CloudSigma adds SSDs to its public cloud

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CloudSigma has become the first established cloud provider to add solid-state-drive storage to its public cloud computing service. SSDs (aka flash memory) are well known for their ability to significantly increase storage I/O performance and decrease power consumption when compared with hard disk drives, but until recently they have been too expensive for consideration in most data centers that aren’t backed by serious computing needs and deep pockets. That’s starting to change with the advent of new companies promising ever-lower prices on enterprise-grade flash storage, but making flash available as a service to cloud customers is still relatively unheard of.

However, adding flash is just par for the course for CloudSigma, which has been making a name for itself on high performance and customer choice since launching in the United States recently. The company’s U.S. presence is based out of the mind-blowing SuperNAP data center in Las Vegas, and CloudSigma chose 10 GbE interconnects as its standard to ensure its cloud can fully utilize the throughput horsepower of new technologies like flash. A couple weeks ago, it announced support of Oracle’s Solaris operating system, which also is unique among cloud providers (although Amazon Web Services does support OpenSolaris).

Earlier this year, I detailed how the SwedenSwitzerland-based CloudSigma generally hopes to differentiate its service by giving users the level of control over infrastructure they’re generally accustomed to getting through colocation, but not pay-per-use cloud computing services.

CloudSigma will charge 40 cents per gigabyte per month for its SSD offering that’s based on high-end SLC flash, which CTO Robert Jenkins told me means the company isn’t really turning a profit on the offering. However, he noted, it’s designed to better CloudSigma’s price-performance ratio overall, which will bring in more and bigger customers that want to do things in its cloud that they can’t do elsewhere. Those could be anything from running high-performance computing workloads to hosting high-transaction databases.

At this point, CloudSigma is targeting its flash offering at tiered storage environments in which companies place “hot” data or data that requires high I/O throughput on flash, while keeping less-performance-intensive data and backup operations on hard disks. In the future, though, as companies seeking to replace SANs with flash arrays mature, Jenkins said CloudSigma will look into incorporating flash even for general-purpose storage workloads. One startup selling just such systems to cloud providers, SolidFire, has raised $37 million this year.

Although SSDs in the cloud are cool enough by themselves, they’re part of a larger trend toward making cloud computing a more palatable delivery model for all types of workloads. What began as a platform for hosting web applications has expand to enterprise apps such as ERP software from SAP, and even into massively parallel HPC workloads. AWS even offers GPU instances on an HPC cluster, which has resulted in several companies benchmarking AWS as among the fastest supercomputers in the world. Jenkins said CloudSigma will “absolutely” offer GPUs at some point, and might even go as far as to expose specific processors for rendering digital media.

Image courtesy of Flickr user TheBusyBrain.

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