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11/22/2010
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George Crump
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Does SSD Make Sense In The Small Data Center?

Solid State Storage is often thought of as being used in one of two extremes. Either in the high end enterprise to acceleration databases or in the consumer netbook, smartphone market. The truth is that solid state storage can be used in a wide variety of applications in businesses of all sizes. The small data center with two to three servers should not exclude SSD from it's consideration.

Solid State Storage is often thought of as being used in one of two extremes. Either in the high end enterprise to acceleration databases or in the consumer netbook, smartphone market. The truth is that solid state storage can be used in a wide variety of applications in businesses of all sizes. The small data center with two to three servers should not exclude SSD from it's consideration.While in a recent blog we discussed the advantages of a memory module based solid state storage, this market may be an ideal match for disk form factor SSDs. This is because the small sized data center already has existing servers and may not need a SAN or certainly a large SAN with SSD just yet. Their servers often have available drive slots that the SSD can be inserted into. Finally most of these small business class servers also make adding a drive easy, while getting to the internals of the system to add an SSD card may be more challenging.

When should a small data center use SSD? Many of the use cases that we discuss in our article "Improving Storage Performance in the Medium-Sized Enterprise" also apply to a smaller data center as well. Even if you only have a sever or two adding SSD to them can greatly improve performance. In most cases this does not mean switching over entirely to SSD either but leveraging the technology as a cache or storage area for highly active but temporal data like transaction log files. Installing an SSD as a second drive and then moving those types of files to that drive can greatly improve performance of a system that is being pushed to its limits, preventing a server upgrade without dramatically changing day to day work flows. Which not only saves the cost of buying new hardware but the time and expertise required to move an application from the old server to the new.

For example several of the operating system vendors are partnering with server hardware vendors to offer preconfigured small business bundles with a few core applications like email, databases and web services already installed on the server hardware. Since many of these servers are supplied with simple SATA hard disks, as the needs of the business grow, these starter servers may exhibit performance problems that quite often can be related to storage performance. Instead of upgrading the server or even installing a faster hard drive it may make more sense to add a secondary SSD to these servers and set the applications to store those very active files on the SSD.

Even if the smaller data center is considering its first SAN to take advantage of server virtualization, a local SSD in the server can help. Most entry level SANs are iSCSI or NFS based utilizing 1GbE connections to keep costs down. The problem is that even a small data center can at times see performance issues with 1GbE connections. Leveraging an SSD to keep temporal high I/O type of traffic off of the 1GbE connection may keep those peaks from causing a performance problem.

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

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