SSD vs. HDD: the flash chips make all the difference

Among other things, says one expert, enterprise analytics operations are performance-intensive and, thus, do well on high-performance, flash-based SSDs.

Jeff Rowe | Jul 11, 2018 11:35 am

Despite the rapid spread of flash storage across healthcare and other sectors, the likelihood remains that most data centers and enterprise storage systems are at least a mix of hard disk drive (HDD) and solid state drive (SSD) technologies.  And chances are good they’ll remain that way for some time to come.

With that reality in mind, tech writer Christine Taylor recently explored the differences between HDD and SSD at the Enterprise Storage Forum, noting as a starting point, “Companies of any size will optimize their storage purchases by understanding HDD and SDD differences, and how those differences affect purchasing decisions.”

As Taylor sees things, despite a number of recent enhancements, “HDDs can't hold a candle to SSDs in terms of sheer performance. Instead of using magnetic platters and drive heads, SSDs use flash chips to store data. Using floating gate transistor or charge trap technologies, SSDs store bits—the ones and zeros that represent digital information, determined by the lack or presence of electrons—within its memory cells.”

The lack of moving parts in SSDs “eliminates many of the storage bottlenecks introduced by spinning platters and the actuator arms used to move an HDD's write heads into position. In a PC, an SSD can help slash system boot and application load times to mere seconds. In enterprise server and storage environments, SSDs can yield snappier, more responsive application performance.”

Needless to say, Taylor notes, the enhanced performance of flash storage means higher SSD price tags, but “the lack of mechanical parts in an SSD means that they are less prone to being damaged by vibrations or contaminants.”  In other words, they last longer.

What this all translates into for IT managers in healthcare and other sectors is the need to determine the best use, at the best price, for each technology.  According to Taylor, “some analysts believe that archiving will be the single largest use case for hard drives, and that production environments will adopt all flash over the next few years.”

Still, she says, “SSD’s deep inroads into traditional HDD storage is not the death knell it may appear to be for HDDs. Hard disk drives remain strong sellers for two major use cases in the data center and the cloud: nearline storage and long-term data retention.”

At the very least, she says, all-flash data centers are still “years away,” so for the foreseeable future,  choosing the optimal media for any storage environment will require “balancing reliability, durability, cost, performance, capacity and workloads.”


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