Emboldened possibly by the cash and confidence injection from Hitachi Data Systems, super-fast NAS supplier BlueArc has been partnering prolifically. Now it's pointing, indirectly, towards flash in the SAN

Let's see; it's announced NetVault Backup support. It has a deal with Scentric over file and content classification. And it has an alliance with Texas Memory Systems, maker of the RamSan solid state RAM disk (SSD). Clusters of servers connect over Ethernet to BlueArc's Titan 2000 and get access to a RamSan 400 SSD across Fibre Channel.

The SSD becomes the tier one storage for the Titan server with SAS or SATA drives forming the second tier. BlueArc is a speed junky supplier of course. It could use flash-based SSDs, such as STEC's Zeus IOPS product. But it chose to go with the proven TMS product. Other suppliers, selling to customers with shallower wallets won't follow suit though.

They will look to flash-based SSDs instead.

EMC's chief tech officer, Mark Lewis, is putting forward the proposition that flash SSD is set to become the performance-centric top tier of storage, replacing a lot of spinning hard drives.

Flash-based SSDs are becoming affordable and their working life is extending. It's not hard to imagine SAN, NAS and unified storage vendors adding flash-based SAS drives into SAS arrays to provide a new very fast tier-one storage platform. It's technically quite easy to do this and as soon as one drive array vendor does it then others will fall over themselves to quickly follow.

Nexsan is the sort of nimble, street-fighting, drive array supplier that could do it quickly. 3PAR might be another, up at the enterprise end of the market. Expect EMC, HDS and NetApp to follow and expect also that all drive array vendors will have a flash SSD product strategy by the end of 2008.