Fast SSDs are getting cheaper every year, but they are still smaller and more expensive than traditional HDD drives. But HDDs have much higher latency and are easily saturated. However, we want to achieve low latency for the storage system, and a high capacity too. There’s a well-known practice of optimizing performance for big and slow devices — caching. As most of the data on a disk is not accessed most of the time but some percentage of it is accessed frequently, we can achieve a higher quality of service by using a small cache.
Server hardware and operating systems have a lot of caches working on different levels. Linux has a page cache for block devices, a dirent cache and an inode cache on the filesystem layer. Disks have their own cache inside. CPUs have caches. So, why not add one more persistent cache layer for a slow disk?