Flash Wear and How it Impacts SSD Choice

Watch Now On Demand "Three Keys To Choosing The Right Server Flash" to get an exclusive white paper

Everything we use wears out and eventually falls apart, especially in mechanical systems like hard disk drives (HDDs). These marvels of modern engineering position magnetic read and write heads a few microns above a spinning platter of recording media that’s moving at about 75 miles an hour. With these kinds of tolerances, it’s a wonder HDDs don’t fail more often. Flash also wears, but does it wear out like disk drives do and how does that impact the choice of which SSD to use in a given environment?

Wear on a disk drive usually occurs in mechanical components like the motors and bearings, the parts that move against each other. Friction and heat are the enemy causing these components to become out of tolerance and eventually fail. Unfortunately, the complexity of these systems and the number of moving parts they contain make it difficult to predict when these failures will occur.

Flash SSDs also wear out, but it’s quite a different scenario that with magnetic disk drives. Since flash has no moving parts they’re not subject to the same tight mechanical tolerances that HDDs are. Flash wear is caused by the write and erasing processes which create minute changes in the semiconductor layers within the flash cells themselves. These changes slowly degrade the NAND substrate’s ability to accurately record new data, but it’s a very gradual process, one that’s also very predictable. Flash vendors can actually determine with good accuracy how long a flash device will last, based on the number of writes and erasures (called Program/Erase or P/E cycles) it’s been subjected to.

So what does all this mean for storage users? Is flash more or less reliable and does it present any appreciable challenges to IT users who rely on mass produced storage devices to keep their data? Does flash wear impact the decision of which SSD to use in a given application? Also, does wear always lead to “wear out” and what does that look like? Is there any risk associated with flash wearing out, like there is with HDDs?

The latest report from Storage Switzerland addresses these questions of wear and wear out and asks another question: “Is it time to stop worrying about flash wear altogether?” View the webinar on demand “3 Keys to Choosing the Right Server Flash”and you’ll receive an exclusive copy of this informative report.

Watch Now On Demand

Micron is a client of Storage Switzerland

Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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