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Why SSDs Won't Replace Hard Drives

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the infinitely-small-infinitely-fast dept.

Data Storage 315

storagedude writes "Flash drive capacities have been expanding dramatically in recent years, but this article says that's about to change, in part because of the limits of current lithography technology. Meanwhile, disk drive densities will continue to grow, which the author says will mean many years before solid state drives replace hard drives — if they ever do. From the article: 'The bottom line is that there are limits to how small things can get with current technology. Flash densities are going to have data density growth problems, just as other storage technologies have had over the last 30 years. This should surprise no one. And the lithography problem for flash doesn't end there. Jeff Layton, Enterprise Technologist for HPC at Dell, notes that as lithography gets smaller, NAND has more and more troubles — the voltages don't decrease, so the probability of causing an accidental data corruption of a neighboring NAND goes up. "So at some point, you just can't reduce the size and hope to not have data corruption," notes Layton.'"

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Selective evolution (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33036958)

Yeah, there's NO way that SSD technology will somehow evolve further than it has till now. It's after all SEVERAL years old by now!

Re:Selective evolution (5, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 4 years ago | (#33037010)

It is kind of funny how the article seems to be non-inflammatory, saying that replacement won't happen "soon", but the headline reads like a nice troll. Anyone think the editor chose the headline for page hits?

Re:Selective evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037122)

Why won't the replacement happen soon? If the exponential rate at which SSDs increase in capacity is greater than the exponential rate at which people actually store data then there is no reason to believe that hard drives won't go the way of other obsolete storage technologies.

Re:Selective evolution (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 years ago | (#33037394)

All you need to do to blow out the storage capacity of SSDs is a video camera. If you are persistent enough, even a still camera is enough.

People are more than capable of creating their own stuff in sufficient bulk to render SSD unusable.

This isn't even getting into media that's purchased or pirated.

OTOH, most consumers are content to be led around by the nose by the sorts of companies that tend to under-equip their media devices.

Re:Selective evolution (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 years ago | (#33037570)

All you need to do to blow out the storage capacity of SSDs is a video camera. If you are persistent enough, even a still camera is enough.

Look, I've got a 250 GB SSD and a one terabyte rotating platter hard drive on my 3 year old MacBook Pro. I'm one happy camper. The SSD makes the MBP fly along - not nearly as fast as my MacPro but so much more responsive than any laptop I've used before. The big, albiet relatively slow HD holds most of my still photos, and enough video to keep me entertained for months. The SSD has really sped up Photoshop. FinalCut is perhaps 20 - 30% faster.

The near term future, IMHO, is going to be this sort of thing - using smaller SSDs for applications and scratch and big honker "slow" drives for storage.

Re:Selective evolution (1)

bennomatic (691188) | about 4 years ago | (#33037524)

Right. It's really a tipping point question, isn't it? Hard drives will continue to get bigger and cheaper faster than SSDs, probably. But at some point, when SSDs are cheap enough and store enough for most people in a given niche, we'll see some fairly sudden shifts in purchasing patterns.

We can already see that in the high-end market. Most of the developers I know who have switched to SSDs say they'll never go back. Compile times, boot speed of virtual machines, SSDs have changed their lives.

Re:Selective evolution (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33037518)

...though OTOH it didn't point out that the delay will be likely due to Microsoft; which it should.

Reminds me of Montgomery Burns' prediction .... (2, Funny)

wsanders (114993) | about 4 years ago | (#33037048)

If will be a long time before development of the horseless carriage will overtake the technology of my steam-powered ornithopter!

Re:Selective evolution (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037288)

SSD devices have been around since the 50's and in production forms since the mid 70's. its not that the technology is immature, its that the technology is not cost effective for the vast majority of end users. there are serious issues that have yet to be fully addressed with SSD, and im not just talking about wear leveling and reduced performance as the devices fill.

There are always more axes of improvement... (3, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 4 years ago | (#33036966)

With SSDs, I'm sure there is always another axis of improvement, similar to with CPUs, when you hit a wall with them, go SMP. When SMP doesn't scale, crank up the clock speed, etc.

What I wonder is what can be focused on to make SSDs be able to store more. We can always stick more chips in an enclosure, and the cooling needs for SSDs are far less than the cooling needed for CPUs.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (3, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | about 4 years ago | (#33037040)

What I wonder is what can be focused on to make SSDs be able to store more.

Newer solid state memory technologies. If you can get something more durable and faster than NAND at the lithographies we're headed towards, you'll be able to expand capacity without having to jam tons of extra chips in for bad block swapouts and having to pack killer levels of ECC.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (3, Insightful)

Platinumrat (1166135) | about 4 years ago | (#33037054)

Exactly my thoughts. Who says we have to stick with a 2.5" or 3.5" form factor. There are many ways to pack more bits into a package if you stop thinking of SSDs as a spinning wheel of rust.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (2, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 4 years ago | (#33037168)

Exactly. Since the form factor isn't dependent on a disk shape, it might be better to go with a form factor that is better for SSD. Perhaps cubic, with a riser card holding the banks of flash chips connected to the controller which does the ECC, encryption, wear levelling, and other stuff?

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (1)

SpeZek (970136) | about 4 years ago | (#33037502)

There are plenty of 5.25" bays out there. Most, if not all, desktops have only one occupied by a DVD/CD/BR drive.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (1, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 4 years ago | (#33037094)

Yeah, my first thought with SSD was additional parallelism and such. It seems pretty obvious not only to improve capacity but to improve speed as well. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Who knows what the real intention of this article may be, but as far as I am concerned, "SSD" isn't ready enough yet. It's nice, but the ones that perform well are ridiculously pricey and the ones that are somewhat affordable are ridiculously slow. It's simply a deterrent for me at the moment.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (3, Informative)

Microlith (54737) | about 4 years ago | (#33037144)

SSDs already leverage extreme parallelism via 15+ different channels, indeed they have to due to how slow most NAND chips (especially MLC) are. Eventually you're forced to the PCIe bus, especially as you approach 18-25 channels (FusionIO) and the SATA bus becomes a bottleneck.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (1, Interesting)

mlts (1038732) | about 4 years ago | (#33037260)

We might end up with two types of SSD, or even drives with both:

MLC's descendant would be designed for space and shoveling as much data into a drive as possible. Because of this, it would require large amounts of error correction. Because MLC is sometimes less reliable than SLC, it will take more processing power to encode incoming data effectively and safely.

SLC's descendant would be designed for speed.

As time goes on, operating systems will get intelligent enough to figure out what parts of a volume are most often used, and move them to the SLC array so they are accessed with a faster speed, while items that are not accessed go to the slower MLC array.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (2, Informative)

QuantumRiff (120817) | about 4 years ago | (#33037360)

Several SAN vendors do similar things right now.. either manually or some automatically, moving older, less frequently used data from fast SCSI and Fiber Channel drives to slower SATA drives.. last I looked, they were looking to add SSD's to the mix as well, either replacing SCSI, or as a very top tier.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (3, Interesting)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | about 4 years ago | (#33037194)

I agree, fitting more chips in a box seems like a good idea. With hard disks, you can add another platter for more space, or make the diameter bigger. Why not do the same for SSDs? They try to make them the same size as standard hard drives so you can easily switch them in existing computers, but if you're building a new one, it shouldn't be much of a bother to fit a physically bigger drive inside your case. There's no reason to assume that the NAND always has to get smaller, is there?

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (1)

vlm (69642) | about 4 years ago | (#33037268)

With hard disks, you can add another platter for more space, or make the diameter bigger.

More platters = manufacturing costs that scale will above linear for obvious mechanical alignment problems. You can drop back to linear scaling obviously by purchasing multiple drives and raiding them. But not so obviously there are serious controller cost and power supply cost limits, pushing you over linear yet again.

As for diameter, that kills power consumption, boot up inrush current draw, various gyroscopic effect problems resulting in expensive platters and bearings, and obviously seek time is killed.

There's no reason to assume that the NAND always has to get smaller, is there?

I don't have the specs in front of me, but most "corporate deployments" use at most double digit gigs. Other than media users / media creators and specialized data warehouse situations no one uses more than double digit gigs. Thats going to be a severe economic pinch on hard drives that can't be economically shrunk, but flash chips can always be made smaller.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 4 years ago | (#33037280)

Storage Space isn't always the limiting factor...

Storage Size has been growing faster then our ability to fill it.

I Remember back in them good old days where I filled up Hard Drives quite easily. My old 80 Meg drive when it was new, could be filled up rather quickly.

Now that we have terabytes drives it is getting less of a factor to fill it up. Combined with the fact that network speeds are getting faster our need for storage is being limited. Sure RMS Followers thing that Cloud SaaS solutions will doom us all and that rest of that nonsense... However If it is faster to download a file then get it off your drive then you will just download and run the program off the network.
So the issue isn't about the size of the drive but the speed of the drive that counts.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (1)

Confusador (1783468) | about 4 years ago | (#33037302)

I think this is the key point for SSDs right now. All of the points in TFS are true, but most SSDs don't fill their cases right now. You can fit quite a few chips in even a 2.5" drive casing, but it'd be expensive and the controllers aren't ready yet. Since the technical issues aren't the bottleneck, we have a few years to solve them.

Can't they just use more chips? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 4 years ago | (#33037306)

Obvious, I know, but can't they just make the chips cheaper then use more of them?

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 years ago | (#33037348)

Or we reach good enough.
How much storage do we really need on device?
First of all flash has replaced Hard Drives below a certain size. I doubt that you can find a sub 50 GB hard drive these days. If you do they are pretty rare and the price per gigabyte will be really high.
A lot of people don't need a lot more than 32 GBs of storage.
If you are storing video 32 GBs is a huge amount of storage.
When and if cloud storage and mobile broadband connections get cheap enough, reliable enough and with universal coverage just how much space do you think you will need on device?
As far as work documents go again as long as you are not dealing with video you will be surprised just how big a few gigabytes really is.
Flash will keep creeping up the food chain becoming good enough for more and more people. The speed, power, and reliability issues will keep pushing it in to more and more systems.
I doubt that magnetic media will ever go away. If you need a lot of storage it will be the cheapest for a good long time.
But eventually flash may become so cheap and hard drives so expensive that it will be cheaper to RAID flash drives than to buy hard drives.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037672)

> If you are storing video 32 GBs is a huge amount of storage.

What? No, if you're storing video, 32 GB is piddling small change. One season of a show is somewhere between 4 and 20 GB depending on resolution and compression and how many episodes and how long the episodes are. 24 minutes of 1280x720 video in h264 with its audio in stereo mp3 will run you around 340 MB for animation, more for live action. Four 20-episode seasons of such episodes would then be 27 GB. If you were instead following four shows *at the same time* and they were 1 hour shows, that'd be 8 show-seasons per year, something like 108 GB. (Those figures are for pretty well compressed stuff, mind you - direct blu ray rips are more in the range of 8-20 GB for two hours of video.) And this stuff accumulates fairly easily with a decent internet connection. One 340 MB episode per day, for example, would push you over 120 GB per year.

And of course there is other data. mp3s are a minimum of about 1 MB per minute, unencoded cd quality audio is more like 10 MB/min, and lossless compression averages around 5 MB/min. 32 GB wouldn't be enough to rip my CD collection losslessly. Or if you prefer itunes, $10 worth of music can suck up 300 MB. People definitely manage to fill their 16-32 GB music players with music just between their old physical CDs and they stuff they buy online.

Operating systems these days can be fairly huge; a fresh install of a popular linux distro will start out in the 2-4 GB range, and a crufty old install of XP kept patched up will bump into that range. Vista and 7 start out in the 8+ range. In the case of Windows, that's not counting additional programs.

Games can be rather large too. WoW is over 10 GB. Steam + the Orange Box + Torchlight comes out to over 22 GB. Those games (well, except for Torchlight) are five years old. They're not ultra enthusiast games, they're games that run all right on a fairly low end laptop from a couple years ago.

Even still pictures can add up. If you're copying the pics off a digital camera, those can be a few MB each. (It depends on the resolution, of course). And people I know with digital cameras take a LOT more pictures than they would with a film camera, because they don't have to pay for film anymore. These days just filling the memory in the camera means you've taken multiple GB worth of pictures.

> First of all flash has replaced Hard Drives below a certain size. I doubt that you can find a sub 50 GB hard drive these days. If you do they are pretty rare and the price per gigabyte will be really high.

True; newegg seems to start at 80 GB for laptop drives. However, flash drives are over $2 per GB, and 320 GB magnetic drives are $46. A 32 GB flash drive still costs $85. Flash is still a few factors of 2 away from being competitive in price or capacity. It's still living in the "expensive high speed for enthusiasts" market as far as laptop/desktop drives go.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (1)

mackai (1849630) | about 4 years ago | (#33037424)

I find that we are also thinking within a limited concept of what is meant by SSD. Perhaps within the present technologies, he is correct, but we keep hearing of other methods of storing data being explored by some university or laboratory and who knows when one of those might pan out and become the basis of non-rotating storage in the future. Several of the storage accomplishments of today were outside of what we could conceive as few as five years ago.

Re:There are always more axes of improvement... (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | about 4 years ago | (#33037846)

I think that they would do better to just combine it with platter technology, for the obvious reason, but also because SSDs and flash storage were never, ever meant for mass storage.

Mass storage is a drive, disk, or tape, which by itself contains only the data plus a little logic for overhead--head seeks, reads, and writes. However, flash memory is logic-intensive; every single bit of storage is part of a circuit. That's never going to scale to the same degree. With HDDs, you, what, make the controls a little finer, alter the chemistry of the disk a bit maybe, hell, I dunno. And I know that SSDs can be mass-fabbed, I get that. But you're dealing with logic circuits, and those have limitations that aren't just chemistry.

Eventually, yes, we'll get NVRAM-style storage (or similar) that is super-dense and CPUs (and other computer parts) that are small enough that together, the two can break all modern expectations of computing ability. However, I predict that mass storage will always outpace it. Logic circuits are always going to be more expensive than a little chemical science, physics, and some really clever engineering. So let them have their own worlds. Find a way to really really cleverly combine the two instead of trying to force one to win.

But... (1)

geeper (883542) | about 4 years ago | (#33036968)

they're so damn fast. I love mine.

Just bought WD 64GB SSD (3, Informative)

strangeattraction (1058568) | about 4 years ago | (#33036976)

Was plenty for my needs and boots Ubuntu in 20 seconds. Barely uses power when not in use. I'm a believer.

Re:Just bought WD 64GB SSD (3, Funny)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | about 4 years ago | (#33037022)

You couldn't leave her (it) if you tried?

Re:Just bought WD 64GB SSD (5, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | about 4 years ago | (#33037308)

I thought 10s boots were only true in fairy tales,
Meant for someone else, but not for me.

Re:Just bought WD 64GB SSD (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | about 4 years ago | (#33037676)

lol epic win (:

Re:Just bought WD 64GB SSD (1)

haruchai (17472) | about 4 years ago | (#33037150)

As recent consumers SSDs go, the WD 64GB is very, very average; if you try some of the faster, larger SSDs, say one based on Sandforce SF-1200 controller or even a latter-day Indilinx, that have higher random IOPs, going back to disk is unbearably slow for any operation that isn't cached in RAM.

Re:Just bought WD 64GB SSD (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037250)

20 seconds?
Hell, any crappy IDE hdd can do that.

Lets wait and see (5, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 years ago | (#33036988)

While the reasoning is interesting, and valid for all I know, why are we trying to say some bit of technology isn't going to work out ever? What's the point? Either it won't work out and that will be something the market will handle independent of whether you foresaw it or not, or a solution will be found and you'll just be wrong.

I'm reminded of an Arthur C. Clarke quote: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

Re:Lets wait and see (1)

Nick Fel (1320709) | about 4 years ago | (#33037032)

My thoughts exactly - companies like Intel are basically in the business of finding loopholes in the laws of physics. How long now have they been saying that Moore's Law can only hold out for another ten years?

Re:Lets wait and see (3, Funny)

LionKimbro (200000) | about 4 years ago | (#33037298)

Yes, but have you forgotten Isaac Asimov's corollary?

"When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion -- the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right".

Re:Lets wait and see (2, Insightful)

Radtoo (1646729) | about 4 years ago | (#33037438)

Quote: "Disk drives are going to get denser. Just as perpendicular recording was developed in the early part of the last decade and a growth spurt followed, some new technology such as heat-assisted recording will come along and do the same thing again.The need for more and more data storage at a low cost is not going away [...]".

So its future technology that will enable this to happen - but on HDD, because they are currently cheaper. How can that be valid reasoning?

Who cares about replacing ALL hard drives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037006)

SSDs will continue to creep up the size scale, becoming "big enough" for many. LOTS of hard drives will be replaced. All of them? No. Who mentioned that? Only this article.

Re:Who cares about replacing ALL hard drives? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037156)

SSDs already are large enough... for normal people. 1TB is here, and it's WAY overboard - most people can't even use 256GB. For the average user's needs, 64GB is perfect for today's OSes. The article's claim is laughable.

Re:Who cares about replacing ALL hard drives? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 years ago | (#33037478)

64G is only fine if you use your system like a web terminal.

Otherwise, your own creations or just a few games from EA will quickly fill up that drive.

64G is a middling mp3 collection.

Re:Who cares about replacing ALL hard drives? (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 4 years ago | (#33037660)

Yet a 64GB collection of MP3, assuming the average filesize is 6MB and each song costs $1, it's worth $10923. Protect your laptops, people!

Do we always need more space ? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037052)

Sure classical HDD will soon reach 5TB but do we need always more space ? With online storage, online music and videos maybe we will not need that big disks and just enjoy fast silent SSDs.

Re:Do we always need more space ? (1)

Straterra (1045994) | about 4 years ago | (#33037118)

The "online storage, online music and videos" places will certainly need it. Also, what if you aren't connected to the Internet to access such things?

Re:Do we always need more space ? (5, Insightful)

tacensi (706781) | about 4 years ago | (#33037326)

Yes, we always do. Don't underestimate the space needed to store pr0n.

Re:Do we always need more space ? (2, Interesting)

arcelios (1244426) | about 4 years ago | (#33037392)

Or, more to the point, do we need to store all of our biggest files (media, usually) on a SSD? I, for one, have no problems playing music, looking at photos, and watching movies on my normal hard drive. I have a SSD and a traditional HDD in my computer. I use my (much larger) HDD for storing my media, and my SSD for storing high-traffic things like my OS and games. I get the speed I need for my applications, and the size I need for my media.

Re:Do we always need more space ? (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 4 years ago | (#33037416)

Yes. For many academic and research purposes, larger storage devices matter a lot. And as many sensing and measuring technologies improve the need for more storage will grow. For example, astronomers now routinely produce data sets in the terabyte range. Modeling also requires larger and larger data sets. Even if the regular consumer doesn't directly need larger storage devices, most of academia will want them. Furthermore, many people don't trust (with good reason) putting their data in the cloud, so if you want to ensure access to lots of high def video files and the like, your best bet is to have copies of your own. That means you need lots of storage space.

Re:Do we always need more space ? (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 years ago | (#33037516)

The problem with "online" storage is that you can end up offline.

When that happens, the fact that my phone can hold my entire music collection is a handy thing.

It always amazes me when people talk about the cloud as if all of the necessary network infastructure was already there. It's not. Mobile networking is CRAP and mobile networking providers seem intent on also making it EXPENSIVE too.

It's the cloud that sucks. SSDs have potential. Their main problem is that they're terribly expensive. They are not likely to overtake spinny disks any time soon because of this.

Re:Do we always need more space ? (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 4 years ago | (#33037614)

"Sure classical HDD will soon reach 5TB but do we need always more space ?"

Yes. Games are between 15-25GB today and getting larger, that's roughly 5 Games per 100GB. The amount of video content both raw (DVD/Blu-ray) and compressed is growing in size as higher resolutions become available. As storage grows applications eventually take advantage.

Do you always need faster audio/video storage? (1)

grimJester (890090) | about 4 years ago | (#33037726)

I think the point is more like why you didn't need your 48x CD player to listen to music. I have my software on an SSD and my audio and video on HDDs. It's OK if a single SSD can be both the fastest thing I can get my software on per dollar and the largest thing I can get my data on per dollar. It's just not necessary.

Correct. (5, Insightful)

esrobinson (1028500) | about 4 years ago | (#33037068)

The bottom line is that there are limits to how small things can get with current technology.

They're right, SSDs won't replace hard drives with the current technology. If only we had a way to improve technology over time!

When I ponder the vast ignorance of the community, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037072)

I weep for our future.

welllllll (1)

Evildonald (983517) | about 4 years ago | (#33037074)

...except for the people who already HAVE replaced their hard drives with SSDs. Not those people. We're not counting them.

raid trim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037078)

To my knowledge no one has implemented trim for ssd's across a hardware raid array. Trim would seem to be essential to keep up your read/write speeds with a ssd.

Re:raid trim (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 years ago | (#33037784)

Check out the WhipTail and Nimbus arrays. I think WhipTail brags something like over 7 years with no degradation, or they'll replace the media.

Missed Point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037082)

The reason we don't see many 1tb SSD drives is cost, not data density. We could easily have 1tb to 4tb and beyond SSD drives, but it's highly cost prohibitive. There are 1tb SSD drives (OCZ makes one, I believe), but they are in excess of somewhere around $4k, more expensive than most people are willing to spend on the computer as a whole.

Sure they won't "replace" them (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33037102)

Sure, they won't "replace" them because when it comes to raw storage magnetic media is king, but things are going portable and reliable. No one wants to have moving parts in something like a phone. But really how many people actually fill up their current HDD? I know, theres some people out there with 1 TB worth of pictures, movies, music, etc. there are other people there who have the entire PS1 library on their HDD just to say they can, but on the whole how much HDD is actually -used-? On an 80 GB partition, Ubuntu plus all my music plus photos (I really don't keep much video on there, I just stream stuff) and all other files total only 40 GB, and that is just half my entire HDD (I just did a 50% Windows 50% Linux setup, my Windows partition is 80 GB and only has about 12 GB of actual stuff on there) and this all was on a $300 laptop bought 2 years ago!

When it comes down to it, speed it much more important than having 2 TB of stuff on there because the average person could use a speed/durability boost but doesn't need lots and lots of space.

Re:Sure they won't "replace" them (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | about 4 years ago | (#33037456)

I'm a moderate gamer, I work and do other stuff so I only play about 10-15 hours a week, and my Steam cache alone is 146GB, almost the size of my last hard drive. I don't even have all my games downloaded, and I have a fair few not on Steam as well.

Re:Sure they won't "replace" them (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 years ago | (#33037554)

> When it comes down to it, speed it much more important than having 2 TB of stuff on there

Speed actually means NOTHING here. The marginal speed gain from SSD simply isn't worthwhile to most people.

At best, it might be useful when copying from one really-big-drive to another really-big-drive. Your desktop system is disk bound, someone (probably Microsoft) is doing something terribly wrong.

Although improved reliability has some value. Although most people won't care. OTOH, you can get increased reliability with spinny disks by doubling up. You can double up on spinny disks and still spend less than on SSD.

Still new technologies coming... (1)

Braintrust (449843) | about 4 years ago | (#33037108)

Optronics. Positronics. Cybertronics. Moleculartronics.

We need to build more Research Labs.

Re:Still new technologies coming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037290)

I think I've just gone catatronic. Maybe I'll feel better after a nice ginandtronic.

Expanding drives (2, Insightful)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | about 4 years ago | (#33037116)

How far does the storage capacity really need to expand? Hard drives are in the terabyte range now, but not many people really use that much. On media servers or something, maybe, but on your average computer? I've got 50GB in my laptop once you account for my windows partition, and I'm fine with that. A 320GB SSD would last me a lifetime, especially considering the btrfs is supposed to support on-the-fly compression.
Like I said, the only place where I can see the large capacities being needed is behind the scenes on a server or similar device, in which case hard disks aren't much of a problem. On consumer computers, I'm pretty sure they're going to catch on.

Re:Expanding drives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037276)

I'm not so sure - My media server uses several terabytes, but my other computer's 320 gb hard drive is about 80% full, between games, currently worked on video (since it's faster then the media server), and miscellaneous personal and work files...

being able to work on stuff from a laptop is very convenient.

Re:Expanding drives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037282)

Some people use computers for you know, computing? The expectations around analytics in business and science are skyrocketing. To support that requires large amounts of very fast disk I/O.

Re:Expanding drives (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 4 years ago | (#33037340)

Sure, but you already can't store significant scientific datasets on consumer-grade equipment. Nobody's saying that hard drives will cease to exist, but it's quite possible that SSDs will displace them in consumer-grade machines, the kind normal people buy.

Re:Expanding drives (3, Insightful)

Nethead (1563) | about 4 years ago | (#33037342)

You sound like me when I got my first 250MB drive. Shit! This will last me forever!

And it would have if I had kept running DOS.

Re:Expanding drives (1)

vadim_t (324782) | about 4 years ago | (#33037580)

But as technology advances, more and more uses reach the point where further improvements don't add anything.

Back when people were using a 386 with 4MB RAM, computer specs mattered even to the average person. The average joe could find that something basic like word processing could run slowly or not at all, and things like having a math coprocessor mattered for office tasks.

These days if somebody asks you what kind of computer you recommend for email and word processing you can tell them that it pretty much doesn't matter, as it's nearly impossible to find a computer that could have a problem with that (even netbooks should do it just fine). Even for gaming you can get away with "anything with a nvidia or ATI card". It won't be perfect for the very latest stuff, but it shouldn't fail horribly either.

So I do think that at some point, those things become considerably less important. I used to care a lot about laptops having uncomfortably small hard disks. Now I don't even look, and worry more about battery time and weight. For me I think disk space topped out at somewhere around 50 GB. At that point, unless I feel like having a copy of every single video, CD and DVD I own with me, I'm unlikely to reach 50% usage. That's a lot more comfortable than in the 386 days, when I spent time on thinking what to install and how to free up some space.

Re:Expanding drives (2, Insightful)

rjejr (921275) | about 4 years ago | (#33037882)

One word - Flip. More than 1 word - notice all those mini-camcorders everywhere? My parents had a 30 gig HDD which I thought they would never fill up, and then they bought a Sony something or other. Turned out they also had over 6 gig of photos, but I think it still would have taken years to fill up the rest with digital stills. But those video cameras have to offload somewhere. I also thought my 80 gig laptop would last till it didn't but my Flip Ultra HD takes up 8 gigs a pop, and with 2 boys playing soccer, baseball and celebrating both catholic an jewish holidays, well lets just say my wife likes taking videos. So in short, camcorders are pushing consumer PC storage needs. That said, I personally wouldn't mind a world were computers ran off of SSD and everything was backed up onto external HDD or better yet central servers in homes.

Why solid science reports won't replace churnalism (5, Funny)

A beautiful mind (821714) | about 4 years ago | (#33037124)

"Science reporting organizations have been expanding dramatically in recent years, but this article says that's about to change, in part because of the limits of current literacy education. Meanwhile, tabloid reporting will continue to grow, which the author says will mean many years before solid science reporting replaces sensationalism -- if they ever do. From the article: 'The bottom line is that there are limits to how smart things can get with current society. Universities are going to have student density growth problems, just as other societies have had over the last 30 years. This should surprise no one. And the literacy problem for journalism doesn't end there. Buff Clayton, Editor in chief for The Onion at Delaware, notes that as literacy gets smaller, science reporting has more and more troubles -- the bullshit PR releases don't decrease, so the probability of causing accidental sensationalism goes up. "So at some point, you just can't reduce the literacy and hope to not have reader confusion," notes Clayton.'"

3D (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037170)

It's time not only for 3D in TV but in lithography as well.
(2.5D we have ... (more chips stakced)

Why replace when it can assist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037176)

I don't quite get this whole argument about replacing hard drives with SSDs. I have a 64GB SSD for my OS. I have a 1.5TB HDD for my music, movies and data. The expensive, small SSD boots my OS much faster than a traditional HDD and reduces the lag on system operations. The high-capacity and cheap HDD stores my media just fine and there's no lag playing some music or a movie because they just don't need to be read at that kind of speed when they're being used.

Why do we need to replace traditional HDDs with an SSD when you can just use each to their strengths? If SSD capacities won't ever hit the size or price of a HDD who cares. Graphics cards and CPUs both perform different calculations in a way that compliments each other to build a better machine overall. I don't really get why people see HDDs and SSDs as the same kind of component for the same job.

Not just density (2, Insightful)

FranTaylor (164577) | about 4 years ago | (#33037184)

It's economic feasability, too. Rotating media is roughly $100/terabyte, it's gonna take more than one breakthrough for SSD to come close to that.

Nifty new technology doesn't get bought because it's nifty-new, it gets bought because it fills the need better than its predecessor for the price.

And YES there are plenty of applications where multiple terabytes are necessary, maybe not on your home system.

In case you're wondering, I have both on my system: / is SSD, /home is multi-terabyte RAID. Rotating mechanical media is sticking around at least for now.

Re:Not just density (2, Interesting)

pwnies (1034518) | about 4 years ago | (#33037414)

The same was said of hard disks and tape about a decade ago. People cried out that disks would never approach the storage capabilities of LTO, and that disks were only good for small amounts of storage at relatively high performance. Lo and behold though, the desktop market drove HDD purchases far beyond LTO, which meant more money was poured into research in that area. History repeats itself. I have a feeling that we'll see the marketing powers that be pushing SSD drives as the latest and greatest, which means there will be a user demand. User demand will create more funding for research, and eventually SSD's will catch up with disk drives.

Re:Not just density (1)

Burdell (228580) | about 4 years ago | (#33037578)

the desktop market drove HDD purchases far beyond LTO

Really? Where can I buy a 1.4TB hard drive that can read/write at 140MB/s for under $100? Yes, you can hot-swap hard drives; what's the rated insert/remove life of the connector (on the drive and whatever you are connecting it to)? What about the temperature, humidity, and shock rating? How about the storage shelf life and error rate?

Desktop hard drives have slightly passed LTO in terms of capacity, but that's the only area. That's not really all that new, either; a single current-generation tape hasn't often been bigger than the current biggest hard drive. Tape doesn't win on capacity though; it's easy to have a tape library and autoload lots of tapes.

Re:Not just density (1)

FranTaylor (164577) | about 4 years ago | (#33037866)

"about a decade ago."

I'm not talking about decades. I'm talking about today, tomorrow, next week, next year.

Maybe you missed the part where I said "for now".

So let's get some hybrids then! (2, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 4 years ago | (#33037602)

This is what annoys me is that it seems like Flash is idea as a cache for magnetic HDDs. The same principle is already at work in our CPUs:

So a modern CPU is way faster than modern RAM. The access times are much lower. How then, can we have a system not hamstrung by RAM? The answer is cache. With a good system of high speed L1/L2 (and sometimes L3 cache) we can have our cake and eat it too. You have a few megabytes of expensive high clock SRAM right on the core. You have a few gigabytes of cheap DRAM clocked much slower. With proper caching, you then get 90-95% of the expected speed of the SRAM. Nearly all of the speed, a fraction of the cost.

Why not HDDs then? Have the RAM on there (L1) and a couple gigabytes of flash (L2) pared with the disk. Use an intelligent caching algorithm (as in not just the first part of the drive) to cache reads and writes. This should again offer most of the expected speed of the flash, while still offering a low price.

I'd pay for that. Say a full magnetic drive is $100 for 1TB. A full SSD is $3000 for 1TB. A Hybrid 1TB drive, which features 4GB of flash, is $200 but performs 50% faster than the magnetic drive and deals with simultaneous reads and writes much better. I'd buy that.

Unfortunately all the hybrids are for laptops and use it to save power, not to speed things up.

Scaling (1)

hackwrench (573697) | about 4 years ago | (#33037238)

I would think that hard drives would have a scaling problem at lower capacities than SSDs. How small can that bit of iron get?

Solid state densities (5, Insightful)

by (1706743) (1706744) | about 4 years ago | (#33037240)

How many of these [google.com] could you fit in the space of a standard HD case?

I know, someone's gonna lecture me on how this isn't at all a fair comparison...

Limitations aren't the tech of the NAND chips... (3, Insightful)

Shoeler (180797) | about 4 years ago | (#33037242)

Correct me if I'm wrong here - and I usually am wrong - but aren't we "limited" now only by controllers and the *price* of the NAND chips? I've read anandtech's last few SSD manifestos and it seems the controllers' speeds and the price of the NAND - not really anything else - is limiting their absolute capacity. I recall engadget doing several reviews of SATA and PCI-E SSDs with capacities up to 1TB. Granted the 1TB Z-drive was between $1,500 to $2,000 back in March of 2009, but you get the idea. We can make a very large SSD today. It's just not affordable.

To wit, who honestly has a larger than 1TB disk inside their machine right now? I'd imagine not terribly many, as a percentage of all computer owners. Indeed at home I have twin 700-ish GB Caviar Blacks in a RAID 1 configuration, of which I'm using maybe 30% of their capacity.

TFA doesn't actually make any arguments about price directly. It indirectly suggests price of the drives is related to lithography resolution, but provides nothing to back that up.

It seems to me that over time as yields on current technology increase and fab costs are recouped, the price of current technology will go down.

So if we can make a 1TB disk today, it'll be the same 1TB disk in a year or two, except less expensive, probably faster, and probably more reliable.

Re:Limitations aren't the tech of the NAND chips.. (5, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 4 years ago | (#33037588)

Correct me if I'm wrong here - and I usually am wrong -

I'm usually right... but that statement might be one of the exceptions. :)

TFA doesn't actually make any arguments about price directly. It indirectly suggests price of the drives is related to lithography resolution, but provides nothing to back that up.

It seems to me that over time as yields on current technology increase and fab costs are recouped, the price of current technology will go down.

It's a basic maxim of the silicon industry that cost is directly proportional to die area. To simplify, you can consider the silicon fab to have a fixed cost per wafer. Therefore the more die fit on a wafer, the cheaper each chip becomes. The two main ways to do this are by reducing the amount of functionality on each chip (undesirable when the goal is to increase capacity), or to move to a smaller lithography so you can fit many more die on a wafer. While new lithography generations have frequently allowed greater performance, even if they don't they are deployed anyway because it reduces cost for the manufacturer.

Yield improvements and paying off R&D both will help cost, but only to a limited extent. Yields for a production lithography should already be quite high and will asymptotically approach 1. Once R&D is payed off the cost will drop, but there still remains a very large fixed cost per wafer. Neither is going to come close to the cost benefit of being able to, say, go from a 45nm to 32nm process and get roughly 40% more die per wafer.

So yeah price will come down for other reasons, but in the long term price reductions in flash memory devices are going to depend on using smaller lithographies just like it does for other semiconductor devices. The author probably just didn't think to explain this aspect of it, since it's such a well-known aspect of the silicon industry.

On the other hand, people were saying that CMOS processes used in CPUs were going to reach fundamental limits 20 years ago. And 15. And 10. And 5. And oh sure, some of those limits were reached, but then clever people worked around them. The statement in the article amounts to "We can't just blindly reduce lithography size without changing anything else indefinitely", which is true but also kinda pointless since the people working on smaller lithographies for flash are probably aware. In the end exponential progressions like this can't last for ever, but I'm not about to tell the process engineers that they aren't going to be able to find enough tricks to keep it going long enough.

It's possible. (1)

SphericalCrusher (739397) | about 4 years ago | (#33037246)

I agree, but I feel like with enough time, the technology to enhance SSDs would be visible. I know that as of right now, if you increase the storage space AND the single-file-size limit, you are going to run into voltage and data corruption issues... but I think disk based drives are possible to be replaced by this technology. It won't be a fast transfer though, but I don't believe in being "exact" by saying that it will never happen, because with technology, you never know.

Uh...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33037252)

......yeah about that...SSDs have already replaced HDDs in my computer in the role they are spectacularly suited for, my primary drive (C:)

Sure they won't hold TBs of space, but in the current reality where 1Gb wired networks are the norm, and 10Gb versions are on the way, (wireless still blows goats though is usefull for light applications) most machines will never need a big drive in them again. Other than the server that I have in my garage all my future computer builds will be with SSDs.

Once you breath the fresh air that is a computer with a RAID 0 setup composed of SSDs you'll never go back.

replace hardrives WHERE (2, Insightful)

buddyglass (925859) | about 4 years ago | (#33037270)

Some context would be nice. It may be that SSDs end up replacing conventional hard drives on, say, all laptops. Or all personal desktops that don't also double as servers. Or we may see a two-tier situation develop where SSDs are used for day-to-day operations in the enterprise and hard drives used for storing backups, or storing infrequently accessed archival data.

Re:replace hardrives WHERE (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 4 years ago | (#33037674)

I have actually speculated that we're moving much closer to a hybrid approach to storage. We already have pieces there, we just need to get an OS to realize it. Here's the idea:

Going from the CPU to VLTS (very long term storage)

Level 1 - 3 Cache (CPU), RAM, SSD, HD, Network Storage, VLTS, etc.

If we built CPUs and OS to view all the MEMORY (that's what it all is) as a single (or as close to that as possible) address space, where the File System and the OS work in concert to bring data from the distant (computationally speaking) to the much closer MEMORY as needed.

In the future, OS will most likely require SSD, as they require HDs (and some require Network). I don't see HDs going away anytime soon, I just see them taking a place further away from the CPU.

I predict (2, Insightful)

ceraphis (1611217) | about 4 years ago | (#33037296)

As HDDs continue to fail before their expected lifetimes due to sensitivity to movement and the general worse state of moving parts vs unmoving parts, people may start to flock towards SSDs as replacements, especially as people start to notice the many benefits of SSDs over HDDs. They'd have to realize though that extraordinary wear could shorten the length of an average MLC and that SSDs even on normal usage are not meant to last forever, but with the improvement to wear leveling this may be less of a problem in the future.

They won't? Really? (1)

millennial (830897) | about 4 years ago | (#33037344)

Better tell that to the one I just migrated my Windows installation onto...

Is physical size really the problem? (2, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | about 4 years ago | (#33037354)

SD cards go up to 32GB. They're only 2.1mm thick. Just piling them up you could fit 200 or so in the volume of a typical hard disk, and it's not like an SD card is the most space efficient means of storage since a lot of the volume is taken up with the plastic case. Micro-SD can go to a quarter of the capacity in a tenth of the size. So we can squeeze at least 16TB into the same volume. That's probably adequate for a typical home user. The price is the issue here.

Re:Is physical size really the problem? (1)

sznupi (719324) | about 4 years ago | (#33037620)

MicroSD also goes to 32 GB.

Re:Is physical size really the problem? (2, Funny)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 4 years ago | (#33037878)

Seek time? You're also forgetting the controller electronics too.

if you think 16TB is enough for the average home user you either severely overestimate or underestimate homeusers.

i don't know which, actually.

They always say this! (1)

Facegarden (967477) | about 4 years ago | (#33037364)

They always say this, and we always find something.
Check out this article about hard drive density i just found from 2001:
http://www.post-gazette.com/healthscience/20011029disk1029p2.asp [post-gazette.com]

"...within two or three years, advances in storage capacity will begin to taper off, he predicted."

Drives were about $300 for 80GB back then... Last weekend i bought a 2TB drive for $125.

Yeah, we will always find something. These articles about "zomg technology is going to END!" need to stop.
-Taylor

There has been breakthroughs in voltage (2, Interesting)

Karganeth (1017580) | about 4 years ago | (#33037436)

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/breakthrough_nand_flash_memory_could_lead_10gbs_ssd_writes [maximumpc.com] We have had a breakthrough in solving the voltage problem. I think the authoer is nothing but idiotic to believe that SSD isn't going to replace hdds for the average consumer. Later this year intel is going to release its G3 SSDs, with the lArgest at 600GB. G2 drives were 60% cheaper than G1 drives. Let's hope we see a similar drop.

SSD for Performance (1)

foxalopex (522681) | about 4 years ago | (#33037488)

I think maybe this writer totally missed the point of SSDs. SSDs are not about space but are about speed. If you've ever had a chance to use a high performance SSD, the experience is awesome. Everything loads and unloads smoothly. You have none of the delays related to standard hard drives that do affect your experience with an operating system. Also in a laptop SSDs bring silence and a physical reliability that you just can't get in a standard hard drive. I suspect SSDs will fill their own space in the market with mechanical HDs being reduced to storage or backup drives.

Re:SSD for Performance (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 4 years ago | (#33037562)

"I suspect SSDs will fill their own space in the market with mechanical HDs being reduced to storage or backup drives."

What else do hard drives do, again? Did you mean 'reduced to purposes where either capacity or lengevity are more important than speed or silence'?

You'll have to be more specific. Virtually every hard drive I've ever owned have been used for either storage or backup. Holding the OS is also a storage purpose, but you can figure that many drives need to hold an OS to be part of a useful system...

SSDs as speed-centric devices sounds more like massive cache to me. Really massive. Still storage.

Dell? (1)

SeNtM (965176) | about 4 years ago | (#33037532)

Is anyone really listening to what anyone at Dell has to say???

Data storage density (1)

Zorpheus (857617) | about 4 years ago | (#33037572)

From the article:

Flash will never have the price/density advantage of hard drives, however.

A MicroSD card has a volume of less than 0,115cm^3, with 32GB capacity currently availlable. A 3 1/2 " HD is 300cm^3. Filling the HD volume with MicroSD cards you will get a capacity of 83TB. HDs are 2TB maximum, so flash memory already has a clear density advantage.

2.5 & 3.5 inch drives to 5 inch drives (1)

AEC216 (621410) | about 4 years ago | (#33037600)

(See Subject) Excluding notebooks and netbooks, can't the increase in volume be taken advantage of for more flash capacity.

This makes total sense. (1)

guspasho (941623) | about 4 years ago | (#33037638)

As I can attest to while I read it on my CRT monitor.

Welcome back to 80's (1)

Fri13 (963421) | about 4 years ago | (#33037678)

Welcome back 5½ drives. We all have missed you!

I have never understanded the idea to make smaller HD's when there have been need to bigger storage space. Not in the normal cases. HTC's and laptops the 1.8" or littlebit bigger can be natural. But full or half tower case, the 5½ is enough. And if with that we can make more secure (less errors) drives, I welcome it right now. Just yesterday Windows 7 destroyed my third HD..... Why it always happend to HD's where I install Windows, but never to HD's where I install Linux or other Unix OS?

SSD != NAND (1)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | about 4 years ago | (#33037690)

It may be quite a few years down the read but there are other solid state technologies that don't use NAND chips.

Ferroelectric, holographic, phase-change, nanotube, ....

Price per GB (or TB) will always win out (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | about 4 years ago | (#33037876)

Right now, my gaming PC's slowest point is the hard drive, and this is one of the newest hard drives on the market. The Windows 7 spec is 5.9, which is the fastest that a hard drive can reach from what I've read, and I can easily get 60-70 MB/sec throughput from it (continuous, not burst). But quite frankly unless SSD can reach the price/GB ratio that make it comparable to hard drives, my time really isn't valuable enough to warrant paying for the much, much higher price/GB ratio of SSD. Maybe in another 5 or 10 years it will be comparable or at least to a point where decision making will end up more like "I really don't need the space on that new 10 TB hard drive, so I'll get the 2 TB SSD drive instead for about the same price."
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