Are SSDs Taking Over in the Datacenter?

March 16, 2017 Trent Brock

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Experts and the IT media have been anticipating the demise of spinning-disk technology for many years. However, there are still pros and cons for both Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) and Solid State Drives (SSDs). Most companies will have a mix of both in their devices and in their datacenter.

First, the fundamental difference: HDDs are disk drives using a spinning magnetized platter and an actuator arm. SSDs use non-volatile NAND flash memory, which does not lose data when powered down. A global shortage of NAND flash memory is currently driving prices upward by an anticipated ten percent in Q1 2017.

Availability aside, there are many clear advantages to using SSDs. They have no moving parts and they are inherently more reliable. HDDs fail at a rate of about five-percent per year, while SSDs fail at .44-percent. They are also less prone to damage and power outage-related failure.

They are also up to four times faster, which is especially important in minimizing bootup times for enhanced productivity. Today’s SMBs and enterprise operations have more essential data and more large-file data than ever before, and SSDs have a clear speed advantage when it comes to accessing these large files. From X-ray and CT scan images for medical records and healthcare applications, to video and multimedia files for security, training, marketing, and regulatory compliance, to unstructured data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT), more and larger files are being created every year. The ability to quickly access those assets is mission-critical for many kinds of organizations. 

SSDs also offer a small footprint, which continues to get smaller as the technology improves. In contrast, HDDs are limited by the size of the spinning disk and actuator arm. Because there are no moving parts, they can reduce power consumption by up to 50 percent.

The greatest advantages of HDDs are storage and cost. There is more manufacturing capacity, so large amounts of HDD space can be added quickly and affordably. Like tape storage for enterprise data, the demise of HDDs has sometimes been prematurely anticipated. Most datacenters today will use some combination of both in order to take advantage of the distinct features of each type of storage. Your organization will need to determine, for each application or set of data:

  • Amount of storage needed
  • Types and sizes of files to be stored
  • How quickly the large files must be accessed and/or manipulated
  • Importance of bootup speed
  • Importance of power consumption
  • Mobility of the device
  • Space available
  • Budget and total cost of ownership
  • Hardware cost/availability in current market conditions
  • If the data needs to be stored on-premise, or if a cloud solution might be better
  • Other factors specific to your business or industry

After considering all of these factors, IT leaders can determine what percentage of the datacenter’s storage should be allocated to SSDs versus HDDs.

Bonus tip: Do you really need this in your datacenter? Most organizations are storing data that could effectively be stored in the cloud. A high-quality MSP can help you evaluate your options.

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