Solid State Drives with POWER7 Servers

When looking at the type of data storage hardware used with IBM i, the most common options generally include hard disk drives, flash, and solid state drives. SSDs can provide numerous advantages over traditional HDDs, namely in the area of computing performance. IBM explored this topic in multiple white papers and articles, observing that SSDs are capable of delivering notably better input/output performance.

“Capable of driving tens of thousands of I/O operations per second (IOPS), as opposed to hundreds for HDDs, SSDs break through performance bottlenecks of I/O-bound applications,” IBM wrote in a recent article. “Applications that require dozens and dozens of ‘extra’ HDDs for performance can meet their I/O performance requirements with far fewer SSDs, resulting in energy, space, and cost savings.”

The technology behind solid state drives has been around for more than 30 years at this point, but the cost of such storage devices was historically restrictive to widespread adoption. However, recent advancements have made SSDs particularly beneficial for use with applications running in an IBM i operating system environment.

Performance Benefits of SSDs

On my Power Server tour, I ran into many customers that are using this technology with much success. SSDs are, in essence, as fast as memory. Some customers have all SSDs, while others have used it for the table/files that have the most usage on the system. Their reason for adopting the technology is simple: the number one performance issue on this server is I/O.

An IBM white paper titled “Performance Value of Solid State Drives using IBM i” presented an overview of this topic by running a few experiments to compare SSDs and HDDs. The researchers discovered that SSDs provide significantly better performance, and because fewer SSDs are needed to provide this improvement, companies can enjoy a smaller physical footprint as well as less energy consumption and required hardware maintenance.

“SSDs, on the other hand, use solid state persistent memory to store data,” the IBM white paper stated. “SSDs have no moving parts which result both in significantly lower access times (100 microsecond range), and reduced power consumption and noise. Since SSDs do not have to power spinning platters or moving arms the overall watts/hour needed to power an SSD is significantly less than that of a typical 3.5-inch HDD.”

Specifically with IBM i operating system environments, SSD deployment is relatively simple because IBM i has a built-in storage manager and DB2 to facilitate the process. Benefits from integrating SSDs into any production environment include increased I/O and data throughput, as well as reductions in application and disk response time, purchasing cost, the number of HDDs needed, energy consumption, and lab space.

IBM also offers an SSD Analyzer Tool that assists IT decision makers in answering the question of whether the SSDs could be useful for improving the performance of existing systems, including for POWER7 servers.