editor - May 2004|
in the SSD market
|Why Sun Should Acquire
an SSD Company|
Why did I choose
Sun as my example? And not
Well they will
all do the same
in the end. Any computer manufacturer could pick up the ball and do many of
the things I've mentioned in my article below. But there is a unique set of
reasons why I think that Sun will be first.
The Need is Strong,
the Upside Potential is Huge
SPARC processors have been losing their performance advantages over Intel
Architecture processors since 2001. Sun's recently lanched servers based on the
new SPARC IV chips have left most analysts unimpressed.
Yes - it has
two CPUs in each chip. So what?
AMD will be doing the same
soon, and their clock rates are much higher. Sun's rapid operating system tweaks
in Solaris mean that users can get a X2 speedup in many applications
immediately, whereas rivals HP,
IBM may have to wait
another year for Microsoft
to support similar features in upcoming Intel Architecture chips. So Sun has a
short breathing space, in which it can live off
of good TPC benchmarks. But the emperor has no clothes. Everyone knows Sun
is not as good as designing fast chips which include tens of millions of
transistors as Intel and AMD.
Sun doesn't have its own wafer fab, so
it can't attract the best chip talent to integrate new ideas with manufacturable
technology. The short term advantages of the "simple" RISC chips have
long since been eroded as CPUs get fat with caches and multiprocessing support.
But unlike Intel and AMD, who have to rely on 3rd parties to support new chips,
Sun has a secret weapon, its Solaris OS. Computer architecture has moved on from
the 1990s when buying the fastest clocked processor, and stuffing lots of them
in a box guaranteed a faster server.
If Sun can deliver
factory configured Solaris servers which include SPARC or Intel Architecture
processors and run popular applications like
Oracle 3 to
4 times faster than the biggest 4GHz servers from HP, then Sun's customers
will take note. Such products could not only stem the flow of customers away
from Sun to
Linux, but actually
reverse the tide. Sun's competitors will react, but their inability to tweak the
OS as cleverly as Sun has always done with Solaris, means that Sun could get a
12 month window when its products are the sizzlers which everyone wants to own.
Here's the trick. It doesn't need faster SPARC processors. Sun just needs to
implement solid state disk support into Solaris, and ship boxes which include
SSD as default options.
I believe that a $100 million strategic
investment by Sun in SSD technology could return increased revenues of over $1
billion within the first year. Oh yes. And the new products will be more
profitable too... Here are a few ideas to support this.
- Solid state disks can speed up server performance by 2 to 4 times.
There's plenty of evidence for this, see
solid state disks case
studies and articles for examples. But the SSD market is currently smaller
than it should be because operating systems do not automatically recognise SSD
devices and optimize them. Instead SSD vendors have been tweaking applications
on a case by case, customer by customer basis. That's slow and too people
intensive. It's like backing up your disk one file at a time from a keyboard
without an automatic script.
- Sun has a track record of buying storage companies to fix
weaknesses in its own internally developed product families. Previous storage
companies acquired by Sun include:- Cobalt Networks, HighGround Systems, LSC and
Pirus Networks. While this is not in the same league as
EMC, which has acquired 9
storage companies since Jan 2000, it shows a willingness to look outside for
strategic solutions. A solid state disk company acquisition could cost a lot
less money than most of Sun's earlier acquisitions. The upside potential is
high. See also:- Acquired
Who will Sun acquire?
- Sun has a track record of advancing computer architecture.
Computer architecture changed in
Multiprocessing moved out of the scientific supercomputer market and onto the
desktop with Sun's SPARCstation 10. It was 5 years before the IA market caught
up with that. Then Sun did the same trick again when it brought 64 bit
processing to the masses in 1996. Today in 2004 faster clocked processors do
not guarantee faster servers. The other parts of the computing network have not
kept pace. SSDs
are a 20 year old technology which have been used by the
boost system performance. It's time for that technology to come in from the
engineering lab and enter the mainstream.
I don't have any inside knowledge of that. There are plenty of
solid state disk manufacturers
to choose from, and I know that a lot more are making their plans to enter this
market. We'll just have to wait and see. The market will be big enough for all.
...2 Years Later:- - I was wrong
about Sun being first to pick up the SSD torch.
Microsoft became the
first operating system vendor to incorporate SSD awareness in its Vista OS in
2006. However, Microsoft's implementation of flash SSD support was so bad - it
nearly killed off the fledgling
...4 Years Later:- - in
2008 - Sun
eventually entered the SSD market with uninspiring products. Sun's
failure to become a leader in the storage market was
one of the
many reasons it later ceased to exist as a viable standalone company - and
got acquired by Oracle (many other possible acquirers had kicked Sun's tires
but walked away by that time).
System Support Can Work Wonders|
|Embedding native solid state disk
support into Sun's Solaris servers would have far reaching effects:-
- Sun's SPARC servers would reach a
performance level which would take them 2 years ahead of the current SPARC CPU
roadmap, and at much lower development cost.
- Sun's AMD Solaris servers would run
typically 2 to 3 times faster than competitors' Linux servers using the same
|how fast can your
SSD run backwards?|
|SSDs are complex devices and there's a
lot of mysterious behavior which isn't fully revealed by benchmarks, datasheets
and whitepapers. |
Underlying all the important aspects of SSD behavior
which arise from the intrinsic technologies and architecture inside the SSD.