Skyera Aims for Price Parity with New SSD

Skyera is betting big on cheaper enterprise SSD technology.

Startup Skyera has entered the solid-state storage market for enterprise applications with the Skyhawk family, which the company is offering for under $3 per gigabyte.

According to the company, the Skyera sales “hook” is twofold: using consumer-grade multi-layer flash technology lowers the product’s price to the point where it challenges the cost of traditional disk-drive arrays. On top of that, Skyera offers an integrated network switch—not strictly necessary, but its integration can nonetheless save cost and reduce latency.

Skyera is offering the Skyhawk at three capacity points: 12, 22, and 44 terabytes, priced respectively at  $48,000, $77,000 and $131,000, according to StorageReview. Skyhawk is expected to ship in early 2013.

Although flash is slowly making its way into the enterprise, most companies have traditionally used single-layer cell (SLC) technology for reasons of cost and reliability. Until SSD technology reaches price parity with magnetic rotating disks, the latter will continue to be used, as analyst George Crump of Storage Switzerland recently noted.

“These flash system vendors can now more quickly embrace shrinking lithographies that offer better flash price points,” Crump wrote. “Skyera for example can leverage consumer grade MLC and 19- to 20-nm technology to access flash storage at $3/GB raw. Add de-duplication and compression, which Skyera has, and the price per GB moves closer to $1/GB!”

Consumer-level flash memory is typically rated at hundreds of thousands of read/write cycles. Beyond that point, the integrity of the storage tends to deteriorate. Flash memory controllers can partially compensate for that degradation, which makes Skyera’s flash controller of primary importance.

The typical flash controller tries to detect upcoming errors and reallocates data to spare blocks. Skyera claims that its controller uses its own proprietary algorithms to tune the partitions as the flash memory ages. The company uses techniques including lower write amplification and adaptive error-correction code to further extend the life of the Skyhawk drive to about five years.

Skyera also claims that the design of the controller and the ECC are flexible enough to adapt to future versions of flash memory, apparently without the need to rework the controller in future revisions.

Flash memory for the enterprise came into sharper focus Thursday, when IBM announced it would buy Texas Memory Systems for an undisclosed sum. TMS had attempted to shop the company to a partner or OEM to increase market share, but the deal nevertheless intensified long-running questions about which other enterprise SSD vendors may be in play.

Skyera will present at the Flash Memory Summit next week in Santa Clara, where the TMS acquisition, the potential for flash in the data center, and other topics will be on the agenda.


Image: Skyera