Flash-based solid-state disks (SSDs) offer impressive performance capabilities and are all the rage these days. Rightly so? Let’s find out how you can assess the performance benefit of SSDs in your own datacenter before purchasing anything and without expensive, time-consuming and usually inaccurate proofs-of-concept.
** Please note that this article is written by Irfan Ahmad, follow him on twitter and make sure to attend his webinar on the 5th of June on this topic, and vote for CloudPhysics in the big data startup top 10. **
I was fortunate enough to have started the very first project at VMware that optimized ESX to take advantage of Flash and SSDs. Swap to Host Cache (aka Swap-to-SSD) shipped in vSphere 5. For those customers wanting to manage their DRAM spend, this feature can be a huge cost saving. It also continues to serve as a differentiator for vSphere against competitors.
Swap-to-SSD has the distinction of being the first VMware project to fully utilize the capabilities of Flash but it is certainly not the only one. Since then, every established storage vendor has entered this area, not to mention a dozen awesome startups. Some have solutions that apply broadly to all compute infrastructures, yet others have products that are specifically designed to address the hypervisor platform.
The performance capabilities of the Flash are indeed impressive. But they can cost a pretty penny. Marketing machines are in full force trying to convince you that you need a shiny hardware or software solution. An important question remains: can the actual benefit keep up with the hype? The results are mixed and worth reading through.