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March 2012

Status report: Solid-state storage

Solid-state storage has carved out a niche in the storage ecosystem, establishing itself as a viable alternative for high-performance applications. Solid-state disk is, of course, nothing of the sort. Whereas a disk is a round, flat object, solid-state storage is really just memory chips. That may seem like a silly semantic distinction, but it’s actually important to bear that in mind when architecting a data access solution. Solid-state drives (SSDs), also referred to as flash memory and flash cache, have more in common with memory -- specifically cache memory -- than with spinning hard disk drives (HDDs). Although SSDs are commonly deployed “behind the storage-area network (SAN)” and provisioned as part of the total storage pool, they behave like large repositories of cache. That’s important to consider when designing solid-state storage into a storage solution. SSD chip technologies Three solid-state storage technologies dominate the market today: single-level cell (SLC), multi-level cell (MLC) and enterprise multi-level cell...

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