Could Your IT Department Save Money with Solid State Drives

May 14, 2008
Increased productivity and reduced energy consumption are some of the cost savings associated with SSD.

SSDs are no longer just a promise of the future from flash vendors. Dell, Lenovo, Sony and Toshiba are just some of the PC OEMs who are now offering SSDs in notebooks. In the face of these increasing choices and strong consumer interest, a growing number of IT managers around the globe have been looking at the SSD option for notebooks in corporate networks.

One of the main reasons for this interest is that SSDs emphasize performance and reliability over a huge storage capacity -- capacity that in most cases is left unused. According to a study conducted by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., 70% of corporate network users require only a 60GB or smaller storage drive in their notebooks.

Moreover, SSDs are rapidly gaining more supporters worldwide because they have no moving parts, are extremely durable, emit virtually no heat and offer better performance than most rotating disk hard drives. Additionally, they are immune to fragmentation and quieter than a mouse.

Rising Interest

With 64GB now available and 128GB SSDs coming soon, many IT managers are considering SSD technology for employees who work from home periodically or are only occasionally away from the office. And now, even data center managers are looking at SSDs with a great deal of interest due to their significant performance advantages, reduced power consumption and substantially lower cooling requirements.

While the benefits are numerous, a stumbling block to some network and consumer purchasers has been the higher price tag for SSDs. But that is before a thorough cost-benefit analysis is done. When all direct and indirect costs are considered -- that which we refer to as the total cost of ownership (TCO) -- specification of SSDs can even represent a savings for many IT departments.

Total Cost of Ownership

Most of an SSD's add-on savings can be directly linked to its exceptional reliability. The same McKinsey & Company study previously mentioned, determined that an estimated 44% of firms experience a notebook hard drive failure rate of 5% to 10% annually, while 37% suffer notebook PC hard drive failures of more than 10% per year.

Employees whose PCs go on the blink often miss hours and even days of optimal productivity, often coupled with additional time wasted when using temporary equipment that lacks the user's normal day-to-day personal files. For example, a consultant, attorney or field supervisor whose time can be valued at hundreds of dollars per hour would recoup the cost of an SSD in a few hours. Further, significant labor costs can be associated with delays in key projects, replacing damaged drives and attempting to recover lost data. In addition, one must consider the cost of a new drive and time spent in trying to replace unrecoverable files that were not backed up.

Performance Gains

Beyond reliability gains, SSDs offer substantial performance benefits over HDDs. For example, boot time on SSD-installed notebook PCs is about twice as fast, and applications start 1.5 to three times quicker. Read and write performance can be up to five times faster. One recent study by the analyst firm IDC found that the average user will save $178 per year in increased productivity and reduced energy consumption.

For servers and storage centers, the benefits depend a great deal on the specific system design, but performance gains average about three times more input/output operations per second (IOPs), especially for random read tasks, as compared to a high-end HDD. When these gains are considered, one SSD has the potential to replace four or more hard drives, reducing cost while at the same time increasing server productivity.

Repeated testing by OEMs and SSD vendors has shown that the average mean time between failures for SSDs is 3-4 times as long as that of HDDs.

Power & Cooling

Power consumption also must be considered. SSDs use up to 20% less power in most notebooks than hard disks, which extends battery life, and offers potentially dramatic electricity savings in an enterprise server environment. In addition, SSDs do not generate heat like hard disks, and this absence of heat can sharply reduce the often sizeable costs associated with data center cooling.

A thorough TCO analysis takes into account all of these factors. To assist decision-makers in making their own TCO analysis, Samsung now provides an online TCO calculator for notebook PCs. The online calculator outputs the total cost premium of installing SSDs on a fleet of notebooks, the associated savings, and the TCO for the entire network.

All things considered, SSDs must be valued for their overall return on investment and a compelling array of performance improvements, in addition to their initial cost.

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