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SSDs, SATA, and SAS drives lumped together in storage pool by Sun servers

The best place for solid state disks (SSDs) to show its benefits compared to a traditional hard drive is in the enterprise market where the increased cost can be more easily offset by the performance gains. In the consumer market, the gains of an SSD in a notebook or desktop computer are often harder to justify.

Sun has announced that it is now adding SSDs to its line of x64 blade servers. Sun uses an approach to integrating SSDs that it claims will provide up to 70% faster response time and up to 98% less power consumption that traditional hard drives. Reduced power consumption in enterprise data centers can save huge sums of money for the enterprise market.

Sun reports that it has qualified its Solaris ZFS software with the SSDs to allow virtual pooling of drives behind the file system. The SSDs that Sun will be using in its server systems are the 32GB Intel X-25E SSDs priced at $1,199 per SSD. The Sun Fire X6250 blade system starts at $3,240.

Sun's Ray Austin said, "Rather than buying new servers or more [hard drives], you can get to the storage requirements [needed by certain applications by adding flash to existing servers]."

Pooling the storage in a tiered format allows the Solaris ZFS file system to pool storage from SSDs, SATA hard drives and SAS drives into a single large storage pool. The hybrid nature of the storage pool allows servers to get the benefit of fast SSDs for high usage web applications and relational databases that are very I/O intensive. At the same time applications like email that aren’t resource intensive and simply need lots of storage space can use the SATA drives that are much cheaper to purchase.

Gene Ruth from Burton Group said, "The integration of solid state disk innovation and servers is a natural fit and promises compellingly price/performance points for customers."

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Don't look for strong sales of this equipment
By Expunge on 3/11/2009 11:20:40 AM , Rating: 3
I have a couple issues with this piece of equipment.

First you are paying a premium price for little storage.
$1200 for a 32GB SSD vs. $700 for a 300GB SAS drive. Where is the price point?
I see $37.50 per GB for the SSD and $2.35 per GB for the SAS.

Second, let’s look at performance. Yes the SSD is or should be faster than a SAS drive, but unless you are working with massive databases, your not going to realize those gains. 32GB is quite simply not enough space. And there is the reliability factor. In a business/server environment your hard drives will see significant use; can the SSD’s handle that workload reliably? In the past they were having issues in notebooks, now you want to try these in servers and blades. Riiiiight.

And last, as to the comment of saving huge sums of money by reducing power consumption that is a load of bull too. The 2.5" 300GB SAS drive provide up to 70% less power consumption than their bigger 3.5" "traditional hard drives," which this article mentions as a benchmark for the SSD’s. So switching to SSD from SAS is not going to be an appreciable power savings.

What it all boils down to, here is new bleeding edge tech that goes a little faster but really does not have a significant role it can fit into thanks to its limited storage and significant price and oh by the way it’s reliability may be significantly less than traditional hard drives.(but we don't want to mention that)

By therealnickdanger on 3/11/2009 11:39:23 AM , Rating: 3
but unless you are working with massive databases, your not going to realize those gains.

Well I doubt this blade system has anyone BUT those people in mind.

I think you're making a lot of questionable comments about SSDs in general and applying them erroneously to Intel's flagship SSD - which is proven time and time again to DEMOLISH any competition it is given. While I'll agree that charging $1200 for a $400 drive is outrageous, the addage remains true: the market will pay what the market will bear. Let the early adopters buy this stuff in peace - they are doing YOU and I a favor.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/11/2009 11:56:06 AM , Rating: 2
The problem that Expunge was talking about is that if you have a large database, it will have to span many of these tiny SSD's, so ANY processing speed benefit, which is nominal, will be more than offset by the additional hard drive calls to get and compile the requested data.

The best use for these tiny drives are for OS's and basic applications and utilities (security, etc) to run the server, and not to put large applications or data pools on.

By therealnickdanger on 3/11/2009 12:03:44 PM , Rating: 2
Obviously it all depends on the database, the perceived need, and the budget of said company. Setting up a massive array of these drives to meet the needs of your database may be worth it - maybe not. As the article says, they offer numerous data pool options, allowing you to mix and match conventional HDDs with SSDs in order to tailor the pool to your needs. Each customer will have to decide what those needs are. To say with certainty that "it isn't worth it" is ignorant at best.

By mindless1 on 3/11/2009 1:02:55 PM , Rating: 2
A database is a very good use for their low latency. Addt'l IO requests to different drives can occur in fairly parallel timing, you're still better off than suffering the latency of mechanical drives if it's set up properly.

The OS, apps, and utilities have no need to be on the SSD, the server should be equipped with more than enough main memory to be caching these things.

I'd have to agree about large data pools though, from a price-performance factor it's going to be a niche product,

By samueldean on 3/11/2009 12:28:55 PM , Rating: 5
The reason you don't understand the significance of this is because you don't understand how ZFS works. ZFS lets you put it's cache and intent log on any disk you want. For example you could put the cache and intent log on super fast SSD and put the database on much slower SATA drives for example. A great example of this is a guy who put his database files on an iSCSI server several states away. His initial database benchmark took over 8 minutes. When he put the intent log and cache on local storage that time dropped to 4.5 seconds.

The point is the SSD should actually save you money AND increase performance. Of course you don't have to buy the $1,200 drive from Sun to take advantage of it, but when you factor in ZFS SSD becomes a much better bargain. You can get iSCSI prices and SSD performance. It's a game changer as they say.

RE: Don't look for strong sales of this equipment
By afkrotch on 3/11/2009 2:49:02 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure how SSD is going to save you money compared to a regular SATA drive or SAS drive. Energy cost savings is not going to be enough. 2.5" Hard drives barely use power as it is. Increase performance? Sure. Enough to justify the price? Probably not. If it did, we'd have a hell of a lot of enterprises swapping to them and also more OEMs putting them in.

Until the price drops and the size increases, home users and enterprises won't make the swap.

By samueldean on 3/11/2009 3:23:11 PM , Rating: 3
You don't see how you can save money? Have you looked at the cost of EMC or NetApp? With ZFS you can buy one SSD drive for caching and have the bulk of the data on cheapo SATA drives. Is it cheaper than having all SATA drives? Of course not. But it's much cheaper than buying EMC or NetApp and you'll get similar performance. If you need that performance than you are saving a boatload of money.

Enterprise users are already making the switch. In fact many enterprises have switch to Solaris/ZFS just so they can do this very thing. And there are lots of very positive reviews of Sun's new Open Storage which is utilizing this model to give you a machine full of SATA drives, but throwing in a couple of SSDs to compensate for SATA's relatively poor performance. You end up with lots of space (SATA), great speed (SSD) and great price/performance (SSD & SATA).

Sun doesn't sell to many home users so I think even talking about them in this context is pointless. This isn't for home users. It's for businesses.

RE: Don't look for strong sales of this equipment
By ApfDaMan on 3/11/2009 12:46:20 PM , Rating: 1
well they could always spend a bagillion dollars buying 4 drives and RAID striping them. more storage and ludicrous amounts of performance.

By jacarte8 on 3/13/2009 2:57:44 PM , Rating: 2
Wow that is ignorant...

Let's take a look
By fishbits on 3/11/2009 12:21:46 PM , Rating: 3
"Reduced power consumption in enterprise data centers can save huge sums of money for the enterprise market."

How much in annual dollars will the power savings be of going from one SATA hard drive to one $1200 SSD? I realize there will be "a" power savings, but to imply that this facet itself will be a money-maker sounds very dubious to me. Sounds like a pitch to buy premium speakers for your car that incidentally weigh a bit less than the standard ones because "by being lighter they will improve your fuel mileage."

Totally get the performance rationale, but without real numbers don't see the $1200 drive being a meaningful money-maker on power costs.

RE: Let's take a look
By trivik12 on 3/11/2009 12:56:27 PM , Rating: 2
x25-e is available for $420 at newegg. So Sun is basically selling it 3x intel's price.

RE: Let's take a look
By Expunge on 3/11/2009 1:27:02 PM , Rating: 2
It's cheaper at NewEgg because after 30 days they no longer support the product. You have to go to the manufacturer for replacement. Part of the additional cost from SUN is supporting that drive with next day (in most cases) replacement for the warranty of the hard drive/server.

But take $420 as the base cost of the SSD. It is still 5.5 times as expensive per GB as the 300GB SAS drives, and will require significantly more space. For one 300GB SAS drive you now need 10 SSD's to come to the same capacity. AND.. you cant tell me those 10 SSD drives will consume less power than one SAS.

Maybe SSD is the path of the future but right now we are not even considering them for our servers where I work. The price point and capacity are simply not there.

RE: Let's take a look
By samueldean on 3/11/2009 3:43:59 PM , Rating: 2
You are completely missing the point. The idea is you have one or two really fast SSDs and back that up with SATA or SAS drives. You get the best of both worlds. You get bigger size and lower cost with SATA/SAS and faster speed with SSDs. If you don't need the performance then the drive isn't for you. Plain and simple.

I'm looking at implementing an inexpensive iSCSI NAS for the servers but giving each server one SSD to use for read/write caching. This gives the box super fast local storage (there will actually be a speed up over the SAS drives it is currently using) but it will be backed by iSCSI for permanent storage. The drives act as a giant local cache but are cheaper than buying an additional 32GB of ram (assuming your server can hold that much) and they are also more permanent in the event of a power outage.

The thing that makes this is a game changer is that Sun has ZFS and nobody else does. Other people have experimented with doing similar setups using a ramdisk for example. However you back it, the ZFS setup basically writes what it intends to do to your super fast storage so the server get back to doing what it's supposed to be doing. As the larger storage (SATA for example) has time ZFS will transfer the data to the slower, larger storage. This could be local storage or NAS or even an iSCSI server in another state. But the server will be super performant because it offloads the data at the speed of SSD.

RE: Let's take a look
By trivik12 on 3/12/2009 8:41:22 AM , Rating: 2
Every Manufacturer supports their products(servers/desktop) etc. They are paid HUGE AMC to support the servers. You expect them to charge some premium to offset their charges, charging 3x intel price is just plain ridiculous.

That is why sun is slowly setting on this company. Despite Rock CPU and their involvement in X86 world, I expect them to perish in next 3-5 years.

Tee Hee.
By austinag on 3/11/2009 11:56:09 AM , Rating: 4
OK, so I have the sense of humor of a 4 year old: But, isn't it funny that Sun's spokesperson is named Ray...

RE: Tee Hee.
By talikarni on 3/11/2009 12:22:49 PM , Rating: 2
Sun's Ray Austin said...

That is an interesting person to use as a spokesperson... of course Ray is a fairly popular name in the US so I guess anything is possible.

Sun is so stupid
By tshen83 on 3/11/2009 6:48:49 PM , Rating: 2
Everyone knows that sun's software is actually decent, but their marketting department is high on drugs to think that they can mark up an intel x25-e to 3 times the market retail price. Price transparency is extremely important to the hightech industry. The same group of people who would appreciate the elegance of solaris and zfs hybrid pools would be intelligent enough not to pay 300 percent premium to let sun screwing an ssd into a hotswappable bay.

End of story there.

RE: Sun is so stupid
By jacarte8 on 3/13/2009 3:00:51 PM , Rating: 2
Oh really? Because as I priced out a Dell 2970 today, they appear to be charging $700 for a 1TB SATA hard drive... or nearly 7x the average selling price. What's the difference?

I like how someone who's clearly never bought a server for an enterprise is making comments about pricing they don't understand...

Buy, buy, buy.
By PAPutzback on 3/11/2009 12:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
This will only speed up the price drops for the consumer drives over time.

I'd love to compare the performance of a sql query on similar setups with the different drive types.

Data centers
By bakerzdosen on 3/11/2009 1:53:04 PM , Rating: 2
The one thing that most of you seem to be forgetting are data centers. You pay a monthly fee by the rack, and the number of servers you can put in a rack is not determined by the actual size of the systems, but by the amount of power that the systems draw. So, if I can save $5k to $10k/month by using these drives over SAS drives, the cost savings come to fruition rather quickly. The added performance is simply a bonus.

Power is more expensive than you think - especially when it needs to be supported by an infrastructure of redundancy.

Still not faster than fusion-io...
By greylica on 3/11/2009 2:01:42 PM , Rating: 2
Strange, Fusion-IO is 3X faster than Intel X-25 at an more affordable price, (8$ per GB). Why sun don´t use it ?
Yes, it´s not a common footprint, nor a 2,5 HDD size, but still faster.
The positive point, is price drops caused by those enterprise early adopters, but I still didn´t found a reason to buy those SSDs, unless you are an illuded guinea pig...

I ask, when finnaly a Single Level Cell manufacturer will do SSDs with acceptable prices ?

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