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By Jeff St. John

Samsung Electronics Co. is the latest company to promote solid-state data storage systems for their power-saving credentials.

Samsung’s new 100-gigabyte solid-state drive for data centers, introduced Tuesday at the Storage Visions 2009 Conference in Las Vegas, isn’t just fast. It also uses one-quarter to one-eighth of the power that competing hard drives use in active mode, the company said.

That will save companies on power costs, as well as the costs of upgrading power infrastructure to upgrade data centers at the limits of their capacity, Samsung said.

Solid-state drives, which rely on flash memory, have been touted as a replacement for standard spinning hard drives for the past few years. Solid state drives can retrieve relatively static data, like a Web page, faster than conventional drives and consume far less power.

The problem has been price: a gigabyte of storage in a solid-state drive costs twice as much or more and solid-state drives typically don’t hold as much data. But with the cost of flash drives falling by about 60 percent a year over the past three years, using them to replace enterprise drives is starting to make better financial sense for certain applications.

Although originally targeted at notebooks, data centers have been warming up to these drives because they can save energy in two ways. One, the servers use less power. Two, with these drives, data center managers can also turn down the air conditioners, which use about half the power in a data center. Solid-state drives, however, only represent a very small fraction of the market.

Samsung isn’t the first company to look to solid-state memory to save power costs. Sun Microsystems Inc. (JAVA) in November unveiled a new line of storage systems that it said will need about a quarter of the power of competing, hard drive-based systems (see Sun Shoots for Power Reduction in Data Storage).

EMC Corp. (NYSE:EMC) launched its Symmetrix line of data storage products that use flash drives to improve performance and energy efficiency in early 2008. Researchers at IBM have discussed using solid-state data drives in data storage, and the company has replaced drives with flash in a slim blade server.

The power-saving benefits of solid-state memory are becoming a bigger concern for data storage manufacturers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said last year that data centers, along with servers, will double their energy consumption to 100 billion kilowatt-hours by 2012, costing data-center owners as much as $7.4 billion a year (see Data Centers Could Hit ‘Resource Crisis’).

Meanwhile, Spansion (SPSN) and Viridient Systems are touting technology for replacing standard memory, the chips that hold data temporarily inside servers (versus forever, how a drive does it), with flash (seeSpansion to Google: We Can Save You Money).

Source: Samsung Plugs Solid-State Drive for Data Centers