Let’s be honest. Trying to keep up with all of the different solutions, approaches and enabling technologies in the storage industry is daunting enough. The last thing you have felt the need to do is try to understand each component within an SSD – the controller, the software, the flash. I’ll top you right there. What if I told you that understanding the flash wasn’t only important, but could save you money, improve your data center for today and tomorrow, and save you a lot of headaches in the future? I have a feeling I got your attention.
Here are five facts you likely didn’t know about flash:
The Price Gap is Closer Than It Appears If you scour your memory, you likely will keep seeing vastly different price tags between HDDs and SSDs come to mind. I mean, not too long ago – 2012 in fact – SSDs were hovering around the $8/GB mark for the list price. Why would you ever pay that much when you can get a HDD for well under $1/GB? Well, this comparison is no longer that lopsided. If you are evaluating SSDs on a dollar per GB basis, you are lost before you start. SSDs and HDDs do not compare when it comes to performance, power consumption, drive reliability…I could go on. It is for this very reason that you should instead evaluate your options from a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), evaluating cost per IOPS, or IOPS per Watt basis. If you do, you will find that in fact the scale is far more heavily weighted in favor of SSDs.
Fact: You CAN Destroy Data From Your SSD Many believe that data can’t be destroyed from flash because it can be hard to verify if all of the data is truly destroyed as logical addresses of an SSD generally do not to overwrite all physical blocks. In many cases, this is true, however it isn’t true across the board. In fact, the vendor can decide whether data can be recovered or destroyed and adjust the flash storage device accordingly. SSDs must be designed with specific features to guarantee the permanent “irretrievability” of user data and integrating appropriate commands and wipes ensures you can eliminate all data from the drive. For some enterprise applications, data destruction is not of supreme importance because flash-based devices may be used for caching or data acceleration. However, if you employ applications or work in industries where securing data can be completely wiped (for instance heavily regulated industries) then you would be best served to discuss your options with your vendors.
Looking Forward to 16TB Back in the ‘70s, SSDs were rocking a capacity of two megabytes. Think of how 2MB would work in today’s data center! Today, we already have drives available in the market that pack up to 2TB in a standard form factor, like our Optimus Eco. That is just the beginning. The continued drop in NAND geometries is leading to higher and higher capacity points being possible. We should see 4TB-8TB drives make it to market in the coming year, and those should be quickly followed by drives holding up to 16TB of flash! This is territory HDDs can’t touch.
Endurance: Not All Flash is Created Equal Many see Multi Level Cell (MLC) flash (or any other type of flash for that matter) and think that MLC is MLC. Wrong. When flash is packaged together into an SSD, software suites can significantly increase the native endurance of base MLC. In fact, our Guardian Technology Platform can take base MLC which has an endurance rating of approximately 0.4 DWPD and enhance it so it can achieve up to 50 DWPD. If you deploy SSDs with too little endurance, you could put yourself into a never ending cycle of ripping and replacing drives, increasing your TCO. In addition, buying more endurance than you need can be a waste of money as well. Understand what you need first and then find a drive that can deliver.
Flash can be Storage or Memory Recent innovations in the storage industry, namely the ULLtraDIMM technology and efforts underway from our Schooner Technology acquisition, are extending the possibilities for flash well beyond the storage medium it has historically been leveraged for. In fact, flash will eventually be leveraged as an alternative to DRAM for memory. Offering similar performance and latency for a far cheaper cost, flash can be used to create vast pools of memory, enabling for new architectures to be designed and for far more effective in-memory compute applications.
Flash certainly is an interesting medium, and there no doubt more things you likely didn’t know. But, by understanding the five things above, you should be better equipped to properly evaluate your options and get the most out of your investment!
– John Scaramuzzo
John is SVP, Advanced Storage Technologies group, under the CTO's office at Western Digital with 25+ years in the storage industry.