Another long-term cost benefit is that SSDs wear out predictably, further reducing costs since maintenance can be planned in advance.
Finally, SSDs also can in many instances save on the total amount of physical hardware used, freeing up valuable rack space and saving energy in the process. Several "short-stroked" hard drives whose capacity is sacrificed to boost performance can be replaced by one SSD. In August 2008, Citigroup reported that the utilization rate of short-stroked drives (approximately 10 percent of the market) was estimated to be as low as 20-25 percent. In such high performance applications, SSD replacement estimates range from a single SSD replacing between four and 40 hard drives.
Rate of SSD adoption
Large-scale adoption of SSDs might not happen in mainstream IT markets for some time, unless IT directors get a clear picture of the overall TCO. Tier 1 enterprise OEMs are expected to slowly adopt SSDs, but some are likely to keep SSD prices high for the short term while aggressively promoting their installed baseline of HDDs over SSDs for mainstream applications such as e-mail and file databases.
A corollary can be drawn to inroads made by the Serial ATA interface. As a threat to entrenched SCSI and Fibre Channel drives, enterprise SATA was initially adopted for non-traditional IT applications such as scientific computing, surveillance and Web e-mail. In a similar fashion, 2.5-inch SSDs are currently being adopted for non-mainstream applications such as video content delivery (video-on-demand), Web serving, virtualization and other leading-edge cloud computing applications.
Moving forward, the SSD will make its quickest inroads in the performance-optimized enterprise segment. For capacity optimization, however, the largest density 7200-rpm drives are likely to be the more energy-efficient workhorses that provide the largest potential storage within the smallest space.
Environmental considerations must also be weighed.
A 2008 McKinsey report confirmed that data centers are one of the leading global contributors to carbon dioxide and carbon emissions. Accounting for roughly 0.5 percent of the world's power consumption, they produce more carbon emissions than either Argentina or the Netherlands, ranking just behind the airline industry in total emissions. An equally telling comparison is that the average U.S. data center consumes more power than 25,000 homes, while all U.S. data centers use more electricity than all the TVs in the country combined.
Hence, SSDs should be regarded as data center champions that will allow data servers to boost capacity and improve performance in a substantive way, for the greatest TCO and environmental impact. However, mainstream IT might not realize all of the benefits of SSDs for years, unless IT managers across all major applications begin demanding SSD technology, testing it and launching trial deployments to prove its far-reaching capabilities.
Brian Beard (email@example.com) is a manager in the Memory Strategic Marketing group of Samsung Semiconductor Inc.