Things just got a whole lot better in the world of Industrial solid state storage! The Emphase S7 Series SSDs are a welcome innovation in the IPC field, offering much faster performance than industrial flash storage devices we’ve seen in the past. They’re also among the first industrial-grade devices to offer TRIM support, a performance-optimizing feature for maximizing drive longevity by eliminating degradation in data transfer speeds when deleting data.
The arrival of Emphase’s new S7 SSD solves two critical issues that have plagued flash storage: performance degradation over time and the accelerated aging of the device. Because boosted transfer speeds and longevity are two of the principal reasons for making the transition to flash storage in the first place, resolving issues that impact those features is critical.
Data transfer speeds vary greatly between industrial flash storage products, and while performance degrades over time, many users aren’t aware of the cause, or how big an impact it can actually have. The significance of an advanced feature like TRIM might not be evident until performance loss is examined and understood. There are two primary reasons for read/write speed degradation in flash storage devices: the way deleted files are handled and method of writing versus erasing data.
When a command is given to erase a file, the cells containing the data are not actually erased at the time of the command. Instead, the cells are marked as needing to be erased (better known as “stale data”) but are not actually wiped clean until that space is needed to store new data down the road. When that space is needed in the future, all that lightning fast read/write performance will have to stand by while the controller takes out old trash prior to writing the new data. This is the point at which drops in transfer rates are noticeable, and it’s not a temporary rut but a mode of operation. Cumulatively, the problem becomes even more worrisome: a new flash drive actually fills up entirely before it begins deleting the files that have been marked for erasure.
That’s where TRIM and the Emphase S7 SSD come in. TRIM enables communication between the OS and the flash device regarding which blocks of data have been marked for deletion. The OS and the drive firmware work in tandem to distinguish stale data. TRIM then streamlines the rewriting process, writing new data and erasing stale data simultaneously. The functionality is similar to that of the insert button on a keyboard, which allows the user to type a new character while erasing the space in front of it in one action. The long-term result of this simultaneous program/erasure is that performance is optimized and drive longevity is enhanced.
It’s worth noting the distinction between TRIM and garbage collection (GC). The goal of GC, a feature on all flash drives, is to create free space ahead of time so that future writes to the drive can be done more efficiently. This is accomplished by the drive working in the background to erase files that have been marked as stale and combine data that is still good, essentially defragmenting when the drive is idle. Unfortunately, GC is a costly method of storage management, as it spends the cells’ limited program/erase cycles, thereby accelerating the degradation of read/write speeds and overall lifetime due to write amplification. By working efficiently, TRIM accomplishes the same result with less impact to drive longevity, while also optimizing performance by minimizing write amplification.
With the availability of TRIM on the new line of Emphase S7 Series SSDs, IPC users can rest easy knowing that their storage drives will work better for longer. It’s important to note that in order to utilize TRIM, the OS will need to support the command. For this you will need to be running Windows 7, Linux 2.6.33, Windows Server 2008 R2, OpenSolaris, or Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). Enabling TRIM is easy to do and instructions can be found with a simple web search (be sure to include the OS you are running).