwidth. Also, because the Tera-RamSan is SDRAM based, there is NO penalty for RANDOM accesses. Data requests need not be tuned for performance. User access time is not compromised, even if tens of thousands of users access the system simultaneously. Extreme performance is the key feature of the Tera-RamSan.

"We see the Tera-RamSan filling a unique niche for companies that require high-performance and high capacities," said Holly Frost, CEO of Texas Memory Systems. "The Tera-RamSan confirms our industry-leading performance and engineering capability."

The Tera-RamSan costs $1.6 million, making it a great value for those demanding the best performance in a storage subsystem.
click here for an updated version of - the Solid State Disks Buyers Guide
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RamSan-320 - "World's Fastest Storage"
from Texas Memory Systems

an ad from 2003

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