PCIe SSD popularity growing, does the tech even matter?

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Data is one of the biggest drivers of business strategy. From accessing information to leveraging business intelligence, one of the primary responsibilities of IT departments is to keep these systems functioning at high performance levels at all times. To do so, many organizations have turned to flash storage.

Storage tech
In particular, Information Age recently reported that PCIe SSD technology has quickly become the go-to choice for performance-intensive applications, namely relational databases and business intelligence platforms. With PCIe-based storage systems, IT professionals are able to avoid metrics such as RPM, and by replacing SATA-based interfaces with PCIe ones, there will be more channels to run data through. This will lead to higher performance in databases, and of course, people are taking notice. The source cited Gartner research that indicated over one million PCIe-based systems will ship this year, and by 2018, approximately half of all SSD shipments will be PCIe.

The importance of storage
Despite the increasing popularity of PCIe SSDs, not all DBAs are convinced that flash storage systems are the end all, be all of database technology. However, many will agree that storage will continue to play a critical role in the performance of databases. In fact, VMware recently discovered that over 80 percent of performance problems in database environments, particularly virtualized and SQL Server systems, are directly related to storage.

VMware’s findings stress the importance of storage design in SQL Server environments, and while there is not a single solution that will mitigate problems, VMware reported that there are five key principles to database storage:

  1. An extension: The source quoted Michael Webster, senior solutions and performance engineer at Nutanix, as he explained that a database is merely an extension of storage. By understanding this, a DBA can reduce SQL Server latency.
  2. More than the hardware: Some might argue for PCIe SDDs, and other will not care. Why? Because despite the importance of underlying storage devices, SQL Server storage is complex and integrated with numerous system components, VMware reported. The lesson is that all resources matter.
  3. Performance over capacity: VMware posited that due to the ease of managing capacity, all efforts should go into optimizing performance.
  4. Consider virtualization: This tip is simple. Only virtualize databases if no compromises are required.
  5. KISS: VMware explained that the bottom line is to always “keep it standardized and simple.”

With so many database technologies, both hardware and software-related, following exact how-to guides can leave some DBAs scratching their heads. When it comes to database administration, sometimes it is better to stick to high-level tips than debatable techniques. However, it is always smart to work with remote DBAs.

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