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Seagate to Offer Solid State Drives in 2008 324

Lucas123 writes "Seagate will introduce drives based on flash memory in various storage capacities across its range of products including desktop and notebook PCs, according to Sumner Lemon at IDG News Service. The drives are expected to consume less power (longer battery life), offer faster data transfer rates and be more rugged than spinning disk, which has moving parts that can be damaged from an impact."
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Seagate to Offer Solid State Drives in 2008

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  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @08:11PM (#20337945)
    is projected out in the future? Normal hard drive capacity growth has certainly seemed to level off lately and perhaps is stagnating (so it seems to me). Yes, flash has grown astronomically the past few years, but is it sustainable to the point of meeting and exceeding conventional drives?

    If we had the rate of growth in conventional drives that we had a few years back, we would almost certainly be looking at multi-TB drives right now.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sayfawa ( 1099071 )
      I suspect that the levelling off of consumer drives is due to there being not enough demand by average consumers. I myself am a bit of a file hog, but a 500GB drive would still hold all my dvd rips and music. Now I'm sure that's average or less for folks around here, but I bet most people are satisfied with the wimpy 80-160GB drives that come with their computer.

      On the other hand, flash storage is at that point where it's almost enough for a lot of people but not quite, so the companies are probably workin
    • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @08:29PM (#20338159)
      I'm not sure flash drives need to meet and exceed conventional drives in capacity (maybe that's why conventional drives have slowed in growth)? I like to use virtual machines for development, but never had the right medium to work on them, exchange them between developers, etc. They're just to big to swap easily by network, external hard drives are too big and fragile, etc. But now I see 16 GB [] usb flash drives are available, and only $130 to boot! I'm going to try installing a VM on one and buy a few more if it works well. 16 GB is PLENTY for installing a linux development environment, and I think for XP, too. Vista, I don't know.
      • Indeed, you are correct there.

        I would be happy with a "mere" 60-100GB flash drive for my notebook and have a Firewire Conventional drive to back things on.

        But still, more space is more space. I'm sure in the future it could be used - 3d movies perhaps? Who knows.

        In terms of conventional files, drives are big enough for almost any conventional file type - pictures, music, movies even (almost - I'd say 10TB on that). But the hunger will always be there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Emetophobe ( 878584 )
      You are correct, flash memory capacity is growing faster than hard drive capacity. My guess is that this is due to the fact that flash technology is still relatively new where as hard drives have been around since the 50s. Hard drive technology is "old tech" where as flash memory (specifically NAND flash) has just recently come into the spotlight.

      I did some quick google searching and found articles dated 2005 announcing that flash storage had reached the 2GB mark and hard drives had reached the 500GB mark.
  • by EEPROMS ( 889169 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @08:13PM (#20337965)
    The headache now is that most file systems are optimised for mechanical based storage media so wont this also mean we will have to look at changing to new file systems ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by osu-neko ( 2604 )

      No. Why would it? If you're using a RAM-based medium, any block is read with essentially identical speed. So if you're using a mechanism that's optimized for mechanical storage, or using one that just allocates blocks sequentially, or one that allocates them completely randomly, or one that tries as hard as possible to *slow down* reads from hard disks, it all makes no difference. From a RAM-based system, they'll all work equally well.

    • It can get trickier. The arrangement of chips varies by size and vendor. The controller used and how the chips are connected affect this too. There is a very friendly computer shop that lets me try everything and return if it doesn't work as advertised. I picked up two 2G sticks for about EUR 10,-- each that use a Psion controller and are arranged in 16k blocks. (A four GB stick, with the same Taiwan brand, at EUR 39,-- turned out to be very slow. You have to test them. Except for quick tweaks, its not wise to make excessive writes. It must (in this case) write 16k no matter how small the file. (symlinks are hell) I simply allocate the same space on a HD and do 'dd if=/dev/sdN... of=/dev/da1s2a bs=16k' and that will run 396M in about 22s on BSD and surprisingly much faster with Linux. I use them as boot loaders with the kernel and userland. I slice them because ext2fs has different requirements. Reading is not normally a problem with current sticks. That block size parameter is quite important. I get 30MB/s on BSD (ufs2) and a surprising 90MB/s on Linux. (ext2fs). This is _much_ faster than the claimed rates for msdosfs/ntfs they advertise. (12MB/s write, something I've never seen msdosfs/ntfs do.) Bottom line is I can have upto a dozen or more systems on two sticks.

      The lower cost units tend to be better, perhaps only because they are smaller or compliant to my filesystems. It may be worth noting I colour code the usb sockets to avoid mistakes. It is really easy to mess up, so always having a copy on a real hd is very comforting. Since the sticks are ROM and written once per development cycle, they will never wear out electricly. (The USB sockets will go much faster.) I think we all know what happens if you use dos. This is my experience and these things are developing rapidly. They are as fast as ordinary SCSI drives (they are SCSI drives) and indeed somewhat more stable. Expect a hot product from Seagate. :)

  • Noise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ddoctor ( 977173 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @08:23PM (#20338081)
    Nobody mentioned the noise! SSD's are silent.

    I can't wait for ssd's. Every hard drive I've owned has been noisy and they drive me nuts.

    As for durability... hrmm... maybe in its current state, flash doesn't last that long. But, the potential has got to be better than a constantly-spinning platter of disks. I've never had a RAM stick, or flash card die on me, but I've lost many hard drives.

    Also, I think there may be greater potential for memory density. Spinning platters inevitably have wasted space, forming a cylinder in a rectangular prism.

    I'd be interested to see the effect of SSD's on prices of normal hard drives. Normal HDD prices have been plummetting rapidly over the last couple of years - I wonder if the lure of flash will push them down further.

    I think with capacity being so important, price/MB will be a big determining factor in getting flash into enterprise storage. I think the desktop, and (obviously) laptop markets will lap it up first.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )
      To me, the fans are the loud ones. I don't mind the HDD noises.
      • by shawb ( 16347 )
        If you think about it, the article mentions lower power usage as one of the benefits of solid state storage. Lower power usage means less heat, therefore less fans or lower RPMs on existing fans for adequate cooling.

        Fan noise is one of the largest sources of sound in most commercial computing applications. In silent computing applications such as sound recording, however, those have been reduced to the point where often times the hard drive is one of the larger components. I have heard of setups where
    • Unless you are exceptionally sensitive to noise, I really don't hear you. People think I'm nuts when I complain about machine noise and I just don't have a problem with any current notebook hard disk drive. I also don't have any problems with Seagate's fluid bearing desktop drives. I even have four of them in my HTPC and I just don't hear them.

      I really don't remember my last hard drive failure.
  • by Associate ( 317603 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @08:24PM (#20338095) Homepage
    Am I safe in assuming SATA transfer rates are sufficient to handle a SSD?
    Will it move choke points elsewhere on the system?
    I'd like to know what other practical benefits such would have other than lower power consumption and durability.
    • Am I safe in assuming SATA transfer rates are sufficient to handle a SSD?

      Yes. SSD transfer rates aren't spectacular. It's there random access times that are spectacular.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kjella ( 173770 )
      Am I safe in assuming SATA transfer rates are sufficient to handle a SSD?
      Will it move choke points elsewhere on the system?
      I'd like to know what other practical benefits such would have other than lower power consumption and durability.

      1. Yes, at least so far the fastest I've seen is 90MB/sec sustained read with a 150MB/s SATA interface and if that became a problem they could move to a SATA2 interface and get up to 300GB/sec (NB: Since flash don't have cache, there's no point in going to SATA2 unless the fl
  • Limit on writes... (Score:5, Informative)

    by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @08:27PM (#20338135)

    It's not all that bad. If I remember correctly, most flash memory can take 100,000-300,000.. according to wikipedia:

    "while high endurance Flash storage is often marketed with endurance of 1-5 million write cycles"

    I did a small research project (informational) on flash stuff recently for school, I believe solid state hard drives back in June or so were said to have about 2 million writes.

    2 million writes per sector. You can always move the information around, and algorithms are being written to do that.

    But, with all that, seems like hybrid drives would be the way to go right now.. after all, there's no limit on READING from solid state drives, just writing.

    • Just for starters...

      No need to defrag the drive - indeed, would me harmful (uses scarce 'write' cycles). Is a waste of time, since flash memory is written to in a 'random walk' pattern to spread the damage evenly. That's one the main reason it's so hard to 'undelete' stuff from flash mem.

      More careful OS management of swapping & caching.


      • by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Thursday August 23, 2007 @10:09PM (#20339037) Homepage Journal
        Given your comment... what does this do to data recovery, when one DOES fail?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bearhouse ( 1034238 )
          Good reply from AC, just to add to that.

          1. In my experience, flash memory can sometimes fail totally. This may be due to it being often removable, and accessed in rather non-robust ways, (USB ports, card readers). Hence (presumably) gets nuked by static etc. My attempts at recovering such 'dead' flash devices have not been great, so far. When it's dead, it's dead...even re-format does not work sometimes.
          Presumably, internal flash 'disk drive replacements' would be rather more robust.

          2. When flash drives
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @08:40PM (#20338253)
    I wonder to what extent current high capacity HDs owe their high power consumption to the needs of high performance (low access time and high bandwidth). But if a large flash cache (say 4-16 GB) buffers the HD, then the HD mechanism could be redesigned to a much lower spec. I'd bet that a ultraslow 300 RPM platter with a stepper-motor head (versus the 4200 to 7500 rpm platter + voice coil technology currently used) would provide adequate performance (and low power consumption) if flash handled the vast majority of accesses and high speed read-writes. The physical disk mechanism would only need to support a bandwidth of about 2-3 Mbytes/sec (for a sustained read of an HD video stream) and flash would provide the 80-150 MBytes/sec burst bandwidth to compete with current laptop drives. (Hardcore video editors wouldn't use this device, but then they wouldn't use most of the low-power laptops on the market anyway).
    • If they built a small amount of intelligence into the firmware, this would be extremely effective for boot and application start up speeds. That is, have the hard drive cache the most regularly requested pieces of data: the kernel, c libraries, browser executables and libraries, etc. Startups would be much faster due to faster speeds and lower latencies.
  • by Televiper2000 ( 1145415 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @08:54PM (#20338371)
    I did some poking around the net for information on NAND write cycles. They've already been quoted in the comments here (100,000 to 2,000,000) so I'm just going to post this neat white paper I found on Zeus drives that explains the endurance they get from their SSD Drive. 20resilience.pdf []
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Inda ( 580031 )
      Thanks for the very informative link.

      To summarise:

      8 million writes before failure. Failure occurs during write or erase. Stored data does not get corrupted.

      64gb would take 20 years to fill if the same byte was overwritten one million times.

      I hope the rest of the Slashdot ill-informed take note.
  • Solid state (Score:2, Funny)

    by iminplaya ( 723125 )
    How big would one of these things be if they were made using vacuum tubes?
  • As I understand it, solid state drives will have zero seek time (since their is no physical head that has to be moved). In contrast with a HDD you have a mechanical arm that has to whiz about all over the place, sometimes short distances, sometimes longer distances. As a result of this, lots of things are designed to minimize accessing data that's far apart on hard drives, particularly in applications like databases. It sounds like SSD drives with their zero seek times could simplify a lot of software and v
  • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @10:38PM (#20339281) Journal
    If we go back about 20 years, hard drives were for non-volatile fast-access storage, and tape drives were for backup, bulk data storage, archiving and sometimes data transfer (when there was too much for floppies.)

    Now that flash is reaching the point where we can contemplate using it for the primary non-volatile storage niche, we may see hard drives being displaced into the backup/bulk storage/archiving niches. If so, expect to see increasing emphasis on ways to hot-plug hard drives into your computer, and increasing emphasis on price/GB and decreasing emphasis on performance and possibly per-drive capacity.

    We'll really know we've reached this point when hard drives are used as a medium for delivering software.

  • Here and now (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikShapi ( 681808 ) on Thursday August 23, 2007 @11:01PM (#20339437) Journal
    Guys, hate to break it to you, but anyone who wants to be running on solid state, is.

    3 IDE-CF adapters cost me 8$ including shipment on ebay last week. My game box runs of a 16GB CF card (200$ - new - on ebay, available for months now) with vista (yes, vista on a 22MB/sec CF, though I've gotten it there via ghosting rather than via a regular install), and my living room PC runs XP off a 2GB CF card that cost about 25$ new (again, ebay price, store prices typically a tad higher).

    Yes, 20MB/sec is less than the 50-70MB/sec read speed an average harddrive gives, but that is offset by near-zero seek times.

    If under windows, make sure you turn off:
    * SWAP
    * ntfs Access time writes (fs tuning utility, one command from shell, or a reg key)

    And if you want to be even more thorough and flash-friendly:
    * 8_3 filename writes (in ntfs every file has two filenames one that is backwards-compatible to 8_3 naming. No need to waste CF writes on that)
    * Any software that routinely writes stuff to disk.

    If you're fanatic, do:
    * Event logger
    * Indexing

    If you want >16GB, you can buy several, then use LVM/dynamic disk/multiple partitions depending on your OS to use that.

    I just have the core 16GB (about 8GB occupied) on the game box, and do the rest of the storage (aka keep the Program Files directory) on the RAID5 fileserver over Gigabit LAN, which gives me about 40MB/sec read and write, which is IMHO sufficient. Were I not to rely on that, I'd get another two 16GB cards on a CF-IDE adapter, plonk a RAID0 on them and voilla (assuming you can get windows to make dynamic disks of removable storage, which the CF cards are still recognized as, even when on the IDE bus), which I am by no means certain.
    If you're on Linux, no problem there. anything and verything can be raided and LVM'd at will.

    A RAID0 of these would cost 400$, give 32GB and give about 40MB/sec performance.

    So no need to get overly excited with SSD. They're just an overpriced nicely bundled version of what is already cheaply available, kinda like external harddrives. And they'll keep on being that for a while yet.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant