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Understanding how new solid state drive technologies can benefit the data center

Richard Leonarz, Director of Memory Marketing, Samsung Business Division | May 27, 2016
By combining SSDs and HDDs in the right mix, performance gains are possible while keeping costs under control.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

Solid state drives (SSDs) can help IT managers maximize storage efficiency in a rapidly evolving data center environment. New technologies such as Vertical NAND (V-NAND), Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe), and PCI Express (PCIe) help SSDs deliver high bandwidth and low latency, while hard disk drives (HDDs) still offer efficient storage of large quantities of data with lower performance demands.

The key to maximizing efficiency and savings is aligning performance and capacity to dollars spent. By combining SSDs and HDDs in the right mix, performance gains are possible while keeping costs under control.

According to analyst firm IDC, about 90% of the world’s data is considered “cold data”, which means it is accessed infrequently after capture. The remaining 10% of the world’s data is hot, meaning it is captured and accessed frequently. Take Twitter for example; recent Tweets are pushed into feeds and liked, retweeted, or favorited becoming “hot”, while most Tweets older than a week “cool down” but are still searchable.

It is needlessly expensive to store all data in high-performance, low-latency storage devices, hence the use of tiered storage architectures, where each class of storage provides unique performance qualities that are best-suited to the data in that tier:

  • CPU cache and in-memory processing form the “hottest” tier, with small amounts of data in flight.
  • A “hot” tier handles data spilled from memory to storage, supporting high-performance writes. PCIe NVMe SSDs offer unprecedented transactional speeds and write endurance necessary for these demands.
  • A “warm” tier with increased data capacity uses 2-bit and 3-bit MLC Serial ATA (SATA) SSDs as they still offer solid transactional performance and endurance with lower cost per gigabyte.
  • A “cold” tier archives the bulk of the data in HDDs at the lowest cost per gigabyte.

Data should flow naturally from the “hot” to “warm” tiers and eventually to the “cold” tier. Should archival data suddenly find itself in higher demand, it can be migrated back to the “warm” or “hot” tier for processing. This approach allows each tier to be fully optimized around the right technologies, increasing overall data center performance without driving unnecessary costs.

Better SSDs with V-NAND technology

When it comes to NAND flash technology, it is important to understand the evolution of NAND and the performance, endurance, and cost differences between versions. For years, NAND flash advances made it possible to pack more and more bits into each cell.  But at some point NAND flash cells became so tightly packed they actually interfered with each other, reducing reliability. Smaller cells also became more susceptible to wear, and NAND flash endurance began to reach a limit.


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