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.