I really resisted using the “flash in the pan” phrase in the title… first, because the term is overused and second, because I don’t believe solid state is of limited value. On the contrary.
However, I am noticing an interesting trend among some newcomers in the array business, desperate to find a flash niche to compete in:
Writing their storage OS around very specific NAND flash technologies. Almost as bad as writing an entire storage OS to support a single hypervisor technology, but that’s a story for another day.
Solid state technology is still too fluid. Unlike spinning disk technology that is overall very reliable and mature and likely won’t see huge advances in the years to come, solid state technology seems to advance almost weekly. New SSD controllers are coming out almost too frequently, and new kinds of solid state storage are either out now (Triple Level Cell, anyone?) or coming in the future (MRAM, ReRAM, FeRAM, PCM, PMC, and probably a lot more that I’m forgetting).
My point is:
How far ahead are certain vendors thinking if they are writing an entire storage OS around the limitations of a class of storage that may look very different in just a year or two?
Some of them go really deep and try to do all kinds of clever optimizations to ensure good wear leveling for the flash chips. Some write their own controller software and use bare NAND flash chips, not even off-the-shelf SSDs. Which is great, but what if you don’t need to do that in two years? Or what if the optimizations need to be drastically different for the new technologies? How long will coding for the new flash technologies take? Or will they be stuck using old technologies? Food for thought.
I guess some of us are in it for the long haul, and some aren’t. “Can’t see the forest for the trees” comes to mind. “Gold rush” also seems relevant.
I strongly believe general-purpose storage OSes need to be flexible enough to be reasonably adaptable to different underlying media. And storage OSes that are specifically designed for solid state storage need to be especially flexible regarding the underlying SSD technology to avoid the problems outlined above, and to avoid the relative lack of reliability of current SSD solutions (another story for another day).
At the moment I don’t see clear winners yet. I see a few great short-term stories, but who has the most flexible architecture to be able to deal with different kinds of technologies for years to come?