Friday, October 30, 2009


A brand new laptop arrived here yesterday equipped with all the latest bits and pieces. Perhaps the most interesting component is the hard drive: instead of the traditional magnetic platter design, this one has a solid-state disk (SSD). This, for those who may not know, is basically an array of flash RAM chips much the same as the ones you use every day in your USB drives, but configured to work as a hard disk and to identify itself to the OS as such.

The disk is startlingly fast. I haven't run any proper tests on it yet, and don't have figures to prove my assertions, but what I've seen so far is that all disk-intensive operations (WinDirStat analysis, large installations) are completed in a fraction of the time of a "normal" disk drive.

This prompts me to wonder what such drives might accomplish in database servers. Disk reads and writes are often one of the major bottlenecks in poor-performing systems, and adding SSDs sounds like a cheap and easy way to boost performance. Or a mix of SSDs and magnetic disks; put tempdb on an SSD, logs (sequential writes, relatively few reads) on a magnetic disk, backups on magnetic, index filegroups on SSD... I'm really curious about what the real-world difference might be on a production system.

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