IT managers choose SSDs over hard disks

IT managers in the US are falling in love with SSDs because they run so fast a single unit can replace multiple HDDs in enterprise servers.

IT managers around the U.S. are falling in love with SSDs (solid state drives) in enterprise servers because they solve two major headaches: they run so fast they can replace multiple HDDs (hard disk drives) and they help reduce the electric bill.

The benefits of SSDs, which are made from flash memory chips and have no moving parts, are even helping many IT managers get over their initial sticker shock, says Jim Handy, lead storage analyst at Objective Analysis.

The key is speed, as measured in IOPS (input/outputs per second). Many IT managers, particularly those at banks, stock brokerages or with other transaction-type needs, have so much trouble with HDD speeds that they hook up several HDDs to one enterprise server in order to increase IOPS.

"With a single SSD they can get rid of a hookup like this altogether, replacing 10 HDDs in many cases, but I heard of one extreme case where one SSD replaced 38 enterprise HDDs," Handy said.

An enterprise SSD can cost from US$5,000 to $10,000, depending on capacity, but if it can replace the need for ten enterprise HDDs, which cost around $350 to $1,200 each, an IT manager has already recouped their investment. Tack on savings to the electric bill over time, and SSDs appear even more attractive.

STEC, one of the early leaders in SSDs for enterprise servers, makes one in a common HDD capacity, 146G bytes, along with a drive half that size. Other companies, such as BiTMICRO Networks and Micron Technology also offer enterprise SSDs.

Companies running large data centers are at the forefront of replacing HDDs with SSDs in enterprise servers, Handy said, often replacing thousands of HDDs with a hundred or more SSDs.

In one example, he said a company providing video on demand (VOD) was able to replace 16 HDDs with one SDD in enterprise servers at their data center, gaining space and cooling savings along with initial cost savings.

The trend has sent sales of SSDs for enterprise servers rocketing.

Objective Analysis predicts unit shipments of SSDs for the enterprise will rise 151 percent per year through 2013.

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