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Changing Of The Guard: 2.5” Hard Drives In The Enterprise

Flash Everywhere?

In a few years, SSDs may be ubiquitous in client PCs and many servers, since you don’t need much capacity to run operating systems and a handful of applications. However, the current boom in SSD technology is happening either at the low-end, where capacity and performance don’t matter, or in the performance space.

Let’s quickly look at the potential benefits of flash technology.

  • Highest I/O performance: While enterprise hard drives can deliver a few hundred I/Os per second (IOPS), decent SSDs can handle thousands. This is critical for many enterprise applications.
  • High throughput: Hard drives top out at 200 MB/s today, while SSDs easily exceed this number. Flash drives also sustain much higher average throughput than HDDs.
  • Low maintenance: Since data is stored dynamically across flash channels and cells by the controller, it’s not necessary to defragment SSDs. Defragmentation can even harm performance.
  • Power efficiency: While hard drives require up to 20W, SSDs typically draw very little power, usually only a few watts. As a result, power efficiency in terms of throughput per watt or watts per I/O can be extremely impressive.

Well-designed SSDs are capable of delivering higher throughput, better power efficiency, and I/O performance many times higher than hard drives. Yet “mainstream” drives, covering at least three quarters of all systems and servers shipped, can’t be addressed by SSDs today, despite their potential.

Here’s a short summary of existing issues:

  • Capacity: Today’s enterprise SSDs range from 32GB to 256GB, while enterprise HDDs span up to 600GB. High-capacity business storage now reaches 2TB per drive.
  • Cost: Enterprise SSDs typically start at price points where high-end enterprise hard drives end.
  • Validation: Many hard drive products are already validated for specific system environments, while SSDs typically are not (yet). This applies to compatibility and reliability as well as predictability of performance.

The conclusion is obvious: SSD technology can be superior, but you might have to start from scratch if you want to do things right.