The year of the SSD …

January 8, 2013

Big call, with absolutely no stats to back it up … but I’m making it anyway.

Every time I talk to a customer and think to myself “they should be using SSDs” I then think to myself “no, they’re too expensive”. And when I start talking to customers about such products as Intel 520s, they all jump on their suppliers website and look at the price … and every day it’s cheaper than the previous.

I’m staggered at the price of decent SSDs – they are dropping like flies. I presume there is plenty of margin to be had which is why they can keep dropping the price, but it’s pretty amazing all the same.

The biggest hurdle I find customers struggling to get over is not cost, but the fear of drive failure. For some reason people seem to think the SSD is an unstable, unreliable, cantankerous piece of equipment. However my experience shows that to be far from the truth. People using “brand name” SSDs are having great success with them, and are not troubled by the stability or failure rates in the slightest. Even in such price conscious markets as China, the SSD is making big inroads into the 15K SAS market – I personally think it is going to wipe it out.

As we move more and more to 2.5″ form factors in servers, the 10K 2.5″ SAS drive is making it’s place felt, with the SSD taking over for the high-end data needs. Certainly they are not being used for video surveillance servers, but as the world moves toward the clouds the low latency and high IOPs of the SSD are making themselves felt in the datacentre (not my non-American spelling of that word).

There is also a serious push going on in the datacentre to run at higher temperatures, and the SSD has the one amazing ability over a 15K SAS drive – it does not get hot (or produce enough heat to cook my dinner as a bunch of 15K drives will do). Combined with their low power use, they make great fodder for the masses in the datacentres, and are being used in massive numbers in China for just such purposes.

There is also the question of RAID levels and SSD drives. Traditionally we have kept database-type data to non-parity RAID (eg RAID 10), which is expensive and space-consuming. However I’m finding quite a few people putting raid arrays together on SSDs in RAID 5 with some pretty amazing performance results. I won’t say that the SSD completely wipes out the handicap of RAID 5 in write performance on small writes, but it goes a long way towards doing such – and combined with a healthy chunk of write cache on the RAID card RAID 5 is holding it’s own in SSD environments.

So there are a lot of factors coming in to play here – 2.5″, low power, low heat, high speed, high IOPs, low latency and high cost (yes initially they are more expensive) … but the cost factor needs to be looked at for the life of the server – the good old TCO – and when you look at SSDs in that light, they make a lot of sense.

So I’m calling it … 2013 will be the year of the SSD …

Then again, I’ve been wrong before :-)



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