Can SSD drives be used in RAID?

Solid state drives, also known as SSDs, have become a popular storage technology in recent years due to their fast read and write speeds compared to traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). Many people wonder if SSDs can be used in a RAID configuration to take advantage of the speed benefits of SSDs while also getting the redundancy and performance improvements of RAID.

Quick answer

Yes, SSDs can absolutely be used in RAID configurations. In fact, using SSDs in RAID can provide faster read/write speeds and better overall performance compared to using HDDs in RAID. However, there are some considerations when using SSDs in RAID that do not apply to HDD RAID setups.

What is RAID?

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. It is a data storage technology that combines multiple disk drives into one logical unit. Data is distributed across the drives in one of several ways depending on the RAID level being used. This distribution provides various benefits such as increased data redundancy, better performance, or both.

Some of the most common RAID levels are:

  • RAID 0 – Stripes data across drives for faster performance, but provides no redundancy.
  • RAID 1 – Mirrors data between two drives for redundancy.
  • RAID 5 – Stripes data and parity information across 3 or more drives for redundancy and performance.
  • RAID 6 – Similar to RAID 5 but with double distributed parity for higher fault tolerance.
  • RAID 10 – Combines mirroring and striping by creating a striped set from mirrored drives.

RAID can be implemented either in hardware with a dedicated RAID controller, or in software through the operating system or hypervisor.

Benefits of using SSDs in RAID

SSDs provide several advantages over HDDs that can benefit performance in a RAID scenario:

  • Faster read/write speeds – SSDs provide much lower latency and higher input/output operations per second (IOPS) compared to HDDs, which improves performance in RAID.
  • Lower access times – Data can be accessed much more quickly from SSDs compared to HDDs due to the differences in underlying technology.
  • Better reliability – SSDs have no moving parts unlike HDDs, making them less prone to mechanical failures.
  • Lower power usage – SSDs consume less power than HDDs which can reduce energy costs.

By combining multiple SSDs into a RAID array, you can achieve performance levels far beyond what is possible with HDD RAID in many scenarios. The specific performance benefits will depend on the RAID type, number of drives, and workload.

Considerations when using SSDs in RAID

While SSDs can deliver big performance benefits in RAID, there are some considerations to keep in mind compared to using HDDs:

  • Cost – SSDs have a higher cost per gigabyte compared to HDDs. Using multiple SSDs in a RAID array can get expensive.
  • Lifespan – SSDs can wear out after a certain number of write cycles, whereas HDDs typically last much longer before failure. The workload and RAID level will impact lifespan.
  • TRIM support – Some RAID controllers do not support TRIM commands for SSDs, which can negatively impact performance over time.
  • Caching – SSDs rely heavily on caching to boost performance. RAID controller and drive caching options should be evaluated.

These factors should be taken into account when deciding whether to use SSDs or HDDs in a particular RAID implementation. In many cases, a hybrid approach with SSD caching may provide a good balance of cost and performance.

RAID levels that work well with SSDs

Any RAID level can be implemented using SSDs. However, some RAID configurations make better use of the strengths of SSD drives:

  • RAID 0 – Striping SSDs together in RAID 0 can provide incredible performance for applications that need fast speeds but do not require redundancy, such as video editing or gaming. The speed boost over a single SSD can be nearly linear.
  • RAID 1 – Mirroring two SSDs with RAID 1 provides a simple redundancy solution with minimal performance impact compared to a single drive.
  • RAID 5 – Striping SSDs with distributed parity (RAID 5) offers great performance along with the ability to survive a single drive failure. More drives can be added to increase capacity.
  • RAID 10 – Combining mirroring and striping (RAID 10) utilizes the performance advantages of RAID 0 along with the redundancy of RAID 1. A minimum of 4 SSDs is required.

The very fast access speeds of SSDs make them exceptionally well-suited for use in RAID configurations focused on performance. However, any RAID type can benefit from SSDs over HDDs in most cases.

Performance differences between SSD RAID and HDD RAID

To demonstrate the performance differences between SSD RAID arrays and HDD RAID arrays, let’s compare some benchmarks:

RAID Type SSD Reads HDD Reads SSD Writes HDD Writes
RAID 0 (4 drives) 5,200 MB/s 1,800 MB/s 4,800 MB/s 1,600 MB/s
RAID 10 (4 drives) 5,000 MB/s 1,700 MB/s 2,800 MB/s 1,200 MB/s

As you can see from the benchmark comparison, the SSD RAID configurations provide significantly faster read and write speeds compared to the HDD RAID setups. In RAID 0, the SSD array has nearly 3x faster read performance and 4x faster writes. For RAID 10, the SSD array is about 3x faster for reads and more than 2x faster for writes.

These kinds of performance differences can have a major impact on applications that require high throughput and low latency storage. Tasks like video editing, gaming, simulations, data analytics, and more can see big speed improvements using SSD RAID.

Ideal scenarios to use SSD RAID

Some examples where SSD RAID can really shine in terms of performance and practical value include:

  • Data centers/servers – SSD RAID can provide extremely fast data access for transactional databases, virtual machines, web servers, caching tiers, and more in a data center context.
  • High performance computing – Large parallel computing workloads can utilize SSD RAID to feed data to CPUs and GPUs very quickly during simulations, modeling, etc.
  • Media production – For video editing, animation, image processing, and other media tasks, SSD RAID arrays enable smooth workflows and rapid project turnaround.
  • Gaming – PC gaming with SSD RAID can eliminate storage bottlenecks, enabling faster game and level loading along with smoother gameplay during data streaming.

Any environment where application performance is highly dependent on storage speeds can benefit from the excellent throughput and IOPS that properly implemented SSD RAID can provide.

Steps for setting up SSD RAID

The process for creating a RAID array with SSDs is very similar to setting up HDD RAID. The main steps involve:

  1. Selecting compatible SSD drives – Choose SSDs that match in terms of performance, capacity, and form factor. Enterprise drives often work best.
  2. Choosing a RAID controller – This can be a dedicated hardware RAID card or software-based through an OS/hypervisor.
  3. Configuring RAID mode in BIOS – Enter the RAID BIOS and select the desired RAID level and drives to include in the array.
  4. Initializing and formatting the array – Perform a full initialization write and then format the array volume.
  5. Benchmarking performance – Test the array to validate expected throughput based on your RAID level and workload.

TRIM support and SSD caching optimizations can also be configured at the OS level or on the RAID controller to ensure optimal and consistent performance. The RAID setup process does not differ fundamentally between SSDs and HDDs.

Choosing the right SSDs for RAID

When selecting SSDs for use in RAID, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Use enterprise or data center SSDs for best results – These are engineered for sustained workloads and endurance.
  • Get drives with power-loss protection – This protects data in cache if power is lost.
  • Match drives in terms of performance and capacity – Avoids imbalances within the array.
  • Ensure drives have firmware optimized for RAID environments – Provides TRIM support and other RAID-specific features.
  • Evaluate mean time between failures (MTBF) and lifespan ratings – Important for determining replacement cycles.
  • Choose controller and drives from same vendor when possible – Improves compatibility and support.

Also consider the workload the SSD RAID array will be used for. Read-intensive workloads may work fine with consumer SSDs, while write-heavy workloads demand enterprise SSDs with high endurance ratings.


SSD RAID delivers excellent performance along with the fault tolerance and redundancy benefits of traditional RAID using HDDs. With ultra-fast speeds, very low latency, and good reliability, SSDs are a great option for creating high-performance RAID arrays.

By combining striping, mirroring, or parity approaches with multiple SSD drives, businesses and individuals can build storage solutions tailored to their budget, capacity needs, and application workloads. From servers to high-end desktops, SSD RAID solutions excel at removing storage bottlenecks.

While HDDs still reign supreme in terms of overall storage capacity per dollar, SSD prices continue to fall, making SSD RAID a more affordable option than ever before. When implemented thoughtfully using enterprise-grade drives, SSD RAID can provide tremendous real-world performance and productivity gains in the right scenarios.