Is it time to make the switch to SSD storage? Hard disk drives (HDDs) are still king of the datacenter. But that is changing quickly. Flash memory-based solid state drives (SSDs) are gaining ground quickly. Research firm Wikibon estimates that SSD shipments could reach the same level as those of HDDs in 2018. And Andy Walls, CTO and chief architect at IBM, has said that “flash will dominate disk storage by 2019.”

So, if you are an IT manager or CIO, you may be thinking about whether or not it’s time to begin including SSD storage as part of your company’s enterprise storage solution. If that’s the case, here are some things to consider as you make that decision.

To learn more, download our infographic that compares SSD versus HDD. 

Why SSDs are gaining ground in corporate data centers

The case for SSDs starts with their huge performance advantage over HDDs. Hard drives are mechanical devices that depend on rotating platters and read/write heads that must be moved into position to access data. All that movement takes time, which places limitations on how quickly a HDD can respond to data I/O requests.

SSDs, on the other hand, are semiconductor devices with no moving parts. From an IOPS (Input/output Operations Per Second) performance standpoint, there’s really no comparison. Here at Zadara Storage, we’ve found that in some AWS use cases, SSD offerings can deliver 20 to 40 times the IOPS performance of HDD offerings.

The factor that has limited the adoption of SSD technology is cost. All that speed comes at a steep price premium over equivalent HDDs. But the good news is that SSD costs are falling rapidly as the technology matures. According to Alex McDonald, vice chair of Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) Europe, the market price crossover point between enterprise SSDs and HDDs should be reached in 2017.

Zadara Storage has taken a leadership position and priced SSD at HDD price parity as of November 2016. Zadara made this possible by aligning with Intel to offer Intel-based flash.

SSDs are demonstrating significant advantages over HDDs in other ways as well. For example, SSD durability and reliability have increased to levels that compare favorably to those of HDDs. And while HDD maximum storage capacity, now at about 10TB, seems to be closing in on limitations imposed by the laws of physics, SSD capacity is growing rapidly. SSDs of 16TB are now on the market. Seagate recently introduced a 60TB SSD, and Toshiba has announced one at 100TB that will be available in 2017.

When the full range of SSD advantages, such as lower power (and therefore cooling) requirements, greater storage density (which allows use of fewer servers), and smaller space requirements are taken into account, the TCO of SSDs can, in some use cases, actually be lower than that of hard drives.

Still, doing a forklift upgrade to SSD, in which you replace all your HDD storage with AFA (All Flash Array) units may not be the most cost effective course. Because the cost of AFA storage is still significantly greater than HDD storage of equivalent capacity, and since many application workloads don’t require the speed SSDs can provide, most storage experts advise a gradual changeover.


How to begin to make the switch to SSD storage

In general, most companies that have begun switching to SSDs have done so by stages. They start by using SSDs only for workloads that specifically require high IOPS performance. This may be done through the use of a software defined tiered system, in which high demand (Tier 0 or Tier 1) workloads are serviced by AFA storage, while less speed intensive workloads (Tier 2 and Tier 3) are assigned to HDD arrays. Or it may be done through the use of hybrid HDD/SSD storage arrays, in which the SDD portion of the array is used as a cache for frequently accessed or high performance data, while the bulk of the data remains in HDD storage.

Determining which workloads could benefit from the use of flash, and which are more suited to HDD storage, will require that you monitor your applications in order to understand the performance requirements of each. You can then set up software policies to automatically manage the assignment of each workload to the appropriate type of storage.

You can learn more about making the switch to SSD by attending the webinar ‘Storage Revolution: CapEx to OpEx, SSD to HDD, What’s Next‘.

Click here to sign up.

When should you consider switching to SSD storage?

According to Tom Coughlin, founder of the storage consulting firm Tom Coughlin Associates, when you have workloads where there is a clear financial gain from increased performance, it’s time to consider moving to SSD storage. Examples might include big data analytics, and use cases in which customers expect a real-time response, such as database, OLTP, and web applications. Also, as SSD prices continue to fall, it makes sense to plan to replace HDD arrays that reach their end of life with SDD devices.

If you’re thinking about whether it might be time to consider SSD technology for your company’s storage needs, why not download our ‘Software Defined Storage’ whitepaper.