SSD shipments start to take off

3 rack V-Max storage subsystem from EMC
3 rack V-Max storage subsystem from EMC

Was on an analyst call today where Bob Wambach of EMC was discussing their recent success with V-Max their newest version of their highly successful Symmetrix storage subsystem. But what was more interesting was their announcement of having sold 1PB of enterprise flash storage on Symmetrix and almost 2PB total across all EMC product lines in 1H09. Symmetrix SSD shipments includes both DMX and V-Max installs. During 1H09, EMC shipped both 146GB and 400GB SSDs, so it’s hard to put a number of drives on this capacity but at 146GBs 1PB of Symmetrix SSD this would be around 6.9K SSDs and for all SSDs a maximum of ~14K drives.

SSD drive shipments vs. hard drives

To put this in comparison, ~540M hard drive were shipped in 2008 and with a ~7% decline in 2009 this should equate to around 502M drive shipments in 2009. But this includes all drives and as such, if 15-20% of these were data center storage, then ~75 to ~100M data center hard drives will be shipped in ’09. Looking at just the first half, probably close to 40% of the whole year, then ~30-40M data center hard drives were shipped across the industry in 1H09. In Q2’09 EMC had a 22.4% revenue storage market share, using this market share for all of 1H09, this means they probably shipped ~7.8M data center hard drives during 1H09 (assuming revenue correlates with drive shipments). Hence, 14K SSDs represents a very small but growing proportion (<0.2%) of all drives sold by EMC.

Of course this is just the start

On the analyst call today EMC provided a couple of examples of recent SSD installations. In one example a customer was looking at a US$3M mainframe upgrade but instead went with a $500K SSD upgrade. EMC was able to examine their current storage, identify their hottest, most active LUNs and convert these to SSDs. Once this was done, EMC was able to solve the customers performance problems which allowed them to defer the mainframe upgrade.

Data center access patterns

Some statistics from an EMC year long, data center study analyzing detail IO traces from around 600 data centers, show that over 60% of data center data is infrequently accessed. EMC believes such data can best be left on high capacity SATA drives. As for the rest, it wouldn’t surprise me if 15-20% is accessed frequently enough to reside on SSD/flash drives for improved performance and the remaining 25-20% probably best be served today left on FC drives.

Nowadays, EMC goes through a manual analysis to identify which data to place on SSDs but in the near future their FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering) software will be able to migrate data to the right performing storage tier automatically. With FAST in place, supposedly one only needs to upgrade to SSDs and turn FAST on, after that it will analyze your data reference patterns and automatically move your performance critical data to SSDs.

The coming SSD world

So, SSDs are starting to be adopted, by organizations both large and small. Perhaps current SSD drive shipments are insignificant compared to hard drives, but given today’s realities of data use there seems no reason that SSD adoption can’t accelerate and someday claim 10% or more of all data center drive shipments. Hence, at todays numbers, this means almost 10 million SSDs being shipped each year.

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