Solid State Drives in Data Center Use
The performance improvements solid state drives have over hard disk drives make the flash-based storage devices sound like an ideal upgrade for your business’ data center. However, the speed boost you experience when you swap out the HDD with a SSD on your personal computer may not translate into the same positive experience on a server. The decision to move to SSD should depend on how your business utilizes its data center and not solely for upgrade purposes.
The problem with switching to SSD-based data center infrastructure stems from how the devices manage high-heat situations compared to HDDs. A joint study from Carnegie Mellon and Facebook found that heavily worked SSDs produce substantial heat which requires that the drive throttle performance to prevent the drive from damaging itself. A throttled drive experiences a notable performance drop which negates much of the SSD’s performance gains.
In a worst case scenario, the drive will break itself if worked hard for too long, making the migration to SSD an expensive and wasteful endeavor. While traditional HDDs can also be damaged from overheating, the situation is not as dire. Google’s comprehensive study on hard drive failure rates discovered that HDDs operating below 30 degrees Celsius and above 50 degrees Celsius have fairly low failure rates, with the devices having a strong resilience to hotter operating temperatures.
When Speed is the Priority
SSDs are an excellent option when heat management is not an issue for the data center’s use-case. SSDs work well when you need little space and lots of performance in small bursts as opposed to a constantly-used data storage backbone. HGST, a Western Digital-owned company, recommends using SSDs for things like financial transactions and E-commerce applications while using high-performance HDDs for things like business processing and data analysis.
Cost for Storage
SSDs continue to drop in price, but do not come close to comparable storage capacity as their HDD counterparts at the same price point. If your data center is being used to store large amounts of data in cases when lightning-fast speed is not essential, springing the extra budget for SSDs won’t be cost effective. The Facebook study also found that up to 34 percent of SSDs in server arrays experienced data storage failure rates, which means that redundancies are more important when dealing with sensitive, irreplaceable data on SSD-based platforms.
Meeting in the Middle
Opting to use hybrid HDD/SSD drives in your data center keeps freshly-accessed data in a high-speed SSD cache on the device while using the HDD portion for long-term storage. Additionally, your business can replicate the hybrid experience on a larger scale using a combination of SSD and HDD storage devices in a structured network.
While SSD technology offers impressive speed boosts with access times up to 100 times faster than HDDs, limitations prevent them from replacing HDDs in data center infrastructure entirely. However, SSD technology continues to improve heat handling and offering more storage at a lower price, so the situation could be very different a few years down the line.
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