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Data Storage The Almighty Buck

Why Aren't SSD Prices Going Down? 249

Lucas123 writes "NAND flash memory makers took an economic beating from 2007 through the first quarter of 2009 due to supply outstripping demand. During that time, solid state drives dropped in price 60% year over year. But after the economic meltdown, fabricators pulled back on production and investment in new facilities and the price of SSDs have remained flat or increased over the past year, and that is not expected to change until 2011. Until that time, SSDs remain 10x more expensive than hard disk drives. SSD vendors, however, are using a few tricks to get sales up, including selling lower-capacity boot drives that hit a sweet spot in the techie/gamer market."
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Why Aren't SSD Prices Going Down?

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  • Question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:02PM (#31898250)

    I know this topic is about SSDs, but I remember back in the day we had full height 5.25" drives that sounded like jet engines and had several platters. Why hasn't anyone made bigger platters- are we really constrained to the 3.5" form factor? I'd think they could make big platters with some extra ECC, have several platters, or even have internal platter mirroring or something l like hardware raid6 at the platter level?

  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:28PM (#31898744)

    SSDs improve performance only in very specific scenarii: small random reads are their forte, large reads are OK, writes are bad, especially small random ones. On the desktop, that makes them good system drives, OK Apps drives, bad data drives, terrible log drives. On the desktop, basically, SSD are useful when booting, launching an app, loading a level or other ressources. Nowadays, I boot my PC twice a month, launch apps at most once a day, and don't really play anymore.

    To complicate matters, most OSes and apps are made up of a good 50% "dead" files that are very rarely used, and also have log files that get written to frequently. Installing a whole OS, app or game to an SSD is majorly wasteful because of that. Manually segregating "frequently-read" from "frequently-written" and from "dead weight" files within an OS or app is at best cumbersome and difficult, at worst, impossible.

    I'm wondering why OSes don't yet support some king of SSD ReadyBoost: it would make a whole lot of sense to use a smallish SSD as a cache for frequently-read (not written) files. One SSD maker has released a thingy that clones the first x sectors of an HD to a SSD. Though automatic and easy, that is very crude, as caches go. I seem to remember one of Linux's filesystem allows to easily use an SSD as an intelligent cache, but that filesystem is fairly marginal ( ZFS ? not sure). MS has not adapted ReadyBoost.

    With an adapted ReadyBoost, I'm sure I could get 90% of the benefit of a large (64 Megs) SSD in a much smaller (16 Megs ?) one. I'm waiting for that, or, if MS doesn't wake up, for prices to go way down.

  • It's bubblegum feature creep, the same tactic Microsoft used for years to justify prices for Windows. In the case of LCD TVs, they're using extra "Hertz" and LED backlighting (never mind the misleading marketing leads some people to mistakenly believe that the display itself is actually LEDs) to keep the prices artificially high. It's these industries' version of the fast food industry's coke-and-fries tactic: upsell the product with low-cost features or add-ons that add almost nothing to cost but add a mountain to profits. In the case of magnetic-media disk drives, they're adding more cache and tweaking this or that, which ultimately changes the total cost of production very little but helps the manufacturers stave off the price drops that SHOULD occur due to savings from mass production. In the case of SSDs, I duuno what the specific feature creep is, but you can bet that is what's taking place.

    This is what manufacturers do to keep the full benefits of mass production from actually "trickling down" to consumers.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:09PM (#31899420) Journal
    There's a difference between price collusion in a mature market like LCDs versus a lack of capacity in a new market like SSDs.

    Perhaps you misspoke, perhaps I misunderstood, but doesn't forcing prices down by conspiring to "pull[ed] back on production and investment in new facilities" look very, very similar to merely fixing the prices in a mature market?

    They have the capacity, but would rather make more per unit. So they make fewer units to push the supply/demand curve back into more favorable territory. Collusion by any other name would smell as sweet.

    Why look at facts when you can just say "I'll never trust again".

    You quoted the single most damning part of TFA! The facts in this case explicitly say that they could make more and bring prices crashing down, but have agreed not to solely to keep prices high. I trust, alright - Trust that the semiconductor industry rivals the RIAA in dirty underhanded tricks designed to maximally screw their customers (and even each other, when any one player momentarily gains enough of an upper hand to get away with it) in the name of profit. occasion) for the sake of profit
  • Re:Gartner is wrong (Score:4, Interesting)

    by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <plugwash @ p> on Monday April 19, 2010 @03:05PM (#31900360) Homepage

    In the case of HDDs, the "sweet spot price" is somewhere between 5 and 10 cents a GB. However, the sweet spot is measured in 1-2 TB devices. If you, say, only needed 20GB, you would be unable to find anybody to sell you a 20GB drive for $1-$2. A quick look a newegg suggests that the cheapest retail HDDs are around $30-$35. You do get 80GB to 160GB for your $35; but you basically can't spend any less. The cost of a machined housing, hiqh quality spindle motor, packing, shipping, etc. just make that impossible. For the same $30-$35, retail, you are looking at around 16GB of flash
    Sort of

    You can get a USB stick for that price but USB sticks are notdesigned to be mounted in a PC case (you could probablly tie one in and link it to an internal port somehow but I would consider it a bodge), usually not optimised for speed or high write cycle use and the USB interface and the fact they show up as removable drives will cause complications with using them as a boot drive (especially if you are a windows user).

    Compactflash cards can also be got in that price range but you need an adaptor to connect them up and mount them and then since those adaptors are usually designed for laptop or small form factor use you will probablly need an adaptor to mount the adaptor driving up the overall cost. Once again they also don't tend to be optimised for speed and high write cycle use like proper SSDs.

    Proper SSDs with SATA interfaces and a standard drive form factor seem to start at arround $90 (slightly less if you count after rebate prices) for 30GB (there are 16GB ones on the market but they cost MORE than the 32GB ones) . Further the form factor is a laptop one meaning you may also need to buy an adaptor plate (some but not all SSDs come with this in the box afaict) which costs another $15.

    You also talk about the "boot volume" as if it's a dedicated drive. There are probablly some enterprise conditions where that is the case but afaict for most desktops the same drive serves as boot drive and data drive. Granted some people don't have much data though.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @05:20PM (#31902354)

    You are doing something wrong (or you are a paid actor for some hdd company). The SSD should absolutely be noticeable for everything you do on the machine outside of surfing the web and watching dvds. This page:
    pretty much describes the experience of everything I do on my machine[1] compared to the one my wife has in her lab (~$2500 dell). The school wouldn't approve the ssd for her work (don't ask me why, the it people in the chem dept there seem pretty backwards to me). I'd swear my machine is precognitive (if I didn't know any better). Apps start before I hear the click of my mouse button.

    You did that gamer a huge disservice by letting him pass on the ssd. An Intel 160GB G2 is absolutely worth every penny when compared with any of today's high end video cards. If you are even thinking about considering a $400 video card compared to a $200 one, you should be investing that extra $200 into the hard drive. Almost every single game currently on the market or advertised in the near future can be played at near maxxed out settings using the video cards that came out 18 months ago. Your ATI 4870 (Q3 2008) or equivalent geforce card (not to familiar with them) can play everything currently on the market. For most games the difference between a $100 card and a $400 card is maxxed out settings vs maxxed out settings. The difference between a Velociraptor and a G2 is almost 10 seconds sitting there waiting for your game to load.

    Note that very few people have any use for over 120 GB hard drive space. If they did they would be much better served by a good external backup system anyway (I am certain every one of your customers is concerned about not losing their iTunes music and their photos and videos, all of which should be backed up to external media [2]).

    Btw, mine takes about 15 seconds to come out of hibernation or to go into it (12 GB ram). It cold boots in 8. It shuts down in under 5. It is faster for me to just turn it off and then turn it back on than to hibernate it.

    1: my current system:
    i7 920 @3.2 ghz
    12GB ddr3 1600 6x2
    Intel G2 160GB ssd
    ati 4890x2
    win7 ultimate x64

    2: my system backup plans
    3x 500GB usb hard drives;
    1 plugged into my desktop used for general system storage
    1 plugged into my print server as backup storage
    1 in my fire safe
    automatically back up desktop to print server every night
    every 6 months (coinciding with my hardware upgrades) I move the one at the print server to the safe, the one in the safe to my desktop and the one at my desktop to the server

    I expect to begin replacing the drives at the 3 year cycle (coming up in 2011). I'll probably get 1.5TB drives then.

    Is it overkill? Probably. Will I ever allow myself to lose several years worth of photos/music/documents/... again? Absolutely not.

APL hackers do it in the quad.