05 November 2012

The Big Uns Win

Decades ago, after grad school and in a sort of job, I found much more time on my hands in the world of work than I'd had at university. Grad school is very much like being an indentured servant. I had lots of time, but not a lot of moolah. I ended up pursuing various phys. ed. activities, the likes of which never occurred to me earlier. One was the study of karate, with a Greek fellow in East Boston. One of his observations has stuck with me ever since: "the good big uns always beat the good little uns".

In recent months, and recent discussions in various places, I've asserted that OCZ syndrome is endemic to consumer SSD business. Just as there are 2.x HDD companies, SSDs (in the consumer venue) will devolve into the same oligopoly. The Big Uns will drive out the Little Uns in the race to the bottom; there is no meaningful performance gain from bespoke parts in a consumer SSD that Joe Six Pack ("It boots Windoze 8 in only 30 seconds!") will deign to pay for, so the big silicon houses will triumph. Intel might be a Big Un, but it has just revealed that it, too, wants to move into The Enterprise Space.

AnandTech reveals Intel's new controller, and its interest in being an Enterprise SSD vendor. Those who've followed the SSD saga, here and/or elsewhere, for half a decade or longer may remember the X-25E: an SLC "enterprise" SSD. Didn't work out so hot. STEC was riding high, and serious about enterprise. STEC is, perhaps, circling the drain. The whole notion of Enterprise SSD is in danger of disappearing. The first, in permanent place, quote on this endeavor may be coming true, some years later than expected.

The direct flash appliance, from IBM/Oracle/whoever, may soon obsolete out the spinning rust semantics. Intel's new SSD may be too little too late. On the other hand, when the Sandforce and G3 (really, just tweaked G2) "new" drives appeared about a year or so ago, many speculated that Intel had folded its tent. Guess not.

But based on this story, Intel isn't getting past STEC, despite its troubles, or the appliance approach from IBM/Oracle/whoever. This is a prosumer drive. It specs as a good database developer machine drive; an economical surrogate for the performance an application would get on Real Iron (well, sand). I was just about to pick up a Samsung 830, cheap, since the 840 is starting to appear. Not so much. A 400 may be too much to resist.

No comments: