I love SSDs! Solid-State Drives or SSDs are storage devices that use solid-state memory to store data instead of spinning hard disks. The SSD is quickly replacing the older-style spinning hard disks that almost everyone has in their computers right now.
In the spirit of the Geek Week blog entries on our blog, I wanted to go all-out and share details about our recent migration to use faster hard drives in our servers. As such, this info will go in-depth and will be technical in nature. However, you don’t need to be very technical to follow along since I’ll do my best to explain it thoroughly. (Beware of a little bit of occasional all-out geeking, though. ;-))
Most small business owners don’t frequently consider the components they have running inside their computer when they turn it on. Like most, they turn it on and go. And they shouldn’t have to worry about it, either. This is why my team and I do the research, testing and deploy the server upgrades needed to keep our on-demand software performing in tip top shape so you have a good experience when you access it via the Web. We continually strive for better performance so our entrepreneurial users don’t need to.
Today, I wanted to share the great experience we’re having with a new type of hard drive. These drives are a little more expensive, but deliver amazing performance and lower cost in the long-run. If you use your computer for business, I recommend you upgrade the hard drive to a SSD. Here’s why:
SSDs combine the best of high-performance memory and large capacity hard drives in one unit – delivering superior reliability, performance and minimizing maintenance costs.
SSDs are superior to spinning hard disks in almost every way. SSDs have no moving parts so there is nothing mechanical to wear out. With no moving parts, SSDs are much more durable than the older spinning disks. It is not uncommon that a hard bump (like dropping your laptop) could “crash” your old-style spinning drive. SSDs also use significantly less power, so in most cases they make your laptop battery last more than twice as long. By using less power, SSDs also operate much cooler than the spinning hard disks they replace. Using less power and running cooler is huge in the data center, where power and cooling are premium commodities. Oh, by the way, SSDs are perfectly silent. Finally, the most amazing thing about a SSD is that they perform orders of magnitude better than the older spinning hard disks!
While I love SSDs today, I haven’t always been so enthusiastic. We first began experimenting with SSDs back in 2008 when we bought six 32GB Super Talent SSDs to prototype in a server. We were completely disappointed. We tried to get them working with several different brands of RAID controllers (storage speak for how hard drives talk with the computer) with no luck. Finally, we tried using them in some of our high-end laptops that had two drive bays, but that effort also fizzled. We somewhat mockingly call these early SSD devices “Super Un-Talented.”
Earlier this year, we tried different vendors of SSD devices – including the OCZ line (OCZ is a brand that has a reputation for high performance computer components) and had observed mixed results. These netted better results than the “Super Un-Talented” devices, but far from what we were hoping to achieve. It’s not easy finding the right hardware that performs and scales to serve over 16,000 small business users, but we tested and tried a handful of drives before we were pleased.
We finally found a winner:
Enter the beautiful and reliable Intel 160GB X25 series of SSDs! Pictured above, you can see it is relatively thin and simple looking. But it’s what’s on the inside that counts. All our production servers have these installed in them now.
[Geek alert] Earlier this year we bought four of the Intel SSDs to prototype them in a new Dell 1950 Poweredge Server in a RAID-0 configuration (striped data for pure performance). We have a multi-tiered slave database architecture so I’m not worried about RAID-level redundancy. The results were amazing! We tasked the Intel SSD prototype server as a database slave in our production environment to safely introduce the new technology into our operations. When we initiated synchronization from the master database server, the SSD server was about 90 minutes behind the master. Typically, when a slave is this far behind the master it would have taken a slave server about 30 minutes to re-sync. Well, with the usage of SSDs, it only took about 100 seconds to re-synchronize with the master database!
We ran a bunch of tests for a few weeks and the prototype SSD server worked flawlessly. Not long after that, we promoted the SSD prototype server to a master database and a few months later, all servers were using SSDs in a RAID-0 configuration. They worked perfectly and now all Infusionsoft users benefit from the speed and reliability of running their application on database servers with SSDs. (And you didn’t even know we did this migration. No downtime, no slowness and no lost data.)
Later, we upgraded all of our developer boxes with the Intel 160GB SSDs. My software engineers’ development projects used to take about 15 minutes to load, and now their projects load in about one minute! I love it – and so do they. They commented all the time on how great their systems run. This helps us be more productive and efficient when our developers make modifications to the software.
We have also upgraded many of the laptops in the company with SSDs. Recently we gave one of our Board of Director members, Pat Sullivan, an early Christmas present and put a SSD in his personal laptop. Just a few hours later, Pat emailed me to let me know how much he liked it. The email is as follows: “OMG!!!” That said it all!
A few weeks ago, we installed a SSD in the laptop of our CEO, Clate Mask. If you didn’t know, he does a lot of email, a lot of reading and writing to documents and often, a lot of searches on his hard drive for files. Clate’s response was obvious, “Holy Crap… I am seriously in heaven! I enjoy using my laptop again!”
There are many in-depth SSD reviews published across the Web, but I thought it would still be interesting to provide before and after results on how dramatically SSDs improve disk I/O performance for us at Infusionsoft. These aren’t theoretical – they are actual results achieved between a traditional SATA three-drive RAID-5 array and one single SSD.
The following comparisons were done by Sr. System Administrator, Eric Larson. Eric first measured a single 160GB Intel SSD. Note the 0.1ms random access seek time (which means the time it takes to access a file on the drive) and the average drive read throughput of 238.1MB per second (which means how fast it can transfer files).
Now compare the above with the following test of old-style spinning hard disk drives – 3 drives in a RAID-5 configuration. Note the 12.4ms random access time and the avg. drive read throughput of 121.3MB per second:
Performance benchmarks acquired by industry-accepted hard drive performance utility, HD-Tach. You can see how fast your hard drive is with it, too!
A single SSD crushes three older spinning hard drives configured in a RAID array! Even though we had a bumpy start with SSDs, needless to say we now love SSDs here at Infusionsoft and vicariously, so do our users. They receive better performance, more reliability, and they are using the latest in technology to know their data is safe and secure. In the world of business, that’s what counts.
I’m very proud of the steps we’ve done to scale and exceed the needs of over 16,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses. Our team loves to try out new hardware that delivers results. For a sneak peek into our next-gen storage technology, Fusion-io. I can’t wait to try out these new devices!