Often when we discuss Solid State Disk (SSD) there is a tendency to focus on the very high-end systems with demanding databases or thousands of simultaneous users. However, one of the benefits of SSD is the ability to enable mid-tier systems to deliver performance that matches that of high-end systems with hundreds of mechanical drives. The mid-tier is often overlooked and that could be a mistake. One of the powerful capabilities of SSD is that it can improve performance of just about any system that is strapped for I/O performance. For example a system with SATA based hard drives and mid-tier storage processors with the addition of just a little bit of SSD can suddenly perform as well as systems costing twice as much.
This has ramifications for customers who think their only option is to sweep the floor when they hit the performance wall with their storage systems. In many situations, adding SSD to the environment will improve overall system performance and delay a costly upgrade to the next generation storage system. Also, customers considering a new purchase should factor SSD into their considerations. Test to see if adding a small amount of SSD to a less expensive system can bring it up to the same performance level as the more expensive mechanical drive only alternative. Interestingly, adding that same SSD to the more expensive system may not help system performance. Typically, where in a more pricey system the storage system has to be maxed out for SSD to make a difference, a mid-range system will get to this max point and see a benefit from SSD sooner.
Often the combined price of the mid-range system plus SSD is still substantially less than the more powerful mechanical drive-only alternative. This is because the more powerful system gets its performance by adding more robust storage processors and more cache memory, both of which cost more money for a storage manufacturer to put into a disk array. Significantly more. SSD will allow you to use less powerful, less expensive storage processors and memory.
Manufacturers add these components primarily so the system will support more drives. More drives in an array group equals more performance, but it also equals more cost. Why build a 100+ drive system for performance to store only a few hundred GBs worth of data? This is an ideal use case for SSD. One SSD vs.100+ drives. SSD will be cheaper to purchase, power and manage.
Don't think of SSD when your high-end box has hit the wall, think of it before you even get there. Use it to extend the life of a mid-range storage system or enable the purchase of a mid-range system instead of an even more expensive high-end system. Making the meek powerful saves money.George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for datacenters across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS, ... View Full Bio