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High Capacity SSD Buying Guide

By Drew Robb

Vendors have begun rolling out SSDs capable of storing many petabytes worth of data while still enabling fast performance.

Big SSDs are a big deal. And many of them are now flooding onto the market. While 1 TB hard disk drives (HDDs) were major news not so long ago, SSDs are rushing ahead and are about to achieve the 32 TB mark.

There are already plenty of high-capacity SSDs on the market. But what are some of the options? Please post your view in the Comments section below

Some of the best high capacity SSDs


Samsung Electronics offers a wide range of SSDs. The PM1725, for example is a 6.4 TB SSD that performs at up to 2,000 MB/s on sequential reads and up to 120k IOPS in random read operation. Like most enterprise SSDs, it uses NAND flash memory as the storage media and a controller as the interface with the host system to map bad data blocks, cache read/write data, and conduct error checking and correction (ECC). But Samsung is also pushing the limits of SSD technology with its latest offerings, with the first examples due out this quarter.

“With our 4th generation V-NAND technology, we can provide differentiated values in high capacity, high performance and compact product dimensions,” said Young-Hyun Jun, president of the memory business at Samsung.

V-NAND is said to stack 30 percent more layers of cell arrays vertically compared to its predecessor. That makes it 64-layer triple-level-cell flash. As a result, its single-die density rises to 512 Gb and its IO speed to 800Mbps. The top of the line will be a 32 TB SAS SSD for enterprise storage systems which will hit the market in 2017. 512 V-NAND chips are stacked in 16 layers to form a 1 TB package with 32 of them contained in one 2.5-inch SSD. The company’s roadmap includes a 100 TB SSD by 2020.


Micron’s take on the market is that the emergence of high-capacity SSDs is being driven by the need for enterprises to modernize their legacy IT infrastructure and the requirement for more agility. Frame-based arrays filled with bays of 10K and 15K HDDs are being gradually replaced with solid state storage.

“Organizations are taking the necessary steps to disaggregate their more active application storage from traditional storage networks,” said Scott Shadley, principal technologist, Micron. “They are moving toward a direct attached storage (DAS) approach to enable businesses to more quickly access and leverage data to achieve the agility and insight they need to succeed.”

Micron has been a firm advocate of new interface technologies like NVMe to help systems reach into the high-capacity ranges in drives with speed and efficiency. The Micron 9100 PCIe NVMe SSD, for example, is built to deliver agility and scale for demanding data center workloads. The basic idea is to bring nonvolatile memory as close as possible to the processor, and this is said to be up to 10 times faster when compared to a single enterprise SATA SSD. It offers 3.2TB of storage in both high height, half length (HHHL) and 2.5-inch form factors.

Micron believes the highest-capacity SSDs at the top of the line make sense for many, but not all, applications.

“The switch to SSDs isn’t that much of an initial expense and will actually save more money in the long run for its performance, power consumption and overall space,” said Shadley. “High-capacity SSDs are well designed for cloud services that support content-sharing traffic, such as video and media streaming, as well as active archiving applications where highly sensitive information isn’t being overwritten only.”

But he added that for read-intensive workloads, you need right-sized endurance to provide users with consistency of data throughput to ensure fast delivery of the information being requested for reading, hearing or watching.

“Thanks to the advent of 3D NAND, individual SSDs are reaching the cost-sensitive and capacity thresholds previously owned by HDDs,” said Shadley.

Western Digital

The Western Digital HGST-branded Ultrastar SN100 SSD family is a balance between capacity and performance. It is targeted at cloud, hyperscale and enterprise hyperconverged systems. The Ultrastar SN100 is available in a 2.5-inch or U.2 form factor, and uses the PCIe interface and a NVMe driver to deliver low latency under even heavy loads. It has a capacity of 3.2 TB.

“The Ultrastar SN100 PCIe NVMe SSD particularly shines under mixed read/write workloads (delivering up to 310K IOPS),” said Walter Hinton, director of client and enterprise solutions marketing, Western Digital. “The SN100 is often used by customers with large scale-out databases like MySQL, Cassandra, MongoDB or Hadoop’s HDFS as these databases favor devices inside the server rather than traditional SAN or NAS network-based storage.”

While the SN100 is one of the most densely packaged SSDs on the market, it is not considered by Western Digital to be an HDD replacement. Rather, it is part of a tiered architecture (used by most hyperscale/cloud/telco organizations) for handling the largest amounts of online transactional processing (OLTP) or online analytical processing (OLAP) data possible to gain insights and make decisions rapidly, but with the vast majority of data being stored long term in data lakes or archives.

“For database applications, consider the IOPS-to-GB ratio to choose between large-capacity SSDs versus performance-optimized SSDs or even tiered architectures,” said Hinton. “SSDs are available in a wide range of performance and capacities, often with varying levels of TCO.”


While disk and flash makers such as Western Digital, Samsung and Micron manufacture high-capacity SSDs, storage OEMs are rolling them out inside their own arrays. The NetApp All Flash FAS array with the ONTAP operating system, for example, is said to deliver high performance along with data efficiency features which maximize the effective capacity of high-capacity 15 TB SSDs. It features 4:1 data efficiency, advanced data management and data protection features.

And there are plenty of other high-capacity SSDs out there from leading storagevendors, as well as from the many flash-array vendors in the marketplace. These include:


HPE 3PAR StoreServ All-flash Storage employs a wide range of SSD sizes from 400 GB up to 15.36 TB SSDs. While the overall IOPS per GB decreases as the SSD size increases, the overall latency still remains constant at scale. As a result, even at bigger sizes like 15.36 TB, the IOPs density is still 15 times better than HDDs. Also, overall rebuild times are significantly faster when compared to HDDs.

“We have noticed a fast uptake in these larger, newer technology SSDs as we introduce them,” said Ivan Iannaccone, director of product management, HPE 3PAR. “This is driven by both the density advantages that come as technology evolves and by the cost advantages of these denser drives.”

In the summer, for example, HPE launched 7.68 TB and 15.36 TB SSDs for its 3PAR StoreServ units. HPE’s view is that bigger SSDs make sense only in an architecture that can handle high-capacity SSDs. For this reason, HPE has invented technologies like Adaptive Sparing and Express Layout that help the SSD and the array handle flash at scale. Adaptive Sparing is a form of storage virtualization that enables excess capacity to be used as spares. This allows storage systems to survive in the event of a component failure. Similarly, Express Layout is another type of storage virtualization that adds more control in terms of where and how data is stored.


To date, Tintri hasn’t rolled out the largest SSDs available. That said, it does offer 3.84 TB SSDs in its T5080 all-flash system. But pack 24 of these drives per unit, and you can scale out to 10 PB of capacity in 66U of rack space.

Dell EMC

Dell EMC recently released the VMAX 250F, which is said to offer an enterprise-class solution with midmarket economics. Scaling up to 1PB of effective capacity and over 1 million IOPS with sub-millisecond response times, the VMAX 250F supports 7.6 TB and 15 TB enterprise flash drives. The VMAX 250F is based on the Dell EMC V-Brick architecture. A fully configured VMAX 250F provides up to 64 host ports, with a fully loaded VMAX 250F V-Brick consuming only 10U of rack space.

Pure Storage

Pure Storage has also gotten into the petabyte-scale flash storage game with its latest FlashArray//m. This is the fifth generation of Pure Storage’s flagship FlashArray product, and it can scale up to 512 TB of raw in 7U of rack space. There are four different controller options that deliver a 20 to 30 percent performance boost and a 100 to 276 percent capacity boost over the previous FlashArray//m generation.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

  This article was originally published on Thursday Dec 1st 2016
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