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Data Storage Media Hardware

No Cheap Replacement For Hard Disks Before 2020 346

siddesu writes with disappointing news to anyone who'd like to see solid-state storage dominate in the near-term future. "A new study of storage technology by the former CTO of Seagate predicts that hard disks will remain the cheapest storage technology in the next decade and probably beyond."
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No Cheap Replacement For Hard Disks Before 2020

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  • Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chuckymonkey ( 1059244 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (notrub.d.selrahc)> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @04:55PM (#29859561) Journal
    So these people can predict the future now?! Really, you never know what is going to happen for sure. Look at current HDD tech, IBM made the GMR breakthrough and BAM! Huge storage capacity in drives. What makes people think that there cannot be another such discovery with solid state or some other yet unknown tech?
  • Fragmentation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sumbius ( 1500703 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:01PM (#29859629)
    I for one, just like many others, prefer hard disks over solid-state because of their more predictable lifespan. Solid-state drives tend to slowly lose parts of their usable sections. Even though the good old hard disks tend to break easily, at least I can defragment them without slowly starting to damage the disk. Yep, there are 2 different kinds of solid-state drives which handle this problem differently, but I still don't think the technology is matured enough yet. Perhaps in a few years. As for the mini laptops and such, solid-state seems to be superior though. Many of the first mini laptops used solid-state, but now only very few have them. Why this direction of development?
  • by Suiggy ( 1544213 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:08PM (#29859697)
    I mean, both Intel and OCZ have said that once they get to tri and quad-state MLC flash technology, prices should drop considerably by 2012. I think Seagate just doesn't want to be relegated as a dying tech company.
  • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:13PM (#29859737)

    Most of my non-server machines only use about 40-50gb of disk space, even though the hard drives have gradually grown from 20 to 40 to 120 to 500 to 1500GB over the last few years. Each time I build a system, I tend to throw in whatever drive costs about $100-125 when I order my parts. So based on my past usage model, I'd have no problem switching over to SSD if I can get say...128GB of storage for $100-125. On those occasions where I need a big chunk of permanent storage, I'll just get some sort of external hard disk that will undoubtedly continue to plummet in price.

  • by Saeger ( 456549 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (jllerraf)> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @05:43PM (#29859999) Homepage

    Nobody with a clue has been arguing that SSD's would be cheaper per gigabyte than ye olde spinning-platter HDDs any time soon.

    What we're seeing now, and will see much more of, is the hybrid approach of combining a small-ish (80GB) SSD for the most-accessed OS & Apps, with a monsterously huge and relatively slow (array of) HDDs for bulk data archival and backup.

    With HDD I/O still the single biggest bottleneck today, it makes sense to start transitioning to SSDs, but it doesn't have to be all at once. The premium for SSDs -- ~$2.50/GB SSD vs ~$0.10/GB HDD -- isn't that much, but it will probably pay for most to wait another year not just for prices to fall more, but for all SSDs to finally support TRIM, and have efficient firmware that competes with indilinx and intel's. SATA3 will also be welcome as current SSDs have already hit the SATA2 xfer limit.

    (Oh, and please don't eat the "ZOMG SSDs have limited write-cycles!" FUD. In the vast majority of normal usage patterns, you'll never ever get close to hitting it, and even you did, the failure mode still allows you to READ your data off if you had no backup, as opposed to a HDD crash.)

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:11PM (#29860193)

    Nintendo DSi has the equivalent of a 256 MB microSD soldered onto the motherboard. It's enough to hold a few apps from the DSi Shop. If it were a joke, why would Nintendo have used it?

    And that has any relevance to the general computer market because?

    At the rate we're going, by 2020 Windows will probably need 500GB for a base install and the average PC game will be 1TB.

    For one thing, the eye has a resolution limit, so why would people need more than, say, 2560x1440 (quad 720p) in home electronics?

    In the near future you'll be able to buy a $3000 camcorder that can shoot more than 2560x1440 and burn through a gigabyte every 30 seconds or so; by 2020 you'll probably be able to shoot IMAX resolution on a $3k camcorder.

    Honestly, every time I've seen someone say 'the average user will never need more than this', they've looked incredibly foolish only a few years later.

  • by imsabbel ( 611519 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:25PM (#29860311)

    And even if it would drop down to 1/4th, it would still be 10 times as expensive as hard drives are today.

    It will NEVER be cheaper to make chips than to put magnetic films on some metal / glass discs, at least if you are looking at large amounts of storage.

    Its just the fact that the performance gain will enable more and more uses.
    For bulk storage of Petabytes i will bet that you will go for hard drives even after 2020.

    PS: Tri /quad state (is really 8 / 16 state, as MLC already has 4 states to get 2 bits) will be fragile as hell. Those 3bit/cell chips availabe today are more like 100 write cycles...

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:42PM (#29860431)

    Forget video. The real future is in photogammetry. Wander around a space with a small video camera for a few minutes and the computer infers all of the light, texture and surface properties of the entire room. Then if you want to take a picture the camera is saved as meta-data XYZ position,Quaternian rotation and FOV.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @06:57PM (#29860515) Homepage Journal

    I don't think we will have "disk drives" for much longer. My eeepc has flash soldered in. Desktop motherboard manufacturers will start to do that too. Laptop manufacturers will save space by eliminating drive bays.

    Its less flexible but that just promotes obsolescence, which the manufacturers love.

  • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:05PM (#29860557) Homepage

    I do computer service/repair for a "living" right now. The average user - which, I take it, at least contains the subset of users who are my clients - are using less than 10Gb on average - with many using a couple dozen megabytes, and one or two using 20-30Gb. I've yet to run into a client where I could not simply back up their existing data + OEM install data on a 120G external disk array.

  • Re:Fragmentation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @07:29PM (#29860707)

    SSDs fail nicely, HDDs do not.

    Perhaps I'm out of date, but from what I've read on the subject I was under the impression that SSDs were far more likely to suffer catastrophic failures than HDDs. Certainly of the numerous hard disks I've owned, the few that failed before I replaced them showed an increasing number of read errors and then bad sectors, giving plenty of notice that it was time to copy the data somewhere else.

  • Re:Fragmentation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BikeHelmet ( 1437881 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @08:37PM (#29861089) Journal

    You're correct, but I have two nitpicks.

    First, don't confuse NAND used in SD cards and stuff with the same NAND used in SSDs. They're quite different qualities.

    I've had SD cards drop 1/8th their capacity after days of heavy use. SSDs, however, have higher quality NAND and wear-levelling controllers. For Linux, they have better filesystems, too.

    Second, up until the newest generation, most SSDs were susceptible to debilitating speed loss after some usage. To be safe, you had to half the benchmarked results. With TRIM and smarter controllers, this is mostly solved, but very heavy usage for extended periods will still result in speed loss. Remember, on an HDD deleting is basically a free operation, but on an SSD it has to physically erase. This would be most noticeable for say... a security camera box recording a dozen or more streams 24/7.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Forge ( 2456 ) <> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @09:26PM (#29861303) Homepage Journal
    There is another factor.

    Flash is faster and more energy efficient than spinning disks. This creates a demand for flash which reduces the incentive of manufacturers to drop the price per GB.

    Also try to understand the gap we are dealing with.
    Flash is around $1.87 per GB [] while Hard drives are closer to 7c per GB.

    That's 26 times the price. Sure SSDs are getting cheaper every day but so are hard drives. I am sure they will get so close that the price gap becomes less important than all the other features which separate them. Some time after that, SSDs may even become cheaper, or both SSDs and hard drives will be supplanted by some other technology. It just won't happen right away.

    Is one more decade too pessimistic an estimate? Only time will tell. What I do know is that where SSD's advantages are more important the change has already started. You can buy a portable computer with only SSD storage today.
  • Re:Define 'cheapest' (Score:3, Interesting)

    by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwash @ p> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @09:47PM (#29861397) Homepage

    Not at the rate at which storage capacity per $ is increasing though.
    Which is the key, I remember the time when even storing 128K MP3s ate up your hard drive in a hurry if you had a nontrivial music collection (hell at one stage I transcoded most of my MP3s to 64K mono and got rid of the originals). Nowadays even in uncompressed CD quality (the highest quality format most people bother to use) music takes up very little space relative to the size of hard drives.

    The same applies to the output from digicams, even high res ones in raw mode (and I doubt anyone except photography geeks uses raw mode).

    Video is the one common thing left that really clogs up hard drives so unless some big new application comes along I see hard drive space becoming less and less of an issue.

  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @09:54PM (#29861435) Journal

    This is a bad idea. Yes, the manufacturer gets a little more reliability - no contacts to corrode or lose contact. They save a few cents on the connector they don't use and a process on the insertion of the removable media. But SSD storage is doubling every year, so in the three year life span of a computer your storage would get 8x capacity - for the eeepc from 8GB to 64.

    I know they opt to save the pennies. They shouldn't because this is a feature that drives the long tail of sales.

  • Re:To each his own. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwash @ p> on Saturday October 24, 2009 @10:08PM (#29861513) Homepage

    However, SSDs are already replacing HDDs on netbooks
    Funny i've noticed things the other way round, all the early netbooks were SSD based but now lots of them have moved to a slightly larger form factor accomodating a hard drive.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by onefriedrice ( 1171917 ) on Saturday October 24, 2009 @11:53PM (#29862105)

    Well before 2020 a 250 GB SSD will be $20, and will have ample capacity for most users, and will be cheaper than any HDD.

    Rather like the average user will ever need more than 640k of RAM.

    By 2020, 250GB will be as much of a joke for the average user as a 250MB drive would be today; 250GB will probably be just about big enough to hold one super-extra-high-definition video file.

    Actually, I don't think this is true. We are at the point of diminishing returns in so many areas. For example, we used to be okay with black and white. Then 4-bit color. Then 8-bit color. Now we're at 24 or 32-bit color, and anything more than that would pretty much be wasted because our eyes can't see any more colors. The same thing is happening with audio and video. There comes a point when adding more data won't make a difference. So while you're correct in saying that people use more disk storage space than they did ten years ago or even one year ago, you can't really extrapolate and say for sure that we're going to be using more and more at the same rate of increase we've seen in the past.

    Another thing to consider is this growing fad of putting everything on the "cloud." Maybe it is just that, a fad, but perhaps one day people will store all their photos, music, videos, documents, or anything that would take a lot of disk space today entirely on this cloud thing and not keep copies of anything on their disks. I hope not, but you never know.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @12:53AM (#29862317)

    I do computer service/repair for a "living" right now. The average user - which, I take it, at least contains the subset of users who are my clients - are using less than 10Gb on average - with many using a couple dozen megabytes, and one or two using 20-30Gb. I've yet to run into a client where I could not simply back up their existing data + OEM install data on a 120G external disk array.

    Not to be rude, but the person who knows more about computers won't be coming to you since they could do it mostly themselves or look it up and those are the types to fill up their drives. They also are probably the market that buy the more expensive drives/CPUs/etc (actually spend money on components up front).

  • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:54AM (#29862553)

    I see people passing it by for four reasons, even though the technology is getting under the $199 price point:

    1: Yes, Netfix and others have Blu-ray movies, but people tend to not bother as a DVD is good enough.
    2: People are tending to stick what they have because of economic reasons. One of the reasons why DVDs caught on fairly quickly was that America was fairly prosperous at the time, and people could afford to move from VHS to DVD without it being a big part of the budget. Now with no end in sight for unemployment figures increasing (and a Congress totally disinterested in doing anything about it on either party), Americans are more focused on keeping a roof over their heads than upgrading to a new movie format.
    3: DVD media is compatible almost anywhere. There are utilities that allow people to rip DVD media to their iPod so on a long trip they have something to play. Blu-Ray media isn't going to allow this unless you have a utility made by a company willing to run the arms race with the BD DRM makers movie title by movie title.
    4: DVD media is "good enough". VHS tapes wear out, but unless one is very rough on handling optical media, a DVD will far outlast any player it is played on. Blu-Ray isn't that big an upgrade for most people from DVD unless they are spending a Christmas bonus and getting a player and TV that can handle the better resolution.

  • Re:Get both (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Sunday October 25, 2009 @01:55AM (#29862555) Homepage Journal

    FAIL. You should not swap, period.

    Oh, they're so cute when they're young and idealistic! Back in reality, I have a database server with 8 cores, 16GB of RAM, and 500+GB of RAID-10 storage. For all but an hour a month, that's abundantly sufficient for everything we ask of it. For that one hour, though, a bit of that RAID turns into swap while we run some gigantic monthly financial queries.

    Your ideal solution would be to spend a few thousand dollars in programmer time to make those queries run faster, or drop at least a thousand on a set of 4GB ECC DIMMs. My practical solution involves allocating 16GB out of 500 to swap for the one hour out of 720 that our normal resources aren't sufficient. Frankly, I like my idea better, and I know that my boss does too.

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @08:30AM (#29863721) Journal

    No. There is English. And then in 1066 the damn French invaded the island and polluted the language with their messed-up words. True English died with Beowulf.

    What exists today in both Britannia and America is a mongrel mess of Germanic and Latinate words. No wonder the spelling and rules make no sense. Damn French.

    (I'm chust joking. Put down the guillotine Mr. Frenchman.)

  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hazydave ( 96747 ) on Sunday October 25, 2009 @03:01PM (#29866331)

    I wish. I have 30% free on my 6TB RAID, 12% free on my 1.5TB boot drive, and 50% free on my auxiliary 1.5TB drive. Sure, some data can probably be archived, but that's real time involved. It might be cheaper just to drop a couple 2TB drives into the RAID. Ok, I do HD video, one of the big consumers of HDD space.. I don't have a single "ripped" video online. If you did, in HD, you'd need a system that dwarfs this.

    But consider this... in 1993, I was doing serious MIDI music, but I wanted to get into recording. So I spent the $1200 for a Seagate "multimedia capable" HDD.. 2GB. In 2008, I could buy a 2GB flash card for under $10.

    Thus, hopefully, in 2025, I'll be able to buy a 6TB flash card for under $5.. I only paid half that for the storage in the RAID (obviously, the RAID box itself cost something, too).

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?