Flash market segmentation has left a huge portion of the market underserved as the entry-level market grows rapidly. In reality, this largest market segment presents the most opportunity for growth.
Currently there are three tiers of enterprise storage, with Tier-O being the SSD. This fastest and most expensive medium really is the premium tier of storage. Tier-1 SAS HDDs sit below SSDs and have enterprise class features that set them on top of the HDD hierarchy.
The Tier-2 SATA HDDs comprise the lower tier that typically consists of large bulk storage. These HDDs are lower quality, higher capacity near-line HDDs. They can also involve consumer HDDs pressed into service in the same "rip and replace"¯ model utilized with consumer SSDs. The real area of contention is that top tier of the storage hierarchy. This is where the high-powered SSDs reside. Every system administrator wants at least some of the flash goodness, but not all can afford it. Price is certainly the limiting factor that is keeping many from joining the flash club.
This top tier is also starting to experience its own segmentation and Micron has moved to provide an approach for each tier to address the full scope of the market. This upper tier is where price can become a secondary consideration to sheer speed. The upper echelon devices, typically PCIe, hold the top of this high-speed tier. At this level, Micron offers the P320H as premium data storage. These types of solutions are typically for high I/O applications.
The second tier is the mainstream enterprise tier. Micron offers the P300 solution for mid-level usage. The P300's SLC NAND provides high write endurance and the 2.5"¯ form factor allows easy integration into a multitude of solutions.
Finally, we get down to the entry level and/or boot tier. This level is for the users who do not have massive write loads and who will benefit from SSDs tailored for lighter workloads. This is quite simply the largest market segment that is currently expanding rapidly.
Many users are still falsely holding images of datacenter-class flash storage as being only for the most demanding usage scenarios. OLTP, VMware, cloud computing and bleeding-edge high I/O applications are what many visualize as the use case for all SSDs in the enterprise space. As flash continues to drop in price and the endurance increases, this couldn't be farther off the mark. The casual user base, which is also the largest, is in dire need of solutions that offer enterprise features at a lower price point.
The research from Gartner, the world's leading technology research and advisory company, agrees with the Micron view of things. Here we can see their estimates from their market analysis of projected 2015 workload applications in units. The percentage of these read intensive workload applications are much larger than the other two tiers combined. These read intensive workloads need solutions and the companies that can bring the value oriented solutions forward stand to gain access to the largest and fastest growing market segment.
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