Flash Memory Outpaces HDD Data Density
A new approach to constructing solid state drive technology is chipping away at advantages formerly held by hard disc drives. Up until 2016, computers and servers could get more in storage from a traditional hard disc drive than a solid state drive when accounting for the physical size of the device. According to Forbes this is no longer the case, as manufacturers can now build flash memory storage devices that store more data in less space than a traditional hard drive. However, should your data center immediately exchange all of its existing HDDs for SSDs? Most likely not.
How it Works
The increase in SSD storage density comes from advances in 3D NAND, also known as V-NAND, technology that stacks memory cells on top of each other in addition to beside each other in three-dimensional space. The design shift is akin to adding more floor space to a building by constructing it with multiple above ground stories as opposed to having a single level.
What it Means for Data Centers: Nothing…Yet
While SSD costs are getting cheaper, the technology is still cost prohibitive when compared to traditional HDD solutions. According to NetworkWorld a 13TB 2.5-inch SSD comes in at a $1 per GB cost, making it a $13,000 product which is much more expensive than the $200 HDD equivalent. Because of the current pricing difference, large-scale flash storage in data centers is not yet financially practical.
Additionally, modern SSDs aren’t built to handle the constant overwriting demands in high-use servers. Current flash memory technology can’t handle thousands upon thousands of rewrites like enterprise-level HDDs. In addition to the cost of having to replace flash drives with bad cells, more frequent storage device failures can have residual costs on your business. The technology is getting there, but isn’t quite there yet.
The Potential Pros
One of the more obvious pros to having higher-density storage is that the servers will not need as much space to house storage devices. Smaller or fewer servers means your data center requires less floor space to do the same job.
Data centers that transition from HDDs to SDDs are likely to see some cost-savings in the energy department. SDDs do not feature moving parts, so they end up only requiring between 2-4 watts compared to 6-7 watts for HDDs. On a single drive basis, that’s not a lot of energy savings, but when your data center is running 10,000 hard drives that means your data center can operate at 50,000 watts under what it used to.
Lower-cost SSDs could end up costing data center operators close to or less than HDD equivalents a few years down the line. According to ComputerWorld, the cost-per-gigabyte rate is dropping much faster on SDDs than HDDs. The average cost of a SSD storage per GB has dropped to around a quarter of the original price between 2012 and 2016, while HDD costs declined around 33% and appear to have leveled-off.
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