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Data Storage Hardware

Disk Drives Face Challenge From Chips 235

Posted by Hemos
from the the-growth-of-hard-storage dept.
WSJdpatton writes "Researchers are reporting significant progress in perfecting a different way to store data in semiconductors, which could replace one widely used type of memory chip and possibly become a credible competitor to disk drives. The researchers, in a paper being delivered at a technical conference in San Francisco, say they used a novel combination of materials to create prototype phase-change components that are more than 500 times as fast as flash chips, while requiring less than half of the electrical power to record data."
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Disk Drives Face Challenge From Chips

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  • Yeah, but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Keyslapper (852034) on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:39AM (#17195816)
    What is the storage density, and will it still be feasible when this finally comes to market in 10 years?
    • Re:Yeah, but (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:26PM (#17196528) Journal
      Does the storage density really matter? At least initially?

      Even if the first unit they put out is 2x [standard size of whatever] but 500x as fast & uses less battery power... don't you think there's going to be a market for it?

      • Re:Yeah, but (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Keyslapper (852034) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:48PM (#17196866)
        Possibly. If I had to give up a 360G platter drive to put in a 120G phase drive, I'd probably do it - so long as the cost favored the phase drive.

        I'd probably still keep the platter drive for secondary storage and put the OS and critical apps/servers/whatever on the phase drive though.

        I wouldn't pay twice as much for a drive with half the head room though - even if it is 500X faster. That kind of speed (and especially power consumption) may be a big deal for notebooks, but if density is really a problem, the notebooks would probably have to give up a lot more headroom - relatively speaking. We're finally seeing 200G notebook drives, but keep in mind they're tiny compared to your standard laptop drive. If the new phase drives can store the same or more data in the same space, then yeah, I definitely see the end of the platter drive in mainstream use - once the supply outweighs the demand enough to make it financially realistic. If they can put no more than 30G in a notebook drive, then I think it'll take a couple product generations for that to happen.
        • by Splab (574204)
          For 500 times the speed I'd switch my 300GB for 40GB in a heartbeat.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Keyslapper (852034)
            Well, I seriously doubt these things will provide a 500X speed improvement. It'll simply move the bottleneck.

            Even if this tech can be turned into solid state drives in the next 10 years, with 500X the performance of current drive tech, how many of you have never seen your CPU pegged?

            What about the rendering for that new game?

            Just because one component of your system is boosted by a huge factor, doesn't mean you'll see any improvement at all. It's very likely that games available in 10 years will hav
            • A really fast 40G drive would be great to use as the filesystem root, plus swap space; your porn and other documents could all be kept on another (large, slow) drive. I've thought a lot about doing something like this right now using SCSI disks.

              One of the biggest advantages of Linux that you never really hear about is the ease with which you can create a system that spans multiple disks, keeping frequently used (OS, libraries, swap) items on a fast drive and application data and documents on another one. It
              • by DeadChobi (740395)
                Yeah. I really wish I could change a lot of the defaults for data storage. It's not just Windows itself that's single-disk designed, it's all the software for windows that does it. I've got two SATA drives in my system, one for data and non-critical apps, and one for startup and things that need high throughput. It'd be nice to have a registry key for default installation root on non-system applications and it would be nice if developers actually thought to default to it.

                And no, you really can't have a Wind
                • Such a thing would probably confuse the customer base, since many would be scared of such a thing. For those of us who really want these things, Windows may be less-than-ideal.

                  Seriously, though; almost everyone I know who doesn't care about speed nor capacity has a single disk, and would rather not be bothered about it.

              • A really fast 40G drive would be great to use as the filesystem root, plus swap space; your porn and other documents could all be kept on another (large, slow) drive. I've thought a lot about doing something like this right now using SCSI disks.

                Porn? Who said anything about porn? :}

                I was talking about pr0n: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pr0 n [urbandictionary.com]. Specifically:

                (3) Used to describe material which is deserving of (or will be subjected to) the degree of intense speculation and overeager view

        • by vertinox (846076)
          If they can put no more than 30G in a notebook drive, then I think it'll take a couple product generations for that to happen.

          I'd be fine with 30gb with a laptop. Desktop no, but I'm looking for battery life and weight with laptop rather than storage.

          I don't play games, do development, or even watch many movies on laptops so I could see this would be handy.

          If you did need to do those things... Then not so handy.
    • Formats (Score:5, Insightful)

      by symbolset (646467) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:16PM (#17197298) Journal
      Ina remarkable case of technology amnesia, the same idiots that standardized on FAT for flash media for devices are now touting the amazing formatting capacity of FAT32 - An astonishing 32GB! As if in four years that's going to be a lot for flash media you don't have to handle with tweezers.

      So run out, children, and buy your SD 2.0 standard devices while they're not yet obsolete. That way you can buy your camera again and again for no good reason.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I have a 200GB disk formatted as FAT32...

        It is only Microsoft's own cut-rate implementation of a disk manager that insists on making FAT32 volumes a maximum of 32GB in size, and I suspect it is solely because they want people to use NTFS instead.
        • by Fred_A (10934)
          Good thing I wasn't aware of this limitation when I made a 50 gig exchange volume a few years ago back when I still thought I might use Windows for something someday...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dextromulous (627459)
        You may only be able to format FAT32 up to 32GB using the default Windows utilities, but the maximum volume size for FAT32 is 8TiB. [wikipedia.org] However, you are still limited to a maximum 4GB file size and 268,435,437 files. I'm sure you would run into efficiency problems with a gigantic FAT32 drive, but that doesn't mean that 32GB is the limit.
      • FAT is about the worst possible flash file system. Its only redeeming feature is that it can be plugged into Windows boxes, and its level of interoperability with existing kit.

        FAT is both unreliable and slow. Most **real** FFS are log structured which gives them better performance and robustness than FAT.

      • by TonyZahn (534930)
        They should use ReiserFS

        I hear it's a killer! // yes, I know. I'm going to hell for that.
    • by Gilmoure (18428)
      Yeah, yeah, yeah; and it'll be delivered by flying car, when?

      Seriously, am really looking forward to TB size solid state drives. Get rid of these bloody victorian spinning disk contraptions! They may have been fine for that time machine [k12.in.us] Mr. Wells had but this is the 21st. C.
      • by sadler121 (735320)
        Feel free to mod me off topic, (cause I am) but damn, I would much rather a T.A.R.D.I.S [wikipedia.org] then Orson Well's time machine. Something about being bigger on the inside than on the outside...hmmm...now where is a Time Lord when I need one....
  • Good news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fatduck (961824) * on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:41AM (#17195852)
    FTA:

    The chip industry is racing to find a replacement for flash memory, because the technology is expected to leak electrical current unacceptably when manufacturers shrink chip circuitry beyond certain dimensions.
    This is the important part. Good to see someone addressing the oft-ignored failures of flash.
    • Re:Good news (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tttonyyy (726776) on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:49AM (#17195966) Homepage Journal
      Arguably, this is the important part, and one reason why Flash would never have been a good replacement for a HD even if the speed issues were resolved:

      Flash memory is popular because it retains data without a constant electric charge. Such chips aren't usually used in place of disk drives, because of their higher cost and because there are limits on how many times data can be written. Phase-change memory doesn't have that problem
      (emphasis mine)
      • Re:Good news (Score:5, Interesting)

        by el_womble (779715) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:18PM (#17196390) Homepage
        Do you really believe that harddisks don't fail?

        The difference is that flash fails with writes (not reads) and HDD fails with reads AND writes (bad sectors?). Early flash failed after only 10,000 writes per sector, newer flash is in the millions. Flash spreads the writes around, so to reduce the chance of any one sector failing and can do this because flash is genuinely RAM (unlike HDD where location affects transfer speed). Both HDD and SSD employ firmware stratergies that hide sector failure from the OS, only flash can do that without any real cost to performance.

        The end result is that if either are working after 3 or 4 years your doing well, and should really be looking for a replacement unit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Do you really believe that harddisks don't fail?


          No, but HDDs are amongst the most reliable storage media. A good, well-built SCSI drive can last for much, much longer than 3-4 years. I've personally seen hard drives as old 10 years functioning without a hitch. RAID can very much mitigate the risks associated with keeping drives around that long, too.

        • Re:Good news (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BeBoxer (14448) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:42PM (#17196766)
          The end result is that if either are working after 3 or 4 years your doing well, and should really be looking for a replacement unit.

          Wow! I never suspected. You should probably let Seagate know. I'm sure they will want to rethink their 5 year warranty.

          Perhaps you buy really cut rate drives, but in my experience hard drives almost always outlast their usefulness. I've disposed of more drives due to a combination of obsolete busses and pathetic capacity than outright failures. If you are really seeing high failure rates after only three years, you should be looking for some external factor because that isn't normal.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Splab (574204)
            I'm supporting about 100 users, and we hardly ever see any drives fail. Over the last year I've had 2 dead drives (both on the users personal machines), and today we had a user with a failing drive (laptop - not dead yet, but it's going to fail within one or two months). So yeah, the guy is obviously buying junk (or very unlucky).
          • You're probably also using properly cooled desktop and server drives. In my experience, those drives usually do outlive their usefulness, but laptop drives are a much different beast. The nature of constant moves, poor heat dissipation, and crammed electronics -- all of which are interrelated -- tend to make laptop drives more likely to fail.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by peragrin (659227)
          Store your swap file on a flash drive and you can ruin it in a couple of months.

          Flash is good for some things like portable media, but where constant activity is found you should use something more durable.
          • by Belial6 (794905)
            Speaking of that, what are people doing when they want a solid state computer. The only moving part of my wifes computer is the hard drive. I don't really want to try to run the entire OS over the network, but applications would be fine. So, a compact flash card would be big enough to hold the OS, but I worry that the swap partition would kill it in months.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Early flash failed after only 10,000 writes per sector, newer flash is in the millions.

          My understanding is that newer flash is still only in the low hundreds of thousands but the storage devices have onboard intelligence that remaps sectors on the flash device to cure utilization problems. If you have a half-empty flash device and you attempt to rewrite the same block a bunch of times, it will continually remap that block to unused blocks on the device so that your writes don't all take place in the sam

        • I believe you're right. Lets do some simple calculation:

          This [techreport.com] HD has 600 000 hr MTBF max and transfer rate of 300MB/s.
          Say you transfer at this rate for all its MTBF life thats
          600 000 hr * 3600s/hr * 300MB/s = 648 000 000 000 MB or 6.48 petabytes max transfer in its life

          MTBF(sec.) * Transfer rate = Max lifetime transfer

          Normal flash [storagesearch.com] has 300,000 write cycles/block amortized among N GB blocks (block = byte) so thats 300,000 * N cycles with (comparable)max rate of 300MB/s or 90 000 000 * N MB max transfer in its
        • by G00F (241765)
          3-4 years?

          Try 9 years, where my main computer is still using hard drives I bought in 97.
          1x 9 gig 10krpm HD for OS
          2x 18 gig 10krpm HD in raid0 for the game.

          This isn't a computer that just sits there, but gets used daily. Gaming, torrents, ripping movies, developing.

          Granted the 70gig deskstar I bough as a storage drive died. (I thought that would be more reliable than then old raid zero drives I was using for storing data)

          I have lots of 2-20 gig HD's still in use. (I do own ~20 computers)
      • Of course, as always with storage technology, the chief concern will always be cost. Why is RAID so popular? Bang for the buck! You get performance-enhanced, fault-tolerant storage at a reasonable price per megabyte.

        Other technologies have come and gone claiming to compete with hard drives for speed and reliability. But the fact is that hard drives are a very mature technology with a low cost per megabyte, with performance and reliability characteristics that have long been considered good enough. The
      • Re:Good news (Score:4, Insightful)

        by darkmeridian (119044) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {gnauhc.mailliw}> on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:29PM (#17196582) Homepage
        I always thought that using a hybrid system with a flash memory and a hard drive would be great. Every time the boot configuration changes, write a new "hibernation file" to the flash memory, and then boot from that. Furthermore, the code calls for each application as it starts up could be written to the flash memory. Indeed, the most-accessed binaries can be copied onto the flash memory, as space permits. Such a system would decrease boot times and quicken application start times while reducing the risk of burning out the flash memory over the average life of the computer/drive.
        • by GoofyBoy (44399)
          >Such a system would decrease boot times and quicken application start times while reducing the risk of burning out the flash memory over the average life of the computer/drive.

          I have Knoppix on a USB flash drive. I find it does make boot times faster, but still the main bottlenecks are getting OS to detect/initialize all the usb/drives/monitor/other hardware. At least with Knoppix or some other liveCD system.
        • by ray-auch (454705)
          Since MS has just implemented precisely that:

          A Hybrid Hard Drive is a new type of hard drive with an integrated non-volatile flash memory buffer. If your machine is equipped with a Hybrid Hard Drive, Windows Vista takes advantage of this hardware to boot, hibernate, and resume use more quickly. Hybrid Hard Drive technology can also improve system reliability and battery life.

          [from http://www.microsoft.com/uk/windowsvista/features/ foreveryone/performance.mspx%5D [microsoft.com]

          You are probably kicking yourself for not pate

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "oft-ignored" - I do not think that means what you thnk it means. Every time someone mentions using flash in place of a hard drive, nearly 80% (totally made up number) of the comments are about the rewrite limits of flash memory. I mean there are at least 10 comments below yours that mention it already.
      • by prator (71051)
        leakage current != rewrite limit

        GP (or at least TFA) is pointing out how transistors in each progressively smaller technology leak more electrical current than the previous generation. This has gotten to the point where the power consumed by leakage is a large portion of the overall power usage of an IC.
  • by CronicBurn (316845) on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:46AM (#17195920)
    Interesting read, however I don't see these things holding a useful amount of data by 2010. Even if they can get 4G capacity on these chips it still wont replace hard drives that hold terabytes of data.

    Although it could make really cool applications for OS installs. Could you imagine your favorite OS installed on something as fast or faster then today's RAM? I don't want to think about the cost of 4G of this stuff though. *shiver*
    • by brunes69 (86786)
      How many 4 GB CF chips (not cards, chips) can you fit into the same space as a 3.5" HD? 100 maybe? That's 400 GB right there. And that's assuming these thing's have a denisty as small as CF, which, according to the article, they do not.

    • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:59AM (#17196114)
      I can see as this memory becomes faster, cheaper and more reliable to replace system memory, too. I can even see the stuff become so cheap that backing all the info will become cost prohibitive, something like how tape backup systems cost way more today than a 2nd hard drive, but an order of magnatude higher.

      The irony is that this would explain why in the future (à-la-Star-Trek), backups of the computer's memory doesn't exist and cause improbable storylines for us system admins.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I don't want to think about the cost of 4G of this stuff though. *shiver*

      [shrug] A decade ago, I'd never even seen a machine with 4GB RAM, and five years ago, I'd only ever seen that much RAM in monstrously expensive servers. Now I have a machine with that much RAM on my desk. (And yes, I use it; most of my work is pretty heavy number-crunching.) So if this stuff turns out to be viable, it'll get there.

      Actually, a better comparison just occurred to me: about fifteen years ago, I paid an extra thousand
      • FYI, you can get a 1GB thumb drive for about $25 these days. I just ordered a 2 GB for my brother for Christmas, with tax and shipping, it was $42.43 from newegg.

        A far cry from the 20MB "half hight" MFM drive I bought for $500 back in 1985.
        • by mspohr (589790)
          ... or my first hard drive... a 5 Meg full height IBM drive for the IBM PC for about $1000.00
      • by billstewart (78916)
        For the most part, disk capacities have been increasing faster than the Moore's Law double-in-18-months for the last few years. I stopped caring about disk capacity somewhere around the time 6GB drives got replaced by 20GB drives which got replaced by 120GB drives over about 2-3 years, each at under $100/drive. (Then I got BitTorrent and started downloading lossless-compression music, so I temporarily had to pay attention again :-)

        My first Vax, 22 years ago, had 1GB of disk, in the form of four washing-ma

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DarkSarin (651985)
          And I have an astrophysics friend who just told me that the university we attend (grad students) will be putting up a new satellite that can generate 30TBs of data in one night (Full Sky Scan!). Wow.
          • Dark Star (Score:3, Funny)

            by camperdave (969942)
            I'd guess that the data would be highly compressable, though: Dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, star, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, star, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, star, dark, dark, dark...
        • My first Vax, 22 years ago, had 1GB of disk, in the form of four washing-machine-sized drives which used removable 250MB disk packs.

          That brings back memories. Our shop had a GB of disk, too - eight Fujitsu Eagles in a couple of racks. Of course, we were doing "big" things - IC design. Even at that, we were running about 20 or so users from that configuration. Things have definitely changed...

    • by Rhys (96510)
      There are some applications that would kill to have a 4 gig solid-state disk widely available that didn't have the limited-writes of flash. I'm thinking of supercomputing specifically. Network booting isn't good when you're talking thousands of nodes, but neither is magnetic spinning disk. Flash would be okay if you really could tightly control your operating system's behavior (Linux could probably handle it, Solaris is a maybe, and OS X is right out).
    • Although I believe there will be a continued need to hold terabytes of data (mostly for multimedia file storage), I think that a small (say 50GB) high speed storage device is desperately needed in most computers. Think of it this way, if you can get data onto and off of your "hard-drive" dramatically faster then booting your system will become dramatically faster and every application that has disc speed as a bottleneck (any game or database application) will run much faster.
    • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:07PM (#17196224) Journal
      I don't think the hard drive will disappear completely, but as the costs come down, the companies cannot make money producing the smaller capacity drives. We will see 1Tb hard drives readily available someday, sure thing. But different people have different needs. Hard drives are beginning to augment backup strategies because they have become so cheap and high in capacity.

      A solid state drive has a higher G-shock tolerance, is quieter and requires less power than a hard drive. These features are why the technology is attractive to the people who need it. And not everyone needs a hard drive that is 400gb in size. Network appliances may only need a small 1gb boot drive, and these kind of devices will need this new phase-change memory, or whatever will work for the task beyond flash.

      It would be cool to have something like this that is your main memory AND your storage space in one. We could call it Run-In-Place. We could then have a instant-on computers. Just imagine Windows XP or Linux booting up in under 3 seconds!
      • Still, hard drives will have the cheapest $/gig price for a while to come yet. If the 1tb disk in your workstation is only being used for archival purposes, there's no reason it needs to be spinning constantly and can sit there drawing no power with parked heads until the next background archiving/retrieving task (still not as shock resistant as flash, but certainly better than a spinning drive).
      • by Jhan (542783)

        I don't think the hard drive will disappear completely, but as the costs come down, the companies cannot make money producing the smaller capacity drives.

        I agree. This is a big problem for larger companies that want maximum performance, but don't have that much data. They stripe 8, 16, 32 drives, and it's a pain in the wrist to find someone that can sell small enough drives so that you don't massively overshoot the space requirements.

        We will see 1Tb hard drives readily available someday, sure thing.

        • "A terabyte is NOT 128 gigabyes. A terabyte is NOT 128 gigabytes...."

          A terabyte is 1000 gigabytes (1024 if you're old school), not 128.
      • by megaduck (250895)

        A solid state drive has a higher G-shock tolerance, is quieter and requires less power than a hard drive. These features are why the technology is attractive to the people who need it.

        Totally true. There's a number of reasons I prefer solid state. I was up at around 15,000 feet this summer and my hard-drive based iPod crapped out. Apparently the head mechanisms require a certain air pressure to operate. My flash-based Newton eMate, however, continued to work just fine. Thank God. If I'd been using a regular laptop (with a spinning drive), I would have been totally screwed.

        The Newton's totally solid state construction also allowed for a freaky low power consumption. I could go f

  • by in2mind (988476) on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:47AM (#17195940) Homepage
    From the company developing it - Ovonyx:

    http://www.ovonyx.com/tech_html.html [ovonyx.com]

    http://www.ovonyx.com/ovonyxtech.html [ovonyx.com]
  • Ita about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El Lobo (994537) on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:49AM (#17195968)
    Today the bottleneck of the whole system lies in the hard drive. This is the only mechanical part (fans excluded) of a computer. It's about time to find a solution for large storage that doesn't depends on an arm swinging and moving back and forward through a fragmented file system....
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KingNaught (718536)
      So you don't have a dvd/cd rom in your computer?
      • by DrSkwid (118965)
        Or any fans
        Or power switches

      • If these phase change chips are non-volatile and cheap, they can replace the DVD/CD just as easily as they replace the hard disk. The only purpose of anything DVD-like would be for mass distribution of software and content, and if I could eliminate that mechanical drive in favor of simple internet downloads to a phase change stick like current flash sticks but faster and cheaper, I'd be happy.
    • by FridayBob (619244)
      Indeed. Another major problem has to do with backups, or just moving around large blocks of data. Hard disks continue to grow and next year we'll probably see the first terabyte drives, but what about the maximum sustainable throughput? It's unlikely anything significant will ever change here because of the inherent physical (and perhaps economic) limitations. As a result, it's taking longer and longer to read all of the data off of these huge drives. This means backups are taking longer and the chances of
  • when we all have 16 GIGS of ram and all running our OS straight from ramdrives, we will look back and laugh.
    • I find your lack of insight very interesting. In four years, 16 gigs will hardly be enough.

      I suspect it will be closer to 32 Gigs, and after looking at Vista, I am sure of it. Four Years ago, 256 was the minimum to run WinXP, today, it is more like 1GB is my minimum with 2 Gigs being optimal. 4-8x in four years. Today, I wouldn't recommend Vista with anything less than 2 full gigs of Ram, and highly recommend 4. 4-8x would most likely put Vista's 4 year at 16 gigs MINIMUM, and probably more like 32.

      My $.02
    • by master_p (608214)
      Especially when we run Vista on it...(hint: super rootkits!)

  • It might be cheap:

    >OUM requires fewer steps in an IC manufacturing process resulting in reduced cycle times, fewer defects, and greater manufacturing flexibility.

    >a process that deviates little from a basic CMOS logic flow.

    I get nervous about people who make claims like
    >the OUM memory state can be written more than 10 trillion times
    unless they've tested it to a trillion cycles, which is just possible.

    Anyone else nervous that they didn't say anything like "write time N nanoseconds"?
    • Anyone else nervous that they didn't say anything like "write time N nanoseconds"?
      FTA: "more than 500 times as fast as flash chips"

      I can't seem to find hard numbers on the chips, but USB Flash being able to obtain upwards of 13MB/s now puts it faster than U320 SCSI
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Overzeetop (214511)
        Marketing departments usually find the _slowest_ competitor to base their stats on. I wouldn't be suprised if the speed was relative to early-generation flash in the hundreds of kB/s range. Not that 100MB/s would be considered slow, but it might not be the GB/s you would expect looking at today's fast flash drives.
    • by kansas1051 (720008) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:14PM (#17196336)
      Wikipedia(as always) has a good article on the technology. It looks like the write time is currently about 5ns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase-change_memory [wikipedia.org] What is really interesting is that the technology is generally temperature based.
    • I get nervous about people who make claims like
      >the OUM memory state can be written more than 10 trillion times
      unless they've tested it to a trillion cycles, which is just possible.


      Considering the size and quantity of their prototype I'd say your skepticism is warranted. It's probably more likely derived from theory and marketing rather than a real world test.

      Or...

      I'll believe it when the MFR's warranty bears that claim.
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday December 11, 2006 @11:59AM (#17196108)
    Hard Disk Drives now are about $0.50 a Gigabyte. Flash is now about $25.00 a Gigabyte. 3 1/2" Floppy disks about $250.00 per Gigabyte. So it is natural for the Flash Memory cards to replace the floppies as they did. Better speed and better cost/Gigabyte. But right now Hard Drive technology is really cheap. If this new design can match prices/gigabyte of a hard drive then the Disk Drives will need a real challenge. Otherwise This new technology may only be a threat to Flash, or used with drives in hybrid mode for faster disk access. But not until then.

    Price is a major driving force in memory.

    CPU Registers are the fastest but most expensive (very small amount is used)
    Cache is the next fastest and the second most expensive. (4 Megs or so)

    Then comes normal RAM Memory Still slower then Cache and cheaper normally systems now have about a Gig or 2 of that.

    If price wasn't a case Computers wouldn't have much RAM but all Cache, or huge amount of registers. But in real life price is the final decision.

     
    • Other costs need to be taken into account. For example, many people leave their computers on when not in use, because they don't want to waste time letting them start up when they return. (I leave my work computer on except over three-day weekends or longer, though I turn the CRT monitors off each night.) Their time is money, and they don't want to pay the price.

      But, leaving the computers on also costs money in terms of electricity. This is also a big price to pay. If the computers would boot significa
      • That's still a tough sell, though. Most places I've worked had a strict policy of leaving PCs on, if only so that patches can be pushed down outside office hours. The cost of power is trivial compared to the cost in labor of having someone either manually patch each machine, run around after hours powering each machine on, or causing down time during the day (along with the problem of people who are on vacation or out sick).
        • by DarkSarin (651985)
          Although if manufacturers and admins were really working together and really smart, Wake on LAN would become the new way to to remote upgrades and still allow the machine to shutdown for the night.

          I see this scenario:
          Admin approves a patch/upgrade
          Admin pushes patch to server
          Server uses smart scheduling to push upgrade to machine to avoid work conflicts
          Machine is off/doesn't respond
          Server sends WAKEUP code to machine
          Machine boots and (as default booting solution) sends ready signal to server
          Server pushes pat
        • Has your company never heard of Wake on LAN [wikipedia.org]. If there is an upgrade to be pushed, just send a few packets over the network to ensure all the machines are up and running, then push the upgrade.
    • by stevesliva (648202) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:08PM (#17196244) Journal
      If price wasn't a case Computers wouldn't have much RAM but all Cache, or huge amount of registers. But in real life price is the final decision
      Actually in systems where price is no object, performance is usually paramount. If you have astounding amounts of registers or cache, your performance per instruction or memory operation may be slower. Given the fact that we can manufacture dual-core dies with ease, I imagine we could easily fit a bazillion more registers or double the L1 cache of a single core, but there is a performance trade-off there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by WuphonsReach (684551)
      Hard Disk Drives now are about $0.50 a Gigabyte.

      You're a bit on the high side there... SATA/PATA drives are down around $0.28-$0.32 per gigabyte and have been for a while. The sweet spot seems to be the 250GB drives for $70, with the 200GB, 300GB, 400GB sizes at around $0.32/GB.

      (Which hasn't changed a whole lot in the past few months. But Seagate's 7200.10 series is one of the cheaper $/GB drives on the market even though it's brand new tech.)
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Hard drives are only $.50 per gigabyte when you talk about low end consumer hard drives where speed and reliability isn't really that big of an issue. However, when you look at server hard drives, that require reliability and speed, you're going to be paying much more per gigabyte. If these drives can offer increases in speed and/or reliability to what we currently have available for servers, then I could see this technology getting adopted for servers, where people are willing to pay a little more if it
    • by jilles (20976)
      HDs are comparatively slow and flash drives are approaching the big enough state where they could replace them in e.g. laptops and workstations. Currently vista already works better with a hybrid approach (using flash for swap space). Once the flash drives become big enough (e.g. the just announced 32 GB flash thingy from Sony), they become a drop in replacement for slow, hot, noisy and energy wasting harddrives. Also there's no reason why these things could not be operated in a raid like configuration. Wha
    • by iCharles (242580)
      Hard Disk Drives now are about $0.50 a Gigabyte. Flash is now about $25.00 a Gigabyte. 3 1/2" Floppy disks about $250.00 per Gigabyte.

      For you hard-core retrogrouches, that's $425/GB for audio cassette.
    • by babyrat (314371)
      Hard Disk Drives now are about $0.50 a Gigabyte.

      Only if you need a bunch of gigabytes - what if you need only 4 GB? What if size and power consumption matter? A 6GB compactFlash microdrive goes for a couple of hundred dollars. That's over $30/GB. They are creating them and selling them, so there are people willing to pay that price for the size/power consumption.

      Even if size doesn't matter that much, a standard 10 GB IDE drive is about $20.

  • The quicker we can get away from a spinning rust platter read by magnets, the better. Less moving parts = more reliable (in general.)

  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:32PM (#17196622)
    Can't we just skip ahead to the transparent crystals that glow in various colors and store almost limitless data? We all know that's where this is heading.

    Maybe we need to perfect holographic 3D displays first?
  • The results are presented at the IEDM conference, and it seems that there's no published article on this yet. From this page [his.com] I get:

    Ultra-Thin Phase-Change Bridge Memory Device Using GeSb
    Y.C. Chen, C.T. Rettner***, S. Raoux***, G.W. Burr***, S.H. Chen, R.M. Shelby***, M. Salinga***, W.P. Risk***, T.D. Happ*, G.M. McClelland***, M. Breitwisch^, A. Schrott^, J.B. Philipp*, M.H. Lee, R. Cheek^, T. Nirschl**, M. Lamorey^^, C. F. Chen, E. Joseph^, S. Zaidi*, B. Yee^, H. L. Lung, R. Bergmann*, and C. Lam^, Ma
  • Bah (Score:3, Funny)

    by feijai (898706) on Monday December 11, 2006 @12:49PM (#17196882)
    Still won't be able to compete with the sheer density of colored symbols on A4 paper [arabnews.com].
  • The only real competitive advantage discs (optical or magnetic) have is cost.

    Slow, low density optical discs are good for offline storage, up to 4.7GB [osta.org] at about $0.042:GB [pricewatch.com]. Plus about $1000 for a 400-disc changer jukebox makes about $0.60:GB across all jukebox loads, theoretically also automatable across many loads, for "nearline" storage.

    Fast, high denisty magnetic discs are good for online storage, the kind we use as "permanent" without worrying about dealing with them directly (until they fail). They cost
    • by matt21811 (830841) *
      Actually, disks also have a significant advantage in sustained transfer speed too.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        True. But there's no inherent reason though. Solid state media can deliver to any bitwidth, if their internal busses are so designed. A 32bit transfer should be native, even 64+. While discs are limited by their parallel read/write head count. Optical discs usually have a maximum of two (usually one), while magnetic discs often have just a pair or 2-3, maybe 4 - not even a byte word width.

        And while block reads are common to practically every medium, solid state makes access vs transfer speed very close. Wit
  • by Darth Cider (320236) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:36PM (#17197574)
    Page 35 of their downloadable pdf [ovonyx.com] shows that each cell can hold multiple bits. Each cell can be set to one of ten states by multiple pulses of current, so comparisons to binary storage don't work. The manufacturing process is not complex, basic CMOS in about 20 stages, but the part of the cell that stores data is only about 20 nanometers wide. Replacement of hard drives is a very trivial application. IBM and Intel are planning to incorporate this tech inside ICs to reduce latency of fetching data. The big news is more highly integrated systems on chip. It doesn't look pie-in-the-sky, somewhere-way-down-the-road to me.
  • I'm so tired of finding the word "novel" in research publications, etc. It's an overused word which contains absolutely no new information. Most style guides for scientific writing grip about it, and many research publications ask authors not to use such words in titles or abstracts, but I get the feeling the use is still increasing. It's basically scientific marketing, and it's not even clever or original. Most things which are described as novel are anyway anything but, and the word has just become we

  • If it's 500X faster at .5 power, does that mean it needs 250X the power of flash for a much shorter duration?

To restore a sense of reality, I think Walt Disney should have a Hardluckland. -- Jack Paar

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