Paving the way forward with SSD Tech

Traditionally, legacy servers provided network storage services through the utilization of hard drives embedded within the chassis. Compared to older data transport options such as CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives, server-based hard drives are able to store large amounts of information in bulk. Hard drives are usually cheap, but over the course of their shelf life, they tend to fail over time. Coupled with the fact when there are hard drive servers co-located together in a tight space they tend to heat up quickly. This necessitated the need for HVAC units near server spaces to ensure that they remain cool.
Unless your enterprise has a backup solution in place, that could mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars when it comes to sensitive data. Solid state storage was introduced as a replacement solution to traditional hard disk drives. They are small, power efficient, runs coolly and processes data at lightning fast speeds.

Companies are looking for reliable products that they can count on for the years ahead, and classic hard drives will soon become obsolete as server SSD technology becomes more affordable and robust. It is simply a question of how soon hard drives will be replaced once the flaws in SSD technology is fixed. Business leadership will need to interface with their IT staff in determining a viable strategy as the organization moves forward.

Why should you even bother with a server SSD?

Servers are significant investments made by the enterprise to provide services for their network. SSD-based servers are no exception; when you purchase them, you’ll be getting performance increases in how users will be able to access and use data. This holds especially true for data-driven applications where resource usage is intensive.

A case example that can be cited is where a visitor from outside your organization’s enterprise accesses and navigates through the company’s website. Network users and visiting entities will notice significant performance increases as they navigate through the company’s portal and internal network resources.

We’ll be explaining some of the differences between HDDs and SSDs in the following segments to give a better context as to what you can expect in terms of performance from these two technologies.

Hard Disk Drive

Hard disk drives consist of a platter that spins with an arm over it as data is written onto it. HDDs are differentiated based on the writing types that they are capable of, the lowest being 5400 with the highest being 10,000 RPMs (revolutions per minute) along with the amount of storage they are capable of. HDDs that are embedded within a server are usually arrayed in rows (three hard drives across being the most common). This results in bulk storage that is accessible to users on the network for them to store their files on.

The way storage is configured for hard drives at the server-level is through the use of RAID (redundant array of independent drives). Below are explanations for different RAID-configs:

  • RAID 0: splits data across numerous disks (doesn’t matter how many) and allows higher throughput. One file can is read from multiple disks giving it the capacity and speed of all combined disk drives. This RAID configuration has no form of redundancy and is used for VOD edge servers and live streaming.
  • RAID 1: Reads and writes identical data to drives that are set up in pairs through a process called data mirroring. Has some measure of fault tolerance and data is easy to recover if there’s any that is lost. Has a low usable capacity and costs higher per megabyte (doubles the number of drives needed to achieve the necessary storage capacity).
  • RAID 5: Stripes data blocks across multiple disks in a similar fashion to RAID 0 along with parity information. Grants increased performance and fault tolerance; however, the performance will be low if there are large amounts of write operations that are going simultaneously.
  • RAID 6: Stripes data like RAID 5 but has one extra parity block. This provides networks with increased redundancy should two drives fail.
  • RAID 10: Combines RAID 1’s ability to mirror and RAID 0’s ability to stripe data, resulting in increased redundancy and performance. Ideal for working environments where high security and performance are both required.

When in use, hard disk drives will use up to 10W of power. That means that hard drives (wherever they’re embedded) will consume greater amounts of power. In servers or data storage banks, since hard drives are grouped together, anything that consumes large amounts of power will generate more heat.
Anything as simple as a power outage or brownout could disrupt the operation of a computer network, and potentially cause data corruption.

Solid State Drive

Solid state drives are often confused when the term flash memory is tossed around. Wrongfully associated with RAM (which is used to run numerous programs based on the amount available) SSDs are storage mediums with superior data writing performance compared to legacy hard disk drives. They are a step up from portable flash drives, which have no moving parts, and consist solely of transistors as data is written in. Combined with servers, they would allow users within a computer network to be able to access and set up resources quickly. A single solid-state drive runs quietly and on low power (5w), which, in concert with no moving parts puts out no heat. It’s ideal to use in a server-based environment since they do not overheat whatsoever.

The drawback to SSD-based servers is that they are more expensive compared to their HDD counterparts. Businesses often go on the cheap by purchasing HD-based servers instead. Unless the company’s budget is heavily constrained, this may turn to be counterintuitive since hard drives have a limited lifespan and are prone to fail. The following is a list of solid-state storage technologies that are available on the market along with their utility:
- Conductive-metal-oxide: Useful for emerging technologies and serves as a medium of nonvolatile storage where oxygenated ions move between insulated metal-oxide and conductive layers in a single chip.
- Enterprise multi-level-cell flash: For medium and large businesses that need high-performance computing power, this is an iteration of multi-level-cell (MLC) flash that offers an increased program/erase (PE) cycles for extended reliability and shelf life.
- Flash-based solid-state-storage: Data storage that delivers performance for users in environments where it is crucial, this is geared towards any data system/repository that utilizes flash memory. Complexity and size will usually range from enterprise-level memory systems that are array-based to USB drives.
- Magnetoresistive random-access memory: An emerging technology/solid-state storage that is high-density, it is a method of storing data bits via magnetic charges vice electrical charges as used by dynamic RAM.
- Multi-level-cell (MLC) flash: Aimed towards small businesses and large enterprises that utilize standalone, all-flash and hybrid storage, this serves as an approach to flash memory where two data segments can be written on the same cell, thereby doubling a single-level cell’s storage capacity.
- NAND flash memory: For all types of devices that serve as high-speed storage, including consumer electronics, large enterprises, and small businesses. This is geared towards devices that are made via NAND logic gates or flash memory tech.
- NOR flash memory: For personal electronic devices and mobile phones that contain executable code, this form of memory store is low-density. The NOR iteration of flash memory is used within devices made with NOR logic gates or random-access flash memory tech.
- Phase-change memory: An emerging tech that is noted for high storage-density and lightning-fast switching speed. It’s a form of RAM used in computers that stores data which alters the state of matter rapidly back and forth between crystalline and amorphous at the microscopic level.
- RAM-based solid-state storage: Designed for computer applications that are high-speed, typically for government, business, and personal environments. This solid-state storage media is volatile and based on RAM technology that is insensitive to the number of PE cycles.
- Resistive RAM – Another emerging tech that is noted for high storage-density and lightning-fast switching speed. It is a form of storage that is nonvolatile and operates by changing the resistance of a solid dielectric material that is specially formulated.
- Single-level-cell (SLC) flash: Data storage that is high speed and used by multiple entities, including government agencies, medium and large businesses. It is another form of non-volatile solid-state storage/tech that delivers enhanced performance and reliability relative to eMLC and MLC flash media.

Faulty memory cells are usually indicative that a solid state drive will eventually fail, just like their hard disk counterparts. What that usually entails is that the SSD is reaching its write cycle amount and will eventually fail after that cycle number is reached, necessitating the need for spare clocks to replace written blocks. This is similar to mechanical hard drive sectors that cannot be written on due to the sectors being corrupted.

Closing Remarks

In closing, we have discussed the benefits and drawbacks of hard disk drives and SSDs. SSDs are gradually taking over the market, and steadily gaining endurance to make them more robust and less-costly in the event that they fail. The differences between hard drives and SSDs have been explained at length, along with current flaws that are prevalent in both technologies. The available types of SSD technology have also been elaborated to give business leaders and IT managers a context as to what’s available on the market. Choosing the right solution for your company will ultimately boil down to what it can afford and what kind of environment your current servers are based in.