Solid-state-drives – the next big little thing? Part 1

In the last year we’ve seen solid-state-drives, SSDs, become more mainstream and as a result are routinely available as options on new laptops.  The concept has been around for decades and the hardware available for hefty premiums for a fair few years; typically the market was reserved for those needing high IOPS in exchange for parting with big money.  The first time I’d actually heard of them being used was probably 6 years ago by a ‘cellco’ as a buffer pool for text messages being sent across their mobile network.  However, in the last 12 months they’ve become smaller, more energy efficient and most importantly – cheaper.  Lower price brings bigger markets and that’s why I expect in the next 2 years SSDs to become commonplace in enterprise database infrastructures, most mid-enterprise platforms and tech-savvy tech-focussed smaller businesses.  3 years ago virtualisation was a niche market, so why not?

The increasing rate of adoption feels great and makes you wonder if all your I/O problems could be solved with a hard drive upgrade.  It makes you want to be one of the early adopters, after all a drive either stores your data or it doesn’t, what could go wrong?

However, the big question I had when choosing a hard drive for a new laptop was ‘what benefit am I actually getting for my money with SSD?’.  I couldn’t answer this, even after 15 minutes on Google.

In fact, the only parameter I could quantifiably compare old against new with didn’t look good, I could pay more to get less storage.  Obviously there is more to it than this but nowhere could I find credible information.  Having more IOPS is great but is that the bottleneck in Windows 7?

This research tied in with some Google’ing I did recently to see what benefits SQL Server has using SSD storage.  As I suspected the first wave of whitepapers about SQL Server on SSD came from the SSD manufacturers, a few years ago in fact now and there were some blog articles about those papers at the time (links below).  It’s only been very recently though that I’ve seen questions on forums about the viability of using SSDs.  Over the next few weeks I intend to research more, sadly I doubt I’ll get my hands on one but I’m sure other people have.  Look out for Part 2 of this article.

Incidentally, if the enterprise world is a lead indicator of future technology adoption then the announcement that Oracle’s “Sun Oracle Database Machine” Exadata now incorporates Sun FlashFire storage offering to “cache ‘hot’ data for dramatically improved transaction response times and throughput” but it would wouldn’t it?


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