Texas Memory ships SSD drives

By Kevin Komiega

-- Solid state disk (SSD) vendor Texas Memory Systems today announced the availability of a new RAM-based storage system with non-volatile SSD capable of sustaining up to 600,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) and delivering up to 512GB of capacity in a 4U rack-mount chassis.

The new RamSan-440 uses RAID-protected NAND flash memory modules for data backup and is the first system to incorporate Texas Memory's patented IO² (Instant-On Input-Output) technology.

SSDs such as the RamSan-440 can manage very high transaction volumes and larger numbers of concurrent users with fewer servers, less power, and without excessive application tuning when compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs).

The RamSan-440 uses DDR2 (double-data-rate) RAM to deliver 600,000 sustained random IOPS and over 4GBps of sustained random read or write bandwidth, with latency of less than 15 microseconds. The system is available in 256GB and 512GB configurations and can be SAN-attached or direct-attached through up to eight 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports. Multiple RamSan-440s can be combined to scale performance and capacity.

The RamSan-440 uses RAID-protected flash memory modules to back up the RAM-based data. In Active Backup mode, the RamSan-440 continuously backs up data to the internal redundant flash modules without affecting system performance. The SSD can back up or restore the entire 512GB of data in approximately six minutes.

The company's IO² technology improves system availability by making user- or application-requested data instantly accessible after the system is powered on. Woody Hutsell, Texas Memory's executive vice president, says without IO²-type technology a half-terabyte of data could take up to two hours to be available from other RAM SSD products after a power outage. Additionally, the RamSan-440 uses both IBM ChipKill technology and RAID-protected RAM to protect against chip or board failures.

List price for the 512GB RamSan-440 is approximately $275,000, while the entry-level 256GB model costs about $150,000.

The SSD market is heating up as tier one storage vendors such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Sun, and others are shipping or have announced storage arrays with SSDs, but there is still some confusion in the market about where solid state fits in the enterprise.

"The biggest challenge in the industry today is that there is so much noise around SSDs. People hear a lot about solid-state disk, but they often don't even get down to the pros and cons of RAM versus flash technology," says Hutsell.

RAM-based storage systems are primarily designed for enterprise applications or, according to Hutsell, any user with the need for speed. "RAM-based systems like the RamSan-440 are suited for low-latency, high-concurrency applications where there can be sudden surges in concurrent access."

Flash systems are more appropriate for high-capacity applications with random data access patterns. Hutsell says video on-demand, data warehousing, and video rendering applications are a fit for flash. "Those applications need the performance, and latency is important, but it's not their number-one concern. Flash-based systems are typically a compromise between capacity and performance, where RAM-based systems would be the choice if everyone could afford them," says Hutsell.

Related articles:

TMS to ship 'cached flash' drives
STEC ships MLC-based SSD
Sun joins the SSD scramble

This article was originally published on July 22, 2008