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Data Storage Hardware

Samsung's Solid-State Disk Drive Unveiled 241

Iddo Genuth writes "After unveiling their upcoming hybrid hard drive, Samsung — along with a number of other manufacturers — is planning to begin shipping solid-state drives during 2007. Unlike the upcoming hybrids, solid-state drives should work with windows XP as well as Vista." The drives will be introduced in 1.8- and 2.5-inch form factors for notebooks. While streaming performance can't equal that of hard disks, Samsung claims that random-access performance is more important and that (e.g.) Vista users would see a 4x speedup in many key operations. Pricing was not announced.
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Samsung's Solid-State Disk Drive Unveiled

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  • Not on XP? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bkg_cjb ( 952573 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:14PM (#17238022) Homepage
    Could someone tell me why one type of drive wouldn't work with a specific version of Windows? Shouldn't they be able to write drivers for that?
  • by rmdyer ( 267137 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:20PM (#17238124)
    Doesn't flash memory have a maximum lifetime (R/W cycles)? If so, are these new drives designed to "degrade" gracefully so that as the flash "rots", more and more data is stored to the drive instead of the memory? If so, this would mean that the drives would "slow down" over time right?
  • Solid State = Sexy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Giant Ape Skeleton ( 638834 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:21PM (#17238146) Homepage
    The greatest immediate benefit from the transition to solid state storage will, of course, be reduced power consumption.

    Coupled will fuel cell technology, mobile computing is finally going to live up to its potential.

    And I love this William Gibson quote from 1991:

    It wasn't until I could finally afford a computer of my own that I found out there's a drive mechanism inside- this little thing that spins around. I'd been expecting an exotic crystalline thing, a cyberspace deck or something, and what I got was a little piece of a Victorian engine that made noises like a scratchy old record player. That noise took away some of the mystique for me; it made computers less sexy. My ignorance had allowed me to romanticize them.
  • Re:SuperFetch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mystik ( 38627 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:45PM (#17238636) Homepage Journal

    If it's done right, then it'll be handy. IIRC, linux uses free pages of memory for disk cache, and if an application needs more pages, it just invalidates the disk cache pages, and allocates them to the app.

    If Windows caches applications into free memory pages during disk idle times, it'd probably make a huge difference, so long as it doesn't take memory away from the currently actively running applications.

  • by Bright Apollo ( 988736 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:45PM (#17238642) Journal
    This is one of those interim solutions for early adopters who have more disposable income than capacity for delayed gratification.

    Here's an "Ask Slashdot" moment though: why do the heads need to move at all? Why isn't WD or Samsung or Hitachi building a long, length-of-radius head over each platter? Then the only motor needed is for the platter, and the head is merely a fixed unit? This would probably reduce most HDD crashes too, since the arm would no longer traverse the drive plane.

    I dunno, there's better ways to describe what I mean but I know there's something good in the creamy center of that idea.


  • Re:SuperFetch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mkiwi ( 585287 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:45PM (#17238648)
    I saw this "SuperFetch" idea and it is a total rip off of NeXT's "prebinding" system. Often, when you install something on Mac OS X (since version 10.0), there is a little status message in the installer that says "Optimizing System Performance...". This command calls a program that sits in "/usr/bin" that loads memory addresses of each program in a cache for faster launch times. After prebinding, applications load faster at startup.

    There is also a daemon on Mac OS X that dynamically prebinds applications that have not been prebound. One condition of prebinding is that all the Libraries must be dynamically linked and prebound themselves. If one dependant library is not prebound, then the whole thing gets marked as something "not to prebind."

    To see the actual programs on Mac OS X, do a
    ls /usr/bin | grep prebinding

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:52PM (#17238818) Journal
    I've always wondered about this. Most modern flash seems to get 100k writes (many more reads). Fast flash is on the order of 13MB/s write.

    With load balancing, you wouldn't notice a failure until all the locations were rewritten just shy of 100,000 times. So the drive will "fail" in once you've written 40GB of data 99,999 times, or almost 4PB of write ops. At 13MB/s, that's just under 10 years of 100% duty cycle writes. If you presume you'll read that data once at 20MB/s, and you allow only an 82% duty cycle overall (to make the math easy), then your drive should last 20 years.

    I don't know about you, but I don't have any 20 year old computers or drives. The computer I had 20 years ago (PS/2 model 30, iirc) used 720k floppies, and a 20MB hard drive was a $400 option. Wait, check that. I do have a copy of Windows 1.04 on floppy disk here. It fits on three 720k floppies.
  • by thebdj ( 768618 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:01PM (#17239028) Journal
    Let's look at the application, notebooks. There are quite a few pros for solid-state drives here: 1) HDDs are loud, 2) HDDs are hot (especially as you increase RPM), 3) HDDs are sensitive to motion, 4) HDDs require more power, 5) HDDs are marginally heavier (I mean the things are pretty small already). So the advantages here are pretty obvious, quieter, cooler, longer battery life, and marginally lighter notebooks.

    Now, it is only fair we look at the downside, which is this overplayed write issue. Let us assume 10,000,000 writes (this is very generous, so I include 1,000,000 as well), since they will surely be using the best they can get, and this is pretty close to the high end that you will hear people discuss. You rarely re-write a vast majority of the software on your PC. Many programs are installed and never updated, and those that are updated are not done that often. If we assume, for the sake of sanity and argument, that the Windows system folder will only be written during Windows updates and that there would be one update per day that would be equal to something in the range of 27,000 days before you reached 10 million writes (only 2,700 if we say 1,000,000 writes). Most of your media files will be re-written even less.

    So let us look at two things that can be written fairly often. First, you have a page file. The solution, load up your system with 1 to 2 GB of RAM and set the Windows page memory settings to the minimum. Of course, if Windows behaved properly, it wouldn't even write to the page file until AFTER the RAM was full (or damn near full). Second, user documents. Let's us assume your program performs auto-saves of your documents on a 5 minute cycle. So, the file is written one time every five minutes, 12 times an hour, 288 times a day (if you type for 24 hours of course), 105120 times a year (wow, I recommend some sleep and bathroom breaks), which ultimately results in 95 years (wow, congratulations on long life) of the file. Granted if we go with one million that is 9.5 years of continuous typing, but then you probably don't have much of a life if you are doing that.

    This re-write claim is the most over-stated problem. Most places tell you the average life of today's HDD (for home use) is between 3 to 5 years, of course that is why they also tend to only warranty you for that long. Also, using my numbers, how many 9.5 year old drives are you using at home? Seriously, this problem is not that big of a deal; if it was going to be a huge problem, I am sure they would have though about that. (Note: This doesn't even get into the technology they use to spread the writes out to avoid wear.)
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt.nerdflat@com> on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:11PM (#17239202) Journal
    The problem isn't so much system folders as much as it is swap space, virtual memory, and temporary files.
    if Windows behaved properly, it wouldn't even write to the page file until AFTER the RAM was full

    *IF* Windows behaved properly.

    It doesn't. It won't. No amount of wishing will make it so.

  • by TheJorge ( 713680 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:31PM (#17239570)

    While I wouldn't doubt we see more devices in the upcoming years, hard disks definitely have a place, at least on home computers. I imagine it's rare that anyone with a full 100GB+ HDD has only programs and application data. Giant media files are commonplace, and reading/writing large files is the primary drawback of SSD, and something platter hard drives do very well and very cheaply.

    I think what we'll probably see is computers starting to come standard with an "applications" ssd and a "media" hdd.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:35PM (#17239656) Homepage
    The usual way they construct it is like this:
    1. Fill your drive 95%
    2. Trash the remaining 5%. Your disk will now die in 1/20th of the time, that is a matter of months

    IMO even that theoretical problem could be solved by active swapping, that is using some of your write cycles to move information internally. If you spent 100 of your 100k cycles doing that noone would notice. So when you're trying to trash those 5%, those 5% would swap places with the other 95%, even though there's no free space. For all I know maybe they do already, but if it was a problem that is the solution (this was sooo obvious. I bet it's patented).
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:59PM (#17240072) Homepage Journal
    I use windows xp on a dell laptop and desktop ... post is 3 seconds, 8 more seconds to reach the xp login. The desktop is a little faster.

  • by Mr. Hankey ( 95668 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:00PM (#17240096) Homepage
    I've seen this problem happen in practice, with a development embedded system that booted off two flash cards. It ended up lasting 6 to 8 months or so before we needed to put in another flash card (it used CF cards, one 32mb which took all required R/W operations and one 1GB which was RO) and we took images for when the CF cards died. There was no swap, no journaling, and temp files were moved to a ramdisk where possible, but some files needed to be modified during development and the CF cards didn't last. Actually, some files were not readable after the flash failure. Perhaps this was due to an inconsistent filesystem state.
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:10PM (#17243004)

    Wouldn't a better focus be on battery backed up RAM drives instead?

    For servers and desktop, maybe... But for laptops it is impractical given the restrictions of keeping it powered.

    Seems to me that you could do RAM+flash; have it work as a RAM drive when "powered on", but then when powered off (either with the whole system, or by power management powering the drive down due to inactivity) it dumps the RAM to the flash, and restores the RAM from flash when powering up. You get better performance, and save read/write cycles on the flash (of course, it'll be much more expensive than a flash drive, too.)

    You might ask "why not just get more system RAM", and of course, that's a viable approach. OTOH, this way you might save money for the amount of fairly-fast storage by getting RAM that's not as fast as you'd want for system RAM, but still faster than reading from a traditional harddrive or flash. Of course, given the size of RAM modules, it won't be good for the "main" drive except in specialized applications, but it might be useful for special-purpose drives where access speed is critical.

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