Blog Feed Post

How Enterprise and Consumer SSDs Are Different

At Velobit, we are lucky to be in the position to talk to many experienced SSD users to discuss real world issues with SSD integration and operation. We have just as many conversations with some not so experienced folks who are just beginning the investigation/search/selection process for SSD solutions. A topic that comes up frequently has to do with the cost difference between enterprise and consumer SSDs which we typically answer by discussing the differences between the two products. We will start with the basic cost question and work our way into the details from there.

Enterprise SSD and Consumer SSD Price Point

When I first started writing this blog, I thought it was going to be easy to differentiate these two categories by just going to a favorite vendor like newegg and get a few simple examples to show that enterprise SSDs and consumer SSDs can be defined simply by price. Well I was wrong about that. newegg.com actually has a category called ‘Enterprise SSD’ with 21 items in it. The list includes SAS, SATA and PCI-E SSDs ranging from $11.50/GB to $2/GB. newegg also has a category called ‘Internal SSD’ with 377 items (377 items! No wonder people are confused). This list also has different interface options and prices ranging from $4/GB down to less than $.60/GB.

So the categories are not easily defined just by price. With all the product options available, it is no wonder why we are frequently asked what the difference is between enterprise and consumer SSDs and why should you have to the spend extra money to get an enterprise SSD.

Thinking Inside The Box

We will have to go inside an SSD to discuss what the differences actually are in SSD products. Figure 1 shows a simplified block diagram of an SSD showing the internal components we need to discuss:
· CPU and SSD controller firmware
· Flash memory type and over-provisioning
· Power supply (and backup)

SSD Controller Firmware

Every SSD has a processor inside which manages the device. The program the CPU runs is contained in the firmware shipped with the SSD. The right firmware can make all the difference in SSD performance. There are a limited number of flash memory vendors and lots of SSD vendors. One way to differentiate product performance is in the firmware algorithms that control the write access to the flash. For example, we tested an OCZ Vertex 4 SSD with firmware version 1.3 and 1.5 to see what difference upgrading to the newer firmware version would make. We found that (see OCZ Vertex 4 low performance with firmware 1.3) the newer firmware actually boosted performance up to 500% for some tests.

How do you see the impact of firmware when buying enterprise vs. consumer SSDs? Consumer grade SSD firmware tends to be optimized for a ‘read’ heavy workload. Enterprise grade SSD firmware is optimized for the mixed read/write environment of a typical IT application. Thus the consumer firmware performance is not optimal for enterprise and therefore, consumer SSDs are not really intended for enterprise use.

Figure 1. Simplified SSD Block Diagram
Source: http://www.csee.umbc.edu/~squire/images/ssd1.pdf

Flash Memory Type and Over-provisioning

There are 2 different types of flash memory available from chip vendors: Single-Level Cell (SLC) and Multi-Level Cell (MLC). Tons of stuff has been written about these topics so we will just keep it at a high level here. Basically, SLC is faster, uses less power and can handle more write cycles than MLC. MLC is cheaper and has higher data density. Does SLC or MLC define an enterprise SSD vs. consumer SSD? No, again, it is not that simple, although all consumer SSDs are MLC. Many enterprise SSDs use MLC technology and through their firmware, they manage the write cycle problem.

The amount of flash installed in an SSD does differ between enterprise and consumer devices. This is referred to as “over-provisioning”. Simply stated, this means is that the SSD contains more physical flash memory than is stated in the SSD specification. For example, an SSD with 128 GB of physical flash can be specified as either a 100 or 120 GB SSD (28% and 7% over-provisioned, respectively). This is done to help reduce wear on the flash memory chips themselves making the SSD last longer. So, an enterprise SSD may be specified as smaller size resulting in higher $/GB.

There is a second level of over-provisioning that is typically a user setting when formatting the SSD. Users can decide to set aside a percentage (e.g. 20%) of the specified space for over-provisioning as a trade-off between reduced storage capacity and increased endurance and performance. That can typically be done for either enterprise or consumer SSD.

On Board RAM

SSDs typically use RAM cache to manage the data flow to/from the flash devices. The size of the RAM on the SSD varies from 16 MB on the low end consumer SSDs to up to 1GB on the newest enterprise SSD. More RAM costs more but produces higher performance SSDs.

Power Supply

Because RAM is used for SSD data management data loss can occur in the event of a system-wide power loss. Robust SSD power supply design is important for data preservation. Enterprise SSDs can have large capacitors and battery backup built into their power supplies to preserve data. Consumer-grade SSDs do not have the same level of data loss prevention as enterprise devices.


It is understandable why there is so much confusion regarding consumer and enterprise SSDs. Basically, enterprise SSDs are designed to perform better, last longer and be more reliable for critical data operations. These added benefits results in enterprise SSDs costing more than consumer grade devices. Is it worth the extra money to buy an enterprise SSD? That is a difficult question to generalize upon, but I would have to say that extra benefits of using an enterprise SSD have significant value and if you can afford one, get one. While a consumer grade SSD will still provide you with significant performance benefits, its lower durability make it unsuitable for the data center. Deploying the SSD as a cache is most efficient and effective way to use this valuable asset and will almost always guarantee you the best price/performance.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Peter Velikin

Peter Velikin has 12 years of experience creating new markets and commercializing products in multiple high tech industries. Prior to VeloBit, he was VP Marketing at Zmags, a SaaS-based digital content platform for e-commerce and mobile devices, where he managed all aspects of marketing, product management, and business development. Prior to that, Peter was Director of Product and Market Strategy at PTC, responsible for PTC’s publishing, content management, and services solutions. Prior to PTC, Peter was at EMC Corporation, where he held roles in product management, business development, and engineering program management.

Peter has an MS in Electrical Engineering from Boston University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Latest Stories
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
After more than five years of DevOps, definitions are evolving, boundaries are expanding, ‘unicorns’ are no longer rare, enterprises are on board, and pundits are moving on. Can we now look at an evolution of DevOps? Should we? Is the foundation of DevOps ‘done’, or is there still too much left to do? What is mature, and what is still missing? What does the next 5 years of DevOps look like? In this Power Panel at DevOps Summit, moderated by DevOps Summit Conference Chair Andi Mann, panelists loo...
"Loom is applying artificial intelligence and machine learning into the entire log analysis process, from start to finish and at the end you will get a human touch,” explained Sabo Taylor Diab, Vice President, Marketing at Loom Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Tintri focuses on the Ops side of the DevOps, which basically is pushing more and more of the accessibility of the infrastructure to the developers and trying to get behind the scenes," explained Dhiraj Sehgal of Tintri in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo taking place Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 21st International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is ...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
In the world of DevOps there are ‘known good practices’ – aka ‘patterns’ – and ‘known bad practices’ – aka ‘anti-patterns.' Many of these patterns and anti-patterns have been developed from real world experience, especially by the early adopters of DevOps theory; but many are more feasible in theory than in practice, especially for more recent entrants to the DevOps scene. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Chair Andi Mann, panelists discussed...
A look across the tech landscape at the disruptive technologies that are increasing in prominence and speculate as to which will be most impactful for communications – namely, AI and Cloud Computing. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Curtis Peterson, VP of Operations at RingCentral, highlighted the current challenges of these transformative technologies and shared strategies for preparing your organization for these changes. This “view from the top” outlined the latest trends and developments i...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
"We focus on composable infrastructure. Composable infrastructure has been named by companies like Gartner as the evolution of the IT infrastructure where everything is now driven by software," explained Bruno Andrade, CEO and Founder of HTBase, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Hardware virtualization and cloud computing allowed us to increase resource utilization and increase our flexibility to respond to business demand. Docker Containers are the next quantum leap - Are they?! Databases always represented an additional set of challenges unique to running workloads requiring a maximum of I/O, network, CPU resources combined with data locality.
For organizations that have amassed large sums of software complexity, taking a microservices approach is the first step toward DevOps and continuous improvement / development. Integrating system-level analysis with microservices makes it easier to change and add functionality to applications at any time without the increase of risk. Before you start big transformation projects or a cloud migration, make sure these changes won’t take down your entire organization.
Cloud promises the agility required by today’s digital businesses. As organizations adopt cloud based infrastructures and services, their IT resources become increasingly dynamic and hybrid in nature. Managing these require modern IT operations and tools. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Raj Sundaram, Senior Principal Product Manager at CA Technologies, will discuss how to modernize your IT operations in order to proactively manage your hybrid cloud and IT environments. He will be sharing bes...
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks. We’re in the midst of a wave of excitement around AI such as hasn’t been seen for a few decades. But those previous periods of inflated expectations led to troughs of disappointment. Will this time be different? Most likely. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Furthermore, the funding and research going into AI now comes from a wide range of com...
In this presentation, Striim CTO and founder Steve Wilkes will discuss practical strategies for counteracting fraud and cyberattacks by leveraging real-time streaming analytics. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Steve Wilkes, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Striim, will provide a detailed look into leveraging streaming data management to correlate events in real time, and identify potential breaches across IoT and non-IoT systems throughout the enterprise. Strategies for processing massive ...