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Has anyone seen quantitative evidence supporting the use of a SSD (solid state drive) in an ESRI ArcGIS Desktop workstation? Or any GIS workstation for that matter?

I keep reading that SSDs can be a huge performance boost but I have not seen any numbers to support the claim. I have a feeling that the productivity increase could be comparable to a switch from single to dual monitor setup.

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I am thinking benchmarks on things like geoprocessing and MXD loading/rendering would be helpful in justifying the expense of an upgrade to a SSD boot/application drive. –  TurboGus Apr 6 '12 at 21:23
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I have used an SSD with ArcGIS, but my experiences are anecdotal. The problem is that different geoprocessing task are limited by different aspects of performance. A tool that is limited by the CPU will not benefit from improved disk speed. Processes that are limited by disk speed will often be too large to fit on smaller SSD's. Striped RAID 0 with lots of RAM is a very good alternative for such tasks. –  Matthew Snape Apr 6 '12 at 21:58
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Did you mean "quantitative"? –  blah238 Apr 6 '12 at 23:32
    
Woops. I did mean quantitative, thank you. –  TurboGus Apr 9 '12 at 15:39
    
This is qualitative, but when writing to an SSD it's an absolute joy using ArcGIS or PostGis. In my case, it feel so quick it's almost like memory. This of course assumes that the bottleneck is reading or writing - in most cases for my work it is usually processor intensive. –  djq Apr 9 '12 at 16:30

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I have an 80GB Intel SSD in my desktop. While it has lowered the time it takes to start programs and speeds up many I/O-heavy tasks, there has only been one situation where having an SSD made a fundamental difference in my workflow.

I was using ENVI, and I had to convert a couple 5000x5000x250 binary rasters from BSQ interleave to BIP. Using a traditional magnetic hard drive, it took about 8 hours to process each one. When I tried using my SSD, it took only about 40 minutes.

My opinion is that if you already have a pretty decent workstation and money to burn, upgrading to an SSD will deliver a noticeable performance boost. However, it is not a must-have--it is a luxury (though this will depend on your specific workflows, which may be more I/O heavy).

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There's a session on speeding up GIS servers using SSD drives at FOSS4G 2011. You can find the slides on Slideshare. It focuses on free and open source GIS servers though. But I think the same performance gains should also apply to workstations.

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Yet another qualitative response if you're interested:

As a boot disk / storage for your applications, you'll enjoy a very clear improvement in performance -- I just installed my first ever SSD and I love it!

SSD memory cells do tend to degrade faster than a standard HDD, so continually writing data to it will cause loss in performance. Having TRIM enabled on the disk will mitigate this, but I would still suggest storing large datasets, and especially writing processed data to a HDD.

To that end, if you're working with data on a server, copy the data to a local HDD for processing. Then, when you're done send it back to the server and you should notice faster processing times.

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