SSD Options for Building an Enterprise File Server

Building an enterprise-grade file server entails carefully selecting various components; one of the most crucial is the storage subsystem. Solid-State Drives (SSDs) are popular due to their speed, reliability, and performance advantages over traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). However, SSDs are not all created equal, and their design can be optimized for different workloads. 

Read Intensive SSDs

Read-intensive SSDs are designed to handle workloads where the primary operation is reading data. These drives typically have a lower write endurance than their write-intensive counterparts, measured in Drive Writes Per Day (DWPD). The design trade-off for read-intensive SSDs is to favor larger storage capacities over high write endurance.

This makes read-intensive SSDs ideal for applications where data is written once and reads multiple times, such as media streaming servers, web servers, or data warehousing where reading operations dominate. Examples of these SSDs are the Samsung PM863a and the Micron 5300 PRO series.

Write Intensive SSDs

On the other hand, write-intensive SSDs are designed for workloads where writing operations are the primary task. They offer high DWPD ratings, reflecting the drive’s ability to handle a substantial number of write cycles per day.

These SSDs are suitable for environments that require constant data writing and rewriting, such as high-performance computing (HPC), database logging, and transaction-heavy applications. Due to its higher endurance and faster write speeds, write-intensive SSDs often use Single-Level Cell (SLC) or enterprise Multi-Level Cell (eMLC) NAND technology. SSDs like the Samsung SM863 and the Intel D3-S4610 are excellent write-intensive drives.

Mixed-Use SSDs

For scenarios where there’s a need to handle high-volume reads and writes, mixed-use SSDs come into play. These drives strike a balance between read and write operations, offering higher endurance than read-intensive SSDs, but with more storage capacity than write-intensive SSDs.

Mixed-use SSDs are suitable for applications that demand high read and write operations, such as online transaction processing (OLTP), email servers, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), and e-commerce platforms. They typically use eMLC or Triple-Level Cell (TLC) NAND technology. The Toshiba PX04S and the Micron 7300 PRO series are examples of such SSDs.


When selecting SSDs for your enterprise file server, understanding the nature of your workload is crucial. Read-intensive SSDs are optimized for large volumes of read operations, write-intensive SSDs for write operations, and mixed-use SSDs balance between the two. Remember to consider each SSD type’s endurance, performance, capacity, and cost to make the most appropriate choice for your file server. 

As technology advances, SSD vendors continuously improve the capabilities of their products, offering better performance, endurance, and cost-effectiveness. Always watch for the latest offerings that better serve your enterprise file server needs.



Let’s now go over how different types of SSDs might best serve specific applications like Active Directory (AD) servers, VMware, and Microsoft SQL Server.

Active Directory (AD) Servers

AD servers typically involve a mix of read and write operations, but read operations usually dominate. AD servers frequently read data when authenticating users and computers in a Windows domain, applying Group Policies, and processing logon scripts. However, writes to the AD database aren’t uncommon, such as when updating user passwords or computer account data.

Given this usage pattern, a read-intensive SSD could be a practical choice for an AD server. However, a mixed-use SSD might be more appropriate for large AD deployments with frequent updates to ensure the server can handle the increased write operations efficiently.


VMware environments are more challenging to classify as their I/O patterns greatly depend on the specific applications and workloads running on the virtual machines. 

For environments running lightweight, general-purpose workloads or read-heavy applications, read-intensive SSDs could be sufficient. On the other hand, environments running write-intensive or balanced workloads, like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), might require mixed-use or even write-intensive SSDs for optimal performance. 

Therefore, a careful analysis of the workloads and their I/O patterns is recommended before deciding on SSD types for VMware environments.

Microsoft SQL Server

Microsoft SQL Server is a database application that often involves many read-and-write operations. Read operations are common when querying data, while write operations occur when inserting or updating records.

Write operations in SQL Server, particularly for transaction logs, can be highly write-intensive. Therefore, write-intensive SSDs would be beneficial for log storage to maintain high performance. 

However, for the primary database files (MDF and NDF files), a mixed-use SSD can be an excellent choice, given the need to balance high-volume read operations (for data queries) with write operations (for data inserts and updates). 

In conclusion, the type of SSD chosen should be based on the specific workload and application requirements. Understanding the I/O patterns of each application will help you make the most effective choice.



NVMe, or Non-Volatile Memory Express, is a protocol for accessing flash storage via a PCI Express (PCIe) bus. It was developed specifically for SSDs to overcome the speed limitations of the older SATA interface, providing faster data transfer rates, lower latency, and more parallelism.

When comparing NVMe SSDs to SATA or SAS SSDs, it’s important to note that the difference isn’t in the workload the drive can handle (read-intensive, write-intensive, or mixed-use) but rather in its overall performance and speed.