Friday, September 18, 2009


The fundamental problem here isn't the RAID concept, is that the throughput and access times of spinning rust haven't changed much in 30 years. Fundamentally, today's hard drive is no more than 100 times as fast (both in throughput and latency) than a 1980s one, while it holds well over 1 million times more.

ZFS (and other advanced filesystems) will now do partial reconstruction of a failed drive (that is, they don't have to bit copy the entire drive, only the parts which are used), which helps. But there are still problems. ZFS's pathological case results in rebuild times of 2-3 WEEKS for a 1TB drive in a RAID-Z (similar to RAID-5). It's all due to the horribly small throughput, maximum IOPs, and latency of the hard drive.

SSDs, on the other hand, are no where near the problem. They've got considerably more throughput than a hard drive, and, more importantly, THOUSANDS of times better IOPS. Frankly, more than any other reason, I expect the significant IOPS of the SSD to signal the death knell of HDs in the next decade. By 2020, expect HDs to be gone from everything, even in places where HDs still have better GB/$. The rebuild rates and maintenance of HDs simply can't compete with flash.

Note: IOPS = I/O Per Second, or the number of read/write operations (irregardless of size) which a disk can service. HDs top out around 350, consumer SSDs do under 10,000, and high-end SSDs can do up to 100,000.

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