Compellent Technologies has announced that solid state disks (SSDs) are now available in its Storage Center storage area network (SAN) products. This allows the system to automatically store 'active' data on the pricey SDDs, whilst 'inactive' data can be stored on cheaper storage.

The company says that the combination of solid state disks (SSDs) in an automated tiered storage system coupled with conventional hard disk drives (HDDs), allows it to offer a system that has much better performance and cost benefits compared to rivals.

This is because of Compellent's 'Data Progression' software automatically spreads data volumes across multiple tiers and intelligently moves data to and from the SSDs. Basically, the Data Progression software automatically moves data to ensure that ‘active' data is stored on the SSDs, so it can be accessed quickly, whereas 'inactive' data is stored on the slower HDDs.

Compellent's 'Dynamic Block Architecture' is used, which tracks the characteristics and usage of every data block, so that Data Progression automatically moves inactive data from SSDs to lower tiers of less-expensive, higher-capacity drives such as Fibre Channel or SATA. "Automated tiered storage keeps business data online, yet removes the need for administrative intervention or data classification software, saving time and money," said the company.

The starting configuration of two STEC enterprise-class 146GB ZeusIOPS SSDs is capable of supporting IOPS of 30,000 - 50,000 and reducing latency to 20 - 120 microseconds, said the company.

Compellent's SSD solution is designed for enterprise applications such as online transactional databases and business intelligence software that demand higher performance and lower latency than traditional spinning disks.

"The fundamental challenge for most administrators with large data volumes, is that if they wanted to put active data on a tier one drive, they had to put the entire volume on the drive," said Bob Fine, director of product marketing. He said that since Compellent was established five years, only 20 percent of customers have brought fibre channel (tier one), with the rest opting for the less expensive tier three.

"Compellent is unique in that its underlying architecture (dynamic block architecture) contains the 'meta data' about blocks of data, so we know for example which data is used frequently, and are therefore able to automatically optimise the active data," he told Techworld.

"New technology such as SSDs have come on market, but they are expensive," he said. "But Data Progression can accelerate its uptake, and give customers a way to adopt the new technology in a far more cost effective way."

"SSD is typically about 10 to 15 times the cost of a fibre channel drives," said Fine. "SSDs offer tremendous performance but come at relatively high price." As way of example, the company pointed out that a 136GB SSD costs around £25,000 ($40,623) at the moment.

Compellent therefore feels that the only way normal UK firms will be able to afford SSDs is with automated tiered storage, because if you've got automated tiered storage you simply add a couple of SSDs and all your really important 'active' data automatically drifts up to the SSD where it can accessed at super-fast speeds.

"We are now facing a critical transition - before Compellent customers would have to buy many SSDs," Fine said. "But now they only buy a very small amount of SSDs for active data and we will manage it, which is a major transition point."

He cited a customer, Marketing Architects, which used to take one to two hours to compete a batch process, but with the new system, now takes only 15 minutes, a significant time saving.

Compellent is immediately offering its SSD solution via its channel partners. Existing Compellent customers can purchase SSDs priced at $16,999 (£10,461) per drive for a two-drive minimum starting configuration. An additional SSD is required as a global 'hot spare.'

For customers setting up new systems with a combination of solid-state drive and hard disk drives, Compellent is rolling out a bundle of 10 x 15,000 RPM Fibre Channel disk drives (giving a total capacity of 4.5TB) and three solid-state drives. Prices start at $84,000 (£51,693).

Compellent SSD configurations require Storage Center release 4.5, available for download to customers with current support agreements, at no additional cost.