Silicon is the darling of the storage world: Out with spinning disks, in with flash chips. There is a lot to like about solid-state storage. It offers faster I/O, lower latency and power consumption, and instant-on from sleep states for lightning-fast access to cold data, all from smaller components easily adapted to a variety of form factors. Indeed, flash memory’s miniscule use of space and power are a key enabler of mobile devices and the reason SSDs are displacing HDDs in most laptops.
But in datacenters, where storage requirements are measured in petabytes, not terabytes, flash must be used opportunistically. Despite the claims of some solid-state proponents, the all-flash datacenter is still years from becoming a reality, as described in InformationWeek’s 2014 State of Storage report. But the price per bit differential between flash and disk is narrowing, albeit from a very wide gap, meaning it’s rational and economical to use SSDs in more and more applications.