Buyer’s checklist: Solid-state storage arrays

SSDs are on the rise and today there is a growing list of commercially available, purpose-built, solid-state storage arrays.

Solid-state storage is fast, cool and consumes little power—but it’s still pricey, so determining the best place to deploy the technology in your environment is critical.

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Solid-state storage in storage arrays has evolved from a rare high-end feature to a performance-boosting option in a large number of midrange and high-end storage systems. Most storage array vendors now offer solid-state options and there’s a growing list of commercially available, purpose-built, solid-state storage arrays.

Excluding capacity and price, a solid-state drive (SSD) outperforms a mechanical disk drive in most areas:

• It’s an order of magnitude faster than disk drives.
• It’s 100% integrated circuitry, so it’s more robust and durable than disk drives that depend on vulnerable mechanical parts.
• It generates less heat, consumes less power and requires less space than disk spindles.

Challenges related to NAND flash—the underlying semiconductor technology used in SSDs—such as the wear-out of NAND cells, have largely been overcome through a variety of techniques, from overprovisioning of NAND cells to sophisticated wear-level algorithms that reduce the number of writes and distribute writes evenly among flash cells. As a result, contemporary SSDs match and, in some cases, exceed the warranty periods and mean time between failures (MTBF) of high-end disk drives. Were it not for its high per-gigabyte cost, solid-state storage would all but replace mechanical disk drives. At an order of magnitude higher per-gigabyte cost, however, the purchase decision and implementation approach of solid-state storage boils down to a diligent cost-benefit analysis that balances requirements and cost.

This "Buyer's checklist on solid-state storage arrays" discusses the topics above in detail and offers the information you need to evaluate a solid-state storage array, such as:

Key purchasing considerations

Determining the reason for deploying solid-state storage should top any solid-state storage evaluation checklist. This section outlines everything you need to know before deploying SSDs.

Special factors to consider

Because solid-state storage is still somewhat cutting edge, a lot of SSD products are from relatively new vendors. This section discusses what you need to consider when buying from a new technology provider.

Buyer's feature checklist

This table will help you make your final decision with key features, why they are important, and the options available today.

This was first published in April 2012

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