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Apr 22 - 5 Tips for Choosing The Right Flash-Based Solutions

Flash has been heralded as the future of data storage as numerous data center managers perform large-scale upgrades to solid-state (SSD) drives for their tiered storage solutions. However, the information out there on flash storage solutions is slightly vague when compared to the wealth of information on spinning drives. This could be due to technology becoming so popular fairly recently or due to the fact that, while SSDs have been adopted as a standard for most PC companies, the variation in manufacturers hasn’t quite peaked yet. Either way, SSDs are here to stay so it's good to make considerations for the inevitable upgrade. I’ve compiled a brief list of 5 things to consider when shopping for an SSD solution.

Scalability – Scalability is key in the data center. The idea is to effectively gauge your company’s current needs and consider impending growth so as to make your upgrade path as efficient as possible. The IDC stated that “annual sales of storage capacity will grow by more than 30 percent every year between 2013 and 2017” which means that it is crucial to periodically review the capacities of your drives and maintain on ongoing focus on your company’s growing needs.

Throughput – Throughput is essentially a measurement of a storage device’s data transferring speed. This is usually measured in MB/s, or GB/s depending on the drive. Even with flash-based storage, the storage aspect of a system is usually the slowest of the systems components. For instance, the CPU and RAM memory of a system are capable of processing data exponentially faster than most storage can, however, most processes must wait for the drives to complete operations.

Latency – Even more crucial than a storage unit’s throughput ability is its latency. If you play MMORPGs, you are probably well aware of the term (or maybe you say “ping” instead). Latency describes the length of time it takes for the data transfer process to begin. Latency is measured in fractions of seconds and usually the lower the latency the faster the system.

IOPS Performance – Typically when the consumer shops for flash solutions, they overlook this crucial performance component in favor of the more boldly advertised throughput metrics. IOPS or “Input/Output operations Per Second” is a measurement of how often a storage device can perform the input and output data transfer operations that are necessary to complete any processing that storage and server units perform. Variances between the IOPS performance of storage solutions greatly shape their performance and usefulness for certain types of data so it should not be overlooked.

Cost – While this may seem like an obvious consideration, I really mean to address the way in which it is typically considered. It is easy to think of flash as somewhat of a luxury storage option due to its cost being so hyped in comparison to the more common SATA drives that have been the primary workhorse within the industry for so long. That cost gap, however, has been steadily shrinking since flash storage first started gaining popularity. A more intuitive way to address your storage investments might be to consider your cost per IOPS, or per TB. It also makes sense to factor in your ongoing management and support costs as well as the physical real estate that is being used inside the rackmount chassis.