SOURCE: Bruce Boyers Marketing Services

November 10, 2008 18:46 ET

Maximizing Performance of Solid State Drives

BURBANK, CA--(Marketwire - November 10, 2008) - Flash drives, also known as Solid State Drives or SSDs, are finally making their way into the mainstream, slowly but surely replacing less expensive but infinitely slower hard disks. This is good news, as the SSD is the first non-volatile media to broadly replace mechanical devices. Since it is composed entirely of electronic circuitry, it suffers none of the drawbacks associated with mechanically rotating magnetic storage, and it finally brings to the horizon storage media with speed approaching that of memory.

Memory itself, especially functioning as a large cache of data between the drive and the CPU, was originally a solution to the huge differential in speed between the drive and electronic components in the computer. Other intermediate measures have been developed over the years to bridge this considerable gap -- and thankfully, that gap is now being closed.

Interestingly, however, SSDs are subject to a similar performance problem to that of hard drives, although it has nothing to do with the mechanics of the drive itself. In fact, the root of the problem is the same as that of file fragmentation on hard drives -- the NTFS file system. Common to all Microsoft Windows operating systems, NTFS saves data to flash drives in such a way that free space is rapidly fragmented. These small free spaces cause write performance to degrade by as much as 80 percent, and that degradation will begin to manifest within a month or so of normal use. This performance degradation defeats a primary value of SSDs, which is speed.

Flash drives also have a limited number of erase-write cycles, and increasing the occurrence of erases and writes wears out the SSD faster. The fragmentation of free space causes a greater number of erase-write cycles, thereby shortening the life of the drive.

This all means that, like its close cousin the hard drive, SSD performance must be optimized in order to provide the most gain. This is done by employing a solution that will optimize free space on an SSD. Utilizing such a solution, write performance is brought back to a high-speed level and kept there, and once the solution has been in operation a short time, the normal-use write-erase activity becomes substantially reduced. The overall effects are similar to optimization on hard drives: performance is maximized, and the life of the drive is lengthened.

To everyone's benefit, flash drives are now becoming broadly available. As this occurs, they can now be optimized and have their lives extended as long as possible.

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