Making Efficient Use of Your SSD

The lowering price point of powerful SSD technology is making it more and more attractive as a database storage option. Even so, companies must maximize its usefulness to justify the cost.

They say you always want what you can’t have. In the tech world, it’s a sentiment that might be better stated as, “You can always have what you want — just wait a few years until the cost goes down.”

That just-affordable price point has come for SSDs (solid state drives), a powerful type of memory device that has reframed all expectations for performance. But while an SSD can now be the crown jewel of a database infrastructure, they’re still quite expensive, and some users have struggled to make the most efficient use of their power and speed. Considering the technology’s enormous potential, companies have much to gain by refining their approach.

Eliminating Spin

Simply put, SSDs beat out their hard disk drive (HDD) predecessors on I/O performance by several orders of magnitude — even standard SSDs comfortably outperform the most advanced HDD arrays. This massive power also comes with reduced latency, seek time, faster boot times, greater reliability, and quieter operation.

As TechTarget notes, SSDs radically depart from conventional hard disk drives (HDDs) in that they have no moving parts. Instead of a spinning disk and a read/write arm, SSDs use integrated circuits to transmit data to and from semiconductor memory that has been arranged as a disk drive. Data is read immediately, making SSDs ideal for heavy processing workloads.

Even better, the two kinds of SSDs, flash or RAM-based, can be easily configured to fit standard form factors: as traditional HDD (fitting in the same slots), standard card form factors like PCIe, or housed inside Dual In-line Memory Modules (DIMM).

As another TechTarget article observes, companies are using SSD technology to form an entirely new class of mission-critical storage, Tier 0 — the once-heralded Tier 1 class of storage is now just second rate. But with such enormous upsides, technology like this always comes with a catch: the reality is that this tech has outpaced the ability of companies to employ it effectively.

Matching Form and Function

Because of their capacity and their cost, your SSDs should be shouldering much of your workloads in order to give full returns on your investment. But just throwing as much data as possible at the SSD isn’t the right solution — the most popular and affordable SSD type, flash-based, has an upper limit to the number of writes it can perform before becoming defunct, which means that overuse will speed its demise (though HDDs likewise putter out with time).

Thus, a careful balance must be struck between the type and quantity of workload provided, which takes a degree of analytic control that most operations don’t yet possess. Of course, companies could upgrade to a highly superior RAM-based SSD system to avoid overwriting risk, but for a much larger capital investment.

The future of advanced memory drives is here — and the trick to using their power economically is total control.

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