How flash efficiency can pay off for enterprise-wide storage

While solid state drives (SSD) used to be deployed mainly to support high-end applications and small amounts of data, says one observer, their reach has expanded to the point where server hard drives are becoming rare in the newest machines.

Jeff Rowe | May 15, 2018 02:13 pm

With ever growing piles of unstructured data requiring real-time analysis, health IT managers are taking a close look at both solid state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD) to match their need for storage.

According to tech writer Drew Robb, what many are finding is “SSD offers a way to control costs while delivering insight at the speed required by management.”

But Robb doesn’t stop there, but goes on to do extensive side-by-side comparison of both technologies with an eye toward helping enterprise storage managers choose appropriately for their organizations.

He does point out that SSDs have many advantages over HDDs, including no moving parts, no mechanical reasons for failure, “no need for fans to dissipate,” silent operation and more rapid access to applications.  

Still, he notes, there are a few downsides. “Enterprise SSDs are not a good venue for archival data. Left without power for long periods, they can leak data. Some types of flash, too, don’t deal well with data that is accessed repeatedly. They wear out after being accessed many thousands of times,” although “alternate types of enterprise SSD have been developed to mitigate this problem.”

While the role of SSDs has been expanding, in recent years, Robb suggest high capacity SSDs still don’t necessarily make sense for all applications. “They are good for cloud applications, for example, that support content sharing traffic, such as video and media streaming, as well as active archiving applications where highly sensitive information isn’t being overwritten. But read-intensive workloads may need right-sized endurance to provide users with consistency of data throughput to ensure fast delivery of the information being requested for reading, hearing or watching.”

In the end, he says, regardless of further innovation, “enterprise SSD is eating up much of the storage pie. Some believe that the only realistic area left for non-flash storage is archiving.

There is a similar trajectory between SSD adoption in the enterprise and server virtualization. Just as server virtualization reached a tipping point years ago where admins had to justify why they were NOT going to virtualize a certain workload, the deployment of HDDs for enterprise storage is becoming increasingly difficult to explain.”

Indeed, he notes, over the long term, “it looks like the all-flash data center may become a reality.”

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