SOURCE: Bruce Boyers Marketing Services

December 16, 2008 14:52 ET

Optimizing Performance: It's for Flash Drives, Too

BURBANK, CA--(Marketwire - December 16, 2008) - Although it has always been everyone's dream to be able to own equipment that requires no maintenance or adjustment, it doesn't seem to have happened yet. The finest of performance mechanisms always need tweaking or optimizing of some sort or another. Automobiles must be regularly tuned, have their tires balanced and have oil changes, at the least. Planes have to have instrument checks and every component inspected and repaired very regularly.

There are many examples of this in the field of computers, also, especially within businesses. Applications are always tweaked after they have run for awhile to speed user access and usability. Processing loads are generally balanced between disks and CPUs to improve overall performance. Networks are monitored and traffic shifted off to improve speed of data transfer. Hard drives are defragmented so that the life of the drive is extended and user access is maximized.

At first glance, it would appear that flash drives -- or solid state drives (SSDs) as they're also known -- would be an exception to this norm. Unlike their mechanical predecessors, they are composed entirely of circuitry and have no moving parts.

Flash drives are a performance boon, to be sure, operating many more times faster than the hard disks they'll be replacing. But it isn't true that they don't need optimizing just like most every other device.

Files are saved to SSDs by the same file system -- NTFS -- that saves data to hard drives. Common to all Microsoft Windows operating systems, NTFS is optimized for hard drives but not for SSDs. Because of this, 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.

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 problem is corrected by employing a solution that optimizes an SSD's free space. 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.

So it's true that an SSD needs to be optimized just like many other devices. Fortunately, however, it is very easy and the performance gains are there to be had.

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