Solid state not yet on solid ground

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

Companies are slowly starting to more closely evaluate solid-state storage technologies, though most are still waiting for the cost to come down before implementing it.

Several users interviewed recently agreed that solid-state technology could one day boost their companies' bottom lines, but none were ready yet to jump on the bandwagon .

For example, Michael Loffredo, an IT regional manager at Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate company in New York, said that he has tried to determine whether solid-state technology's strong performance, lack of moving parts and increased power efficiency could justify the significant upfront cost.

His analysis found that "the cost is still too expensive," he said.

Loffredo said the company is holding off on any testing of solid-state drives in its IT labs until the costs come down to just 25 percent to 30 percent more than traditional hard disk drives.

Jim Handy, a semiconductor market analyst at Objective Analysis, estimates that the average cost of a solid-state drive today is US$5,000, compared with US$300 for a high-speed, platter-based hard drive.

Despite the wide cost disparity , Handy said that companies shouldn't simply write off solid-state storage because of the high price. He suggested that a study of how the technology affects storage costs could show that savings would come sooner than expected.

For example, he said, multiple hard drives could be replaced by a single solid-state offering. Currently, "data you don't need that often is on slower drives, and needed data is on faster drives," Handy said. A company could replace those hard drives with a single solid-state one, which would provide a strong return on investment, he said.

Handy noted that some IT departments "short-stroke" hard drives by placing data only on the outer edges of large-capacity disk drives to ensure fast access. In those cases, users are spending money for a significant amount of unused storage capacity. A solid-state drive offers top performance even when it's filled to capacity, he said.

"That is like the easy prey for the use of enterprise solid-state drives," especially for businesses running more than 100,000 hard disk drives, Handy added.

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