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Supermicro New Zealand Channel Newsletter
Hybrid SSD/HDD RAID
  7 October 2010


The mainstream online computing storage mediums today are SATA and SAS electromechanical hard disk drives (HDD) and Solid-State drives (SSD).
SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment and it superseded the previous Parallel ATA technology at the beginning of 2007. The electromechanical SATA HDD drives are considered to be the default, mainstream consumer and business desktop drives that offer the benefits of low cost, large storage capacity and good sequential read/write performance.

SAS stands for Serial Attached SCSI and in a similar fashion it replaced the aging parallel SCSI interface for high end workstations and servers in recent years. The main benefit of 15K electromechanical SAS drives when planning your configurations is in its increased performance over 7200RPM SATA drives in terms of random read/write performance - this improves the performance of multi-user or multi-application servers and any complex databases in general for increased hardware costs and much lower storage capacity. The increased procurement cost is the main drawback.

Finally the latest entry into the world of storage drives is SSD, which generally employs NAND-based flash memory to distinguish itself from its electromechanical SATA and SAS drive competitors. SSD drives excel in random read/write performance - the read latency improvements is generally described to be 10x or more in abstract terms.
So what is the big fuss? Let us summarise the points.
  1. SATA hard disk drives in RAID arrays provide excellent SEQUENTIAL read and writes.
  2. Hardware RAID arrays built by Supermicro/Compucon offer good RANDOM write performance due to controller caching, where data is stored quickly in controller memory before it is commited to disk. The system can treat the data as 'stored' as the controller takes over.
The missing attribute is RANDOM read performance and our solution is to use SSD drives in standard SATA RAID arrays to offer good RANDOM read performance as well, at a cost cheaper than using expensive SAS drives for large storage arrays (e.g. 8TB or more).

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Benchmark tests have shown that we can improve Webserver performance by 5x in terms of IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second), a common benchmarking unit of measure for disk performance.

A second innovation on offer is Hybrid SSD/HDD arrays whereby RAID 1 or 10 arrays can be built with a mix of standard HDDs and SATA SSD drives, offering performance gains over standard HDD RAID arrays by performing read operations from the faster SSD and write operations on both the SSD and HDD.

Both innovations are available for our completely built & tested solutions, delivered to your office installed with an OS and ready for your applications. Feel free to contact the editor for further information as desired.

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Information in this document is subject to change without notice.
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