Enterprise and consumer hardware has advanced in the last few years to the point that anything with moving parts becomes a significant bottleneck for data transfer. Hard disk drives (HDDs) are often the “weakest link” in serving information from a data center to the end user. In high IO environments (such as virtual desktop infrastructures), a slow, mechanical device like an HDD is simply going to significantly slow down data storage and retrieval. The benefits of a solid state drive (SSD), the newest trend in data storage hardware, remove this bottleneck.
Because SSDs use flash memory instead of magnetic disks, there are no mechanical parts which can fail due to extreme temperatures, falls, or simple mechanical failure. However, there is more to know about choosing between HDDs and SSDs for an enterprise data center. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of SSDs, as well as possible solutions for your enterprise data storage.
Advantages and Disadvantages of SSD
SSDs offer numerous advantages of the traditional mechanical HDDs that have been used for decades.
- Speed: the primary benefit of SSDs is speed, which delivers up to 100 times the performance of HDDs. This translates to faster boot times, quicker file transfers, and greater bandwidth for enterprise computing.
- Lifetime Cost: Though cost for hardware is lower with HDDs, cost for bandwidth (in terms of $/GB) is much lower with SSDs. This is often a more important measure for enterprises than simple drive capacity per dollar. Enterprise SSDs are also expected to have a longer lifespan, making the cost savings add up in the long run.
- Power Consumption: Ideally, SSDs consume less power than HDDs. This leads to cost savings, as well as decreased heat loss during operation when compared to HDDs.
Though SSDs deliver on the above advantages, there are some disadvantages when choosing them over HDDs.
- Upfront Cost: While SSDs can ideally have a lower lifetime cost, the upfront cost for SSDs is much higher than HDDs. Price convergence in the consumer hard drive industry is misleading, as enterprise SSDs still cost several times the price of comparable storage for HDDs.
- Gradual Wear: Like all flash storage, SSDs have a limited number of times data can be written, erased, and rewritten to a portion of the drive. However, as SSD technology advances, so do the lifespans of the drives. Additional read/write techniques may also be used to optimize drive life.
- Maximum Capacity: Right now, the maximum capacity of an SSD is limited. However, advancements in flash memory are consistently increasing the storage capacity of SSDs.
SSD vs HDD Reliability
An important factor to consider when deciding which type of drive to use in a data center is drive reliability. As mentioned, all flash memory gradually wears out. Though the limited number of read/write cycles for an SSD would be more than enough for consumer applications, enterprise data centers may use many times the data transfer a consumer would ever need.
However, HDDs are not immune to drive failure. Drive heads can collapse, or other mechanical parts can seize and potentially cause data loss.
Where SSDs excel in reliability is in extremes. Unlike mechanical HDDs, SSDs are able to survive drops, extreme heat and cold, extreme pressure, and other physical conditions that would put an HDD out of commission.
A Common Solution
One way many enterprise data centers have balanced out the advantages and disadvantages of SSDs is to use a mix of SSD and HDD in their hardware stacks. This provides an ideal mix of benefits (such as increased bandwidth but with a lower cost than a “pure” SSD stack).
If you are evaluating disk storage solutions for your enterprise organization, contact Patriot for a consultation. Our experienced team can help determine which solution – SSDs, HDDs, or a mix of both – would best serve the data needs of your organization.