The argument about whether solid state drives (SSD) will usurp hard disc drives (HDD) has been rumbling on for some time. Those in the pro-solid state camp point out that SDDs are extremely stable and durable under rugged conditions whereas the moving parts of HDDs increase the probability of mechanical failure, writes Ariel Perez.
Evaluations of HDDs and SDDs, carried out by Kingston Technology in real-world notebook performance categories such as multimedia, gaming and digital content creation, reveal an increase in performance of up to 581% using SSDs. Although the cost of SDDs will inevitably be a factor, the performance advantages, durability, reliability and power savings could justify the investment.
In back office server environments the benefits of SDDs can also be significant for database scratch partitions, e-mail, website hosting, e-commerce/banking transactions, video on-demand and cloud computing.
For example, financial institutions may rely on a RAID/rack comprising thousands of HDDs to satisfy quick response times for daily transactions. In this situation multiple drives are implemented, but not for storage space. In some cases, these drives are "short stroked" using only a small percent of their capacity, forcing data to the outer ring of addresses which in turn leads to a high-performing transaction rate.
Kingston has illustrated that by utilising SSDs in this scenario, rather than HDDs, significant savings could be made. For example, in a worst case scenario, five times TCO savings could be achieved; in a best case situation, 32 times TCO savings are achievable. These would accrue in the areas of floor space, power and cooling while delivering higher performance and in some cases increasing capacity.
Another less obvious benefit springs from SSD use in this situation. Due to savings in floor space and power consumption, there is a corresponding increase in a datacentre's ability to utilise more processing power. As many large datacentres have reached the limits of their power supplies, SSD implementations could potentially decrease storage power by at least five times, resulting in more processing racks and a lifting of constraints.
Resistance to change is an inherent facet of human psychology which applies across all areas of activity, including the sphere of technology. Given that HDDs have been with us for 50 years and have helped us gain startling achievements in the computing industry, many might say "let's stick with what we know".
But that is not a feature of this industry; if anything, it has been characterised by a willingness to embrace new ideas and technologies and apply them to many areas of life, from business to medicine, science and space. Storage is just one component in this evolving story, but today's SSD technology represents another landmark for the industry: it signals the beginning of a shift towards a more reliable and cost-effective means of storage.
Ariel Perez is SSD business manager at Kingston Technology
This was first published in August 2009