The current mindset regarding solid-state disk (SSD) drives is that they are extremely expensive, but the reality is that both SSD drives and systems have dropped in price significantly, making them a viable option for select applications in today's IT environments. That's according to a report from disk-based data storage systems provider Nexsan, which released its list of the top five noteworthy trends in SSD technology for 2012.
Beyond the increasingly attractive cost/performance advantages of SSD technology, Nexsan storage system experts said SSD storage system innovations will improve input/output operations per second (IOPS) and reduce end-to-end latency in 2012, marking an increasing effort by vendors to reduce latency and improve the performance of SSD technology, both from a drive and system perspective. Technologies and approaches such as Infiniband-based controllers, PCI-Express controllers, the implementation of block-level deduplication, auto-tiering and caching will enable SSDs to achieve higher performance so that customers can do more, such as run a greater number of virtual machines.
There will also be an increased focus on the need to match SSD drive type with the intended application in 2012, the company predicted, with tiering of SSD between DRAM, SLC flash and eMLC flash ultimately delivering bigger wins than tiering of different kinds of hard drives. Additionally, enterprises will adopt a mix of industry-standard and high-performance SSDs to achieve higher performance rates-up to 10 times for some applications-along with higher reliability and lower overall costs.
"While the value of SSD drives is increasingly attractive, the businesses using them should review their vendors carefully when researching SSD-powered storage systems," said Christine Taylor, a senior analyst with the Taneja Group. "It is critical to select a vendor that regularly reviews and tests the latest generation drives to ensure the best available technology is appropriately matched to the intended application. It is equally important to work with vendors confident enough to stand behind these products with comprehensive warranties and support."
This year will also see more active system vendor evaluation, according to Nexsan, as SSD technology advancements continue their rapid evolution and vendors become more engaged in reviewing SSD products to package the best available technology in their solutions. "Vendors will continue to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to changing SSD drive reliability, performance and cost," the report said.
Customers in 2012 are likely to increase their scrutiny in system vendor selection as system buyers become more SSD-aware this year and knowledgeable in drive and system differentiation. As a result, Nexsan said customers will likely evaluate system vendors on their ability to appropriately analyze, test and design new SSD solutions for optimal performance. For example, some SSDs will experience significant performance degradation as they approach full capacity. Storage systems must be re-engineered for these SSDs in order to get the most out of them and to achieve the financial savings and performance benefits promised.
Encroachment of Multi-Level Cell (MLC) SSDs into the data center rounds out Nexsan's list of predictions. Consumer-level MLC drives will unfortunately find themselves in the data center in 2012. As a result, reliability will suffer "significantly" as the expected life of an MLC SSD drive in a data center environment is typically no more than one year. Nexsan warned this can result in catastrophic downtime if mission-critical data is placed on systems using MLC drives, and recommends data centers use SLC or eMLC drives instead.
"With the increasing advancements in SSD technology, organizations will discover that using solid-state storage for some applications may be cheaper than traditional hard drive technology while offering monumental performance increases," said Gary Watson, CTO of Nexsan. "Due to the reduction in latency, many more virtual machines can be hosted on a physical machine, which will lead to significant savings in hardware and licensing costs."