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With ultra fast hard disk drives now available, is the asking price for SSD technology justified?
We report on the Solid State Drive market and Mtron’s presence at CeBIT, one of the major players in this market as well as head to head benchmarks of SSD versus HDD.
CeBIT Australia 2008 Special Report
Over the last few years thanks to a number of technical innovations such as the reduction of die sizes (the actual size of a integrated circuit) and ongoing evolution- the major semiconductor vendors in the electronics and computing industries have been able to produce Flash RAM in such high densities such as up to 32GB that these high storage capacity devices have changed the way we store our digital media and files.
A by-product of this evolution in flash memory density has been storage vendors have been able to finally develop solid state drives in popular form factors with large enough capacities that can finally replace and surpass desktop and mass-market hard disk drives.
At time of going to press the largest mass produced Solid State Drives utilising NAND Flash RAM technology are 256 Gigabyte offerings, which for the mobile computing segment are a direct match for some of the largest 2.5” Hard disk drives.
NAND refers to the internal architecture of the memory chips, that are used in devices that utilise ‘flash memory’ such as USB sticks, Digital Camera cards, Solid State drives or a large number of other devices such as mobile phones, broadband routers, televisions or anything else which lists some sort of internal storage within the device. Storage products which use NAND flash components now rival and exceed DVDs in capacity and speed.
Solid state drives are not a new concept, and like the optical disc have existed for almost thirty years now but adoption by new markets or users has been hampered by technology constraints.
Once the domain of scientific, industrial or military applications who mainly required speed over capacity, mass market users who will appreciate the ‘plug in’ speed boost to their existing desktop computer, laptop or server.
The small capacity of the memory cells in early devices and large form factors was no problem for early adopters who typically required performance and ruggedness rather than capacity, noting that old HDDs were quite bulky also. At this time it was not deemed a going-forward technology for mainstream or enterprise computing.
It wasn’t until the introduction of the PC card for notebooks by the PCMCIA association in the early 90s that the concept of solid state disk storage in mainstream and portable computing became a practical application.
Some of the early PCMCIA products were indeed flash based disk cards preloaded with operating systems or applications.
During this era however, hard disks and their manufacturers were in boom times which lasted until the early 2000s where there was massive restructuring in the hard disk market which resulted in only a handful of vendors having market share when the dust settled.
Fast forwarding to 2007/2008, we now have a race or war between a large number of niche vendors, start-ups, storage companies, second and third party manufactures and the mainstream semiconductor companies each fighting for a piece of the action, being growing demand for Solid state devices.
Since storage density per memory component has caught up, users are now recognising firstly the performance and secondly noise benefits of using solid state drives for high performance computing.
The price for these products remains high, but most of these products claim to, and have been proven to offer a 2x or more performance advantage over traditional electro-mechanical hard disk drives. Such performance benefits are typically very difficult to achieve on a one for one upgrade path, wether it’s in processing, graphics or storage; The CPU market went to multi core, the graphics market went to massive parallelism and the storage market went to fast RAID. Rarely do we see multiples of improvements when replacing a device with another equivalent device of the same form factor, interface, and bus and power consumption.
This is easily possible thanks toSolid State Drives - if you are willing to pay for one.