SSD adoption still on the slow track for India Inc.

Solid-state drive (SSD) adoption in India still has a long way to go despite the performance advantages it brings for enterprise applications and storage.

Though the solid-state drive (SSD) concept has been around for a while, as an enterprise storage technology it started generating interest in India only three years back. However, notwithstanding this interest, SSD technology has yet to gain mainstream acceptance in the Indian organization. This is despite that fact that SSD prices have dramatically fallen during the past year.

So does this mean SSD adoption has been a no-show in India so far? Not exactly -- Aman Munglani, the principal analyst of global storage for IT research firm Gartner India, is of the opinion that SSD technology is extremely relevant to the Indian enterprise, considering its I/O capabilities. "Many Indian organizations are evaluating SSD technology at the moment, so there's definitely interest. And as far as enterprise storage is concerned, most vendors have this technology on their roadmap from an architecture perspective on their high-end systems," Munglani says.

Vendors are definitely enthusiastic about SSD as a business proposition, with many storage vendors already offering SSD-based systems. EMC Corp. was among the first on this front when it announced in January 2008 that it would use SSDs in its storage systems to provide faster data access speeds and reduce power consumption. Since then, Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi Ltd. and other storage vendors have also announced SSD support.

Best environments and usage

While SSD prices have seen a significant drop, it's still at price points far beyond the reach of Indian organizations. This has been one of the largest factors impeding SSD's adoption, especially in a price-sensitive storage market such as India.

Hence, it's of no surprise that Suresh Menon, the head of storage and solutions for Dell, says the battle has always been about whether it really makes sense to shift to SSD considering the cost. "One should deploy SSDs in an area where it makes optimum business sense. SSD usage is not dependent on the type of organization but rather the application. Thus, one should tier the data according to its importance and requirements," Menon says.

It should be obvious by now that SSD adoption in India (as well as globally) will be largely in the higher end of enterprise storage. As Sanjay Lulla, the director of technology solutions for EMC, points out, SSD is not required for normal storage applications such as a file-serving environment, simple data storage or for archival purposes. "SSD usage is required in those environments where pure electronic drives without mechanical elements will boost production performance. For example, environments such as telecom billing, SAP in manufacturing, core banking and stock exchanges are ideal candidates for SSD adoption," Lulla says.

SSDs have several advantages and disadvantages in terms of how they affect an organizational environment performance. Touching upon SSD's advantages apart from power and space savings, Munglani says, "It is the least disruptive deployment option since it does not require new management tools for data protection or replication. Also, SSD creates a new tier of ultrafast storage access, which can be called the 'tier 0'."

On the flip side, SSD technology presents only subpar storage capacity for enterprise applications, as Arun Gupta, the customer care associate and chief technology officer of Shoppers Stop Ltd., points out. "The current unavailability of SSD in high capacities is a big challenge even if an organization does decide to opt for SSD-based storage."

Economies of scale will play an important role in SSD adoption. A good sign in this direction is the new breed of enterprise-grade SSDs that use NAND Flash.

How long till India Inc. adopts SSD?

Though there is much curiosity in terms of benefiting from SSD technology, the deployment numbers do not reflect the same. "Use of NAND flash-based enterprise-grade SSDs is still at its infancy in India. One of the reasons includes the fact that there aren't too many companies in India that face issues with performance of their storage infrastructure. Therefore, these organizations don't feel the need to buy expensive SSDs," Munglani says.

However, Gupta has a different take on the lack of SSD-based storage's adoption. "Some organizations have already started procuring SSDs for limited use. However, widespread SSD adoption in the mainstream will be a function of the price differential between standard spindle-based disks and the price of SSDs." He said he feels that apart from the storage market, SSD will also find acceptance in the server market.

At the end of the day, economies of scale will play an important role in SSD adoption. A good sign in this direction is the new breed of enterprise-grade SSDs that use NAND Flash technology, and can be configured in a more cost-effective manner. "These NAND flash-based SSDs are likely to find widespread use as storage network accelerators, configured either in standalone products or in conjunction with hard disk drives in servers and dedicated storage systems," Munglani says.

Hence, India should witness SSD becoming an integral part of high-end enterprise IT infrastructure in a couple of years. As Surajit Sen, director, channels & marketing alliances, NetApp India, puts it, "In the next 10 years, SSDs will change the face of enterprise storage completely, as opposed to disk technology, which has always been lagging behind other computing systems."

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