IT Management 101: Using Flash Devices in Data Centers

IT Management 101: Using Flash Devices in Data Centers

The world of information technology is growing fast, and if you want to pursue a career in IT, you should understand the types of changes occurring in data centers in the U.S. and around the world. One major change that IT professionals are experiencing today is the integration of flash or solid state drives (SSDs) in data centers. If you plan on becoming a manager of an IT department, you should be aware of how this super-fast technology can benefit, but also limit, your company.

What are solid state drives and why do IT professional use them?
Solid state drives are storage devices that utilize an array of semiconductors organized in integrated circuits instead of magnetic or optical mechanisms. SSDs don't have any moving parts, which separates them from traditional hard disk drives. This arrangement provides a number of physical and operational advantages. Transferring data is much faster because there is no need for parts to revolve to record or write information.

In the same vein, seek time and latency (delay in operability) are greatly reduced. Users also experience quicker boot times, and because no parts spin, SSDs are more resistant to electric current and general wear and tear.

SSD technology has advanced dramatically in the last few years because of a growing need for higher capacity and quicker input/output performances. Many devices have integrated SSD technology, including high-speed laptops and mobile devices, but now even data centers are using flash technology. Managers are turning to flash devices to supplement their storage capacities, integrating SSD technology into their infrastructure to boost existing hard disk drive performance.

What are some drawbacks of flash technology?
Despite the numerous advantages of SSD technology, there are a few issues that IT managers should be aware of. In the past, data centers using hard disk drives did not have to worry about the number of cycles their devices encountered. With SSDs, that number has become vitally important. Single-layer blocks of SSDs can efficiently handle 100,000 write cycles, but multi-layer cells dwindle to 20,000 to 30,000.

There is also the issue of reading and writing discrepancies. Traditional hard drives run input/output (IOs) at about 200 times per second. SSDs operate between 10,000 and 250,000 times per second. This exponential leap in IO speed does not translate into writing speed because of the enormous amounts of data SSDs need to erase in order to write new information.  

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers bachelor's and master's online degree programs in IT. To find out more, please visit www.wgu.edu/wisecareers_IT.

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