Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Disk Drives Face Challenge From Chips

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the the-growth-of-hard-storage dept.

Data Storage 235

WSJdpatton writes "Researchers are reporting significant progress in perfecting a different way to store data in semiconductors, which could replace one widely used type of memory chip and possibly become a credible competitor to disk drives. The researchers, in a paper being delivered at a technical conference in San Francisco, say they used a novel combination of materials to create prototype phase-change components that are more than 500 times as fast as flash chips, while requiring less than half of the electrical power to record data."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Yeah, but (4, Insightful)

Keyslapper (852034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195816)

What is the storage density, and will it still be feasible when this finally comes to market in 10 years?

Re:Yeah, but (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196528)

Does the storage density really matter? At least initially?

Even if the first unit they put out is 2x [standard size of whatever] but 500x as fast & uses less battery power... don't you think there's going to be a market for it?

Re:Yeah, but (5, Insightful)

Keyslapper (852034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196866)

Possibly. If I had to give up a 360G platter drive to put in a 120G phase drive, I'd probably do it - so long as the cost favored the phase drive.

I'd probably still keep the platter drive for secondary storage and put the OS and critical apps/servers/whatever on the phase drive though.

I wouldn't pay twice as much for a drive with half the head room though - even if it is 500X faster. That kind of speed (and especially power consumption) may be a big deal for notebooks, but if density is really a problem, the notebooks would probably have to give up a lot more headroom - relatively speaking. We're finally seeing 200G notebook drives, but keep in mind they're tiny compared to your standard laptop drive. If the new phase drives can store the same or more data in the same space, then yeah, I definitely see the end of the platter drive in mainstream use - once the supply outweighs the demand enough to make it financially realistic. If they can put no more than 30G in a notebook drive, then I think it'll take a couple product generations for that to happen.

Formats (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197298)

Ina remarkable case of technology amnesia, the same idiots that standardized on FAT for flash media for devices are now touting the amazing formatting capacity of FAT32 - An astonishing 32GB! As if in four years that's going to be a lot for flash media you don't have to handle with tweezers.

So run out, children, and buy your SD 2.0 standard devices while they're not yet obsolete. That way you can buy your camera again and again for no good reason.

Re:Yeah, but (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197526)

Yeah, yeah, yeah; and it'll be delivered by flying car, when?

Seriously, am really looking forward to TB size solid state drives. Get rid of these bloody victorian spinning disk contraptions! They may have been fine for that time machine [k12.in.us] Mr. Wells had but this is the 21st. C.

Re:Yeah, but (1)

Keyslapper (852034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197884)

Yeah, yeah, yeah; and it'll be delivered by flying car, when?
Uh, 10 years? Well, probably not by flying car, but the article did predict a possible market release of 2015, which is really only 8 or 9 years.

If I get your point though, I agree. My perception tells me that storage is really falling behind Moore's Law. Perhaps I'm not seeing all the angles though.

Not that I really need TB storage, but I think Solid State drives in the 100G - 200G range for notebooks, and up to 400G for desktops could have been around by now if all the focus weren't with faster, smarter chips to keep up with the exponentially increasing WinBloat requirements. Granted, the platter drives have been getting smaller and faster, possibly in line with Mr. Moore, but persistent storage in general has done relatively poorly.

The onset of the USB key is probably the best advance in the solid state branch for some time. It kicked off the Shuffle from Apple, and eventually the Nano, amongst others. But those haven't focused on actual Hard Drive Replacement applications of the tech. Just on new ways to market it and adding shiny new bells and (particularly) whistles.

Solid state application in this area has obviously had its issues, like the current leakage below a certain die size, and the mfg costs as mentioned in TFA, but this is exactly the kind of thing Moore predicted would be overcome faster and faster. We've been on platter drives for what, 20 years, now? How long have solid state drives been around, maybe 8 or 10? Look how much farther the platters have come - we've gone from spending $800 for 80M drives to spending $70 for 250G (potential rotten memory alert), with access times and transfer rates (read and write) being so much faster in new drives, that it's almost laughable to compare the two.

Solid state drives have all but petered out of existence until the last 2 or 3 years. What you can get today is much the same price for much the same product as you would have seen 10 years ago.

Now, if they could just manage to get this phase tech to market by 2015 as predicted in the article, maybe this technology could get back on track.

The iPod Fanboys..... (1, Insightful)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195842)

...... Should start talking about these chips being in iPods in 5-4-3-2.....

Re:The iPod Fanboys..... (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196204)

OMG d00d these chips will prawn in iPods! I have already sent an email to Apple's customer service folk asking when I can pre-order 200 Gb iPods with these chips in them.

Re:The iPod Fanboys..... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196232)

"Hey, what about using these new chips in the Zune?"
"The chips won't work in brown devices."
"Doh!"

Re:The iPod Fanboys..... (2, Funny)

shaneh0 (624603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196688)

"The chips won't work in brown devices."

dirty f'in racist chips.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

javamann (410973) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195844)

FP

Re:fp (0, Offtopic)

javamann (410973) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195880)

Not! I tried.

Re:fp (-1, Offtopic)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196462)

Man! All your recent posts are either moderated "Funny" or "Offtopic!" What a reputation!

I must admit: My posts leave a lot to be desired too!

Good news (4, Insightful)

fatduck (961824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195852)

FTA:

The chip industry is racing to find a replacement for flash memory, because the technology is expected to leak electrical current unacceptably when manufacturers shrink chip circuitry beyond certain dimensions.
This is the important part. Good to see someone addressing the oft-ignored failures of flash.

Re:Good news (4, Interesting)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195966)

Arguably, this is the important part, and one reason why Flash would never have been a good replacement for a HD even if the speed issues were resolved:

Flash memory is popular because it retains data without a constant electric charge. Such chips aren't usually used in place of disk drives, because of their higher cost and because there are limits on how many times data can be written. Phase-change memory doesn't have that problem
(emphasis mine)

Re:Good news (4, Interesting)

el_womble (779715) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196390)

Do you really believe that harddisks don't fail?

The difference is that flash fails with writes (not reads) and HDD fails with reads AND writes (bad sectors?). Early flash failed after only 10,000 writes per sector, newer flash is in the millions. Flash spreads the writes around, so to reduce the chance of any one sector failing and can do this because flash is genuinely RAM (unlike HDD where location affects transfer speed). Both HDD and SSD employ firmware stratergies that hide sector failure from the OS, only flash can do that without any real cost to performance.

The end result is that if either are working after 3 or 4 years your doing well, and should really be looking for a replacement unit.

Re:Good news (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196532)

Do you really believe that harddisks don't fail?


No, but HDDs are amongst the most reliable storage media. A good, well-built SCSI drive can last for much, much longer than 3-4 years. I've personally seen hard drives as old 10 years functioning without a hitch. RAID can very much mitigate the risks associated with keeping drives around that long, too.

Re:Good news (4, Insightful)

BeBoxer (14448) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196766)

The end result is that if either are working after 3 or 4 years your doing well, and should really be looking for a replacement unit.

Wow! I never suspected. You should probably let Seagate know. I'm sure they will want to rethink their 5 year warranty.

Perhaps you buy really cut rate drives, but in my experience hard drives almost always outlast their usefulness. I've disposed of more drives due to a combination of obsolete busses and pathetic capacity than outright failures. If you are really seeing high failure rates after only three years, you should be looking for some external factor because that isn't normal.

Re:Good news (2, Insightful)

Splab (574204) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197814)

I'm supporting about 100 users, and we hardly ever see any drives fail. Over the last year I've had 2 dead drives (both on the users personal machines), and today we had a user with a failing drive (laptop - not dead yet, but it's going to fail within one or two months). So yeah, the guy is obviously buying junk (or very unlucky).

Re:Good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196986)

genuinely RAM

it is genuinely RAM because there is circuit going down to each cell. and that is also the reason for lower density. HDD is pure data (+checksums etc). there are no circuits on the storage layer. makes me wonder why do we have ONE head that reads and writes. why can't we have 4,8,16 heads per physical surface? and i have been thinking about this for a long time. what is stopping manufacturers from putting multiple arms in a drive?

Re:Good news (2, Insightful)

TranscendentalAnarch (1005937) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197224)

Because that's the most complicated part of the drive.

Re:Good news (2, Insightful)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197092)

Store your swap file on a flash drive and you can ruin it in a couple of months.

Flash is good for some things like portable media, but where constant activity is found you should use something more durable.

Re:Good news (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197528)

Early flash failed after only 10,000 writes per sector, newer flash is in the millions.

My understanding is that newer flash is still only in the low hundreds of thousands but the storage devices have onboard intelligence that remaps sectors on the flash device to cure utilization problems. If you have a half-empty flash device and you attempt to rewrite the same block a bunch of times, it will continually remap that block to unused blocks on the device so that your writes don't all take place in the same block.

Re:Good news (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196414)

Of course, as always with storage technology, the chief concern will always be cost. Why is RAID so popular? Bang for the buck! You get performance-enhanced, fault-tolerant storage at a reasonable price per megabyte.

Other technologies have come and gone claiming to compete with hard drives for speed and reliability. But the fact is that hard drives are a very mature technology with a low cost per megabyte, with performance and reliability characteristics that have long been considered good enough. The number one factor that continues -- and will continue -- to keep hard drives at the top of the storage technology pile is cost. Every other random access storage technology is more expensive and less reliable, even ones that are higher performing.

Re:Good news (3, Insightful)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196582)

I always thought that using a hybrid system with a flash memory and a hard drive would be great. Every time the boot configuration changes, write a new "hibernation file" to the flash memory, and then boot from that. Furthermore, the code calls for each application as it starts up could be written to the flash memory. Indeed, the most-accessed binaries can be copied onto the flash memory, as space permits. Such a system would decrease boot times and quicken application start times while reducing the risk of burning out the flash memory over the average life of the computer/drive.

Re:Good news (2, Insightful)

IDontAgreeWithYou (829067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196522)

"oft-ignored" - I do not think that means what you thnk it means. Every time someone mentions using flash in place of a hard drive, nearly 80% (totally made up number) of the comments are about the rewrite limits of flash memory. I mean there are at least 10 comments below yours that mention it already.

No more harddrives? (3, Insightful)

CronicBurn (316845) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195920)

Interesting read, however I don't see these things holding a useful amount of data by 2010. Even if they can get 4G capacity on these chips it still wont replace hard drives that hold terabytes of data.

Although it could make really cool applications for OS installs. Could you imagine your favorite OS installed on something as fast or faster then today's RAM? I don't want to think about the cost of 4G of this stuff though. *shiver*

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196044)

How many 4 GB CF chips (not cards, chips) can you fit into the same space as a 3.5" HD? 100 maybe? That's 400 GB right there. And that's assuming these thing's have a denisty as small as CF, which, according to the article, they do not.

Re:No more harddrives? YES! (3, Funny)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196114)

I can see as this memory becomes faster, cheaper and more reliable to replace system memory, too. I can even see the stuff become so cheap that backing all the info will become cost prohibitive, something like how tape backup systems cost way more today than a 2nd hard drive, but an order of magnatude higher.

The irony is that this would explain why in the future (à-la-Star-Trek), backups of the computer's memory doesn't exist and cause improbable storylines for us system admins.

Re:No more harddrives? (2, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196122)

I don't want to think about the cost of 4G of this stuff though. *shiver*

[shrug] A decade ago, I'd never even seen a machine with 4GB RAM, and five years ago, I'd only ever seen that much RAM in monstrously expensive servers. Now I have a machine with that much RAM on my desk. (And yes, I use it; most of my work is pretty heavy number-crunching.) So if this stuff turns out to be viable, it'll get there.

Actually, a better comparison just occurred to me: about fifteen years ago, I paid an extra thousand bucks to get a laptop with a 60MB hard drive (vs. the standard 20MB or whatever it was). A few months ago, I bought a 256MB thumb drive for about twenty-five bucks. That just blew me away when I thought about it.

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

thisissilly (676875) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197058)

FYI, you can get a 1GB thumb drive for about $25 these days. I just ordered a 2 GB for my brother for Christmas, with tax and shipping, it was $42.43 from newegg.

A far cry from the 20MB "half hight" MFM drive I bought for $500 back in 1985.

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

thisissilly (676875) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197098)

D'oh! s/hight/height/.

And thinking back, it might have only been $400.

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197110)

... or my first hard drive... a 5 Meg full height IBM drive for the IBM PC for about $1000.00

Moore's Law and disks (2, Interesting)

billstewart (78916) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197212)

For the most part, disk capacities have been increasing faster than the Moore's Law double-in-18-months for the last few years. I stopped caring about disk capacity somewhere around the time 6GB drives got replaced by 20GB drives which got replaced by 120GB drives over about 2-3 years, each at under $100/drive. (Then I got BitTorrent and started downloading lossless-compression music, so I temporarily had to pay attention again :-)


My first Vax, 22 years ago, had 1GB of disk, in the form of four washing-machine-sized drives which used removable 250MB disk packs. The drives cost about $120K total, and the packs were about $1000 each. There isn't really an exact comparison to that combination; you could either look at DVD-RW ($40 for the drive, $0.50 for the disks, so 8-12000x the price/capacity), or amortize the drive across some number of packs to compare to fixed disks (e.g. 10 packs per drive would be $160K for 10GB, though I think we only bought about 3 packs per drive over before that machine was obsolete), or you could make some unbalanced comparison like $20 for a CF-to-USB adapter and $20/GB for Compact Flash cards, which would be a mere 200:1 on the removable media but 6000:1 for the "drive".

Re:Moore's Law and disks (2, Interesting)

DarkSarin (651985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197356)

And I have an astrophysics friend who just told me that the university we attend (grad students) will be putting up a new satellite that can generate 30TBs of data in one night (Full Sky Scan!). Wow.

Dark Star (2, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197868)

I'd guess that the data would be highly compressable, though: Dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, star, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, star, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, dark, star, dark, dark, dark...

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

Rhys (96510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196146)

There are some applications that would kill to have a 4 gig solid-state disk widely available that didn't have the limited-writes of flash. I'm thinking of supercomputing specifically. Network booting isn't good when you're talking thousands of nodes, but neither is magnetic spinning disk. Flash would be okay if you really could tightly control your operating system's behavior (Linux could probably handle it, Solaris is a maybe, and OS X is right out).

Re:No more harddrives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17197020)

Just put /usr /bin/ /sbin and /lib (maybe /opt and some other things) on flash. They don't get written much (even counting frequent updates, you'll be hard pressed to reach 1M writes). Leave /home /var /tmp and whatever else may be appropriate on the hard disk.
  The biggest problem is swap, hdd sucks for swapping, and flash will just die.

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196208)

Although I believe there will be a continued need to hold terabytes of data (mostly for multimedia file storage), I think that a small (say 50GB) high speed storage device is desperately needed in most computers. Think of it this way, if you can get data onto and off of your "hard-drive" dramatically faster then booting your system will become dramatically faster and every application that has disc speed as a bottleneck (any game or database application) will run much faster.

Re:No more harddrives? (4, Interesting)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196224)

I don't think the hard drive will disappear completely, but as the costs come down, the companies cannot make money producing the smaller capacity drives. We will see 1Tb hard drives readily available someday, sure thing. But different people have different needs. Hard drives are beginning to augment backup strategies because they have become so cheap and high in capacity.

A solid state drive has a higher G-shock tolerance, is quieter and requires less power than a hard drive. These features are why the technology is attractive to the people who need it. And not everyone needs a hard drive that is 400gb in size. Network appliances may only need a small 1gb boot drive, and these kind of devices will need this new phase-change memory, or whatever will work for the task beyond flash.

It would be cool to have something like this that is your main memory AND your storage space in one. We could call it Run-In-Place. We could then have a instant-on computers. Just imagine Windows XP or Linux booting up in under 3 seconds!

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

letxa2000 (215841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196940)

It would be cool to have something like this that is your main memory AND your storage space in one. We could call it Run-In-Place.


Palm's been doing it for years. And, yes, they boot and load applications very quickly.

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197024)

It would be cool to have something like this that is your main memory AND your storage space in one. We could call it Run-In-Place.


Palm's been doing it for years. And, yes, they boot and load applications very quickly.

Yes, Palm has, indeed. I was thinking more along the lines of general-purpose desktop OS.

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197142)

Still, hard drives will have the cheapest $/gig price for a while to come yet. If the 1tb disk in your workstation is only being used for archival purposes, there's no reason it needs to be spinning constantly and can sit there drawing no power with parked heads until the next background archiving/retrieving task (still not as shock resistant as flash, but certainly better than a spinning drive).

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

Jhan (542783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197394)

I don't think the hard drive will disappear completely, but as the costs come down, the companies cannot make money producing the smaller capacity drives.

I agree. This is a big problem for larger companies that want maximum performance, but don't have that much data. They stripe 8, 16, 32 drives, and it's a pain in the wrist to find someone that can sell small enough drives so that you don't massively overshoot the space requirements.

We will see 1Tb hard drives readily available someday, sure thing.

"Some day"? Some day, as in far, far into the future?!? First of all, a Tb is 128 GB. Second: Lacie BiggestDisk [lacie.com] . You, my friend, are suffering from "Future Shock" [answers.com]

Please repeat after me, "Terabyte storage is available now for prosumers. By 2016, petabyte storage. By 2026, exabyte storage."

But different people have different needs. Hard drives are beginning to augment backup strategies because they have become so cheap and high in capacity.

A solid state drive has a higher G-shock tolerance, is quieter and requires less power than a hard drive. These features are why the technology is attractive to the people who need it. And not everyone needs a hard drive that is 400gb in size. Network appliances may only need a small 1gb boot drive, and these kind of devices will need this new phase-change memory, or whatever will work for the task beyond flash.

Once again, agreed, but from a different perspective... Disk sizes are growing way more rapidly than other parts of the computer, including OS sizes.

Smaller/faster (and more expensive) "disk" technologies keep popping up.

Why not do it like Ye Olde Amiga did? IE, the default install is to use different partitions for "OS" and "Data". The OS fits onto the (NG) flash memory described in this thread, the rest goes onto the "Data" partition. This would also go some way towards improving boot-up times as discussed in recent threads on /.

It would be cool to have something like this that is your main memory AND your storage space in one. We could call it Run-In-Place. We could then have a instant-on computers. Just imagine Windows XP or Linux booting up in under 3 seconds!

I, personally will not be satisfied until boot-times are cut down until they are comparable with my old C=64. (I used to reboot my C=64 by flipping the power switch down, then up again, as fast as humanly possible. Once, in five years, I actually managed to do it too fast (<.05 seconds?) leaving the computer in a strange, scrambled state.

Re:No more harddrives? (1)

itlurksbeneath (952654) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197276)

Could you imagine your favorite OS installed on something as fast or faster then today's RAM?

They didn't say this technology is as fast or faster than RAM, they said it was 500 times faster than current flash memory. Current flash memory is 6 to 10 times slower than current hard drive technology and a hard drive is roughly 100 to 200 times slower than RAM, so you're looking at flash being 600 to 2000 times slower than regular memory. Granted, something that's 500 times faster than flash puts it well above a hard drive on the speed scale.

What would be interesting would be to treat current memory technology (DRAM, RDRAM, etc) as a kind of CPU level 3 cache and make this new technology take on a kind of like a hybrid hard drive/main memory status. You'd still have a volume of high speed memory closer to the CPU and the "Memory Drive"(tm) would serve as the volume storage device at a higher speed than current hard drive technology. You could even throw a rotating hard drive in there to act as the volume backup device.

With that, all the technologies below the one from TFA just got bumped down a notch on the scale.

  • hard drive shifts to role of backup media
  • backup media -> ?? dies? long term archival?
  • flash -> garbage bin

Technology description (3, Informative)

in2mind (988476) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195940)

From the company developing it - Ovonyx:

http://www.ovonyx.com/tech_html.html [ovonyx.com]

http://www.ovonyx.com/ovonyxtech.html [ovonyx.com]

Re:Technology description (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196194)

These guys seem to get in the news every few years (when their stock needs a boost)? I thought a decade ago they were going to make normal batteries obsolete because their stuff was so good a battery it'd replace car engines.

In other news... (2, Funny)

YourMotherCalled (888364) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195964)

...a mad scientist will announce to his friends and family later today that he has come up with an idea for storing 500 times more data than a DVD on a single Cheerio.

Re:In other news... (2, Funny)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196708)

With or without milk?

Re:In other news... (1)

Ontology42 (964454) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197336)

What ever happened to Constellation 3D? Didn't they have FMD Drives that were supposed to be out by now?

~~sniff ~~sniff

Smell that, a stock anaylist, a resarch scientist and and a broker were at a bar....

Ita about time (5, Insightful)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195968)

Today the bottleneck of the whole system lies in the hard drive. This is the only mechanical part (fans excluded) of a computer. It's about time to find a solution for large storage that doesn't depends on an arm swinging and moving back and forward through a fragmented file system....

Re:Ita about time (2, Insightful)

KingNaught (718536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196078)

So you don't have a dvd/cd rom in your computer?

Re:Ita about time (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196282)

Or any fans
Or power switches

Re:Ita about time (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196402)

Or any fans?

Re:Ita about time (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196888)

Or power switches??

Re:Ita about time (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196372)

So you don't have a dvd/cd rom in your computer?
True, but I think the point he was trying to make was that the Hard Drive is an essential part to a computer. If something happens to it then you're pretty much SOL, and its mechanical nature makes it prone to failure (particularly in a laptop that gets carried around). Meanwhile, if for whatever reason the motor on your DVD drive dies the computer is still functional and useful (unless you NEED the DVD/CD at that exact instant: movie, install, etc). Sure, the DVD Drive is still a mechanical part but not its not a piece that can prevents everything else from working).

So in the end, putting a lot of faith in a component that has a high risk of breaking due to its design. I'm not saying Hard Drives "suck" or anything, but in some cases an alternative would be preferable.

Re:Ita about time (1)

letxa2000 (215841) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197250)

I agree completely. Solid state is the only way to fly. While some people's storage needs will continue to explode as they store an ever-expanding collection of pr0n and MP3s, some of us are really reaching the limit of what we need. I have a 100GB hard drive. I have all my music, applications, and projects on it. I'm using something like 50GB, which is not that different than the space I was using 3 years ago. If, at some point, solid state storage devices get to the 50-80GB level, I'll be ditching my hard drive and going solid-state.


Re:Ita about time (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196818)

I'm sure he does. Of course, I use the hard drive every single time I use the computer, and the DVD burner about twice a month(usually to burn a cd...). Being without the hard drive is a big problem, being without the dvd is a minor inconvenience.

Wouldn't be necessary! (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196976)

If these phase change chips are non-volatile and cheap, they can replace the DVD/CD just as easily as they replace the hard disk. The only purpose of anything DVD-like would be for mass distribution of software and content, and if I could eliminate that mechanical drive in favor of simple internet downloads to a phase change stick like current flash sticks but faster and cheaper, I'd be happy.

Re:Ita about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196170)

MRAM or Ovonix phase change memory will probably get there in a few years. Large flash drives should be okay now with wear levelling, depending on your needs. Stuff that embedded/turnkey folks would use.

Re:Ita about time (1)

adrenalinerush (518023) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197466)

It's about time to find a solution for large storage that doesn't depends on an arm swinging and moving back and forward through a fragmented file system....

Yeah, and it's about time to find a cure for cancer, too. I suspect people have been working diligently on both of these issues for quite some time now. It's not a matter of someone just going out and doing it.

There are alternatives to using HDDs for mass storage. They just all happen to be slower or much more expensive per GB. HDDs have stuck around for a reason.

Re:Ita about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17197628)

I thought bloatware (eg. Windows) was the bottleneck. No seriously, the only times I need my HDD to be really fast is when copying large files [which I don't do very often] or when memory is paging in/out.

Re:Ita about time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17197712)

...that doesn't depends on an arm swinging and moving back and forward

This would also be a major improvement to the average geek's sex life.

Are you REALLY Linux free? (1)

HonestDirect (1026136) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197786)

You say you're "Linux Free"?
That's funny :)

The majority of anything you do on the web these days
IS linux in some form or another :)

That and with all the embedded linux being used on nearly
every electronic device out there today...
You're probably going to have to clarify that statement with:
"On my personal computer" :)

Flash chip problems (1)

Calinous (985536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17195976)

Right now are the low write count (worked upon, and mostly solved), sequential speed (again, worked upon and mostly solved) and especially the cost per gigabyte.
        Will the new format allow lower costs per gigabyte compared to the current hard drive cost? Will the cost be lower than the projected cost of flash memory in the 10 years time frame? How will the cost of magnetic media storage (HDD) change in the following years?

Re:Flash chip problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196034)

costs per gigabyte compared to the current hard drive cost?

If sugar were cheaper per pound than flour, would you quit using flour? Even if it's not cheaper than the current harddrive, it may provide more value through features that harddrives don't have (speed? reliability?)

4 years down the road (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196042)

when we all have 16 GIGS of ram and all running our OS straight from ramdrives, we will look back and laugh.

Re:4 years down the road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196104)

How do you plan to load the OS to RAM?

Re:4 years down the road (1)

Non-CleverNickName (1027234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196148)

16 GIGS of RAM? Now that's just crazy talk. We all know 640K of this stuff is more than we'll ever really need.

Re:4 years down the road (1)

FunkeyMonk (1034108) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196258)

Pfft -- the bloated, oversized OSes of the future won't come close to fitting in 16 GB.

Re:4 years down the road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196722)

I had my first computer with 16G of RAM in 2001. It required a bit of tweaking (as Windows NT didn't NORMALLY support this much). Now a machine with 16G isn't all that unusual. The reality is that those that push their machines have long since learned that RAM is often the best solution. There are now internal cards that have battery backups that allow to you make a REAL RAM drive... one that doesn't have the speed/write issues of flash ram, but that maintain their status with a battery backup, and solve the largest problem with normal RAM.

The sad truth is that there are often cheap, reasonable solutions, that would make every one's life easier... but that are not sold, because they would undermine the current business of selling obsolete, and relatively ineffective solutions.

Re:4 years down the road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17197352)

I already can run my OS from ram. All I need is 384 MB...

Remeber the compressor that would re-compress its (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196088)



Remeber the compressor that would re-compress its output, so it would ultimately shrink to ... nil? Dvorak bought into that, as did many, many others. Here a scam, there a scam, everywhere a scam-scam.

Cost is what matters (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196092)

It might be cheap:

>OUM requires fewer steps in an IC manufacturing process resulting in reduced cycle times, fewer defects, and greater manufacturing flexibility.

>a process that deviates little from a basic CMOS logic flow.

I get nervous about people who make claims like
>the OUM memory state can be written more than 10 trillion times
unless they've tested it to a trillion cycles, which is just possible.

Anyone else nervous that they didn't say anything like "write time N nanoseconds"?

Re:Cost is what matters (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196288)

Anyone else nervous that they didn't say anything like "write time N nanoseconds"?
FTA: "more than 500 times as fast as flash chips"

I can't seem to find hard numbers on the chips, but USB Flash being able to obtain upwards of 13MB/s now puts it faster than U320 SCSI

Re:Cost is what matters (2, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196966)

Marketing departments usually find the _slowest_ competitor to base their stats on. I wouldn't be suprised if the speed was relative to early-generation flash in the hundreds of kB/s range. Not that 100MB/s would be considered slow, but it might not be the GB/s you would expect looking at today's fast flash drives.

Re:Cost is what matters (3, Informative)

kansas1051 (720008) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196336)

Wikipedia(as always) has a good article on the technology. It looks like the write time is currently about 5ns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase-change_memory [wikipedia.org] What is really interesting is that the technology is generally temperature based.

Re:Cost is what matters (1)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196392)

I get nervous about people who make claims like
>the OUM memory state can be written more than 10 trillion times
unless they've tested it to a trillion cycles, which is just possible.


Considering the size and quantity of their prototype I'd say your skepticism is warranted. It's probably more likely derived from theory and marketing rather than a real world test.

Or...

I'll believe it when the MFR's warranty bears that claim.

The real challage is price. (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196108)

Hard Disk Drives now are about $0.50 a Gigabyte. Flash is now about $25.00 a Gigabyte. 3 1/2" Floppy disks about $250.00 per Gigabyte. So it is natural for the Flash Memory cards to replace the floppies as they did. Better speed and better cost/Gigabyte. But right now Hard Drive technology is really cheap. If this new design can match prices/gigabyte of a hard drive then the Disk Drives will need a real challenge. Otherwise This new technology may only be a threat to Flash, or used with drives in hybrid mode for faster disk access. But not until then.

Price is a major driving force in memory.

CPU Registers are the fastest but most expensive (very small amount is used)
Cache is the next fastest and the second most expensive. (4 Megs or so)

Then comes normal RAM Memory Still slower then Cache and cheaper normally systems now have about a Gig or 2 of that.

If price wasn't a case Computers wouldn't have much RAM but all Cache, or huge amount of registers. But in real life price is the final decision.

 

Re:The real challage is price. (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196236)

Other costs need to be taken into account. For example, many people leave their computers on when not in use, because they don't want to waste time letting them start up when they return. (I leave my work computer on except over three-day weekends or longer, though I turn the CRT monitors off each night.) Their time is money, and they don't want to pay the price.

But, leaving the computers on also costs money in terms of electricity. This is also a big price to pay. If the computers would boot significantly faster, their users might be more willing to shut them down. There was a big discussion on this a few articles ago. If it cost a little extra to put the OS on a super-fast non-volatile storage medium, perhaps it would be worth it.

Re:The real challage is price. (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196350)

That's still a tough sell, though. Most places I've worked had a strict policy of leaving PCs on, if only so that patches can be pushed down outside office hours. The cost of power is trivial compared to the cost in labor of having someone either manually patch each machine, run around after hours powering each machine on, or causing down time during the day (along with the problem of people who are on vacation or out sick).

Re:The real challage is price. (1)

DarkSarin (651985) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197480)

Although if manufacturers and admins were really working together and really smart, Wake on LAN would become the new way to to remote upgrades and still allow the machine to shutdown for the night.

I see this scenario:
Admin approves a patch/upgrade
Admin pushes patch to server
Server uses smart scheduling to push upgrade to machine to avoid work conflicts
Machine is off/doesn't respond
Server sends WAKEUP code to machine
Machine boots and (as default booting solution) sends ready signal to server
Server pushes patch to machine
Machine is updated and turns itself back off.
Repeat ad nauseum

This, or some variant, would solve most of the problems you describe. Now if I only could code...

Re:The real challage is price. (3, Interesting)

stevesliva (648202) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196244)

If price wasn't a case Computers wouldn't have much RAM but all Cache, or huge amount of registers. But in real life price is the final decision
Actually in systems where price is no object, performance is usually paramount. If you have astounding amounts of registers or cache, your performance per instruction or memory operation may be slower. Given the fact that we can manufacture dual-core dies with ease, I imagine we could easily fit a bazillion more registers or double the L1 cache of a single core, but there is a performance trade-off there.

Re:The real challage is price. (2, Informative)

WuphonsReach (684551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196278)

Hard Disk Drives now are about $0.50 a Gigabyte.

You're a bit on the high side there... SATA/PATA drives are down around $0.28-$0.32 per gigabyte and have been for a while. The sweet spot seems to be the 250GB drives for $70, with the 200GB, 300GB, 400GB sizes at around $0.32/GB.

(Which hasn't changed a whole lot in the past few months. But Seagate's 7200.10 series is one of the cheaper $/GB drives on the market even though it's brand new tech.)

Re:The real challage is price. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196364)

Ever seen the size of that 4 megs of cache on a CPU?

Re:The real challage is price. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196408)

Hard drives are only $.50 per gigabyte when you talk about low end consumer hard drives where speed and reliability isn't really that big of an issue. However, when you look at server hard drives, that require reliability and speed, you're going to be paying much more per gigabyte. If these drives can offer increases in speed and/or reliability to what we currently have available for servers, then I could see this technology getting adopted for servers, where people are willing to pay a little more if it means improved performance / reliability. You can hardly find any 10k RPM drives available to consumers because the demand isn't there. But if you look in the server world, you can find many 10K RPM and even 15K RPM drives. I'm sure someone could even point me to a 20K RPM drive.

Re:The real challage is price. (1)

weekendli (930534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196424)

But in the further, our son/daughter would say, HDD now are about $250.00 a petabyte, chip is about $0.05 a petabyte. How hdd can still survive.

Re:The real challage is price. (1)

jilles (20976) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197316)

HDs are comparatively slow and flash drives are approaching the big enough state where they could replace them in e.g. laptops and workstations. Currently vista already works better with a hybrid approach (using flash for swap space). Once the flash drives become big enough (e.g. the just announced 32 GB flash thingy from Sony), they become a drop in replacement for slow, hot, noisy and energy wasting harddrives. Also there's no reason why these things could not be operated in a raid like configuration. What about a RAID5 with 20, 10GB flash drives. One breaks down, you just plug in a new one. Mark my words, harddrives will be used only as secondary storage and in file servers in a few years.

Rewrite cycles? (0, Redundant)

wiredog (43288) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196252)

One of the big failings of flash memory is the limited number of rewrite cycles. HDs can be rewritten many times without going bad. How many rewrite cycles will this have?

Reliability? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196266)

As I recalled, flash is only good for 100 thousand writes. Given Windoze freqently write to the NTFS volumes even when the system is idle, it won't take long for the chip drive to become useless.

.Fuck3r (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17196290)

Magnets and rust (1)

Control-Z (321144) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196548)

The quicker we can get away from a spinning rust platter read by magnets, the better. Less moving parts = more reliable (in general.)

Re:Magnets and rust (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196838)

Oxide plates haven't been used for a long time. It's all thin film now.

On our way to the future (3, Funny)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196622)

Can't we just skip ahead to the transparent crystals that glow in various colors and store almost limitless data? We all know that's where this is heading.

Maybe we need to perfect holographic 3D displays first?

Abstract of presentation. (1)

infolib (618234) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196624)

The results are presented at the IEDM conference, and it seems that there's no published article on this yet. From this page [his.com] I get:

Ultra-Thin Phase-Change Bridge Memory Device Using GeSb
Y.C. Chen, C.T. Rettner***, S. Raoux***, G.W. Burr***, S.H. Chen, R.M. Shelby***, M. Salinga***, W.P. Risk***, T.D. Happ*, G.M. McClelland***, M. Breitwisch^, A. Schrott^, J.B. Philipp*, M.H. Lee, R. Cheek^, T. Nirschl**, M. Lamorey^^, C. F. Chen, E. Joseph^, S. Zaidi*, B. Yee^, H. L. Lung, R. Bergmann*, and C. Lam^, Macronix International Co. Ltd., *Qimonda, **Infineon Technologies, ***IBM Almaden Research Center, ^IBM Watson Research Center, ^^IBM Essex Junction, San Jose, CA

An ultra-thin phase-change bridge (PCB) memory cell, implemented with doped GeSb, is shown with 100microAmp RESET current. The device concept provides for simplified scaling to small cross-sectional area (60nm squared) through ultra-thin (3nm) films; the doped GeSb phase-change material offers the potential for both fast crystallization and good data retention.

Bah (2, Funny)

feijai (898706) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196882)

Still won't be able to compete with the sheer density of colored symbols on A4 paper [arabnews.com] .

how clever! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17197616)

Why haven't we thought of this before ??

Personal Tokens (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17196894)

The only real competitive advantage discs (optical or magnetic) have is cost.

Slow, low density optical discs are good for offline storage, up to 4.7GB [osta.org] at about $0.042:GB [pricewatch.com] . Plus about $1000 for a 400-disc changer jukebox makes about $0.60:GB across all jukebox loads, theoretically also automatable across many loads, for "nearline" storage.

Fast, high denisty magnetic discs are good for online storage, the kind we use as "permanent" without worrying about dealing with them directly (until they fail). They cost about $0.23:GB [pricewatch.com] .

Flash currently costs about $14.00:GB [pricewatch.com] . Obviously archive or real longterm storage isn't threatened right now, except in mobile devices (not just portables with biggish/hottish HDs).

But really mobile devices will have just storage of secrets (keys), pointers (URLs), wireless network interfaces (or HW jacks for the paranoid), and auth UIs (like thumbprint or other biometrics, and maybe still passwords). Because generic computing/comm devices will be everywhere, immersed in wireless networks. Discs have to rotate inside something, but why carry that everywhere, especially when it's fragile? And large capacity is unnecessary in personal tokens, with other tech distributed around the Net.

So while solid state storage is becoming cheaper, the infrastructure that makes it really cheap and easy is growing even faster. By the time a personal token costs $1:GB, it will include wireless/auth interfaces to a ubiquitous wireless Net. And maybe all those spinning discs will go the way of tape: specialized apps that require extreme density, and specialists to operate them.

ten states per 20 nanometer cell (2, Insightful)

Darth Cider (320236) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197574)

Page 35 of their downloadable pdf [ovonyx.com] shows that each cell can hold multiple bits. Each cell can be set to one of ten states by multiple pulses of current, so comparisons to binary storage don't work. The manufacturing process is not complex, basic CMOS in about 20 stages, but the part of the cell that stores data is only about 20 nanometers wide. Replacement of hard drives is a very trivial application. IBM and Intel are planning to incorporate this tech inside ICs to reduce latency of fetching data. The big news is more highly integrated systems on chip. It doesn't look pie-in-the-sky, somewhere-way-down-the-road to me.

This will never work... (1)

stinkbomb (238228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17197904)

...'cause where you gonna put the salsa?! Idiots.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?