Solid state not yet on solid ground

But some companies could find a strong ROI despite the high price tag, analysts say.

Loffredo noted that solid-state drive vendors could quickly boost sales to corporate IT by improving trade-in policies. "If the hardware companies were a little more aggressive in their buybacks [of older equipment], that would help" companies deal with high solid-state costs, he said.

Cushman & Wakefield could benefit from using solid-state storage products to store e-mail for its 4,700 users -- if the price was right. Most of the company's agents save old e-mails to use in future communications with past clients. Storing the documents from that many users requires strong storage and retrieval speeds, Loffredo said.

George Crump, an analyst at Storage Switzerland, predicted that many companies will start turning to solid-state storage systems once they can prove that they significantly boost business.

Businesses like stock traders and financial services firms, which depend heavily on fast data-flow speeds, could benefit from the technology today, Crump said.

He noted that companies can choose from two types of solid-state drives: dynamic RAM-based and flash-based devices. DRAM storage is faster but costs far more than flash-based.

For example, 2TB of flash-based storage costs about US$180,000, compared with about US$1 million for the same amount of DRAM-based storage. "DRAM is faster, but if flash does it for you, why spend the extra money?" Crump asked.

DRAM-based drives, which can read or write data in 0.015 milliseconds, operate at a random speed of 400,000 I/O tasks per second, Crump said. The drives are best for write-intensive software and for businesses that use high-performance database applications, he added.

A flash-based storage drive can read or write data in 0.2 milliseconds and operates at read speeds of up to 100,000 I/O tasks per second and write speeds of up to 25,000 I/O tasks per second, Crump said. The technology is best for "read-heavy applications," he added.

Lingering Skepticism

John Webster, an analyst at Illuminata, said that enterprise buyers are starting to understand the technical and performance benefits of solid-state drives, but most believe they can get by without them. "It's the typical response," he said. They are "a little bit skeptical at this point."

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