To assess solid state performance, look from all angles

In determining performance and lifespan of an SSD, says one expert, companies must consider the drive's architecture, the storage controller and write amplification in addition to IOPS and latency.

Jeff Rowe | Feb 12, 2018 12:00 am

Most SSDs implemented in data centers today are based on flash technologies, and vendors tend to highlight throughput, latency and IOPS when marketing their products.  But experts note there’s more to flash-based SSD’s then that.

In a recent piece at TechTarget, writer Robert Sheldon explains that “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.”

The original flash drives were based on a single-level cell (SLC) structure that stored 1 bit per cell, Sheldon notes, but NAND cell technology has evolved – first through multi-level cell drive, which supported 2 bits per cell, and after that, the triple-level cell (TLC) drive, which stores 3 bits per cell – to now support greater capacities and also drive down prices.

“With TLC, flash drives can support higher capacities than ever. They exceed many of their hard disk drive counterparts” Sheldon says, but he adds that current “TLC drives cannot always deliver the same levels of performance as the original SLC drives. Newer 3D NAND technologies (however) promise to deliver both capacity and performance -- once manufacturing costs are brought in line with other NAND technologies.”

As Sheldon sees things, other factors -- 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.

Moreover, “there are other considerations that go into implementing SSDs in a data center, such as the available server and network resources as well as the operating systems running on those servers. But the drive's components and write amplification methodologies should be top concerns.”

Only by taking into account all these factors, Sheldon says, can organizations ensure that the drives they purchase will deliver the performance necessary to support their applications.

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