How to Use A Solid State Disk

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Until the costs drop even further, performance-boosting solid-state drives (SSDs) won't make economic sense for every type of application, so it's important to follow best practices to ensure they are working for your storage shop. Here are some ways to use a SSD:

How to use a solid state disk

How to use a solid state disk

1. Ensure that applications, especially those that are custom-written, can handle the faster solid-state drives.

"For most applications, this should not really be a problem, but depending on coding and timings, you can have the chance to have things done too quickly which can throw off timing a bit, as well as the processors actually jumping due to it not having to wait for the disk anymore," said Jon-Carlos Mayes, IT director at CCP hf, a Reykjavik, Iceland-based online game producer. CCP uses both DRAM and NAND flash SSD technology from Texas Memory Systems Inc.


2. Make sure the performance and reliability of a vendor's SSDs can be measured in terms of random reads and writes across small blocks and pages.

"Vendors will quote you whatever they can do the best in the lab, and that may not be what you're actually running," said Joseph Unsworth, a research director at Gartner Inc. Once you determine which supplier can deliver the results you need, he added, have the vendor do a proof of concept and make sure your service-level agreement is tailored specifically to your application needs.


3. Consider solid-state drive over short-stroking.

Formatting a hard disk drive so that data is written only to the outer sector of the disk's platter can increase performance in high I/O environments, since it reduces the time the drive actuator needs to locate the data. But that practice, known as short-stroking, leaves a substantial percentage of the disk drive's capacity unused.


4. Determine how much power your data center is consuming.

According to Peters, "You're either in parts of the country or a data center where you have oodles of power, or you're in parts of the country or a data center where actually you don't have much power left and you're going to hit the wall at some point. If you don't know how much [power] you're using, how can you know when that's going to happen?"

Because SSD technology is more energy efficient than hard disk drives, it can help to extend the life of a data center with power constraints. But, Peters said, many IT organisations have no clue what their electric usage is.


5. Experiment with solid-state drive technology in the lab.

"They definitely want to bring in, if not the individual disk devices, possibly a subsystem that's based on SSDs," Burton Group's Ruth said, possibly to target a particular application for test purposes. Even using SSDs in a laptop can help to illustrate the potential advantages, he added. "People are familiar with hard disks. They get that. They need to develop that comfort level with solid-state disks as well."


6. Make sure long-term planning takes into account a potential solid-state storage tier.

Solid-state drives will be integrated into storage systems as standard fare going forward, so IT organisations shouldn't lock themselves into a hard disk drive-only strategy. Instead, they need to entertain the possibility of an SSD tier, or tier 0, for their most I/O-intensive servers.


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