© IAN WOOLCOCK
3 In addition, a drive with a higher rotational speed might
not automatically be faster than a larger drive that has been subpartitioned. In short, don’t make assumptions about what’s “faster” when it comes to storage; you must back it up with performance numbers. Replacing conventional spinning-platter disks with
solid-state drives (SSDs) has also become trendy. SSDs do indeed improve raw performance in both server and desktop contexts, but they come with a few caveats:
• Cost: The price per gigabyte for SSDs is still much higher than that of conventional disks. If you have a 1TB system drive, you can only get one-tenth or one-fifth of that space on a SSD for the same price you’d pay for a conventional spinning-platter drive.
• Controller Bottlenecks: Very fast SSDs that connect to conventional disk controllers—like those seen by the system as standard SATA disks—are ultimately limited in their throughput by the disk controller itself and not the disk’s own hardware. Higher-end SSDs intended for server use come with their own controller hardware as a way to work around this problem. Be warned, though, you’ll pay a premium for such devices.
• Read Types: SSDs provide massive improvements over platter drives in scenarios that involve a large number of random reads. They don’t provide much improvement for serial reads, however. Some of that may be the result of a controller bottleneck issue similar to the one described above.
Processors: Past and Present In the past, the differences between various iterations
of processors were far more profound and immediately noticeable than now. Those days are gone and most of the performance boosts that come from one processor versus another stem from features that have little to do with raw clock speed. Virtualization is one such feature that is growing in
importance. The newest iterations of processors support some features for enhanced virtualization performance, like Extended Page Tables (EPTs). Those processors may not be socket compatible with your current crop of systems, so the only upgrade options available are either a whole new motherboard or an entirely new system. If you’re dealing with a leased fleet of machines, you’re better off starting with a clean slate rather than attempting to upgrade existing hardware.
New Systems Save Look at the amount of money you’re putting towards upgrades and try to calculate the total value. The return on investment is harder to quantify than you might think, because it can be difficult to objectively quantify things like end-user satisfaction. If you can get a better bang for your buck with
a complete system upgrade than with a plain old performance upgrade, strongly consider it—especially if you’re gaining access to better and more desperately needed technologies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Serdar Yegulalp has been writing about computers and IT for more than 15 years for a variety of publications, including SearchWinIT.com
, InformationWeek, and Windows magazine.
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