Solid state not yet on solid ground

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

A storage architect at a New York-based publishing company, who also asked not to be identified, said the benefits of solid-state wouldn't come close to equaling the costs for businesses in his industry.

"We don't have the applications that necessitate them," he said. "We deal with a different data set compared to firms that do data analysis. We deal with content creation. We find that second-tier storage [such as Serial ATA technology] is adequate for even our highest-performing applications."

Handy noted that to date, only a small percentage of solid-state drives sold are used by large IT organizations. Of about 500,000 sold annually today, only 20,000 are purchased by corporate IT operations.

Objective Analysis projects that the number of solid-state storage devices sold to data centers will increase to 2 million per year in 2013, though it will remain a small percentage of that year's projected sales of 50 million units. Solid-state sales will also continue to lag far behind shipments of hard-disk products, which Handy projects will reach 800 million in 2013.

Meanwhile, IDC estimates that solid-state drive sales totaled US$396 million in 2007 and that the total will grow at a 70 percent compound annual growth rate through 2012, said Jeff Janukowicz, an analyst at the firm. Over the long term, he said, "the real growth engine will be derived from new markets that solid-state drives are just now beginning to penetrate. Thus, we think the future continues to look bright."

To push the new technology into corporate data centers, the Storage Networking Industry Association last month unveiled a solid-state storage initiative targeting IT executives.

The initiative aims to show the benefits of the technology and to foster standards, said Phil Mills, secretary of the SNIA board of directors.

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