Solid-State Storage Can Trump Traditional Drives on Cost

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print


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Solid-state storage may initially seem like a more expensive solution than traditional hard drives, but one solution provider found that total cost was less for a customer whose database was bogged down by analytics queries that could take up to 4 hours.

When does expensive solid-state storage become less expensive than cheaper rotating disks? Advertising analytics firm Marketing Architects found the crossover happened when its business intelligence reports were taking up to 4 hours to run.

That’s when solution provider Clear North proposed a solid-state storage solution that would resolve the bottleneck in Marketing Architects’ CRM and analytics solution.

The firm had added many fields to its CRM application from Pivotal, and that had degraded the performance in terms of running reports. Marketing Architects turned to its database vendor to ask for help, but the best suggestion it had was to port it all to a new database, a project that would take a year and cost the company millions of dollars.

"When it was really slow, it affected productivity," says Pete Sperling, a partner at Clear North. "Everybody in the company was using the application. And they were using hardware to make it better."

Sperling says that’s what led Clear North to look at the Marketing Architects’ database and how many I/Os they were pushing.

"They had a lot of drives—maybe 15 72GB drives for the database and at least another 15 for the log files," he says. "Space wasn’t an issue, but performance was still very poor."

By switching to solid-state storage instead, Clear North believed it would be able to increase the I/Os significantly and fix the performance issues. But solid state is an expensive alternative and pretty much brand new for this type of application.

To help ease the customer’s concern, Clear North and vendor Compellent offered a guarantee—it would take the solution back and not charge for the labor if the solid-state storage solution didn’t turn out to provide the kind of performance boost the company required.

"The results were very impressive," Sperling says. "Reports that had taken 4 hours were down to the 10- to 15-minute range."

The new solution included five 146GB solid-state drives with 25,000 to 5,000 I/Os each. "If they would try to equal that I/O with regular fibre drives they would need 140 drives," Sperling says.

Clear North put together the following solution modeling for Marketing Architects.

The cost of each solid-state drive was about $19,000, totaling about $95,000 for five drives. Enclosures for these drives totaled two at a total cost of $12,000.  All together, the solution cost $107,000 to get the 25,000 I/Os.

To get the same in fibre drives, Clear North’s model showed that the company would need to spend $135,000 just for the drives alone. Enclosures would cost another $54,000 for a total solution cost of $189,000 just to do the same number of I/Os.

"When you do the pricing from an I/O perspective, it’s not even close," says Sperling. "The story will only continue to get better on solid state because pricing will continue to come down."

Clear North relied on Compellent’s software to manage storage. For example, data that is never going to be touched can be migrated down to SATA drives and parked there.

The software also optimizes for memory space taken versus performance, says Sperling. That means that data that is not accessed for three days is then saved in the RAID 5.5 format, which takes up less space but performs more slowly.

"So we get the best of both worlds," Sperling says.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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