Processor and RAM technology is advancing at an alarming pace and has made great strides in the past few years. Storage on the other hand hasn’t seen much performance improvement for decades, until a few years back. Solid storage media was introduced and it was an absolute game changer. It’s significantly faster and consumes a tiny fraction of its spinning disk ancestor. All of these benefits do come with a hefty price, but are they worth it for your dedicated server?
The most significant improvement that SSDs offer over hard drives is performance. Since a solid state disk has no moving parts it virtually eliminates any seek time. This factor alone is a game changer as fragmented data is no longer an issue, and the amount of I/O operations per second (IOPS) greatly increases. A typical SSD will have 50,000+ IOPS (read/write), where a standard 7200 RPM hard drive is capable of about 90 – 120 IOPS. Overall the SSD will get you at least 500 times the performance of a hard drive.
Another significant win for solid state media is the small amount of power required to keep the drive operational. Unlike a traditional hard drive, there are no moving parts inside of a SSD. Most solid state disks will use less than 1 watt of power with a heavy load. A spinning disk will use 5 to 10 watts of power. While this may seem like negligible power consumption, it adds up quickly with large RAID arrays and increases the amount of heat inside a server. The increased heat will cause the fans to run faster and therefore consume even more power.
One of the two biggest downfalls with solid state disks is the limited sizes on the market. Due to technology limitations and costs, SSDs are only available at a fraction of the size of a standard hard drive. For now, SSDs usage only makes sense when the storage requirement is fairly low. This factor may change over time as technology improves.
The largest issue with SSDs is the cost for storage. At a per GB level, SSDs are priced at about 10 times more expensive than a hard drive. Unfortunately, the storage costs alone become a major factor for most server configurations. This can make a major difference in the overall cost of a server.
In the end the choice really comes down to storage space versus performance. Although this can be a tough choice, it’s one that wasn’t available until just a few years ago.