Survey sheds light on users' perception of SSD performance
Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) conducted a survey that yielded interesting user insights into the attributes of solid state drives (SSDs) such as endurance expectations and reception to built-in encryption features.
Paul Wassenberg, chair of SNIA's Solid State Storage Initiative (SSSI) said the results of the survey will be used to guide the group's education activities around the capabilities and features of SSDs. The call for input began last fall. Initial results, comprising 75 per cent of the ultimate total of participants, were presented at the Storage Visions Conference earlier this year.
The survey identified respondents in four market segments, namely the mobile, desktop, server, and storage sub-system segments. Within each segment, SSD uses were broken down based on applications as well as interfaces being used. Overall, the highest use of SSDs is in storage sub-systems—by approximately 33 per cent, with servers at roughly 27 per cent, and mobile at around 21 per cent. Desktop use of SSDs was about 8 per cent. The majority, approximately 65 per cent, were using the using the 2.5in form factor, 19 per cent were using PCIe cards, and less than 5 per cent were using mSATA. Capacity-wise, about 33 per cent of respondents were using SSDs greater than 500GB, followed closely by about 31 per cent using between 301GB and 500GB.
The SSSI survey focused on five key attributes of SSDs—performance, power, endurance, data integrity, and data encryption. While the ratings varied depending on the segment and uses, across all segments performance was fairly important, with IOPS and latency favoured over throughput. Power was fairly important, but power management received only middling ratings.
Wassenberg said endurance was most important of all attributes for users, who consistently ranked it above all else. Data integrity and encryption were rated as fairly important, but the latter less so than anticipated. Wassenberg said this was notable, since comments from the survey revealed some outdated data ideas that encryption can reduce performance. That isn't true, he said, because recent generations of self-encrypting drives (SEDs) do not measurably impact SSD performance.
Key management is also a concern in larger systems with multiple drives, the survey found. Wassenberg said mobile devices, such as notebooks PCs, are particularly vulnerable to theft, and encryption would prevent the data from being accessed. Many SSDs being shipped today have data protection and encryption features built in, but often those abilities are not being switched on by OEMs.
Samsung, for example, recently added new security features to its self-encrypting drive (SED), the 840 EVO SSD, making it compatible with professional security software employed by enterprise organisations. In addition, there are a number of third-party vendors such as WinMagic and Wave Systems that offer tools to make SEDs easier for IT departments to deploy and manage while not degrading the performance of SSDs and or complicating the user experience.
Wassenberg said educating users on encryption technologies for SSDs and the benefits will be a focus for the SSSI going forward. Another area of education will be performance, he said, and the importance of preconditioning drives so that users have better expectations of how a drive performs over time. An SSD's performance is higher fresh out of the box, but it will drop after several writes, and then give a more realistic indication of how it will likely perform over time.
The SSSI offers test specification, specifications and software that allow users to test workloads and maintain industry-standard methodology for pre-conditioning and steady state determination for SSDs.
For now, the SSSI survey is going to be kept open for an indefinite period to gather more data, and users are welcome to participate in a dedicated LinkedIn group.
- Gary Hilson
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