Solid State Drives
Though they arrive at a much higher price point than traditional HDDs, SSDs are fast becoming the most popular form of media business for their inherent advantages in performance, power consumption and lifespan. In short, an SSD is an oversized flash drive, only it is made of several chips known as NAND. This makes it respond much faster than a traditional hard drive, which uses a physical disk. Traditional hard drives are also known as 'Hard Disk Drives' because the disk physically exists rather than being virtual like in an SSD. The build of a Hard Drive vs an SSD can be compared with an MP3 player and a CD player. The MP3 player responds faster than the CD player and is not as vulnerable to physical jostling, as well as the MP3 player using less power, producing less heat and ultimately being a better choice.
However, unlike MP3 players, the SSD is made of many flash modules that are expected to fit in the same space as a regular HDD (which can be compact because it's based on the surface area, not internal chips), which is why SSDs typically hold less. They're getting better at making them store more and more though and modern SSD will span into the terabytes. You would use the SSD for applications that you want a very fast response time for, such as games, the operating system, or other things that you want to access very quickly. Alternatively, there is a growing trend for their use in network-attached storage as caching, to combine their fast performance with the large capacity available on a hard drive.
What is SSD Cache?
There’s an ongoing battle between HDDs and SDDs, both of which have their own pros and cons. An HDD is composed of an actuator, read/write arm, spindle, and platters onto which data is stored. When dealing with high traffic of read/write requests (especially for a large number of small-sized files), the platter spins and read/write head keeps moving to search for data scattered on the drive in a non-contiguous manner. That’s when latency kicks in. An SDD, however, has no moving parts and uses flash memory to store data, which consumes less power, causes nearly no noise, vibration and heat, and operates at higher speeds compared to a traditional hard drive.
Now that we understand the difference, then what exactly is an SSD cache? It is the temporary storage space of frequently accessed data (aka hot data) on flash memory chips in an SSD. Reserving a certain portion as the cache where hot data is stored, lower-latency SSDs can respond to data requests more readily, accelerating read/write speeds and boosting the overall performance. When running applications requiring higher random IOPS or when large amounts of data are written to non-contiguous blocks (e.g., OLTP databases and email services), building an all-SSD system can burn a hole in your pocket. But fear not, there’s a way out — SSD cache. You can mount an SSD cache to a single storage volume or block-level iSCSI LUN to create a read/write buffer, enhancing random access performance. Note that since large sequential read/write operations such as HD video streaming lack re-reading patterns, such workload patterns cannot benefit much from SSD caching.
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