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Data Storage Hardware Technology

Why SSDs Won't Replace Hard Drives 315

Posted by Soulskill
from the infinitely-small-infinitely-fast dept.
storagedude writes "Flash drive capacities have been expanding dramatically in recent years, but this article says that's about to change, in part because of the limits of current lithography technology. Meanwhile, disk drive densities will continue to grow, which the author says will mean many years before solid state drives replace hard drives — if they ever do. From the article: 'The bottom line is that there are limits to how small things can get with current technology. Flash densities are going to have data density growth problems, just as other storage technologies have had over the last 30 years. This should surprise no one. And the lithography problem for flash doesn't end there. Jeff Layton, Enterprise Technologist for HPC at Dell, notes that as lithography gets smaller, NAND has more and more troubles — the voltages don't decrease, so the probability of causing an accidental data corruption of a neighboring NAND goes up. "So at some point, you just can't reduce the size and hope to not have data corruption," notes Layton.'"
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Why SSDs Won't Replace Hard Drives

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:21PM (#33036958)

    Yeah, there's NO way that SSD technology will somehow evolve further than it has till now. It's after all SEVERAL years old by now!

    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:26PM (#33037010) Journal

      It is kind of funny how the article seems to be non-inflammatory, saying that replacement won't happen "soon", but the headline reads like a nice troll. Anyone think the editor chose the headline for page hits?

      • by sznupi (719324)

        ...though OTOH it didn't point out that the delay will be likely due to Microsoft; which it should.

    • If will be a long time before development of the horseless carriage will overtake the technology of my steam-powered ornithopter!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      SSD devices have been around since the 50's and in production forms since the mid 70's. its not that the technology is immature, its that the technology is not cost effective for the vast majority of end users. there are serious issues that have yet to be fully addressed with SSD, and im not just talking about wear leveling and reduced performance as the devices fill.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Cyberllama (113628)

        Cost is huge. What other issues do you see? The capacity limitations are more a function of cost than technology. They seem to crush magnetics in every performance benchmark imaginable. They last longer, use less power, and seem have very high data integrity.

        I know you can only flip each bit so many times, effectively guaranteeing that an SSD won't last forever, but even with frequent reading/writing they still last for 5+ years which is more than can be said of your typical magnetic drive. In my experie

    • by MrCrassic (994046)
      They'll replace magnetics at the consumer level, but unless their MTBF increases considerably in the next few years, it'll be a LOOONG way out before they become the de facto storage medium in the datacentre. SLC SSDs are the only real alternative to reliable, (theoretically) long-lasting and high-performance magnetic hard drives, but they are prohibitively expensive. An all-SSD SAN would be insane...but will cost a fortune!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ruede (824831)
      @ article, yeah right but strangely enough all the HDD for the OS have been replaced the minute i could afford them
    • by symbolset (646467) on Monday July 26, 2010 @11:13PM (#33040062) Journal

      SSDs already do things now that HDDs could never do - like provide sufficient capacity, I/Os per second and low enough latency to satisfy the I/O needs of a maxed out virtual host with internal storage, or a virtual host for VDI. In a next-gen SAN like the WhipTail they beat $1/IOPS, which is necessary for making VDI cost effective. They do it with a power to IOPS ratio that's so superior it's not even directly comparable, in a form factor that's like comparing a toaster to a refrigerator.

      Performance against spinning rust was beat off the line. Storage capacity is almost beat already (400GB SFF SSD, 1TB LFF), and the only reason it isn't flat beat is because the engineers rebel against storage media that's capable of oversaturating its connection bandwidth by such a large factor - they CAN put that many chips in that box but the idea is offensive. The only issue left of the big three is price. Prices of SSDs are coming down faster than HDD prices so the trend is clear. SSDs will replace spinning drives on more and more applications. You can plot an intersect if you want - I'm pretty sure that against enterprise spinning disk the intersect is less than the five years out stated in the article. SSD is the new tape.

      And that's without considering those impossible technological evolutions explored in your post and elsewhere in the thread.

  • by mlts (1038732) * on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:22PM (#33036966)

    With SSDs, I'm sure there is always another axis of improvement, similar to with CPUs, when you hit a wall with them, go SMP. When SMP doesn't scale, crank up the clock speed, etc.

    What I wonder is what can be focused on to make SSDs be able to store more. We can always stick more chips in an enclosure, and the cooling needs for SSDs are far less than the cooling needed for CPUs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Microlith (54737)

      What I wonder is what can be focused on to make SSDs be able to store more.

      Newer solid state memory technologies. If you can get something more durable and faster than NAND at the lithographies we're headed towards, you'll be able to expand capacity without having to jam tons of extra chips in for bad block swapouts and having to pack killer levels of ECC.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Platinumrat (1166135)
      Exactly my thoughts. Who says we have to stick with a 2.5" or 3.5" form factor. There are many ways to pack more bits into a package if you stop thinking of SSDs as a spinning wheel of rust.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mlts (1038732) *

        Exactly. Since the form factor isn't dependent on a disk shape, it might be better to go with a form factor that is better for SSD. Perhaps cubic, with a riser card holding the banks of flash chips connected to the controller which does the ECC, encryption, wear levelling, and other stuff?

      • by SpeZek (970136)
        There are plenty of 5.25" bays out there. Most, if not all, desktops have only one occupied by a DVD/CD/BR drive.
        • Yes, and if you have an SSD shaped like a DIMM then you could put at least 20 in the space of a half height drive bay.
      • If you want to put them in laptops then you either have to make them fit in the standard laptop drive form factor or convince laptop manufacturers to redesign thier product line to fit your device.

        Besides a cubiod package seems like quite a nice form factor to design electronics for, just stack a load of boards that are all the same size and shape. What would you suggest instead?

        Afaict the real problem at the moment is cost not ability to pack the parts into a given package. You can get a 512GB SSD in the 2

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by erroneus (253617)

      Yeah, my first thought with SSD was additional parallelism and such. It seems pretty obvious not only to improve capacity but to improve speed as well. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

      Who knows what the real intention of this article may be, but as far as I am concerned, "SSD" isn't ready enough yet. It's nice, but the ones that perform well are ridiculously pricey and the ones that are somewhat affordable are ridiculously slow. It's simply a deterrent for me at the moment.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Microlith (54737)

        SSDs already leverage extreme parallelism via 15+ different channels, indeed they have to due to how slow most NAND chips (especially MLC) are. Eventually you're forced to the PCIe bus, especially as you approach 18-25 channels (FusionIO) and the SATA bus becomes a bottleneck.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mlts (1038732) *

        We might end up with two types of SSD, or even drives with both:

        MLC's descendant would be designed for space and shoveling as much data into a drive as possible. Because of this, it would require large amounts of error correction. Because MLC is sometimes less reliable than SLC, it will take more processing power to encode incoming data effectively and safely.

        SLC's descendant would be designed for speed.

        As time goes on, operating systems will get intelligent enough to figure out what parts of a volume are

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by QuantumRiff (120817)

          Several SAN vendors do similar things right now.. either manually or some automatically, moving older, less frequently used data from fast SCSI and Fiber Channel drives to slower SATA drives.. last I looked, they were looking to add SSD's to the mix as well, either replacing SCSI, or as a very top tier.

    • by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:37PM (#33037194)
      I agree, fitting more chips in a box seems like a good idea. With hard disks, you can add another platter for more space, or make the diameter bigger. Why not do the same for SSDs? They try to make them the same size as standard hard drives so you can easily switch them in existing computers, but if you're building a new one, it shouldn't be much of a bother to fit a physically bigger drive inside your case. There's no reason to assume that the NAND always has to get smaller, is there?
      • by vlm (69642)

        With hard disks, you can add another platter for more space, or make the diameter bigger.

        More platters = manufacturing costs that scale will above linear for obvious mechanical alignment problems. You can drop back to linear scaling obviously by purchasing multiple drives and raiding them. But not so obviously there are serious controller cost and power supply cost limits, pushing you over linear yet again.

        As for diameter, that kills power consumption, boot up inrush current draw, various gyroscopic effect problems resulting in expensive platters and bearings, and obviously seek time is kille

      • if you're building a new one, it shouldn't be much of a bother to fit a physically bigger drive inside your case.

        Unless I'm building a laptop, or an all-in-one, or a slim PC to put next to the TV, etc. Not every PC is a traditional tower.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MiniMike (234881)

        A quick calculation, comparing the volume of the highest capacity flash memory I could easily find (16 Gb microSDHC) vs the volume of the highest capacity hard drive (2 TB) shows that the microSDHC has a Gb/volume ratio 18 times higher than the hard drive. Of course you couldn't just pack a case with a few hundred microSDHC chips and have it work, but even assuming half the space could be filled with flash memory, leaving space for controller card, data/power connections, cooling, etc. you would still have

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      Storage Space isn't always the limiting factor...

      Storage Size has been growing faster then our ability to fill it.

      I Remember back in them good old days where I filled up Hard Drives quite easily. My old 80 Meg drive when it was new, could be filled up rather quickly.

      Now that we have terabytes drives it is getting less of a factor to fill it up. Combined with the fact that network speeds are getting faster our need for storage is being limited. Sure RMS Followers thing that Cloud SaaS solutions will doom

    • Obvious, I know, but can't they just make the chips cheaper then use more of them?

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Or we reach good enough.
      How much storage do we really need on device?
      First of all flash has replaced Hard Drives below a certain size. I doubt that you can find a sub 50 GB hard drive these days. If you do they are pretty rare and the price per gigabyte will be really high.
      A lot of people don't need a lot more than 32 GBs of storage.
      If you are storing video 32 GBs is a huge amount of storage.
      When and if cloud storage and mobile broadband connections get cheap enough, reliable enough and with universal cove

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HereIAmJH (1319621)

        Or we reach good enough.
        How much storage do we really need on device?

        I agree with your overall premise, but I have to disagree with one of your points.

        If you are storing video 32 GBs is a huge amount of storage.

        1 hour of analog TV on Tivo's medium quality setting is 1.2g. An average DVD (not HD) movie runs about 5.5g. Throw in OS, software, and miscellaneous other things and 32g can be pretty small when video storage is required.

        But on that same note, do we really need every device to have the capacity of

    • I think that they would do better to just combine it with platter technology, for the obvious reason, but also because SSDs and flash storage were never, ever meant for mass storage.

      Mass storage is a drive, disk, or tape, which by itself contains only the data plus a little logic for overhead--head seeks, reads, and writes. However, flash memory is logic-intensive; every single bit of storage is part of a circuit. That's never going to scale to the same degree. With HDDs, you, what, make the controls a l

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mlts (1038732) *

        What I see happening is the HSM idea brought back, but done by a drive's firmware.

        The first level would be either fast DRAM and used purely as a cache.

        The second level would be SLC flash with TRIM done in hardware so the translation table doesn't get full over time, or the drive has 2-3 times as much flash so it can move data to another space, zero out the old space and have a translation table ready to go. This is where a VM swap file would live, as well as /boot or the kernel.

        The third level would be MLC

    • by sconeu (64226)

      3D lithography?

    • yea, just make a bigger sized drive. I don't mind as long as it fits in my case somehow!
  • by strangeattraction (1058568) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:22PM (#33036976)
    Was plenty for my needs and boots Ubuntu in 20 seconds. Barely uses power when not in use. I'm a believer.
  • Lets wait and see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:24PM (#33036988)

    While the reasoning is interesting, and valid for all I know, why are we trying to say some bit of technology isn't going to work out ever? What's the point? Either it won't work out and that will be something the market will handle independent of whether you foresaw it or not, or a solution will be found and you'll just be wrong.

    I'm reminded of an Arthur C. Clarke quote: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

    • by LionKimbro (200000) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:46PM (#33037298) Homepage

      Yes, but have you forgotten Isaac Asimov's corollary?

      "When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion -- the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Radtoo (1646729)
      Quote: "Disk drives are going to get denser. Just as perpendicular recording was developed in the early part of the last decade and a growth spurt followed, some new technology such as heat-assisted recording will come along and do the same thing again.The need for more and more data storage at a low cost is not going away [...]".

      So its future technology that will enable this to happen - but on HDD, because they are currently cheaper. How can that be valid reasoning?
  • Correct. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by esrobinson (1028500) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:29PM (#33037068)

    The bottom line is that there are limits to how small things can get with current technology.

    They're right, SSDs won't replace hard drives with the current technology. If only we had a way to improve technology over time!

    • If only we had a way to improve technology over time!

      Compare not next year's SSDs to today's HDDs; instead compare next year's SSDs to next year's HDDs. If both SSDs and HDDs improve at the same rate over time, HDDs will keep their lead compared to SSDs for any application that isn't handheld, vibration-sensitive, or seek-heavy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nyctopterus (717502)

        The thing is, general computing seems to be seek-heavy. My HD is by far the worst performing component of my system, always laggy and grinding, unresponsive when busy. The memory sits their with huge chunks unused and processor idle. Storage needs to improve speed drastically, and SSDs give us that now, and seem to have more headroom in the future.

  • Sure, they won't "replace" them because when it comes to raw storage magnetic media is king, but things are going portable and reliable. No one wants to have moving parts in something like a phone. But really how many people actually fill up their current HDD? I know, theres some people out there with 1 TB worth of pictures, movies, music, etc. there are other people there who have the entire PS1 library on their HDD just to say they can, but on the whole how much HDD is actually -used-? On an 80 GB partiti
    • I'm a moderate gamer, I work and do other stuff so I only play about 10-15 hours a week, and my Steam cache alone is 146GB, almost the size of my last hard drive. I don't even have all my games downloaded, and I have a fair few not on Steam as well.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      > When it comes down to it, speed it much more important than having 2 TB of stuff on there

      Speed actually means NOTHING here. The marginal speed gain from SSD simply isn't worthwhile to most people.

      At best, it might be useful when copying from one really-big-drive to another really-big-drive. Your desktop system is disk bound, someone (probably Microsoft) is doing something terribly wrong.

      Although improved reliability has some value. Although most people won't care. OTOH, you can get increased reliabilit

  • Expanding drives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:32PM (#33037116)
    How far does the storage capacity really need to expand? Hard drives are in the terabyte range now, but not many people really use that much. On media servers or something, maybe, but on your average computer? I've got 50GB in my laptop once you account for my windows partition, and I'm fine with that. A 320GB SSD would last me a lifetime, especially considering the btrfs is supposed to support on-the-fly compression.
    Like I said, the only place where I can see the large capacities being needed is behind the scenes on a server or similar device, in which case hard disks aren't much of a problem. On consumer computers, I'm pretty sure they're going to catch on.
    • by Nethead (1563) <joe@nethead.com> on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:49PM (#33037342) Homepage Journal

      You sound like me when I got my first 250MB drive. Shit! This will last me forever!

      And it would have if I had kept running DOS.

      • by vadim_t (324782)

        But as technology advances, more and more uses reach the point where further improvements don't add anything.

        Back when people were using a 386 with 4MB RAM, computer specs mattered even to the average person. The average joe could find that something basic like word processing could run slowly or not at all, and things like having a math coprocessor mattered for office tasks.

        These days if somebody asks you what kind of computer you recommend for email and word processing you can tell them that it pretty muc

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Back then I didn't have much trouble imagining things the PC couldn't do. I remember when it was an achievement for a PC to be able to play an MP3. Today my PC manages to play back full HD movies, where exactly could it go from there? The most space consuming thing I produce - unlike anything I can download off a torrent - is the videos I make, like when me and a friend went mountain hiking earlier this summer. Even that in 1080p60 (28 Mbit H.264) is only about 32GB per 2.5 hours. And since I try not to bor

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rjejr (921275)
      One word - Flip. More than 1 word - notice all those mini-camcorders everywhere? My parents had a 30 gig HDD which I thought they would never fill up, and then they bought a Sony something or other. Turned out they also had over 6 gig of photos, but I think it still would have taken years to fill up the rest with digital stills. But those video cameras have to offload somewhere. I also thought my 80 gig laptop would last till it didn't but my Flip Ultra HD takes up 8 gigs a pop, and with 2 boys playing soc
    • by 0123456 (636235)

      How far does the storage capacity really need to expand? Hard drives are in the terabyte range now, but not many people really use that much.

      I have 500GB of games from Steam alone, and some of the recent games I've bought there took up 15+GB.

      No matter how much disk space you have, someone will find a way to fill it up. The new low-end Red camera, if it's ever released, is supposed to record gigabytes per minute, for example.

    • Obviously you don't have a camcorder and kids. Want to take pictures of their birthday? Snap of a bunch of pics, record them blowing out the cake, dad making burgers on the grill, mom doing dishes, kids jumping in the pool etc etc etc... all in 1080p... that'll eat up HD space in no time.

    • How far does the storage capacity really need to expand? Hard drives are in the terabyte range now, but not many people really use that much. On media servers or something, maybe, but on your average computer? I've got 50GB in my laptop once you account for my windows partition, and I'm fine with that.

      Sure, 50GB may do for you, but you're boring. If you were a photographer, graphic artist, or musician, owned a camcorder, had a music or video collection in current formats, downloaded porn, had to do powerpoi

      • Re:Expanding drives (Score:4, Interesting)

        by epine (68316) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:03PM (#33039520)

        Sure, 50GB may do for you, but you're boring.

        The most interesting man I never met lived in a small house near the beach, had newspapers and old chairs and magazines piled to the ceiling in every room. Must have had a thousand cubic feet of Life Magazine. A most exciting fellow. What the man could have done with a proper warehouse, who knows?

        What will finally put Seagate out of business is the universal porn compressor: an algorithm to produce almost any image with a pornographic payload (validated through fMRI studies). Finally we can eliminate women from sex. It'll be great.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BitZtream (692029)

          Something tells me by your post that you don't really need to worry about eliminating women from your sex life, I'm pretty sure they do that naturally do to instinct when you get too close.

          Creepy is just as effective at eliminating women from your sex life as anything science can produce.

  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:32PM (#33037124)
    "Science reporting organizations have been expanding dramatically in recent years, but this article says that's about to change, in part because of the limits of current literacy education. Meanwhile, tabloid reporting will continue to grow, which the author says will mean many years before solid science reporting replaces sensationalism -- if they ever do. From the article: 'The bottom line is that there are limits to how smart things can get with current society. Universities are going to have student density growth problems, just as other societies have had over the last 30 years. This should surprise no one. And the literacy problem for journalism doesn't end there. Buff Clayton, Editor in chief for The Onion at Delaware, notes that as literacy gets smaller, science reporting has more and more troubles -- the bullshit PR releases don't decrease, so the probability of causing accidental sensationalism goes up. "So at some point, you just can't reduce the literacy and hope to not have reader confusion," notes Clayton.'"
  • Not just density (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FranTaylor (164577) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:36PM (#33037184)

    It's economic feasability, too. Rotating media is roughly $100/terabyte, it's gonna take more than one breakthrough for SSD to come close to that.

    Nifty new technology doesn't get bought because it's nifty-new, it gets bought because it fills the need better than its predecessor for the price.

    And YES there are plenty of applications where multiple terabytes are necessary, maybe not on your home system.

    In case you're wondering, I have both on my system: / is SSD, /home is multi-terabyte RAID. Rotating mechanical media is sticking around at least for now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pwnies (1034518)
      The same was said of hard disks and tape about a decade ago. People cried out that disks would never approach the storage capabilities of LTO, and that disks were only good for small amounts of storage at relatively high performance. Lo and behold though, the desktop market drove HDD purchases far beyond LTO, which meant more money was poured into research in that area. History repeats itself. I have a feeling that we'll see the marketing powers that be pushing SSD drives as the latest and greatest, which m
      • by Burdell (228580)

        the desktop market drove HDD purchases far beyond LTO

        Really? Where can I buy a 1.4TB hard drive that can read/write at 140MB/s for under $100? Yes, you can hot-swap hard drives; what's the rated insert/remove life of the connector (on the drive and whatever you are connecting it to)? What about the temperature, humidity, and shock rating? How about the storage shelf life and error rate?

        Desktop hard drives have slightly passed LTO in terms of capacity, but that's the only area. That's not really all that new, either; a single current-generation tape hasn'

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rockoon (1252108)

          Really? Where can I buy a 1.4TB hard drive that can read/write at 140MB/s for under $100?

          You are asking the wrong question.

          Instead, how about "Summing up all of the worlds digital data, is more stored on platters, or tape?"

          Or maybe, "In 2010-converted dollars, how much money has been spent on platters vs tape?"

          Or how about "Will Google ever use tape?"

      • "about a decade ago."

        I'm not talking about decades. I'm talking about today, tomorrow, next week, next year.

        Maybe you missed the part where I said "for now".

    • This is what annoys me is that it seems like Flash is idea as a cache for magnetic HDDs. The same principle is already at work in our CPUs:

      So a modern CPU is way faster than modern RAM. The access times are much lower. How then, can we have a system not hamstrung by RAM? The answer is cache. With a good system of high speed L1/L2 (and sometimes L3 cache) we can have our cake and eat it too. You have a few megabytes of expensive high clock SRAM right on the core. You have a few gigabytes of cheap DRAM clocke

  • by by (1706743) (1706744) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:41PM (#33037240)
    How many of these [google.com] could you fit in the space of a standard HD case?

    I know, someone's gonna lecture me on how this isn't at all a fair comparison...
  • by Shoeler (180797) * on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:41PM (#33037242)
    Correct me if I'm wrong here - and I usually am wrong - but aren't we "limited" now only by controllers and the *price* of the NAND chips? I've read anandtech's last few SSD manifestos and it seems the controllers' speeds and the price of the NAND - not really anything else - is limiting their absolute capacity. I recall engadget doing several reviews of SATA and PCI-E SSDs with capacities up to 1TB. Granted the 1TB Z-drive was between $1,500 to $2,000 back in March of 2009, but you get the idea. We can make a very large SSD today. It's just not affordable.

    To wit, who honestly has a larger than 1TB disk inside their machine right now? I'd imagine not terribly many, as a percentage of all computer owners. Indeed at home I have twin 700-ish GB Caviar Blacks in a RAID 1 configuration, of which I'm using maybe 30% of their capacity.

    TFA doesn't actually make any arguments about price directly. It indirectly suggests price of the drives is related to lithography resolution, but provides nothing to back that up.

    It seems to me that over time as yields on current technology increase and fab costs are recouped, the price of current technology will go down.

    So if we can make a 1TB disk today, it'll be the same 1TB disk in a year or two, except less expensive, probably faster, and probably more reliable.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday July 26, 2010 @06:23PM (#33037588) Homepage

      Correct me if I'm wrong here - and I usually am wrong -

      I'm usually right... but that statement might be one of the exceptions. :)

      TFA doesn't actually make any arguments about price directly. It indirectly suggests price of the drives is related to lithography resolution, but provides nothing to back that up.

      It seems to me that over time as yields on current technology increase and fab costs are recouped, the price of current technology will go down.

      It's a basic maxim of the silicon industry that cost is directly proportional to die area. To simplify, you can consider the silicon fab to have a fixed cost per wafer. Therefore the more die fit on a wafer, the cheaper each chip becomes. The two main ways to do this are by reducing the amount of functionality on each chip (undesirable when the goal is to increase capacity), or to move to a smaller lithography so you can fit many more die on a wafer. While new lithography generations have frequently allowed greater performance, even if they don't they are deployed anyway because it reduces cost for the manufacturer.

      Yield improvements and paying off R&D both will help cost, but only to a limited extent. Yields for a production lithography should already be quite high and will asymptotically approach 1. Once R&D is payed off the cost will drop, but there still remains a very large fixed cost per wafer. Neither is going to come close to the cost benefit of being able to, say, go from a 45nm to 32nm process and get roughly 40% more die per wafer.

      So yeah price will come down for other reasons, but in the long term price reductions in flash memory devices are going to depend on using smaller lithographies just like it does for other semiconductor devices. The author probably just didn't think to explain this aspect of it, since it's such a well-known aspect of the silicon industry.

      On the other hand, people were saying that CMOS processes used in CPUs were going to reach fundamental limits 20 years ago. And 15. And 10. And 5. And oh sure, some of those limits were reached, but then clever people worked around them. The statement in the article amounts to "We can't just blindly reduce lithography size without changing anything else indefinitely", which is true but also kinda pointless since the people working on smaller lithographies for flash are probably aware. In the end exponential progressions like this can't last for ever, but I'm not about to tell the process engineers that they aren't going to be able to find enough tricks to keep it going long enough.

  • I agree, but I feel like with enough time, the technology to enhance SSDs would be visible. I know that as of right now, if you increase the storage space AND the single-file-size limit, you are going to run into voltage and data corruption issues... but I think disk based drives are possible to be replaced by this technology. It won't be a fast transfer though, but I don't believe in being "exact" by saying that it will never happen, because with technology, you never know.
  • by buddyglass (925859) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:44PM (#33037270)

    Some context would be nice. It may be that SSDs end up replacing conventional hard drives on, say, all laptops. Or all personal desktops that don't also double as servers. Or we may see a two-tier situation develop where SSDs are used for day-to-day operations in the enterprise and hard drives used for storing backups, or storing infrequently accessed archival data.

  • I predict (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ceraphis (1611217) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:46PM (#33037296)
    As HDDs continue to fail before their expected lifetimes due to sensitivity to movement and the general worse state of moving parts vs unmoving parts, people may start to flock towards SSDs as replacements, especially as people start to notice the many benefits of SSDs over HDDs. They'd have to realize though that extraordinary wear could shorten the length of an average MLC and that SSDs even on normal usage are not meant to last forever, but with the improvement to wear leveling this may be less of a problem in the future.
  • SD cards go up to 32GB. They're only 2.1mm thick. Just piling them up you could fit 200 or so in the volume of a typical hard disk, and it's not like an SD card is the most space efficient means of storage since a lot of the volume is taken up with the plastic case. Micro-SD can go to a quarter of the capacity in a tenth of the size. So we can squeeze at least 16TB into the same volume. That's probably adequate for a typical home user. The price is the issue here.
    • by sznupi (719324)

      MicroSD also goes to 32 GB.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Seek time? You're also forgetting the controller electronics too.

      if you think 16TB is enough for the average home user you either severely overestimate or underestimate homeusers.

      i don't know which, actually.

  • They always say this, and we always find something.
    Check out this article about hard drive density i just found from 2001:
    http://www.post-gazette.com/healthscience/20011029disk1029p2.asp [post-gazette.com]

    "...within two or three years, advances in storage capacity will begin to taper off, he predicted."

    Drives were about $300 for 80GB back then... Last weekend i bought a 2TB drive for $125.

    Yeah, we will always find something. These articles about "zomg technology is going to END!" need to stop.
    -Taylor

  • by Karganeth (1017580) on Monday July 26, 2010 @05:55PM (#33037436)
    http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/breakthrough_nand_flash_memory_could_lead_10gbs_ssd_writes [maximumpc.com] We have had a breakthrough in solving the voltage problem. I think the authoer is nothing but idiotic to believe that SSD isn't going to replace hdds for the average consumer. Later this year intel is going to release its G3 SSDs, with the lArgest at 600GB. G2 drives were 60% cheaper than G1 drives. Let's hope we see a similar drop.
  • I think maybe this writer totally missed the point of SSDs. SSDs are not about space but are about speed. If you've ever had a chance to use a high performance SSD, the experience is awesome. Everything loads and unloads smoothly. You have none of the delays related to standard hard drives that do affect your experience with an operating system. Also in a laptop SSDs bring silence and a physical reliability that you just can't get in a standard hard drive. I suspect SSDs will fill their own space in t
    • by rickb928 (945187)

      "I suspect SSDs will fill their own space in the market with mechanical HDs being reduced to storage or backup drives."

      What else do hard drives do, again? Did you mean 'reduced to purposes where either capacity or lengevity are more important than speed or silence'?

      You'll have to be more specific. Virtually every hard drive I've ever owned have been used for either storage or backup. Holding the OS is also a storage purpose, but you can figure that many drives need to hold an OS to be part of a useful sy

  • As I can attest to while I read it on my CRT monitor.

  • Right now, my gaming PC's slowest point is the hard drive, and this is one of the newest hard drives on the market. The Windows 7 spec is 5.9, which is the fastest that a hard drive can reach from what I've read, and I can easily get 60-70 MB/sec throughput from it (continuous, not burst). But quite frankly unless SSD can reach the price/GB ratio that make it comparable to hard drives, my time really isn't valuable enough to warrant paying for the much, much higher price/GB ratio of SSD. Maybe in another
  • Hello? IBM? Anyone?

  • As network bandwidth continues to grow, mass storage in central servers or clouds becomes more feasible. A netbook with even 8-16GB of SSD space not only gets more life out of its battery; it can also take more of a beating and access its data faster.

    Different media fulfill different purposes: SSD is more expensive and less dense, but it's also faster - that's how the pyramid of storage media is arranged.

  • Flash based SSDs won't be able to out compete conventional hard drives at large storage, but what about others? HP is working on memristor based storage, devices which need to be nanoscale to function.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memristor [wikipedia.org]

  • Flash is so 2000s (Score:3, Informative)

    by georgewilliamherbert (211790) on Monday July 26, 2010 @10:02PM (#33039512)

    The hot new solid state non-volatile memory technologies are phase-change memory (PRAM), memristors, ferroelectric RAM, resistive RAM.

    Some of these technologies are much more area-efficient than Flash, and will stack in pseudo-3D chips reasonably well (memristors in particular should stack in full 3-D arrays very efficiently...).

    The general observation that disks have the lead right now is true, but the other technologies close a lot of the gap, and the growth curves look very similar after that. Who knows if it ever gets cheap enough to completely replace disks in our lifetimes, but there is hope of seeing that.

    That does entirely change the game on system architecture. Disks are slow and far away from the CPU. Solid state memory can be as close or nearly as close as DRAM, and if it doesn't require a lot of handholding on lifecycle management (wear rates etc - Flash is horrible here) then can be used and managed as a simple byte or block array rather than the whole "filesystem" crap we now use. We still may want POSIX like abstractions for parts of storage management, but life is so much easier if the back end store is just a block array we read/write than if it's really a spinning disk, behind a cache, behind a controller, behind a SATA/SAS bus, behind a controller, behind a PCI bus, behind a southbridge, ....

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