The current financial mess poses a dilemma for CIOs and IT managers. Solid-state drives for server storage may help.
Coping with the global financial crisis, companies are concentrating on higher efficiency with short-term strategies. Corporate budgets are being cut, and in many cases, IT spending is a vulnerable component of these reductions.
This financial cloud poses a dilemma for CIOs and IT managers. Beyond cutbacks, increasing competitive pressure, new network applications and a changing customer base are also market realities, bringing conflicting pressures for increased IT support. CIOs and IT managers must expand the performance and capacity of their data centers, while holding the line on their budget. The most talked about way to achieve this is through the use of solid-state drives (SSDs) for server storage.
Like the migration from the gas guzzlers of the 1960s and SUVs of the early 2000s to more energy-efficient cars, IT data center storage must reinvent itself to keep up with rising energy and real estate costs, or continue to bleed red ink.
Today, storage solutions have begun to stratify into "performance optimized" and "capacity optimized" solutions. Once this premise is understood, IT managers will be looking to SSDs for performance optimization, and to high density, low-power hard disk drives (HDD) for capacity optimization.
Green IT and TCO
IT managers must accept some critical shifts in data- center metrics. In today's IT world, the simple storage measurement of Gbyte/dollar is no longer the only key metric for evaluation. To better evaluate storage solutions within the realm of energy-efficiency and the total cost of ownership (TCO), IT managers need to consider other key parameters, including performance over power (measured in IOPS -- input-outputs per second per watt) and performance over cost (IOPS/dollar).
For all of these, the benefit is in the numerator, which should be growing, and the cost in dollars or power consumption is the denominator, which should be shrinking.
Although more expensive than conventional enterprise storage in terms of upfront costs, SSDs offer much greater value over their counterparts in terms of IOPS/$ and IOPS/W. On average, an SSD will outperform an HDD in IOPS/$ by about 5 times, and IOPS/W by a factor of several hundred.
According to IDC, the enterprise SSD market is poised to grow to 2.2 million units by 2012. While the SSD has caught on quickly in notebook PCs, where durability and mobility are important, mainstream adoption in the enterprise market has yet to arrive. Why?
The problem lies in the status-quo nature of the enterprise server market segment. HDD manufacturers and server/PC OEMs both want to retain their installed base of underperforming, energy-hungry, high-speed HDDs to maximize existing revenue streams. In "The Innovator's Dilemma," Clayton Christensen describes how incumbent HDD manufacturers and PC OEMs will devote considerable resources to defending their large hard disk market share instead of focusing on flash technology, which has been "disrupting" the market in a positive way.
The auto industry has responded to technological innovation and environmental demands to give the masses what they need in the way of baseline design features. In the same way, server OEMs must inevitably respond by giving their customers the best baseline storage solution for reducing costs while being sensitive to the environment and providing improved performance.
SSDs provide higher data throughput, approximately 10 times higher on average than enterprise HDDs (as measured by a IOMeter File server, a commonly used tool which simulates real-world enterprise workloads). SSDs have no moving parts and generate very little heat, helping them weather the rigorous abuse of 24/7 enterprise demands. Less heat means less need for cooling, further reducing overall costs and reducing strain on the already overburdened data center circuit breaker box.
SSDs do not slow down after fragmentation, so money also is saved on maintenance associated with defragmentation. While SSDs consume anywhere from 5-20 percent of the power of HDDs, in IOPS/W this translates into an over 90 percent savings. EMC, a leading storage solution provider, has said that SSDs can save as much as 98 percent, on an IOPS/W basis.