Last month, we introduced solid-state arrays, which use flash memory drives in traditional hard-drive form factors, and this month, we will explore some of their applications.
Solid-state arrays are the next-generation solution for the rapid storage and delivery of data and applications. They provide random access times magnitudes faster than hard disk drives–approximately .1 millisecond, compared to 5 to 10 milliseconds. They are available with common interfaces like SATA and SAS RAID, rendering them easy to integrate into SAN and network NAS storage environments.
With their superior input/output (I/O) speeds, they effectively support storage virtualization, cloud storage, unified storage, storage for video, data archives, and high-performance, mission-critical applications. They resolve I/O issues without the cost and complexity of deploying large numbers of conventional, frequently under-utilized hard drives. As a result, SSD arrays are often the top tier in an automated storage tiering strategy, which is called Tier 0.
Among their many applications, they are ideal for addressing the boot storms of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments. Boot storms occur when hundreds or thousands of users concurrently log in at the beginning of the workday, overwhelming the I/O performance of spinning disk storage arrays. With their extraordinary read performance, SSD arrays can mitigate this problem.
Another good use case is bolstering cloud storage. Clouds are cost-effective repositories for large amounts of data, but accessing data from the cloud can result in latency. Enterprises can deploy an SSD array in the data center to host frequently used data that resides on the cloud. They will gain the economies of cloud storage with the blistering speeds of an onsite SSD array—a win-win situation.
Many innovations are improving the performance and efficiencies of network storage, such as data tiering and deduplication, but none are as far-reaching as the emergence of solid-state drives (SSDs).SSDs deliver a leap forward as pronounced as the superiority of DVD/CD technology over video and audio cassettes. Until relatively recently, storage has been built exclusively around spinning disks. Spinning disks, however, are 20th century electro-mechanical technology that is very inefficient. Energy is required to spin the disks to thousands of rotations per minute and additional energy is required to remove the heat these devices then produce. Adding to their inefficiencies, administrators sometimes limit the area on each disk where data is stored—a process called short stroking—to extract maximum read/write performance for transaction-intensive applications. SSDs, however, avoid all the shortcomings of spinning disks.
They provide vastly superior read/write speeds, making them ideal for those transaction-intensive applications. Their integrated circuitry has no moving parts, which not only substantially reduces their energy consumption, but also makes them more durable and smaller than spinning disks. Indeed, SSDs are an enabling technology for the explosive popularity of today’s handheld devices like smart phones. For these reasons, SSDs are beginning to appear in storage appliances, disk arrays, and RAID solutions. Next generation RAID arrays, for example,can be provisioned with either spinning disks or SSDs for blazing I/O speeds. They alsohave the versatility to serve as NAS storage, IP or Fibre Channel SAN systems, or unified storage. SSD systems can accelerate such applications as data archives, backup storage, storage virtualization, video storage, and cloud storage. SSDs currently cost more per gigabyte than spinning disks, but as with the latter, their prices continue to drop as more businesses leverage their many advantages.