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SSD Price Drops Signaling End of Spinning Media? 646

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-spun-me-baby dept.
gjt writes "When Intel and OCZ recently announced new 'affordable' Solid State Disk drives — offering a meager 32-40GB — we initially yawned. But, then we took a closer look at the press releases and the in-progress research and development in SSD technology and opened our eyes. While the new drives aren't affordable on a cost per gigabyte basis for everyone, it does set a precedent — and most importantly a barometer price of $100. And it really does start the death clock for hard drive technology."
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SSD Price Drops Signaling End of Spinning Media?

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  • ...Or an arms race (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:49PM (#31586536) Homepage Journal

    I think HDD will continue to stay enough ahead of SSD in raw capacity that it will stay relevant for a long time. When SSD is affordable at 200 GB then HDD will already be affordable at 2 TB, etc.

    • by Drethon (1445051) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:52PM (#31586586)
      HDD is the new tape drive and SSD is the new HDD?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 0123456 (636235)

        Essentially: I expect my next PC to have an SSD for important program files and data, and HDD(s) for big data files which don't need fast random access (e.g. video files). Or I'll offload them to an OpenSolaris server with a bunch of HDDs in a RAIDZ.

        The idea that cheaper SSDs will kill HDD is silly when most peoples' storage needs expand to meet whatever they can afford to buy. Certainly they are likely to kill HDDs in simple home and office systems, but for everything else HDDs will continue to be vastly c

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sperbels (1008585)
        ...and Floppies are the new punch cards...and punch cards are the new abacuses...and abacuses are the new ...what? Fingers and toes?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      200GB ought to be enough for anybody.

    • by ircmaxell (1117387) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:58PM (#31586716) Homepage
      Well, so then use them for appropriate uses. I don't need 2TB on my laptop (I barely need 40gb). But on my home file server, I could use the spinning disks for brute capacity. So perhaps what we may start seeing is more and more computers shipped with a 20 or 40gb SSD boot disk with a 500gb or 1TB "data disk"... But to say that spinning disks will go away is kinda short sighted...
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:00PM (#31586770) Homepage Journal

      SSDs will replace all the small hard drives.
      When you get down to small enough drive SSDs will be cheaper per Gig than HDs.
      Right now you can buy a 1TB drive for right around $90.
      But you can not buy a 5ooGB drive for $45 or a 250GB drive for $22.50. There is a limit to how cheap you can make a harddrive.
      At some point SSDs in the 120Gb range will be cheaper than spinning platters. It is probably close right now.
      When that happens you will see SSDs replace HDs in that range. That range will keep creeping up and up.
      So HDDs will be what you get when you need a lot of storage. Maybe they will eventually be used only for externals and NASs.
      Eventually 1 TB SSDs will be cheaper than HDDs but for all I know we will have 100TB HDs for $90.
      BTW as someone that paid several hundred dollars for a 30MB HD in 1984 the idea of a sub hundred dollar 100TB HDD just seems like a matter of time.

      • by Hadlock (143607) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:20PM (#31587120) Homepage Journal

        I wonder how long it will be before SSDs lose the traditional 3.5" form factor. There's no reason why you couldn't say, drop the guts into a PCI form factor. That cast aluminum enclosure is probably $3-5 of a product that probably costs $45 to make. With less heat and mass requirements it's likely we'll start seeing naked chips on a breadboard to save 8-9% of the manufacturing cost.

        • by SWPadnos (191329) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:38PM (#31587452)

          (most SSD are 2.5", not 3.5")

          PCIe "hard drives" already exist.

          Here's a 1TB model: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227500 [newegg.com]
          There are others in 250GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities.

          I doubt that the cost goes down much though. The PCIe interface chip isn't free, and neither is the card bracket. The PC board itself is also much larger, and has to be thicker than those used on most hard drives. The cost differences are probably a wash.

          • by Hadlock (143607) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:49PM (#31587612) Homepage Journal

            Oh, I was just talking about something that mounted in the PCI slot and was held in with a single screw like an old school sound card. There'd be no pin connectors interfacing directly with the motherboard; it'd still have a SATA jack to wire it to the motherboard.
             
            Hell, there's no reason why they couldn't just integrate a 20 or 40gb SSD right into the motherboard. Talk about a microcomputer! Lenovo has some pretty tiny nettops nowadays, I imagine the physical dimensions of the hard drive more or less doubles the thickness of the unit. With a different form factor they could probably reduce the size of the packaging even further.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Minwee (522556)

              it'd still have a SATA jack to wire it to the motherboard.

              Because otherwise it might run too fast? The SATA interface is the big bottleneck holding SSD speeds down. If you put the whole thing directly on the PCIe bus it would be a lot happier. Fitting a fast SSD into a PCIe slot and then tying it to SATA is just cruel.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MrNemesis (587188)

          I reckon we'll need a couple more years of SSD acceptance before this becomes mainstream - for one thing, we'll need an OS-agnostic method of using PCIe cards as bootable block devices, which will probably take a while to work out. Heck, I'm not even sure if FusionIO is bootable yet (I think they're working on it). And then there's all those filesystems in use that all assume they're on spinning discs.

          SSD will be made of awesome when this happens though - SATA has been a bottleneck for flash for quite a whi

          • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:50PM (#31587622) Homepage Journal

            Of course the scary thing is now that we have 64 bit processors it could be possible to just map the flash right to the address space. I could see a netbook with a flash drive right on the motherboard.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by MrNemesis (587188)

              I believe mainframes already do the whole memory page == disc block thing, but I'm not an expert.

              I asked the same question on /. a while back regarding more common operating systems and got this response [slashdot.org] from m.dillon, which seems to indicate it's not really feasible unless the whole software stack is (very) radically altered, or the performance delta between memory and storage becomes alot smaller.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by LWATCDR (28044)

                He is correct but that is not what I was thinking.
                The OS would know that it is flash and protect it from general access. The applications would still access it through a device driver but instead of going through an IO chip and the sata bus the OS would handle the IO on the memory bus.
                The way things happen now is that when you do a disk read the data is copied from the drive across the bus and into the controller chip. The controller chip then does a direct memory access to a block of memory that you have t

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by MrNemesis (587188)

                  Figured you were a programmer (I'm an infrastructure guy so have only a murky view of the internal workings of software) - part of the question about the apps was why two different speeds of memory would be an issue - I figured it'd be bad practice for an app to assume that it'd always be able to map memory at 20GB/s or whatever, but I don't really know the ins and outs of low(ish)-level programming.

                  I figured it'd work in a similar way to file cache now - a map of blocks/tables is given to the OS to use for

                  • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                    by LWATCDR (28044)

                    The problem with mapping mass storage to memory at the application level becomes one of locking and threads.
                    You will have a very difficult time with any threaded applications if you just do a map to memory. Locking goes from being a real pain to a total freaking nightmare.
                    In effect traditional disk io acts like a message passing system which is much simpler to deal with when doing threaded applications.
                    The real issue I think was a failure to communicate between you and m.dillion.
                    m.dillion was thinking of th

            • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @05:37PM (#31589638) Journal
              It would be possible, but horrible. For PCRAM or MRAM it makes sense, but Flash can not be written on a byte level (well, it can, but only once and then you have to erase the entire cell). You could make it read-only into the physical address space and then use another mechanism for writing, but that would be painful.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LWATCDR (28044)

          What you will probably see soon is a new mini-pci standard. The current mini-pci standard has a USB port as part of the standard. Once they start putting USB 3.0 on there it will be trivial to put a USB 3.0 Flash drive chip on a card. You may even see a card that is both an SSD and WiFi which would be great for netbook makers.

    • by exasperation (1378979) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:11PM (#31586958)

      I think HDD will continue to stay enough ahead of SSD in raw capacity that it will stay relevant for a long time. When SSD is affordable at 200 GB then HDD will already be affordable at 2 TB, etc.

      Ah, but when 200 GB of storage is $20, no hard drive will ever be able to be that cheap. There is a fixed minimum cost for building a hard drive. Spindle, motor, etc. It's about $70. When "enough storage" for the average user, let's say 200 GB costs less than that base cost, almost all new storage sold will be SSD devices due to their overall advantages, especially in a battery-powered machine (which are the majority of all computers sold today).

      This will completely gut the market for hard drives and R&D into them will cease. All money will move to SSDs and they will improve even more rapidly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by 0123456 (636235)

        This will completely gut the market for hard drives and R&D into them will cease. All money will move to SSDs and they will improve even more rapidly.

        Indeed: no-one will ever need more than 200GB of storage.

      • by Gruturo (141223) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:39PM (#31587472)

        There is a fixed minimum cost for building a hard drive. Spindle, motor, etc. It's about $70.

        Not quite. A shop near my house (Rome, Italy) has 320GB drives on sale at 35.4 EUR (roughly $48) including 20% sales tax - and this is just the first I bothered to check, it's a street price, it includes their own profit, and it's a 3.5" unit. When 3.5" go obsolete once and for all, the 2.5" drives will stop costing a premium and actually become cheaper, most likely.

        So - while there definitely is a price level where mechanical units stop making sense, it's nowhere near $70 and probably it will keep shrinking over time.
        Anyway - the entire point is moot. A sum of other factors (weight, power consumption, heat generation and tolerance, shock tolerance) will most likely push hard disks away in the lower capacity ranges.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:50PM (#31586544)

    Price is only the first hurdle for SSDs. There's also the issue of reliability, and reports from the field suggest that SSD reliability is highly variable, and in no case as good over the long term as hard drives. That will probably change in time, but they're not there yet.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:50PM (#31586562) Journal

    SSD Price Drops Signaling End of Spinning Media?

    Blu Ray and CDs are still "spinning media" aren't they? I think I've seen many holographic storage disc products (touted to be THE FUTURE) that were spinning as well. I agree that our mechanical media may be just atop the apex or turning point but our non-mechanical disc based media is most likely set to be a some form of spinning disc [wikipedia.org] for at least a few years longer. If the article thinks that movies and albums will switch to SSD based distribution, I just don't see it happening real soon or even now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by idontgno (624372)

      Blu Ray and CDs are still "spinning media" aren't they?

      To be replaced with network-accessed or network-streamed material. Read-only rotary optical media will be a "way back" story our children will tell our grandchildren. (In other words, my 4-year-old daughter will tell HER 4-year old daughter "I used to watch Dora the Explorer on DVDs.")

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper (135110)

      Blu Ray and CDs are still "spinning media" aren't they? I think I've seen many holographic storage disc products (touted to be THE FUTURE) that were spinning as well.

      CDs are tiny... ~12 full CDs will fit on a $30 USB thumb drive. Blu-Ray isn't all that big, either... ~40 Blu-Ray movies on a $100 HDD?

      Optical media will succeed only if densities can continue to increase, all the while the pressing technology remains fairly simple. As soon as Disc+ yields / speeds are low enough that writing data to Flash

  • Nikon F6 and FM10 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:53PM (#31586596)

    There are only two advantages SSD has over spinning media at this time: Access speed and Durability. Storage space is still not up to par, and cost is definitely a weak point. However, technology progresses and we're hitting the limits of the current hard disk technology. SSD technology is definitely the future of most personal storage.

    But it won't replace it in all areas. There are still "obsolete" technologies in widespread use due to technical superiority over perceived convenience. No one is going to say digital cameras are lousy, but compared to film, they are simply outmatched. Where is Velvia for digital? Where is Kodachrome? These films have no equal in the digital world except as poorly implemented filters in Photoshop.

    Spinning media is going to be with us for a while, and I expect, like film, that eventually prices will go back up and this technology will be a specialty market targeted at high-end users and professionals.

  • This just in! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spazntwich (208070) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:55PM (#31586652)

    Helicopters signal the end of automobiles, just as soon as their poor $$/mile traveled ratio reaches parity, but you can buy helicopters from Air Hog right now!

    Solar panels signal the end of nuclear power AND the oil industry, just as soon as their poor $$/watt ratio reaches parity! But you can get a solar powered calculator RIGHT NOW!

    Can I be a tech pundit yet?

    • Re:This just in! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hahn (101816) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:40PM (#31587480) Homepage

      Helicopters signal the end of automobiles, just as soon as their poor $$/mile traveled ratio reaches parity, but you can buy helicopters from Air Hog right now!

      Solar panels signal the end of nuclear power AND the oil industry, just as soon as their poor $$/watt ratio reaches parity! But you can get a solar powered calculator RIGHT NOW!

      Can I be a tech pundit yet?

      Yeah, and LCD's signal the end for CRT's...

      Oh wait.

  • by Bananatree3 (872975) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:56PM (#31586674)
    SSDs offer speed. Spinning Disk HDDs offer cheap space. Hybrid disks [storagesearch.com]offer a nice compromise until SSDs overtake spinning disks in storage/price.

    I mean really, who needs an expensive big SSD for your porn collection? Unless you have 12 monitors running porn simulcasting...SSD speeds are really only needed for heavily accessed files. HDDs offer cheap storage for those not-so-often used files. The solution is relatively inexpensive, and here today
  • by jawtheshark (198669) * <<slashdot> <at> <jawtheshark.com>> on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:56PM (#31586682) Homepage Journal

    The article seems to assume that a typcial laptop user needs a 120Gig harddisk. I don't think that's true. I can most certainly live with a 20Gig to 40Gig harddisk in a laptop. As a matter of fact, my current laptop (3 year old AMD Turion with "120Gig" HD) has two parts: about 16Gig fro WinXP MCE and the remaining 100Gig for Ubuntu. The 16Gig has all the productivity apps I need + 1 game (Portal), which still leaves me 2Gig free for data. If I didn't have the game, I'd have ~8Gig free for data. For typcial data like word processing documents and the like that is more than enough. It is perfectly usable for day to day tasks. (The Ubuntu part is my playground, but it could live just as wel on a 16Gig partition)

    If you enter digital pictures into the landscape, it does change a bit. Still, that's still a lot of pictures. Besides, you don't want all your pictures on the move. They're much safer at home on server and/or NAS.

    Music you say? We're talking about "needing"... You don't "need" music on your laptop, unless that's your profession, but that doesn't make you a typcial user.

    While I don't think I'm going to shell out 100€ for a 32Gig SDD, because I'm a cheap bastard and what I have works, I could most certainly live with a 32Gig disk in my laptop.

    • by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:08PM (#31586914) Homepage Journal

      Typical users keep music on their computer.

    • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:20PM (#31587140)

      Music you say? We're talking about "needing"... You don't "need" music on your laptop, unless that's your profession, but that doesn't make you a typcial user.

      Fail.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by socrplayr813 (1372733)

      Definitely agree here. The vast majority of 'average Joe' computers that I come across have a 160-500GB hard drive, of which they've generally used less than 20-25GB, including all of their apps, music, etc. Unless they have an absolutely massive music collection or like to play a whole bunch of high-end games, a 40-80GB SSD is PLENTY.

      Even a more tech-oriented person like myself doesn't need a ton of space. I keep all of my files on a server at home, which I access from my other computers when I want som

  • 32-40 GB isn't bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:01PM (#31586772)

    While most computers come with bigger disks (because the cost of making spinning disks makes the marginal cost bigger, and bigger numbers are always easier to sell), I've had 30-40 GB Linux setups on dual-boot machines where the primary was Windows, and never really had space problems. And lots of the things that eat up space on consumer machines (like video) are stuff that is better on a hard disk anyway. So I could easily see computers that aren't heavily used for video or similar applicaitons going to SSDs if 32-40 GB SSD are affordable, and computers with a 32-40 GB primary SSD as well as an HDD, where the HDD is mainly used for things where sequential transfer speed rather than random access time is key. The trick for the latter is getting a good configuration/UI setup that makes it "just work" for the most common applications without the user manually choosing locations (mapping locations appropriately, and maybe implementing MIME-type-based defaults for download locations), while giving power users precise control.

  • by ka9dgx (72702) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:21PM (#31587156) Homepage Journal

    I received a 128 Gb Kingston SSDnow as a gift from a friend, to put in my laptop. The laptop had a 320 Gb hard drive, so I've had to not lug 2 years of photos around, but it's well worth it because this this is damned fast. Things that had 10 second times now are sub-second. The thing boots Windows 7 in less than 10 seconds.

    Capacity is nice, but once you get past 40Gb or so, you only need it to store images and things in bulk. It's like having the speed of a SAN in a laptop. SSD is an order of magnitude faster as far as the user experience goes, and if you can get one for less than $200, it's well worth doing, IMHO.

    Once the end users see this in action, the price/Gb won't matter to them, because responsiveness is the name of the game.

  • Not so fast. (Score:5, Informative)

    by amn108 (1231606) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:25PM (#31587216)

    Don't be fooled, people: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid-state_drive#Disadvantages [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:Not so fast. (Score:5, Informative)

      by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @03:59PM (#31588492) Homepage

      I'll edit the article later. For now...

      - Wear leveling used on flash-based SSDs...
      Oops! Wear leveling is done on HDDs too. And it isn't a disadvantage: it is a solution.

      - More expensive, lower capacity
      Don't need to address that, since that is the topic of the article...

      - Asymmetric read vs. write performance
      Oops! Platter drives have this problem too!

      - Requires TRIM
      Solved.

      - Limited lifetimes
      Funny, that's considered the major downside to platter drives. Anyway, this is the same as the first point.

      - Performance of SSDs degrades with use.
      Solved. See TRIM. Note that this is also a problem on platter drives.

      - SATA-based SSDs generally exhibit much slower write speeds.
      This one doesn't even make sense.

      - DRAM-based SSDs
      Aren't what we are talking about, so that's irrelevant.

      • Re:Not so fast. (Score:4, Informative)

        by slimjim8094 (941042) <[slashdot3] [at] [justconnected.net]> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:41AM (#31594004)

        - Wear leveling used on flash-based SSDs...
        Oops! Wear leveling is done on HDDs too. And it isn't a disadvantage: it is a solution.

        Wear-leveling is done for bad sectors on a HDD, not as standard practice.

        - More expensive, lower capacity
        Don't need to address that, since that is the topic of the article...

        - Asymmetric read vs. write performance
        Oops! Platter drives have this problem too!

        Wrong. I just ran a benchmark and saw widely varying performance based on sector size and sequential vs random, but the reads and writes were the same speeds. I tested all 3 of my HDDs. If this is true, [citation needed]

        - Requires TRIM
        Solved.

        - Limited lifetimes
        Funny, that's considered the major downside to platter drives. Anyway, this is the same as the first point.

        - Performance of SSDs degrades with use.
        Solved. See TRIM. Note that this is also a problem on platter drives.

        These two are related. SSDs may last longer than HDDs for certain use environments (space?) and types (maybe even a typical user) but they're definitely not a given. Try to defrag a MLC drive a few times and it'll be dead in a week (yes I know you don't need to defrag a SSD, but there are processes that can mimic it). And every HDD I've owned (dozens) for the past 15 years is still spinning, though I suppose I may be lucky. And a SSD will have cells go bad as a consequence of the technology, while a bad sector on a HDD is a fault. If a HDD goes bad, it's due to mechanical failure of the supporting systems, not degradation of the media itself.

        --

        Look, SSDs are great. I love coding on one because compiles are wicked fast. But they are not ready to replace HDDs. And they're not the panacea you're making them out to be. Like literally everything else, you pick the right tool for the job. I'll keep my backups and my movies and music and 11 days of recorded TV on my 2TBs of spinning media, and my OS, applications, and code on a smaller 128GB SSD.

  • by FrozenGeek (1219968) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:35PM (#31587398)
    Seriously. Google is (believed to be) the largest single user of consumer hard drives. When they start replacing hard drives with SSDs, I will consider HDDs to be done. I wonder what price differential the power savings (don't forget the power for cooling) will cover?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MobyDisk (75490)

      This article claims Google is using Intel SSDs [informationweek.com]. There's no source though, and Google declines to comment. Oh well.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FrozenGeek (1219968)
        Would not surprise me if they were using them on some of the very critical loci of their system. And I'd imagine that they would want to actually test the effects of converting to SSD so that they have useful data when trying to determine when to start switching.
        A few test installations does not constitute a wholesale change in direction, but they do serve as portents of the future.
  • by sillivalley (411349) <sillivalley@comcas t . net> on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:39PM (#31587470)
    Pundits have been tolling the death knell of rotating storage for ... decades?

    But somehow, the rotating storage business manages to innovate its way back to relevance -- Winchester technology, thin film heads, headerless architectures, increased spindle speeds, bigger caches, perpendicular recording, 4k sectors, continuing advances in encoding and ECC, continuing advances in media -- the advances keep coming.

    And whatever happened to bubble memory, anyway? Wasn't that supposed to save the day and obsolete rotating storage once and for all? Isn't that what Intel promised us?

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