Greetings from Las Vegas
And EMC World 2008.

Dave Donatelli, president of EMC’s storage business, presented to the press room this morning. His most interesting statement was that flash drives will have cost-parity with, and therefore replace, high-end rotating magnetic disks, by the end of 2010.

Let’s run some numbers
Dave said that EMC has measured STEC’s flash drives at 30x the IOPS of a high-end disk with sub-millisecond access times. That alone would justify a premium over existing drives. He also said that the performance of the flash drive was better under load. A double win.

A 15k 74 GB Seagate SAS drive is about $175 or roughly $2/GB. A 2 GB Single Level Cell (SLC) flash chip is currently about $8/GB on the flash spot market. If flash keeps dropping at 50% a year they’ll be where the current disk price is in mid-2010.

But that’s raw chip vs finished disk
The remaining question is how much does the chip controller and other infrastructure cost? STEC isn’t selling its 74 GB flash drives for $8/GB – $80/GB is closer to the mark. Volume should amortize their engineering costs. PC boards are cheap.

That leaves the flash translation layer. That should fit nicely on an FPGA and, once the bugs are out, on an ASIC. The 1st ASIC is expensive; the 100,000th is cheap.

The StorageMojo take
Flash drives don’t need absolute price parity to win against high-end FC drives. Getting within 30% should do it for most people. Their performance advantages are worth at least that.

Of course the drive vendors aren’t going to sit still. They can pull several levers before breaking the glass for the big red one labeled “margin.” Many have claimed disks are dead and they’re all gone.

But this looks serious. High-end drives are a small piece by units, but their high margins would be sorely missed.

Comments welcome. This isn’t about notebook disks which are currently less than $0.40/GB and headed down much faster than FC and SAS drives.

This is StorageMojo’s 500th post! Thank you, thank you.