The Linux SSD Experience

The Linux SSD Experience

Last fall, I decided to purchase an SSD (Solid State Disk). The prices have come down and it makes sense to at least try one of these devices. SSD technology is interesting because every time you write to the drive, it degrades. Of course the same can be said about spinning platters, but that is to be expected, after all they are mechanical devices. Like the name says, the SSD is solid state and like other solid state devices, the general rule of thumb is, “if it works for the first two weeks, it will probably work for 10+ years” I have found this to be the case with most electronic equipment (provided it is not overheated). This degradation is planned and understood by the manufacturers. SSD drives aredesigned to work well well into the future with average use (50+ years).

An interesting aside about SDDs. When they stop working they essentially become read-only devices. That is, they cannot be scrubbed, they must be physically destroyed to remove the data. Keep this in mind in the future when you toss that old SSD with all your personal information on it.

Getting back to my new device. Even though I bought it several months ago, I have just now started using my new 64GB ADATA S599. Before I bought it, I researched various SSD drives and found that the biggest factor in performance is the controller. The S599 uses a SandForce controller and the reviews showed the ADATA provided great performance for the price. After I bought it, the adapter tray that came with it did not have the right holes to work with my removable drive tray (XClio SS034). I was using myLimulus personal cluster and had no other place to install the drive.

I set the drive aside until after the holidays, and then found a bracket that could hold an SSD and slim DVD drive in a single drive bay. I replaced my standard DVD with this unit and now I had my SSD securely mounted in the chassis.

I then went about installing Scientific Linux on the drive. It went very smoothly (and quickly). When I did a few quick tests with hdparm, I found it more than doubled the direct write speed over the existing spinning rust drives (207 MB/sec vs 98 MB/sec, hdparm -t –direct /dev/sdX). So far so good.

I was making progress, but then things got more complicated. ADATA issued a firmware update and then I read about “erase block size,” an updated fdisk, and TRIM support for Linux. The drive was working, but I wanted to make sure it was optimized and working as best as it could under¬† Linux. I’ll get to those issues next week.

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