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How to choose the flash that’s best for your healthcare organization

In determining performance and lifespan of flash storage options, companies must consider the SSD’s architecture, the storage controller and write amplification in addition to IOPS and latency.

Jeff Rowe | Nov 01, 2017 12:00 am

Health IT managers in the market for flash storage options often hear about the technology’s advantages in throughput, latency and IOPS.  But according to one longtime observer, other factors, including the drive's component architecture and how it handles write amplification, can be equally important in determining how well a drive will perform over its lifetime.

According to IT consultant and writer Robert Sheldon, most SSDs implemented in data centers today are based on flash technologies. “The components that make up a flash drive include the NAND cells that store the data, as well as a storage controller, interface and cache buffer, all of which play a pivotal role in solid-state drive performance,” he explains.

Given recent advances, Sheldong says, NAND cell technology has evolved to now support greater capacities and thus drive down prices. From a single-level cell structure (SLC) in the early days of flash, the technology has moved through the multi-level cell drive phase, which supported 2 bits per cell, and after that, the triple-level cell (TLC) drive, which stores 3 bits per cell.

While with TLC, Sheldon says, flash drives can support higher capacities than ever, “TLC drives cannot always deliver the same levels of performance as the original SLC drives.” He adds that newer 3D NAND technologies promise to deliver both capacity and performance once manufacturing costs are brought in line with other NAND technologies.

Other important considerations Sheldon points to for solid-state drive performance include the storage controller and the interface between the server and the drive.

Still other considerations key to assessing SSDs for use in a data center include the available server and network resources as well as the operating systems running on those servers. Only by taking into account all these factors can organizations ensure that the drives they purchase will deliver the performance necessary to support their applications.