By Kyle Christopher

With all the talk these days about flash storage, it’s important to remember all the benefits offered by solid-state drives (SSDs) and how to use them within your storage environment. Deciding where to use solid-state storage within your environment makes choosing the right storage option somewhat complex, with your decisions likely having a long-term impact.

With the recent popularity of flash devices, the prices of SSDs are dropping. While a lot of folks are not interested in flash devices per se, their introduction into the storage market means good news for you; namely, you can now obtain the superior functionality of SSDs at dramatically lower prices.

With that said, here are 3 ways to use SSDs to the benefit of your storage environment.

1. Primary Storage

Vendors are now implementing solid-state storage directly as primary data storage, utilizing the standard disk drive form factor. This implementation method is simple to understand and compatible with current system designs and configurations. The advantage to you is that vendors are now designing and building improved controllers that are able to handle solid-state drives. Because of this, you can now receive dramatic performance, speed and accessibility to your data with the addition of just a few drives. Meanwhile, capacities are increasing by the terabyte so that you get more and more capacity without investing a lot of money. More specifically, you can now obtain CX4 or CX3 systems at about 30% of the cost you might have paid 3 years ago for these same devices.

2. Caching in Front of Spinning Disks

Don’t let your spinning disks go to waste. It’s possible to use your solid-state storage as a cache in front of these disks. This eases the load on the administrator. Since the SSD storage is acting as cache, he or she won’t need to decide what data should be placed on it. You’ll need to decide what size cache is appropriate to the environment as well as which workloads can be directed towards to the cache for the best use of your solid-state devices. A relatively small amount of cache relative to your total storage allocated to any particular application is enough to provide significant performance improvements. In any case, the cache should be large enough to hold the entire volume to achieve desired performance gains.

3. Performance Improvements

For real-world applications such as email and database performance, solid-state storage will provide significant overall performance gains when configured optimally for the application. Here is one configuration technique that we’ve found to be especially helpful. Spread your data over many disk drives, utilizing only a portion of the capacity of each drive, thereby devoting as many spindles as possible to your data and increasing overall performance. An investment in a few more drives up front will drastically improve performance.

How are you utilizing solid-state technology within your environment? Are you willing to invest a little more up front to keep your environment performing optimally? Contact us at We will assess your environment. With the addition of a few drives in your environment, you can likely get big performance uptick without having to invest in a large upgrade.