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SSD Life: When to Sell What?

October 11, 2017

In this discussion, VARs and system integrators that regularly work with clients to consult, design, and build storage architectures for clients have a distinct advantage. They know that it would take far more space than we have in a single blog post to discuss the different variations of when to sell what as it pertains to SSD life in enterprise-class storage. In some respects, the same can be said for client-class SSDs.

In today’s market, SSD and NAND flash memory consumption are split into three main groups:

  1. Consumer devices (tablets, cameras, mobile phones)
  2. Client (netbook, notebook, ultrabook, AIO, desktop personal computers)
  3. Enterprise computing (high-performance computing, data-center servers)

For this conversation, let’s start with enterprise SSDs, which intersect with clients, because VARs, integrators, and MSPs provide differing SSD solutions that fit both classes to enterprise clients.

Enterprise SSD Life

There are quite a few different SSD storage devices for enterprise data centers that can be used in differing ways. Just as not all SSDs and NAND flash memory are in fact created equal in terms of life as it pertains to longevity, the same can be said for performance. Neither characteristic of SSD longevity or performance can be answered in a quantitative vacuum, because they are both dependent on the way in which each enterprise will use them.

Enterprise data-center environment storage systems are generally designed for a three-year lifespan. In contrast, enterprise SSDs from some manufacturers are guaranteed for as long as 10 years, with strong evidence that they could last even longer.

For VARs and their clients, locking into a 10-year system would negate an ability to take advantage of new technologies and evolving uses. In addition, clients are often using a hybrid of SSD and HDD within their data centers for different storage and workloads/access. This means a staggered lifecycle with drives entering and exiting the data-center architecture at different times.

As a consequence of these general facts, SSD life from the standpoint of where to sell what is more about how the client plans to use the SSD, so life is more about performance than about longevity. With longevity a somewhat moot point, performance of SSDs comes down to the data-center architecture and the SSD form factor.

According to the Global PCIe SSD Market 2016-2020 report from industry research firm Technavio, the global peripheral component interconnect express (PCIe) SSD market is expected to grow 33 percent between now and 2020. This is being driven by cloud applications, cloud-based data centers, big data analytics, and managed services data centers.

Enterprise SSD technologies, especially PCIe SSD, are delivering low-latency and high-data throughput that improves Web application response and real-time analytics while reducing power consumption and cooling costs within data centers. By and large, PCIe SSDs are the most sought-after storage components in these data centers. The same applies to enterprises running colocation facilities. PCIe SSDs are being used in servers with a number of different configurations for sharing in many virtualized environments.

Client/Consumer SSD Life

M.2 SSD has been the predominant form factor used in notebooks or ultrabooks. More recently, it is increasingly being used in high-performance desktop and workstation motherboards where they can leverage SATA- or PCIe-based connectivity, with the latter being favored for the increased bandwidth of higher-order graphics cards. In this scenario, SSD life for VARs working with their clients is again about performance and individual use case and system architectures rather than longevity.

On the consumer side, VARs have increasing sales opportunities in mobile and desktop configurations for SSDs. From gaming computers to mobile needs and laptops, VARs must balance the form factor in terms of its size with SSD life in terms of performance and capacity. There certainly are reliable data for VARs on the best SSDs to use in every deal, but they must still understand the use scenarios of their clients to help them make a final determination.

What has already been plainly established in earlier blog posts is the reality that SSDs for consumers and businesses that use them in laptops and desktops already exceed the general upgrading lifespan of the devices into which they are placed. It is this pace of change in terms of data-center architecture, compute devices, and technology in general that makes SSD life of five years or more a non-factor.

Clearly, the success of VARs, integrators, and MSPs in establishing markets and client streams for SSDs is dependent on knowing the specific needs of potential clients. This must be balanced with an understanding of the constant evolution of the market overall in terms of digital technology evolution.