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Managing the information that drives the enterprise

STORAGE
ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO
SSD s

Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices


Using flash in storage requires you to make choices, such as primary storage vs. performance cache, storage array vs. PCIe card and MLC vs. SLC.
INSIDE

Solid-state storage for the 21st century Making a case for SSDs Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC MLC for the enterprise SSD makes inroads with SMBs SSD in a cache appliance

editorial | rich castagna

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state: Storage for the 21st century


More and more companies are adding solid-state technologies to their storage environments. Costs have dropped significantly, but selective implementations are still the most common.
UR RESEARCH SHOWS that deployments of solid-state storage devices have more

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

than doubled in the year and a half weve been tracking this technology. Today, we see that more than 16% of companies have taken the plunge an impressive figure when you consider that enterprise-grade solid-state has been widely available for only a few years and the cost of NAND flash is still approximately 10 or more times that of traditional disk media. And that may just be the tip of the iceberg, as another 11% of respondent firms say theyll implement solid-state this year, while one-third plan to evaluate it. All told, only 40% of organizations dont have any plans to move on solid-state storage in the immediate future. As you probably knowor will learn in the following pagessolidSolid-state storage state storage comes in a variety of runs circles around forms for servers, arrays or specialized appliances. At this point in its hard disk drives but evolution, approximately 75% of uses a fraction of the solid-state users are opting to use power spinning disks flash storage in a SAS or SATA form factor that plugs right into a tradirequire while barely tional data storage array. Still, nearly warming the air one-third of surveyed companies are around it. tapping into solid-state directly at the server, in the form of storage devices that neatly slot into a servers PCI Express (PCIe) bus. So why is relatively untested, extremely expensive storage so popular? Users with the need for speed will tell you theres nothing comparable to solid-state storage available today. It runs circles around hard disk drives but uses a fraction of the power spinning disks require while barely warming the air around it.

Copyright 2012, TechTarget. No part of this publication may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher. For permissions or reprint information, please contact Mike Kelly, VP and Group Publisher (mkelly@techtarget.com).

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Because its still something of a luxury item for most data storage shops budgets, users have found very specific use cases for solid-state storage, reserving it for only the most critical IOPS-hungry applications. The need to be selective when using solid-state has also spawned (or at least stimulated) the development of automated techniques to move data and apps in and out of solid-state storage as needed. Those dynamic tiering apps are rapidly finding their way into storage systems whether or not they include solid-state components. Besides the choice of where to deploy solid-state, youll have to make other decisions, such as whether to opt for single-level cell (SLC) or multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash, the enhanced version of MLC called eMLC (where the e stands for enterprise) or even the much costlier non-volatile random access memory (NVRAM). All these issues and decision points are covered in this guide. Read it, and youll be one step closer to 21st century storage. 2
Rich Castagna (rcastagna@storagemagazine.com) is editorial director of the Storage Media Group.

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

MAKING A CASE FOR


SSD s
Solid-state storage for the 21st century Making a case for SSDs

SSDs
Interest in solid-state storage is high, and with a variety of solidstate implementations available and newer technologies emerging, its time to take a serious look at how solid-state could enhance your storage environment.
By Dennis Martin

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

d
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ATA STORAGE PROFESSIONALS considering solid-state storage have myriad solid-

state storage architectures to consider, including systems that use solidstate drives (SSDs) in various form factors, caching implementations and appliances. If thats not enough to ponder, those planning on implementing these systems need to decide whether to use a product that mixes solidstate storage and traditional disk drives or to use SSD-only storage subsystems. But perhaps more important than just choosing the hardware, enterprises need to decide what data to put on solid-state storage or consider some form of software automation to move the data onto solid-state storage to make the most efficient use of what is still an expensive resource. Deciding what data to place on solid-state storage and how to put it there makes choosing a solid-state storage option more complex, and your selections will have a long-term impact.

Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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SOLID-STATE-ONLY SHOPS: NOT SO SOON


In a few decades, some form of solid-state storage may be the dominant and possibly only form of enterprise data storage. But given the present state of matters, that day is (at best) on the distant horizon. We might dream of replacing all our electro-mechanical disk drives with solid-state storage if cost werent a factor, but theres nowhere near enough semiconductor fabrication production capacity available today to satisfy the total storage capacity thats deployed in IT shops. But there are some promising signs. Enterprise solid-state storage Not that long ago, prices are dropping relative to enterenterprise solid-state prise hard disk drives (HDDs). Not that long ago, enterprise solid-state storage was as much storage was as much as 40 times as 40 times the price the price of an equivalent capacity of an equivalent of enterprise hard disk drive storage. The price comparison ratios are in capacity of enterprise the neighborhood of 25% to 50% of hard disk drive storage. that today, depending on specific solid-state storage products. As a result of this pricing and capacity disparity, data storage managers and administrators are finding that solid-state storage complements existing traditional forms of storage. Theyve deployed, or are planning to deploy, solidstate storage where high performance, low latency or energy savings are needed. There are two basic ways to implement solid-state storage technology: Use solid-state storage directly as a primary store Use solid-state storage as a cache in front of spinning disks Each of these implementations has its advantages and disadvantages, and implementations vary among storage vendors. And some vendors offer one implementation now while planning to offer the other.

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

USING SOLID-STATE FOR PRIMARY STORAGE


For vendors that implement solid-state storage directly as a primary data store, many use the standard disk drive form factor. This implementation method is simple to understand and is compatible with current subsystem designs and configuration processes. The one downside to this approach is

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

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that many of todays controllers and subsystems werent designed for disk drives with an order of magnitude of faster performance at the drive level, so vendors typically dont support a large system completely full of solidstate disk drives. But this is changing as vendors design and build improved controllers that can handle many more solid-state drives. The good news is that significant performance gains can be achieved with a relatively small number of SSDs, often only one full or partial drive shelf. Some users are reporting five to eight times performance gains for some workloads with a relatively small amount of solid-state storage. Were also seeing an increasing number of solid-state-only storage products available today and planned for release over the next several months. These systems are designed to use solid-state storage as the primary store, with capacities in the single- or double-digit terabytes today and larger capacities coming soon. For users who have implemented solid-state storage as a primary store,

Form factors and interfaces

OLID-STATE STORAGE comes in a variety of form factors, including nearly

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

all the disk drive form factors, as internal modules within a storage system or as a PCI Express (PCIe) bus card. The PCIe bus form factor provides the potential for very high bandwidth storage access within a server or workstation. Enterprise solid-state drives are available in 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drive form factors that are compatible with todays servers and storage systems. The primary interfaces for these are SATA, SAS and Fibre Channel (FC). The SATA interface is available for many solid-state drives, especially for the consumer and desktop market. FC has a long future as a SAN interface but is approaching end-of-life as a disk drive interface. Disk drive suppliers and solid-state storage suppliers are moving away from FC as a drive interface in favor of 6 Gbps SAS as an enterprise drive interface. We expect the FC interface on 3.5-inch drives to stick around for a while to maintain spare parts on the relatively large number of 3.5-inch FC drives in enterprise disk subsystems. And we anticipate that relatively few 2.5-inch enterprise drives will have a FC interface.

Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

the big question focuses on what data to put on the solid-state storage. There are some obvious candidates, such as database indexes, heavily accessed database tables, temporary scratch areas, log files or any other hot spot. However, this is often not a static solution. Some data thats hot today may not be hot tomorrow. So storage administrators, database administrators or other IT technicians may have to continually monitor data usage patterns and be prepared to make adjustments on a fairly regular basis. In some cases, this increased management burden may be too much work and involve too much operational expense to be worth the tradeoff for increased I/O performance. The answer is to provide an autoThe answer is to mated way for the storage system to identify the hot data, move it onto provide an automated the solid-state storage automatically way for the storage and to then move it to slower storsystem to identify the age when it no longer requires solidstate performance. Many vendors hot data, move it onto provide forms of tiering software the solid-state storage that does exactly that. This software automatically and observes the I/O patterns for a time and then moves the data in a way to then move it to thats transparent to the host applislower storage cations. Many of these automated when it no longer solutions allow the administrator to determine what activity level defines requires solid-state hot data, set the time period over performance. which the observations are made and then set a separate parameter that controls the frequency of data movement (anywhere from hourly to weekly). Some of this software has the ability to make recommendations about the data tiering based on the observations it has made, such as recommending a 10%/90% mix of solid-state vs. spinning disk. Solid-state-only storage products eliminate the need to move data from faster to slower storage because all the data is on fast storage. These systems appeal to customers who want to put an entire application and its data on solid-state storage. At todays price points, these solutions tend to be deployed for critical applications only. The decision (and budget) to acquire them tends to come from line-of-business owners or architects rather than from the IT department.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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CACHING WITH SOLID-STATE


The other basic implementation is to use solid-state storage as a cache in front of spinning disks. This method has the advantage of always accelerating the hot data in real-time, since only the hot data is likely to be in cache. And because the solid-state storage is acting as a cache, theres no need for an administrator to decide what data should be placed on it. The basic questions here are what size cache is appropriate and which workloads should be directed toward the cache to make the best use of the solidstate device. Solid-state caching solutions can be built into existing storage systems or servers, or delivered as external appliances. Adding flash memory as a cache inside a storage subsystem in effect provides a level 2 cache not unlike the L2 cache found on many processors inside todays computers. This added cache capacity improves performance for most if not all operAdding flash memory ations. In addition, because flash memory is nonvolatile, this cache as a cache inside a provides some extra protection in the storage subsystem event of power loss. But issues such in effect provides a as cache coherency, and whether the cache is DRAM-based or flash level 2 cache not memory-based, remain. Generally, unlike the L2 cache a cache is tied to one processor or found on many controller, and there are various cache management functions that processors inside can be applied to allow caches to todays computers. work properly with multiple processors or controllers. In addition, storage systems that use caching can add special features to their internal OSes that are aware of the cache and can provide additional flexibility, such as the ability to assign different I/O priorities for I/O going to different volumes on the storage system. The caching appliances add the benefits of cache without requiring changes to any existing servers or storage systems. These appliances fit easily into the storage network and can accelerate all I/O going through them, even sending data to different storage subsystems at the same time. Many of the appliances can be set to write-back, write-through or passthrough for any given volume they accelerate. Some of the caching appliances are constructed in such a way as to allow their memory modules

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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to be hot-plugged, so maintenance or growth can occur without taking down the entire appliance. The big question for a caching implementation is how much cache is enough. For many workloads and applications, a relatively small amount of cache (5% to 20%) relative to the total storage allocated to that application is enough to provide significant performance improvements. For other workloads, the cache needs to be large enough to hold the entire volume to achieve appreciable performance gains.

ITS ALL ABOUT PERFORMANCE


Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

Solid-state storage, however its deployed, offers the promise of significant performance gains. Weve seen results of seven to nine times overall performance gains in our lab testing for various real-world applications (email, database, etc.) when configured optimally for the application. With performance gains of that magnitude possible, whats not to like? Certainly, pricing is a factor. However, consider some of the current methods that are used to increase performance of spinning disk drives, such as short stroking. This technique spreads data over many disk drives by using only a portion of the capacity of each drive for data so as many spindles as possible can be applied to improve performance. To achieve desired performance goals, some users short stroke some of their enterprise disk drives using ratios of 7-to-1, 8-to-1 or 9-to-1, which means theyre using only 1/7th, 1/8th or 1/9th of the available capacity on each drive. If the price of an enterprise SSD is 10 times to 15 times the price of the spinning drives being short stroked, it may make sense to move that application data to enterprise SSDs and get the required performance while using much less power and space. Almost all data storage system vendors now offer configurations that use a combination of solid-state storage and enterprise SATA storage instead of arrays full of enterprise spinning disk drives. These new configurations typically offer higher performance, equivalent capacity, lower power consumption, smaller space requirements and lower total hardware costs. 2
Dennis Martin has been working in the IT industry since 1980. He is the founder and president of Demartek, a computer industry analyst organization and testing lab.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

App needs dictate where to use solidstate storage


Solid-state storage technology can be used in different ways. IT must decide whether to use technology in disk arrays, as cache, in appliances or in servers. By Carol Sliwa

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

IT SHOPS THAT implement solid-state storage technology must decide whether to use it in traditional disk arrays, as cache, in appliances or in servers. Application needs generally determine the solid-state storage choice that will bring the greatest performance boost. Types of I/O-intensive apps that tend to benefit from solid-state storage technology include database, data warehouse, data mining, analytics and Web serving. If the I/O bottleneck is isolated to a single server or application, serverbased solid-state storage might be the best approach, whether thats with 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch solid-state drives (SSDs), PCI Express (PCIe) cards or dual in-line memory modules (DIMMs). An IT shop with data sets that are intermittently hot might select NAND flash cache, in which the system typically determines the hottest data to accelerate. If an IT shop has several I/O-intensive applications that need a performance boost, it might opt for SSDs in a shared storage array. A solid-state appliance or solid-state-only array is another option when an IT shop wants to isolate the data to a single device.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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The notion of a solid-state appliance dates back to the earliest dynamic random access memory (DRAM) systems from Texas Memory Systems Inc., which now also makes NAND flash-based products. Framingham, Mass.-based IDC continues to track solid-state-only appliances from Texas Memory Systems and other vendors, including Dataram Corp., Nimbus Data Systems Inc., Violin Memory Inc. and Whiptail Technologies Inc. But some vendors, analysts and users prefer to call the appliances solidstate-only arrays or dedicated solid-state storage devices. Read on for case studies focusing on each of the solid-state storage options, with an eye toward the decision-making process.

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

CASE STUDY 1
SETAO: SSDs in storage arrays facilitate performance boost for several applications
Background: The private company that operates the public transporta-

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

tion network for the city of Orleans, FranceSocit dExploitation pour les Transports de lAgglomration Orlanaise (SETAO)replaced its NetApp Inc. storage with Pillar Data Systems Inc.s Pillar Axiom disk arrays (Pillar has since been acquired by Oracle Corp.) approximately four years ago and began using SSDs in 2009. SETAO manages and stores data from buses, trams, vehicle radios, video surveillance cameras, traffic lights, billing systems and electrical systems. The company makes real-time traffic information available via mobile devices and surveillance data to law enforcement. Technology: At Pillars suggestion, SETAO purchased its first solid-state drive enclosure in July 2009. The company now has 600 GB of SSDs in each of its three Pillar arrays: an Axiom 500 that also has 100 TB of SATA disks, an Axiom 500 with 16 TB of SATA and an Axiom 600 with 16 TB of SATA. Two arrays are located at the primary site in Orleans; another is approximately 12 miles away. SETAO also upgraded its servers and storage network with cutting-edge technology. The company runs Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) between its servers (which are equipped with Emulex Corp. converged network adapters, or CNAs) and Cisco Systems Inc. Nexus 5000 top-of-rack switches, which split the 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) and Fibre Channel (FC) traffic. The storage traffic connects over 4 Gbps FC to Brocade 300 FC switches and to the Pillar Axiom arrays. SETAO uses FalconStor Software Inc.s IPStor storage virtualization technology to replicate between the arrays. The company also used IPStor to migrate data from the NetApp systems to Pillar arrays.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

Why SSDs in arrays: Olivier Parcollet, director of systems information at SETAO, prefers SSDs in a shared storage environment because he wants to improve the performance of several applications, some Windows based and others Linux based. Using solid-state storage technology in a server would have restricted the performance boost to a single application unless he used virtual servers. Parcollet said he isnt comfortable using SSDs in a physical server with virtual machines (VMs) because of the risk of application loss in the event of a server failure. Because I have shareable storage on Fibre Channel, if I lose a server, an application could run on another one very, very quickly, he said. Results/Benefits: SETAO uses SSDs with four of its most important apps. Its initial use was for the traffic simulation software that plots bus and tram routes, as well as the optimal number of vehicles and drivers. Application response time was approximately two hours on SATA disks, but its nearly instantaneous on solidstate drives, allowing SETAO to run Provisioning/booting a greater number of simulations per day, according to Parcollet. 200 virtual desktops We use three buses and seven drivers less than the year before to took approximately do the same work, Parcollet said, 20 minutes with SATA noting that SETAOs financial team drives, but takes only claimed the one-year savings amounted to approximately about five seconds 1 million euros ($1.39 million USD). with SSDs. SETAOs VMware Inc. virtual OLIVIER PARCOLLET, director of desktop infrastructure (VDI) also systems information, SETAO benefited from SSDs. Provisioning/booting 200 virtual desktops took approximately 20 minutes with SATA drives, but takes only about five seconds with SSDs, Parcollet said. Results were similar for queries to the Oracle databases that store metadata about video images (which are archived on SATA disks) from 300 municipal surveillance cameras installed throughout the metropolitan transportation network. A search for a particular image, such as men wearing blue trousers and a red hat, might have taken 30 minutes with SATA drives. The search completes instantly with SSDs, he said. More recently, SETAO shifted approximately 100 GB of financial data from SATA disks to solid-state drives. Processing that once took three hours, according to Parcollet, now finishes in about two minutes. Greatest challenge with SSDs: Implementing SSDs wasnt especially difficult for SETAO. The staff installed the SSD enclosure, adjusted the graphSTORAGE Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

ical user interface and changed the LUNs quality of service (QoS) to premium. Shifting to premium QoS triggered the Pillar Axiom array to automatically move the designated data from SATA disks to SSDs. The greater challenge was deciding which application data to prioritize onto solid-state drives. Parcollet had no interest in solid-state storage technology with automatic tiering to shift the hottest data to SSDs. Autotiering could put unimportant data onto the SSDs, he reasoned; he wanted to make the application decisions himself. Parcollet consulted Pillars built-in monitoring tools to determine the most I/O-intensive applications, but he didnt move several applications to SSDs at the same time, nor did he shift entire applications. Only some parts of the applications need to be on SSD, Parcollet said. All the data doesnt need to stay in SSDs; only the more accessed [data does]. For instance, only the control files, indexes and redo logs of SETAOs Oracle databases make Theres no need to use of SSDs. With VDI, SETAO use SSD every time for stores only the gold image on VDI. But SSD is good to SSDs and spreads the end-user data across SATA drives. generate the images One VM per user consumes very, very quickly for only about five I/O per second, Parcollet said. Theres no need provisioning. to use SSD every time for VDI. OLIVIER PARCOLLET, director of But SSD is good to generate systems information, SETAO the images very, very quickly for provisioning. Peer advice: Parcollet recommends SSDs for small, high-transaction, I/O-intensive applications rather than large applications. We cannot install all applications on SSD because its very, very expensive, he said, noting the companys SSDs cost approximately five times more than its SATA disks. Pillars list price for a brick with 64 GB SSD drives (12 active drives, one hot spare) is $49,000. Parcollet cautioned that all storage features may not be available when using solid-state drives. He said he cant use Pillars thin provisioning with SSDs, for instance. Addressing another potential downside of SSDs, Parcollet said hes not worried about the drives wearing out. I asked Pillar the question when I bought the SSD drives, and they guaranteed that the [SSD] life will be as long as a traditional drive because theres a [memory] reserve on each drive, he said.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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CASE STUDY 2
Ultimate Software Group: Flash cache provides assist with team-based application development
Background: Ultimate Software Group Inc. in Weston, Fla., provides hu-

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

man resource and payroll Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to more than 2,000 customers. A 200-member development team writes and tests an average of 21 application iterations, known as application builds, per week. Technology: In June 2009, Ultimate Software Group purchased two DRAM-based 16 TB performance acceleration module (PAM) cards from NetApp. The PAM cards functioned as read caches for the organizations pair of clustered NetApp FAS3170s, which store data from Microsoft Corp. SQL Server databases, VMware VMs and file shares, and serve as the central repository for the daily application builds. In 2010, Ultimate Software Group bought two of NetApps newer 512 GB Flash Cache (PAM II) cards for the FAS3170s and moved the lower-capacity DRAM-based PAM cards to the pair of FAS3140s that IT uses for performance, stability and reliability (PSR) testing. than buying SSDs for 30 TB of We write [the applicastorage, said Brian Goldberg, tion build] once, and director of infrastructure and then we read it many deployment strategy at Ultimate Software Group. times, which is why Results/Benefits: The PAM the PAM cards were cards store in cache memory the application builds that developers very attractive. request most often, and read BRIAN GOLDBERG, director of speeds have increased dramatically infrastructure and deployment in response, Goldberg said. strategy, Ultimate Software Group We write [the application build] once, and then we read it many times, which is why the PAM cards were very attractive, Goldberg said. Instead of the filer going down the loop to get the actual data from the physical disks, bringing it back and then sending the response to the user, it basically goes to the cache, gets it and sends it right to the user a lot faster. Real-time performance monitoring showed IOPS was far lower with the PAM cards in place. The load on the two NetApp FAS3170s, which store more than 37 TB of data, has decreased 40% to 50% since the installation of the DRAM-based PAM cards, Goldberg said. Adding the new Flash Cache helped the developer team increase the
Why choose solid-state cache over SSDs: It was a lot cheaper

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

number of application builds per week with no impact on performance. Weve been growing our products and our teams and the number of environments each team owns, he said. We knew we were going to be deploying more and more, and we had concerns that if we kept hitting the NetApp [FAS boxes], we would have performance problems and we would need a bigger filer. Greatest challenge: Goldberg said he would like to add more PAM cards, but the cost is prohibitive. Ultimate Software Group spent close to $30,000 on its initial pair of 16 TB DRAM-based PAM cards and more than $100,000 on the second set of 512 GB Flash Cache/PAM II cards, he said. But, he added, We definitely felt that the value weve gotten from them is worth it. Peer advice: I would definitely get them from the beginning, Goldberg recommended. I wouldnt say, Oh, let me set up my filer without them, and I can always add them later. Youll definitely reap the benefits if you start using them from Day 1.

Making a case for SSDs

CASE STUDY 3
Solid-state-only arrays/appliances conserve space, power for logistics company
Background: Odyssey Logistics & Technology Corp., based in Danbury, Conn., provides managed logistics and services to the global chemical and process manufacturing industries. Its primary data center is located in Charlotte, N.C., and its secondary data center is in Raleigh. Odyssey supplies information such as carrier selection, rack scheduling, transit time, shipment tracking and billing to customers through SaaS-based apps. The thing thats hard to try to manage is how many electronic transactions we do on the back side at any given time when you have users on the front side, said Brad Massey, Odysseys director of IT support services. Lets say we have major retailers in the U.S. who send us batches of 4,000 or 5,000 orders that need to be planned pretty quickly. We might be load optimizing those shipments on the back end while we have people on our website trying to do regular queries. We still need to offer acceptable performance. Technology: Approximately four years ago, Odyssey Logistics & Technology purchased Texas Memory Systems RamSan-400, a 128 GB DRAM device; six months later, Odyssey upped the scalability with a NAND flash-based RamSan-500, a 2 TB NAND flash device. About a year ago, Odyssey added a 5 TB RamSan-630 flash-only array to run its data warehouse and analytics. All of our customers see very consistent performance because of the solid-state arrays on the database, Massey said. Prior to that, we always seemed to be playing catch-up with adding spindles to the storage array

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

so we could keep our database performance up to speed. Odyssey reserves its RamSans almost exclusively for its Oracle workloads, running the entire databases on the RamSans. All the companys custom-built and packaged applications rely on the Oracle data stores, from the accounting system to the IBM WebSphere partner gateway. Thats where we really need the throughput, Massey said. Our database requires the ability to burst our I/O very quickly, for sometimes long or short periods of time. Whether youre looking at SSD or disk-based systems, youve got to size the systems to your peak I/O whether or not youre going to use it all the time. In addition to the RamSans, If you have a lot of Odyssey Logistics & Technology recently purchased five 100 GB VMs booting up at the flash drives for one of its EMC same time in a first-ofClariion CX4 arrays. One drive will serve as a hot spare and another the-morning scenario, for parity, leaving approximately you can create an I/O 300 GB usable. The most likely use case for the new SSDs will be a storm. You really need VDI project. your golden images to If you have a lot of VMs bootbe pulled from very ing up at the same time in a firstof-the-morning scenario, you can quickly. create an I/O storm, Massey noted. BRAD MASSEY, director of IT support You really need your golden services, Odyssey Logistics & Technology images to be pulled from very quickly. Why solid-state-only array/appliance: Odyssey doesnt own its data centers; it operates at colocation facilities. So, energy-efficient, spacesaving solid-state appliances hold extra cost-saving appeal over traditional disk arrays. When you look at a RamSan device and the amount of I/O theyre able to pack in a 3U device, as opposed to all of the disk enclosures and the spinning disks you would have to have to get for the same amount of IOPS, Massey said, its really a compelling story. Server-based storage doesnt factor into Odysseys long-term plans. Odyssey Logistics & Technology runs Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) diskless servers. Most of our configurations at the data center run boot from SAN, so we typically eliminate all of the disks out of servers where we can, Massey said. Results/Benefits: Waits of eight to 10 seconds on webpage refreshes, and occasional response times as high as 30 seconds under especially heavy loads, dropped to subsecond times for most queries with the shift

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from hard disk drives to solid-state storage, according to Massey. DRAM-based devices tend to work better than flash at writes; the flash works fine for reads, noted Eric Brown, a database administrator at Odyssey. We have an extremely high read-only environment, Massey added. If our profile was heavy write, we would certainly make different decisions. Odyssey used to refresh its data warehouse only periodically throughout the day, but with the RamSans, its able to crunch much of the data in real-time for customers accessing its Web dashboards. Peer advice: Massey recommends IT shops consider solid-state drives where they need optimal performance. He also urged them to factor in space and power requirements when comparing the acquisition cost of traditional disk-based storage arrays and solid-state storage technology. 2
Carol Sliwa is a senior writer in the Storage Media Group.
Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Making a case for SSDs

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Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC vs. SLC:


Which flash SSD is right for you?
The type of flash SSD you choose depends on the performance you need and the price you want to pay, but the differences arent as great as you may think. By Manek Dubash
SOLID-STATE DRIVES (SSDs) may now be affordable enough to merit serious

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

consideration when planning a storage system. If youre thinking of buying SSDs based on flash memory technology, its worth learning about the differences between multi-level cell (MLC) and single-level cell (SLC) flash.

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

As with any technology, there are tradeoffs, depending on which of the two types of flash SSD you select. MLC flash is the most common and is often found in consumer-grade products such as cameras, phones, USB memory sticks and portable music players, but its also present in some enterprise storage products. The main characteristic of MLC SLC is faster and flash is its low price, but it suffers much more reliable from higher wear rates and lower write performance compared with but also more expenSLC technology. SLC is faster and siveand is featured much more reliablebut also more expensiveand is featured in the in the best-performbest-performing storage arrays. ing storage arrays. In practice, however, the differences arent quite as clear as you might expect. To see how this technology is developing, its application and where its heading, we need to look at how the two types of flash memory work and how theyre sold. But storage sales discussions arent normally about the tradeoffs of MLC vs. SLC, according to Valdis Filks, research director for storage technologies and strategies at Gartner Inc. This is normally hidden by implementation, he said. In other words, its up to the enclosure manufacturer of the storage array, and its the controller thats more important than the underlying storage technology.

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC vs. SLC HEAD TO HEAD


MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

Vendors may prefer not to discuss the differences between the technologies, but understanding the underlying technology can influence deployment strategies. So, what are the key differences between MLC and SLC flash SSDs? All flash memory suffers from wear, which occurs because erasing or programming a cell subjects it to wear due to the voltage applied. Each time this happens, a charge is trapped in the transistors gate dielectric and causes a permanent shift in the cells characteristics, which, after a number of cycles, manifests as a failed cell. SLC uses a single cell to store one bit of data. MLC memory is more complex and can interpret four digital states from a signal stored in a single cell. This makes it denser for a given area and so is cheaper to produce, but it wears out faster. An MLC cell is typically rated at 10,000 erase/write cycles, while an SLC

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

cell might last 10 times that before failing. However, manufacturers of products consisting of MLC cells can and do have ameliorating technologies and techniques at their disposal. According to Andrew Buss, service director at analyst firm Freeform Dynamics Ltd., amelioration techniques used by most vendors include wear leveling, which moves write cycles around the chip so cells wear evenly; on-device deduplication, which reduces the volumes of data written and so lowers wear; redundancy, which reserves a portion of the devices capacity to replace cells as they fail; and write optimization, which stores data writes so they can be made into large chunks to reduce the number of write operations. The emerging term for MLC products that incorporate such techniques is enterprise MLC (EMLC). Most such techniques are implemented in the device controllerthe interface between device and computerwith companies such as SandForce Inc. and Intel Corp. among the most advanced in implementing such techniques, according to Buss. And despite the endurance issues related to SSDs, vendors say they remain more reliable than spinning media.

Making a case for SSDs

USE CASES
Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

According to Gartners Filks, the implementation determines the technology. So applications such as high-speed databases, whose performance is measured in terms of transactions per second, should VALDIS FILKS, research director for storage be matched to the appropriate techtechnologies and strategies, Gartner nology selected on the basis of price/ performance. Its about serving more customers in a given time. Thats what SSD vendors talk about, Filks said. Despite this, MLC and SLC tend to be used for different applications due largely to the four-fold price difference per gigabyte between them. As we have seen, MLC can be found in consumer-grade products and in the enterprise where performance, while important, isnt the primary consideration. When used in the same storage system, the two types of SSD can be tiered in the same way as tiering with spinning media; most storage product vendors include a form of automated SSD tiering, Freeform Dynamics Buss said. SLC typically tops the storage tier tree in financial services organizations, where high-speed access to large databases is essential and price is a secondary issue. Buss said he believes future

Its about serving more customers in a given time. Thats what SSD vendors talk about.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

products will increasingly be integrated with both flash SSD types and spinning media in performance/cost-based tiers. Most enterprise applications will rely on a form of database and so will need SSDs. An example is content management systems, where an end user is waiting for things to happen; also Exchange servers, websites, media storageall of which you can use MLC for, Buss said. However, you still need to do due diligence and buy appropriately. There are new solutions coming along to make MLC better. End-user Roger Bearpark, assistant head of information and communications technology (ICT) at the London borough of Hillingdon, has installed 520 GB of MLC-based SSD-based storage into his Compellent arrays. MLC is poorer on endurance and performance, but is up to three or four [times] better on price, he said. We got a phenomenal rate of return on investment by putting small amounts of active data on SSD, which produced a 13-fold improvement in access times.

Making a case for SSDs

FUTURES
According to Gartners Filks, SSDs wont replace spinning disks. Everyone says SSDs will replace disks, maybe in about 15 to 20 years time, but as SSD prices drop, so do those of disks, he said. And SSD prices will never fall as far as disk because factories cant make enough. It means only the working data set needs to be on SSD, and thats about 5% to 15% of the total. However, Filks predicted that SSDs could eventually replace tape as a deep archive technology because it offers similar benefitsnonvolatility and zero power usage when not in usealthough he predicted this will take 10 years to 20 years. As prices fall and reliability techniques improve, it seems likely that MLC technologys price advantage will keep it ahead of SLC for all but the most demanding of applications, as it remains significantly faster and more robust than spinning media. 2
Manek Dubash is a UK-based freelance journalist.

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

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s
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memory in enterprise arrays


Find out how enterprise MLC flash can be the right solid-state storage option for IT organizations looking for a measurable increase in performance without the cost of SLC-based flash. By George Crump

MLC flash
OLID-STATE STORAGE is being adopted in the enterprise but

Using

not at the pace that many observers originally predicted. While there are a variety of reasons for this, one that cant be ignored is the cost. Solid-state storagewhich, for the enterprise, is typically based on single-level cell (SLC) flashis expensive. In many cases, if your IT shop does not have a specific application performance problem thats impacting corporate revenue, youre not likely to buy SLC-based solid-state storage. There are many applications that could benefit from the solid-state performance boost, but for most of them, that boost hasnt yet been shown to be worth the investment. But multi-level cell (MLC) flash in enterprise arrays may be just the solution you need to make the solid-state jump. MLC flash is cheaper than SLC, making solid-state technology more appealing for a broader set of applications, perhaps those that could benefit from a measurable but not massive jump in performance.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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WHAT IS MLC FLASH?


Solid-state flash drives are made up of memory cells. Traditionally, with SLC memory, those cells are written to once per segment of data. MLC flash, on the other hand, writes two data segments to the same cell, effectively doubling the capacity of the flash storage. However, this method means MLC storage has lower performance and reliability than SLC memory. MLC flash is also likely to wear out faster than SLC because flash storage can handle only so many write cycles per cell. As a result, MLC flash storage has been relegated to consumer devices like laptops and phones. But significant improvements have been made in both the understanding of MLC and in the technology that surrounds it, and some suppliers are now proposing its use in the enterprise.
Solid-state storage for the 21st century

PROTECTING MLC FLASH STORAGE


While its true that MLC will fail more often than SLC flash, advancements in intelligence around MLC and how its protected are changing the dynamics. First, MLC production processes have improved; some suppliers now offer eMLC (enterprise MLC) with write cycles as high as six times that of While its true that standard MLC (30,000 vs. 5,000). Second, the process of writing data to MLC will fail more the cells has improved such that no often than SLC flash, single cell of the flash disk becomes advancements in hot; wear leveling ensures writes are spread evenly across the available intelligence around cells. Third, most if not all eMLC MLC and how its prosystems have spare unreported capacity, so if a cell does wear out, tected are changing its data can be written to a new drive the dynamics. and cell. Besides these special considerations around the flash memory itself, its important to remember that in many cases this memory will be installed in an enterprise-class storage system, so technologies like RAID and mirroring can be used to provide further protection from failure.

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

MLC FLASH MEMORY PERFORMANCE ISSUES


Now lets talk about the performance concerns around MLC. While MLC isnt as fast as SLC, it is faster than a single 15,000 rpm drive in both read and write operations. Many data centers are looking for a measurable but cost-

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

correct performance boost. SLC flash may be overkill whereas MLC may be just right. The big limiter in the performance of MLC, or that of any flash-based solid-state drive (SSD), is when the drive reaches whats called steady state. This is when the drive has been completely filled up for the first time and there are no more empty cells to put data into. From that point forward, any new data the flash controller needs to write must be written to cells that have no in-use data on them. The not-in-use data is erasedwhich in the flash world means the cell is written to with zerosand then the new data is written to the cell. Obviously, these two steady-state writes take time; factor in the parity writing in a RAID algorithm and the performance gets worse. And this write cycle can deliver erratic and unpredictable I/O performance, especially when the system is busy with a lot of write traffic and is near capacity. To combat this problem, most flash controllers now have the ability to do something called garbage collection. During idle times the flash controller will scan the drive looking for cells that store data marked as removable by the operating system (typically a delete command) and perform the erase write ahead of time. Garbage collection is more important in MLC or eMLC-based systems because theyre slower at processing MLC flash makes a write cycle (more data per cell), so having those cells cleaned out ahead sense for IT shops of time is critical. Another technique that have applications storage systems use is preserving some flash memory as unallocated. where performance For example, if 20% is left in reserve, needs to be improved in most cases the write cycle wouldnt have to be performed while data is but not to an extreme written to the drive. The flash conlevel. troller will use the spare cells. MLC flash makes sense for IT shops that have applications where performance needs to be improved but not to an extreme level. Theres enough technology and redundancy surrounding these systems that they can be implemented with confidence into many environments without the risk of data loss. 2
George Crump is founder and president of analyst firm Storage Switzerland.

SSD in a cache appliance

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

SSD technology
making inroads with SMBs

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

d
STORAGE

Among users, solid-state is gaining ground as a sensible option to protect against data loss and to reduce power consumption. As a result, companies of all sizes are evaluating the technology. By Alan Earls

ESPITE relatively high costs, solid-

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

state drive (SSD) technology is continuing to attract new users, according to a survey of more than 500 businesses conducted earlier this year. The survey, conducted by Kroll Ontrack, indicated that nearly 70% of respondents use solid-state or flash technology, or at least have plans to implement the technology in the near future. Approximately 75% of respondents indicated they believed SSD technology delivered higher performance than spinning disk drives. They also reported a perception that solid-state is a safer medium to protect against data loss and that it consumes less power, and is therefore more environmentally friendly. Some of those issues were on the mind of Les Barnes, a senior vice president of information technology at Bank of Fayetteville in Arkansas, when he faced a SQL Server performance problem. Our two biggest applications are check imaging and our system that manages merchant

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

processing. They were both SQL Server based and both had developed an annoying habit of pausing frequently, causing consternation for users and slowing the flow of work, Barnes said. Barnes said he suspected part of the problem was related to slow I/O response as a consequence of disk access time. So approximately 14 months ago, he installed Dell Inc.s EqualLogic storage products, including the PS6000XVS, a hybrid storage array that includes both 15K SAS drives and SSDs. He said the implementation of SSD technology was an element in a broader effort to implement tiered storage, since the XVS system incorporated both SAS drives and higher speed SSDs. The problem disappeared as soon as the applications had access to the Vendors from the SSDs, Barnes said. Now, he said, with the SSDs in place, database latency smallest startups to has dropped from the low single the largest IT vendors digits to less than a millisecond. According to analysts, Barnes are getting in the is far from alone in finding solace game. Solutions are for storage troubles in solid-state being touted at the storage adoption. Vendors from the smallest startarray level, the ups to the largest IT vendors are network level, at the getting in the game, said David Hill, an analyst at Mesabi Group LLC. host level or even as Solutions are being touted at the DAS [direct-attached array level, the network level, at the storage]. host level or even as DAS [directattached storage]. DAVID HILL, analyst, Mesabi Group LLC The reason is simple, according to Hill. SSD technology promises to eliminate poor application performance that can arise because of I/O bottlenecks, such as the performance gap between server speeds and hard disk drive (HDD) speed, or as an unintended consequence of a high level of server virtualization. Hill said theres still a question of how much of a monetary value can be tied to that performance improvement. If increased revenue (and consequently profit) exceed the added cost and management of SSDs, then solid-state drives would be a good fit. He said SSDs may also be able to offer other improvements, such as being able to speed backup jobs that need to be done within a particular time window.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

That could result in extra cost, but the business may be able to justify it. In addition, there may be some cost tradeoffs, Hill said. Underutilized HDDs that SSDs render unnecessary for performance purposes may be repurposed for other tasks, and thus defer the need to purchase more disk storage for a time. Over a period of years, Hill said, SSDs will displace most if not all highperformance SAS and Fibre Channel (FC) drives, but not capacity-oriented SATA drives. If theres a performance issue, then SSDs can be evaluated as a solution, he said, regardless of company size. For instance, a large enterprise may not have application performance issues, but a small- and mediumsized business (SMB) may be dependent upon an application that cries out for greater performance, Hill said. The problem, and not the size of the company, is the determinant, Hill said. On the other hand, smaller companies may not have the resources to evaluate all the SSD solutions properly when compared to companies that have a larger IT staff, he noted. Mark Peters, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said theres no defining characteristic of the typical user or use case with SSD technology. Some SMBs may literally put everything on solid-state in the server, while others are specing a limited amount of turbo boost in their storage subsystems, he said. Peters also said the economics of using SSDs arent as scary as many think because organizations have had to use more spinning disk resources to achieve performance goals that may be within easy reach of lower-capacity SSDs. Its still a small market when measured in revenue and terabyte penetration terms, but its impact is about IOPS and performance rather than capacity, he said. Id go so far as to say that every storage systems vendor has an offering, and often multiple ones. And the use case range is essentially as a storage tier [persistent data] or for solid-state to be used as a cache. Peters said the adoption of SSD technology is poised to grow dramatically among a range of industries and organizations. Usage isnt limited to one company size, type or industry, as solid-state is simply democratic, horizontally applicable fast storage, he said. 2
Alan Earls is a frequent contributor to various sites within the TechTarget Storage Media Group.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

CHANNEL SPIN:

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

w
STORAGE

Implementing SSD in a cache appliance

Learn about the benefits of using solid-state storage in a cache appliance, how the appliance compares with other SSD implementations and why storage VARs should pay attention. By Eric Slack

ITH THE RISE of server virtualization and the general trend toward more

data, at one time or another most organizations need more storage performance, particularly IOPS. At the device level, solid-state storage seems to be the technology to provide it. But the devils in the details, which in this case means implementation. Choosing how solid-state storage is put

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Solid-state storage for the 21st century

Making a case for SSDs

into a storage infrastructure can determine how effectively performance is delivered to applications, which in the end is what really matters. Implementation of solid-state storage can take a number of different physical forms, like drive form-factor solid-state drives (SSDs) that replace hard disk drives in a server, or storage array or flash PCI Express (PCIe) boards that install into a server. Another alternative can be a dedicated flash storage array or appliance installed on the storage network. Implementation can take different logical forms as well, like creating a new tier 0 high-performance storage area in which to move performancecritical application data during periods of highest activity. Or it can be a cache appliance that holds a copy of this data thats still maintained on the existing storage areas and updated when their cache session is terminated. Well focus on the latter of these, the caching appliance implementation, in which an independent storage device is installed in the environment and shared by one or more servers or storage systemseither block or NAS. Well detail the advantages of caching appliances and discuss some impliA caching appliance cations for value-added resellers (VARs) selling these solutions. isnt a storage array

Solid-state case studies

WHY A CACHE APPLIANCE MAKES SENSE

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

SSD in a cache appliance

Simply replacing hard disk drives in a server or existing storage array with SSDs can be the easiest solution. But it often means the SSDs cant be used to their full capability because existing hard drive controller architectures typically dont provide the IOPS or connectivity SSDs require. In addition, the lack of density and cost per gigabyte of these implementations can force users to settle for less (or more) capacity than needed, resulting in efficiency tradeoffs and lower performance. Dedicating SSDs to specific servers or storage systems also reduces opportunities to share this high-priced resource, which results in fewer applications receiving a performance boost, fewer systems being included in the cost justification and increased management overhead. A caching appliance isnt a storage array but an independent high-speed device thats purpose-built for solid-state drives and can be shared by multiple back-end storage systems. These standalone systems can address a

but an independent high-speed device thats purpose-built for solid-state drives and can be shared by multiple back-end storage systems.

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

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q
Solid-state storage for the 21st century

number of issues the industry has had implementing solid-state storage devices in its quest to improve application performance:

Making a case for SSDs

q q q q
STORAGE

Shared performance and utilization benefits. IOPS requirements of storage devices are constantly changing depending on the workloads of the servers theyre supporting. While installing SSDs into a specific NAS or block storage array can improve performance, it often results in periods of low utilization when the servers using that individual storage system are less active. An independent caching appliance, on the other hand, can be shared across multiple storage systems, enabling higher asset utilization and improved application performance for more servers. It can also provide better ROI justification for an SSD upgrade project as the costs are spread across more applications. This can make even more specialized devices, like DRAM, cost-effective, further improving performance of the appliance. In some use cases, a caching appliance can turn one or more midrange disk systems into a performance solution for less money than a comparable high-end system. Capacity benefits. A shared cache appliance can provide enough capacity

Solid-state case studies

to pin an entire data set into solid-state storage. This can result in better performance with fewer cache misses and better efficiency, as data movement between solid-state and disk storage is greatly reduced. And the effective capacity of the cache can be extended by combining multiple storage types, like SSD and high-speed disk, into the same appliance.
Lower processing overhead than tiered storage. Compared with a tier 0

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

implementation of solid-state storage, this appliance is a true cache, which means it takes a copy of the most active or performance-critical data sets. Tiered storage solutions that typically reside on the storage controller move data into and out of the high-speed storage space, generating processing overhead and reducing efficiency. These automated tiering systems also require a warm-up period in which usage information about new data sets is accumulated before they can move data, sometimes taking hours or days.
No impact on data protection. Because the data set is maintained on the

SSD in a cache appliance

primary storage system, data protection isnt affected by the caching appliance. Storage serviceslike snapshots, replication and data deduplication can be kept on the existing back-end storage systems and not added to the cache CPU, helping to maintain performance.
Nondisruptive implementation. Finally, implementation of the caching

appliance is less disruptive because it involves only copying data sets, not moving them from existing storage.

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Sometimes referred to as a memory array as opposed to a storage array, caching appliances are designed from the ground up to support solid-state storage. This means their architectures provide the IOPS required to feed many more solid-state devices than a traditional storage array can. This in turn produces better storage density and higher capacity, with the benefits mentioned above. It also eliminates the potential situation of legacy disk array shelves running nearly empty because they can support only a handful of solid-state drives. Besides density, this results in better efficiency as more flash cells can be made available in the memory array for overhead processes like garbage collection.

Solid-state storage for the 21st century

BOTTOM LINE FOR VARs


For organizations that need better application performance, solid-state storage technologies are certainly a viable option. But given the number of SSD products available and because they arent a straight plug replacement upgrade for spinning disk drives, many VARs customers may need some help designing a solid-state solution. This should mean opportunity for storage integrators. Caching appliances can supply VARs with a strong solution candidate when it comes to a solid-state storage performance upgrade. These systems can be used to spread the performance of SSDs across multiple storage systems, enabling better ROI than putting SSDs into individual storage arrays or servers. They can also provide the density and capacity to support larger data sets, thereby improving efficiency and lowering overall costs. From an implementation perspective, a caching appliance can be less disruptive than adding an SSD tier 0 to an existing storage infrastructure and can complement the storage services and data protection already in place. While not the only solid-state storage alternative available to storage VARs, caching appliances should certainly be on the line card. 2
Eric Slack is a senior analyst at Storage Switzerland.

Making a case for SSDs

Solid-state case studies

Pros and cons: MLC vs. SLC

MLC for the enterprise

SSD makes inroads with SMBs

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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices

Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices is a SearchSolidStateStorage.com e-product.


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Essential Guide to Solid-State Storage Implementation Choices