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Data Storage Upgrades Technology

SSD Won't Make Sense In Laptops For Two Years 326

kgagne writes "While solid state disk drives can vastly improve random read performance and are perfectly suited to most mobile devices, many operations are sequential in laptops and desktops and involve writes where SSDs most often lose to magnetic hard disk drives in performance. While introducing multi-channel flash memory controllers and interleaving the NAND flash chips increases performance, it will still be about two years before the cost versus benefit ratio will make sense to install SSD in your laptop or desktop PC, according to a Computerworld story. '"I think you need to get to 128GB for around $200, and that's going to happen around 2010. Also, the industry needs to effectively communicate why consumers or enterprise users should pay more for less storage," says Joseph Unsworth, an analyst at Gartner Inc.'"
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SSD Won't Make Sense In Laptops For Two Years

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  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:07PM (#24788875) Homepage

    craptops I don't see going SSD for a long time.
    ordinary decent laptops I see offering SSD as an option but I don't see it being popular in the near future.

    Ultraportables on the other hand are already going ssd in many cases. Tiny hard drives tend to have terrible performance and a 2.5 inch 9.5mm high drive is pretty big for an ultraportable (though some ultraportables do use them).

  • by subStance ( 618153 ) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:14PM (#24788947) Homepage

    The comment about sequential reads causing the SSD to lose on performance compared with magnetic drives caught my attention. Isn't this highly dependent on the filesystem you use and its strategy for block allocation ?

    Wouldn't it be possible to design the block allocation algorithm to favour SSDs the same way previous generations of filesystems tried to put the next block on the disk to be the one under the head at the current moment (or whatever it was they did) ?

  • by Manip ( 656104 ) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:20PM (#24789007)

    It will be easy to sell the concept of SSD to pretty much anyone, particularly for a laptop. Here is the short list:
    - Faster Reads
    - Potentially faster to wake up from sleep
    - More durable
    - Less chance of sudden and complete data loss (e.g. A smaller portion of the drive would fail instead of a complete drive failure as with a magnetic disk)
    - Consumes less power
    - Quieter
    - Cooler (also a power saving feature due to less fan running time)

    SSD drives are very cool pieces of technology and I for one can't wait to be able to buy a superthin laptop with no magnetic disk.

  • by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <> on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:27PM (#24789071) Homepage

    Afaict with SSDs the performance is pretty much constant no matter what the read order. With HDDs sequential reads are much faster than random reads.

    So SSDs lose in continuous throughput tests.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:37PM (#24789177)
    SSD HAS made sense in laptops for two years already. Things like the eeepc have brought it to the attention of the mainstream, but there were other things before it (expensive Toshiba machines etc). When you think about it the majority of tasks a laptop is used for involved changing mere Megabytes of information - it's usually a combination of a typewriter and an address book.
  • Since When (Score:1, Interesting)

    by DougF ( 1117261 ) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:48PM (#24789265)
    has "sense" ever trumped fashion? SSDs are fashionable and workable enough that the "lead the fleet" types will purchase, and hopefully buy enough that businesses will start producing enough to drop the prices for the rest of us.
  • by furball ( 2853 ) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @10:52PM (#24789315) Journal

    What about weight? Do SSD drives weigh less than the normal types today? Or is it about the same?

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday August 28, 2008 @11:42PM (#24789723) Homepage Journal

    Networking makes the 16GB local drives plenty big enough. If the network is completely transparent, with automatic network drives available for the less frequently used files. That kind of local caching should be automatic, and the Gb ethernet a hassle-free bottleneck (no "login", etc).

    Then 16GB for $50 means that SSD has fully arrived. Even if the SSD vendors still want $200 for whatever they'll try to sell you.

    Which means that really, now, it's a UI and software problem to solve. The HW is ready. Isn't that always the case?

  • by StCredZero ( 169093 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:04AM (#24789915)

    Time to burn some Karma...

    On a "News for Nerds" site, moderators should understand the sources of disk latency. Rotating Hard Drives have latency from the time it takes to move the head across the platter, and for the platter to rotate under the head. SSDs do not have these sources of latency.

    One of the big problems is that current flash is just slow on writes. Some of them don't do DMA properly. If there are problems with block sizes, this can be adjusted easily. But the underlying technology has to improve, or manufacturers need to build SSDs with more parallelism and better features. Perhaps very parallel SSD architectures might need filesystems optimized for large block sizes.

    One of the big potential benefits of flash is reliability. Imagine highly modular flash drives for servers with hardware RAID 5? Instead of a disk failure, you get a notification that a module needs replacing. In fact, you could build versions with an extra slot for a failover spare in-place!

    Also, with wear leveling, there's the potential for hard drives that can warn you several days before they fail!

  • by llZENll ( 545605 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @12:43AM (#24790205)

    Why the hell are SSDs so slow? I've never understood this, its not like in an HD where you can't add more read heads because there isn't enough physical space to do so, or because they can't move fast enough with the additional weight. In an SSD you should be able to put as many chips in parallel to make your read and write speeds whatever the hell you want, 1TBps, no problem. You would think SSDs should be able to saturate a SATA/Fibre/PCIE bus instantly? What gives?

  • Re:I disagree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chuck Chunder ( 21021 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @01:02AM (#24790339) Homepage Journal

    which proves our conclusion correct

    Saying it doesn't make it true.

    Only one in the re-test (the newest, most cutting edge one) come out ahead in terms of power

    I'm looking at those graphs [] and trying to work out exactly what definition of "one" you are using....

  • SSD is here already. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <daniel.hedblom@g m a> on Friday August 29, 2008 @01:09AM (#24790361) Homepage Journal

    My familys three eeepc and the one i have at work would be utter pain if they had spinning disks and not SSD. Cheap laptop drives is terrible when it comes to sequential reads but even worse at access times.

    Ubuntu runs faster in some areas on the eee than on my brand spanking new desktop.

    What i long for is faster speeds and more write cycles. Servers is what i think would benefit the most from SSD and thats where i suspect it will take off soon.

  • by Ex-MislTech ( 557759 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @01:42AM (#24790555)

    One good reason for SSD would be the negative effects on
    using hard drives at high altitudes.

    They are not well documented either.;posts#2625001 []

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @01:46AM (#24790571) Journal

    it's pretty presumptuous to think that every one has the same needs/preferences as you.

    I've been called presumptuous before. It doesn't bother me. That's the price I have to pay to school people on how stuff works. The thing is, I didn't say this would suit everybody. I said it would suit most everybody. The difference is that the people whose needs exceed the usual should expect to pay more. In this case, they should expect to exit the sweet spot and pay a lot more for the bleeding edge. To them it's worth it. For most folks, the sweet spot is a nice place to be.

    You can get a 320GB USB powered 2.5" drive for cheap. They'll be selling them in your 7/11 soon, but you can get them at your favorite department or office supply store now. If your data needs are high (and mine are - I capture server images on one of mine), it'll deliver your data as fast as a laptop drive can. On days when you don't need to access your media library or capture system images to get your job done, you can leave it in your pocket and experience the joys of low power usage. Ain't choice great?

    So it boils down to folks that can't get their apps installed in 16GB. For those few they do offer a 32GB SDHC for $230 delivered []. That's a lot more, but it's not out of the realm of reasonable if you have those special needs. 12 months from now that'll be $80, and three years from now it'll be offered in the MicroSD form factor for your phone.

  • by AllynM ( 600515 ) * on Friday August 29, 2008 @02:17AM (#24790789) Journal

    or you could just use one of these: []

  • by AllynM ( 600515 ) * on Friday August 29, 2008 @02:25AM (#24790835) Journal

    Many of the modern SSD's *DO* saturate the bus. The Memoright GT and other SLC flash drives easily push 120-130 meg/sec over sata 150. The key is that the 'cheaper' MLC based drives have horrible write speed, especially when writing bunches of small files. Most users think this won't bother them, until they realize outlook does exactly the same thing when accessing its PST.

    The thing I don't get is why so many people think SSD's are slow. Even MLC based first generation samsung PATA SSD's obliterate even the fastest laptop hard disks in all areas except for the aforementioned small writes.

    From my own desktop testing, a single Memoright GT completely owns the pair of raid-0 74 gig raptors it replaced.

  • by v(*_*)vvvv ( 233078 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @05:33AM (#24791777)

    I have a GT in my vaio, and it is the best 2K I dropped since god knows when.

    The first generation SSDs were crap. All the new SSDs are pretty much good to go because the issues were mostly with the software and memory utility algorithms, and not with the physical SSD memory architecture.

    The thing I don't get is why so many people think SSD's are slow.

    Mac Air and other vendors that had made SSDs optional unfortunately went with the crappy SSDs, and a lot of people who dropped serious cash for them were severely disappointed. And so there was a backlash.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2008 @09:33AM (#24793523)

    As a ff/paramedic the laptops we use (both truck-mounted and toughbooks) get quite a bit of abuse... though the Solid state drives are smaller, we store all patient information on a server as the report is finished, so we really don't need that much space anyway. most failures are from HDDs.
    solid state gets the rating of 'firefighter proof'

  • by suggsjc ( 726146 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @09:48AM (#24793727) Homepage
    You are missing the point. I had a whole post (with numbers/calculations) done, but it all boils down to this. If you are using your laptop as your main storage point (probably a bad idea), then yes 16GB is probably not enough. But if you are smart about it, then you can easily make it work. Worst case scenario for your CD's (320kbps) would come out to over a week of continuous music. If you are one of those "I need all of my songs with me at all times" people, then again 16GB may not work for you. But I go through phases and want to hear different styles at different times, so I can easily swap out what I want to hear from my main storage, out of my +20GB worth of music I probably only list to maybe a GB at a time, and probably 60-70% is stuff that I will never listen to again.
    You can take that rough principle above and apply it to all of your other examples as well. You can easily use more than 16GB worth of storage. But with just a tiny bit of effort you can also easily live happily with less, and probably much less. Does that mean I'm jumping on the SSD bandwagon at this point, nope...I'll wait for it to be cost effective for me and my usage habits, and I don't need a /. article to let me know when that time will be.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @10:05AM (#24794001) Journal
    Reads are fast. Writes are slow. The problem with reads is that the block size is typically around 128KB (coincidentally, the size of the first Flash SSD I owned, which I paid around thirty quid for in the mid '90s). If you want to read a 4KB file, then you need to read 128KB from the device. Writing is worse, since you have to erase and rewrite the entire 128KB cell. This means reading 128KB, erasing the cell, writing 128KB. Very slow if you're doing a lot of small (e.g. 1KB) writes. Buffering reduces this (but it makes power failures worse) but not for lots of random writes.

    You can make the cells smaller, but it drives the price up. You need a certain amount of circuitry for controlling every cell and it's a fairly significant amount of the total die size with a 128KB cell. If you make them 4KB, like modern hard drives, then you've got a chip where only a small percentage is the actual storage and no one outside the defence industry wants to pay for them.

    If you want good performance from flash in your usespace application, then learn about lio_listio().

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Friday August 29, 2008 @01:33PM (#24797605) Journal

    A "normal" user will easily chew through 16 GB.

    Imagine for a moment that your boot media, OS and apps are on an SDHC card. Naturally these are made to pop out. For gaming you can pop in your gaming boot chip. For work you can swap in the work boot chip. You can fit a terabyte of these things in your pocket and they're really quite durable. Since they boot in just a couple seconds it's not a big deal to switch. I like keeping the functions separate, and I can use Clonezilla to take a waypoint image of a card and save it to a share as system backup or to try out risky things. They do sell a 32GB chip but they're spendy right now. By Christmas they should be more reasonable. Flash media right now is doubling at a faster pace than anything else, and it likely will continue to do so for some time so if your target image size is 64GB, you won't have an unbearable wait before they're more reasonably priced. I should warn you though, if your OS has a huge image and it has to process many times more data than another OS just to start, performance will lag.

    I put colorful stickers on mine - it makes finding the right one really convenient.

    For data I have an assortment of media, from more SDHC cards and pen drives to external USB 2.5" drives to a monster 1TB eSATA drive for big needs. Frankly though I do my best to keep my data in the server where it's better protected and reliably backed up. Most people aren't going to need all this stuff. It's all about what works for you.

    This works well for me. Your mileage may vary.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley