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Seagate to Offer Solid State Drives in 2008

CowboyNeal posted about 7 years ago | from the takes-a-lickin' dept.

Data Storage 324

Lucas123 writes "Seagate will introduce drives based on flash memory in various storage capacities across its range of products including desktop and notebook PCs, according to Sumner Lemon at IDG News Service. The drives are expected to consume less power (longer battery life), offer faster data transfer rates and be more rugged than spinning disk, which has moving parts that can be damaged from an impact."

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Warranty? (-1, Redundant)

excelblue (739986) | about 7 years ago | (#20337885)

How long of a warranty will these have? Doesn't flash memory break down after a good number of rewrites?

It sounds like a good idea, but I see a flawed product coming up here. Or, maybe it'll just fit in with the trend of degrading quality computer products.

Re:Warranty? (5, Informative)

imamac (1083405) | about 7 years ago | (#20337903)

The rewrite issue has been rehashed a million times. It will be fine. I promise.

Re:Warranty? (1)

Adambomb (118938) | about 7 years ago | (#20337921)

Based on what precisely?

Not trolling, I just havent ever seen hard stats on current flash/solid state durability over time recently.

Re:Warranty? (5, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | about 7 years ago | (#20338047)

Do the math. When rewrites were a problem, how big were the chips? How big are the chips now? How many more writes are possible now? The amount of data that becomes a problem is astronomical at this point...the 'rewrite problem' will kick in long after a spinning disk has found a reason to die.

Re:Warranty? (1)

Adambomb (118938) | about 7 years ago | (#20338243)

If they're being used as system drives though, how many times will it have to rewrite the same bits over and over again versus being able to constantly apply your rewrites so you only stress each bit once before rewriting the first bit again?

you cant just say "its more bits, so it'll take longer".

Re:Warranty? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338375)

The drive controller will do wear leveling, so it will not rewrite the same bits over and over again, even if the OS thinks it does. This has also been rehashed a million times.

Re:Warranty? (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | about 7 years ago | (#20338529)

...but without the wear leveling.

Re:Warranty? (2, Insightful)

Dan Ost (415913) | about 7 years ago | (#20338947)

Somewhere on the order of 1 million erase-write cycles per bit. That should be more than enough even for swapping purposes.

Re:Warranty? (1)

geobeck (924637) | about 7 years ago | (#20338961)

The chances are astronomical that this floating-point error will ever cause any problems.

Oops, wrong issue.

Re:Warranty? (1)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | about 7 years ago | (#20338053)

Wear levelling. If you have a gigabyte drive, and you can write each byte a million times, then you would have to do 10^15 writes to the disk before you'd start seeing problems. And man, that's just a crazy way to use a hard disk.

Re:Warranty? (1)

Adambomb (118938) | about 7 years ago | (#20338271)

Assuming it never rewrites the same bit twice before having applied a write/rewrite to every other bit.

are the controllers and file systems going to be able to do that?

I still cant find anything worthwhile concerning these types of drives in this respect.

Re:Warranty? (3, Interesting)

larry bagina (561269) | about 7 years ago | (#20338325)

ZFS will. Traditional RAID may suffer though: all the drives will have the same write pattern. Make sure your flash drives aren't all the same age!

Re:Warranty? (1)

Adambomb (118938) | about 7 years ago | (#20338317)

Scratch that, Spaghetti Code pasted some articles that DO explain exactly how this works in another reply to my previous post. I didnt realize how solid the wear leveling deal is set up already, let alone for future production.

Re:Warranty? (1)

EagleEye101 (834633) | about 7 years ago | (#20338453)

I believe there is a some load factoring going on also, to try to spread the wear across the whole disk also.

Re:Warranty? (1)

sufehmi (134793) | about 7 years ago | (#20338085)

Same here - yet to find an article addressing the lifespan of these solid state drives.

I've got LOADS of working hard drives which won't boot, because its boot sector has wore off.
They're fine when plugged into the computer as slave drives, but that still means that I gotta buy a new hard drive just to boot the ocmputer from.

It would be REALLY annoying to see that happens on these SSDs.

Re:Warranty? (2)

alphamugwump (918799) | about 7 years ago | (#20338187)

I think that may have been a problem on older flash drives, especially b/c fat32 keeps the fat all in the same place. But newer models have built-in wear leveling. The only thing you'd need to do would be to turn off seek-time optimization, as there's no rotating disk.

A more interesting question would be how these things hold up when used for swap.

Flash Swap (1)

bhmit1 (2270) | about 7 years ago | (#20338755)

A more interesting question would be how these things hold up when used for swap.
I suspect the concept of swap will need to be reevaluated with these disks. As you mentioned, random seek-times will improve while write times are disproportionately high, so the ram fs cache we see now may have its priority greatly reduced. It may become more appropriate to put more RAM in a machine than to allocate swap space for many users, which I've seen done in servers years ago (on a government project were cost wasn't the issue it is for others admittedly). For those that still have swap, it will likely be for a space to suspend the OS while hibernating. Considering how low performance goes with heavily used disk swap, and how that's usually attributed to too little ram or a badly behaving application, I'm not worried about this impact on the over-hyped write limit. People will kill the offending apps and buy more ram long before they kill the drive.

Re:Warranty? (1)

Shrubbman (3807) | about 7 years ago | (#20338773)

A more interesting question would be how these things hold up when used for swap.
Vista has its "ReadyBoost" feature which AFAIK is pretty much like using a USB flash drive as a kind of specialized swap file. While I have no firsthand experience, but I imagine some googling could yield some info, Vista's been out long enough that if people's flash drives were gonna die from using it that way then someone's would have croaked by now and blogged about it.

Re:Warranty? (5, Informative)

Amiga Lover (708890) | about 7 years ago | (#20338137)

Not trolling, I just havent ever seen hard stats on current flash/solid state durability over time recently.

Take a 40GB hard drive, and pretend it's Flash memory. If you wrote 40GB worth of data to it every single day (with the circuitry inside a drive to spread writes out over cells evenly), then you would average 1 write per day across each cell. Flash memory can be written to a minimum of 10,000 times before dying, most is even more reliably by an order of magnitude (100,000 writes). Assuming we have crappy 10,000 write limits, we could write 40GB to the drive every day for 10,000 days, or 27 years, before failing is an issue.

Looking at the 40GB drive in one of my machines, the total writes in its uptime comes to about 800MB, which is a shade under 24 hours uptime. That's 800MB worth of writes in a day, 50 times *less* than writing 40GB to the drive every day, so a 40GB flash drive at my current usage rate could be expected to last 27 * 50, or 1350 years.

A lot longer than I have to worry about. The numbers are going to differ for some people, but the initial stats work out - few people would write to every cell every day, and even then that's decades worth of use.

Re:Warranty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338265)

Yeah but for someone like me who runs tons of VMware machines I write way more data than that. Way more.

I may write between 100 to 200 GB every few hours. The main cause is swap, each VM has a swap file plus the host computer often needs swap to handle all the VM's.

Say I write a paltry 400 GB per day, that means my hard drive has a lifespan of 2.7 years. Not so good, eh? Consider I write way more data than that so this flash drive would not be usable.

Re:Warranty? (4, Informative)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | about 7 years ago | (#20338417)

Relax, they still sell mechanical hard drives.

Re:Warranty? (3, Funny)

delphi125 (544730) | about 7 years ago | (#20338623)

Next thing you'll be saying they still sell RAM sufficient for your working set.

Re:Warranty? (2, Interesting)

Datasage (214357) | about 7 years ago | (#20338347)

How do you know that the drive will evenly distribute writes per cell? Its more likely that some cells may remain untouched, which other cells may get written or changed much more frequently.

Re:Warranty? (2, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | about 7 years ago | (#20338367)

You just need to have some spare space (say 20% of additional capacity) and dynamically remap areas from the 'working' part of the disk.

Re:Warranty? (2, Insightful)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 7 years ago | (#20338633)

The integrated electronics do it for you, otherwise the flash drive would 'fail' sequentially, in order of cell use, and you'd steadily see your reported usable capacity dropping. Does not happen. In my experience, flash drives just keep on working - even in intensive use - but then just somtimes fail suddenly and totally, with no warning.

An excelent counterpoint... (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | about 7 years ago | (#20338699)

..however, who cares? Suppose you have a partition on your flashdrivwe that is for a swap file, and you thrash on it like crazy. After a couple of months, several drive sectors fail, and you run a chkdsk and repair it, just like any other hard drive.

Any media is going to eventually fail. Your brand spankin new hard drive from seagate or maxtor ships from the factory with defects that existed as a result of the manafacturing process that have been scan and tagged as bad.

I'm just hoping that this means that we can finally freakin get an 'instant on' laptop...

Re:Warranty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338885)

Remap (or even swap places) cells with heavy usage to other cells.

Say you have the OS in one area that is very rarely written to. As other areas exceed the low end of your usage rate, you remap the low usage data to the high used areas, and vice versa, eventually averaging out their usage.

Basically if a cell is more than a certain threshhold of writes above the lowest (or avg lowest or some other clever metric), exchange them. Repeat as necessary as the different levels of wear move away from average.

Re:Warranty? (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | about 7 years ago | (#20338915)

One of my former professors told me that's actually one usage of Log structured file systems [wikipedia.org] . Changes are appended to fresh blocks and the pointer is updated.

Re:Warranty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338621)

Or maybe just a few years with Vista. Most flavors of Windows NT love to thrash the heck out of hard drives, regardless of whether the user is doing something or not. Plus, background virus scans and defragmenting are sure to take their toll.

However, I would love to put a solid state drive in my happy little Mac, something to think about when this puny 60 GB drive dies (my warranty and ProCare plan have long since expired anyway.)

Re:Warranty? (1)

B4D BE4T (879239) | about 7 years ago | (#20338667)

If you wrote 40GB worth of data to it every single day (with the circuitry inside a drive to spread writes out over cells evenly), then you would average 1 write per day across each cell. Flash memory can be written to a minimum of 10,000 times before dying, most is even more reliably by an order of magnitude (100,000 writes). Assuming we have crappy 10,000 write limits, we could write 40GB to the drive every day for 10,000 days, or 27 years, before failing is an issue.

Will this circuitry be present in all flash drives? These calculations work if this circuitry exists, but actual results could be very different if it does not. Will it be possible to write to the same cell every time that the drive is written to? Say you store 1 byte on the drive and immediately delete it afterward. Then repeat it 10,000 times. That would happen pretty quickly and without the circuitry that you mentioned it could wear out a single cell.

Also, what kind of error checking will these drives have? If it writes to a bad cell, will it catch this and try to write to another cell?

Re:Warranty? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 7 years ago | (#20338731)

Will this circuitry be present in all flash drives?

Yes. It already is. No reason not to include it on future flash drives.

Re:Warranty? SWAPPING (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 7 years ago | (#20338867)

If you wrote 40GB worth of data to it every single day (with the circuitry inside a drive to spread writes out over cells evenly), then you would average 1 write per day across each cell.

I may be paging to my swap file multiple times each minute. It might prove hard to level that activity out across the drive as a whole.

Re:Warranty? (5, Informative)

spagetti_code (773137) | about 7 years ago | (#20338205)

Current flash technology has 1-5 million *write* cycles MTBF.
All modern flash drives use write levelling to ensure writes
are evenly spread across the device.

This article [storagesearch.com]
takes those numbers and using a hypothetical "write logger" app that
continually writes, estimates an average life of 51 years.

MTron specs [mtron.net] for their SSDs estimate:

Write endurance

In the case of 32GB capacity Mtron SSD: >85 years @ 100GByte / day erase/write cycles


So lets lay this one to rest. SSDs are worth it.

Re:Warranty? (1)

Adambomb (118938) | about 7 years ago | (#20338291)

THANK you.

I was trying to find details between issues here at work, but was failing to do so. This actually answers a lot of my previous questions.

Re:Warranty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338331)

If you are really interested in specific performance metrics, contact the companies that make SSD and ask them - there are a lot of metrics that people have which are under NDA and can't be disclosed, but you can probably obtain yourself for the purposes of your own research! BitMicro (http://www.bitmicro.com) is one company that has a very impressive lineup in 2008 - think huge capacity drives, and think > 100 years life span.

Re:Warranty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338659)

Current flash technology has 1-5 million *write* cycles MTBF.
All modern flash drives use write levelling to ensure writes
are evenly spread across the device.

This article
takes those numbers and using a hypothetical "write logger" app that
continually writes, estimates an average life of 51 years.
MTron specs for their SSDs estimate:
Write endurance
In the case of 32GB capacity Mtron SSD: >85 years @ 100GByte / day erase/write cycle

So lets lay this one to rest. SSDs are worth it.


yeah, kinda like the 1-5 million hours for the MTBF of current hard drives. With estimated life of 1000 years.

Re:Warranty? (2, Funny)

absoluteflatness (913952) | about 7 years ago | (#20338119)

It will be fine. I promise.
Now there's the kind of warranty I want to include in my products.

Enlarge your...Warranty. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338355)

"Now there's the kind of warranty I want to include in my products."

But will your girlfriend believe you?

Re:Warranty? (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 7 years ago | (#20338561)

You SURE it's a million? Arf

Lifetime (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#20338019)

... well the correct technical term is endurance. That's typically 10k for MLC NAND flash or 100k for SLC NAND flash. Most devices will be using MLC because it is far cheaper.

Most of these systems will be using wear levelling to prevent the certain flash regions being happered too hard. Any system that does not use wear levelling will break down pretty quickly.

Re:Warranty? (1, Interesting)

PingPongBoy (303994) | about 7 years ago | (#20338079)

Flash memory can die?

THen Why not ordinary RAM on top of a normal drive?

When I first bought a hard drive it had less capacity than all the RAM on this computer, and it was a big drive. The salesperson laughed at me thinking there was no way to fill it. And I paid more for the drive than I paid for this RAM by a factor of 2 or 3.

UPS + RAM + disk drive - cache all the stuff you use a lot in RAM, and it's all good. I suppose even Flash can be used for the Program Files and Windows folders.

Re:Warranty? (4, Informative)

SixDimensionalArray (604334) | about 7 years ago | (#20338147)

I have been researching some of the more current SSD drives lately, and I know that they greatly improved the technology/algorithms behind how they write data to the physical memory. Most companies use some kind of wear-leveling techniques that evenly distribute the writes over the entire surface of the disk, maximizing the disk's life span. I have also read that the different-sized memory modules have different physical characteristics such that smaller modules are actually outlived by larger ones.

I can't give exact figures, but I've seen comparisons showing a reasonable life span (>20 years @ 100GB of writes/day) - some of the numbers are even comparable to those of spinning/mechanical hard drives. Considering how often mechanical hard drives seem to fail, it doesn't seem that there will be any major roadblocks in terms of reliability.

I know what I've written is mostly qualitative (apologies on that), but I know the research into how to mitigate the problem of life span has truly advanced in the last few years as interest in SSD has increased. Jim Gray of Microsoft Research fame, predicted that SSD would replace mechanical drives not far off from now. Check out his paper "Flash Disk Opportunity for Server-Applications" for more on that.

SixD

Re:Warranty? (1)

coop247 (974899) | about 7 years ago | (#20338723)

So can you swap out an old HD with a SSD drive nice and easy, or does this require special motherboads?

Re:Warranty? (2, Informative)

TimTucker (982832) | about 7 years ago | (#20338973)

CompactFlash to IDE adapters can be had for $5 or so and work fine with most motherboards.

Re:Warranty? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338171)

That isn't the issue. The issue is the pathetic sizes of solid state drives. A measly 160GB? Hell, By that time a true TB HDD will be released for a whole lot less.

Re:Warranty? (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | about 7 years ago | (#20338875)

Couldn't this be worked around by using RAM instead of the hard drive? I mean, if manufacturers are practically being required to have 2GB of memory installed, I don't see too much need for frequent re-writes....

Lifespan? (-1, Redundant)

ushering05401 (1086795) | about 7 years ago | (#20337889)

I've been busy lately, so maybe I missed it. Was there some breakthrough that drastically increased the number of read/writes flash drives are rated for? TFA makes no mention of flash lifespans, which were relatively short in high usage environments last time I checked.

Re:Lifespan? (0)

Mr. Mikey (17567) | about 7 years ago | (#20337991)

I was wondering the same. The last time I checked, a Flash memory cell was good for about 10^6 read/write cycles. I've heard of schemes that distribute the memory load (so that no one cell gets continually re-written), but I would like to see this issue explicitly addressed when it comes to a flash drive substitute for a hard drive.

Re:Lifespan? (3, Informative)

smallfries (601545) | about 7 years ago | (#20337997)

There are different grades of flash chip, with varying amounts of write cycles. The problem with the kind of flash that you get in a usb keyring is not that flash is limited in the number of writes, but that cheap low-end flash is. The kind of solid state storage in a drive can take millions of write cycles, which combined with a file-system that spreads the writes evenly across he chip will give a decent lifespan.

Cost is still a major issue though. The article only has one number in it, that densities will go up to 160Gb. Do you think they'll take a cheque for that, or you do you have to spread and touch your toes in person?

Re:Lifespan? (1)

sayfawa (1099071) | about 7 years ago | (#20338133)

Cost is still a major issue though. The article only has one number in it, that densities will go up to 160Gb. Do you think they'll take a cheque for that, or you do you have to spread and touch your toes in person?

Considering the level of technophilia around here I bet that second proposition sounds reasonable to some in exchange for a 160GB flash drive. I myself would maybe even engage in a little 2nd base action for that kind of payoff.

Re:Lifespan? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338101)

Anandtech recently reviewed a 32GB SSD drive from Mtron, and compared it with a Raptor HDD.
http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=30 64&p=6 [anandtech.com]

TLDR: *big* improvement in game loading times, merely ok performance in file copying, encoding, compression. It's also silent, and saves a lot of power. $1500 though. . . should get much cheaper in the next few years.

Re:Lifespan? (1)

MushMouth (5650) | about 7 years ago | (#20338401)

If you know Japanese or Korean you can get the 32G mtron drives for less than $1000

Re:Lifespan? (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about 7 years ago | (#20338125)

The same statement can be made for todays mechanical storage devices. Everything mechanical has a finite number of operations until it fails. In theory that number should last longer than the time it takes to make the capacity obsolete.

Re:Lifespan? (1)

Lindsay Lohan (847467) | about 7 years ago | (#20338141)

Was there some breakthrough that drastically increased the number of read/writes flash drives are rated for
About four years ago I found a PCI card that had 256megs of memory on it, and a battery that let it last 48 hours with no power to the computer.

Innodb log files! Yes, put the log files on it and watch the performance go up. It was a neat hack but for $800 a card it wasn't all that practical. The performance was nice, but it wasn't worth the additional investment per machine for the card.

A number of months ago someone blogged about some solid state cards he was looking at. At around the same time I noticed and commented on "IDE" solid state drives coming to market.

Dinner on Tuesday night with Kevin Burton pushed this into my mind again. What was he looking at going with for his data center?

Solid state drives.

This is smart thinking, it makes a lot of sense.

The performance gain for using solid state hard drives for any database, not only MySQL, is a "no argument". Buying performance like this does require some cost analysis. You balance performance with cost. Not everyone buys fiber channel even if it buys performance.

The performance gain does not outweigh the cost.

Capacity though is a requirement. By capacity I mean the ability to put X amount of CPU in a given space.

Data center capacity is not a growing concern, it is an active concern.

Data centers need power, a lot of power. Their capacity is constrained by available power.

Green technology is common sense. Hard drives have moving parts that generate heat, eat electric, and have high failure rates.

Green technology means capacity because data centers can pack in more hardware.

Tom's Hardware gave a price of $25 per gig almost a year ago. Tom was reviewing a 32 gig drive at the time (which... at 64 I don't need a hard drive in my laptop... I keep my mp3 on my iPod not my laptop).

Today we are looking at about $19 a gig, with 128gig drives coming to market.

This is a premium, when you consider SATA half terabyte disks are at $100 (which works out to 19 cents a gig!).

How much of a price tag do you put on capacity?

Re:Lifespan? (1)

MushMouth (5650) | about 7 years ago | (#20338443)

They aren't very good for log files, the write throughput is very slow compared to even a single spindle, and terrible when compared to any sort of striping.

Not a moment too soon. (0, Redundant)

Bombula (670389) | about 7 years ago | (#20337917)

I've been looking forward to mainstream solid state drives for a long time. Especially in laptops, since the lack of moving parts presumably means no moving parts and therefore lower power consumption, longer battery life, better durability, and so on. It seems surprising that it's taken this long.

Re:Not a moment too soon. (1)

drfreak (303147) | about 7 years ago | (#20338005)

SSDs have been available for a while, but not for the typical consumer. They are available more for enterprise tasks such as decreasing the delay for a SQL server to hit it's disks for data.

This excites me, because this technology will be more affordable for the small-medium business file/database/web servers.

Captain obvious to the rescue! (-1, Troll)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 7 years ago | (#20338449)

Not trolling, but how the *$à&!! does re-stating both the summary, and the damn obvious, get modded 'interesting'?

Solid state drives have no moving parts? No shit, Sherlock!

Re:Captain obvious to the rescue! (1)

Bombula (670389) | about 7 years ago | (#20338537)

The simplest technique is the most effective, young grasshopper.

Re:Captain obvious to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338715)

I agree. GP should be modded redundant, not interesting.

Re:Not a moment too soon. (1)

bcmm (768152) | about 7 years ago | (#20338733)

I've been looking forward to mainstream solid state drives for a long time. Especially in laptops, since the lack of moving parts presumably means no moving parts and therefore lower power consumption, longer battery life, better durability, and so on. It seems surprising that it's taken this long.
This is probably the most worthless non-Goatse-related post I have ever read on Slashdot.

why wait for 2008 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20337927)

I prefer my news in the here and now. Like, here and now, I just let a voluminous, airy, nose hair curling ass bomb fly. It is virtually driving me out of my office at this point. A smattering of sulfur combined with an exquisite fecal odor, oh my.

Wearing out with writes? (-1, Redundant)

Safiire Arrowny (596720) | about 7 years ago | (#20337943)

I was under the impression that writing to a flash drive will eventually wear out the chip.

They have special file systems drivers like squashfs etc that try to spread writes out evenly so as not to write to the same areas too often on embedded devices. Or in the case of embedded devices like the Linksys WRT54G they go out of their way to limit writing to the flash by mirroring the filesystem into a ramdrive with symlinks.

This must be a different technology that can deal with a lot of writing I'm guessing?

Re:Wearing out with writes? (1)

Safiire Arrowny (596720) | about 7 years ago | (#20338073)

It's a little hard to avoid being redundant when there's no posts yet while I'm typing mine out.

Re:Wearing out with writes? (1, Redundant)

ushering05401 (1086795) | about 7 years ago | (#20338143)

I'll join you in being O.T. The FP and my post both went up at 8:06 on exactly the same subject.

Kinda annoying, but the mods are actually helping the conversation along by lowering our scores. I hate rereading the same thing over and over throughout a thread.

I wonder what Flash capacity growth (3, Informative)

rolfwind (528248) | about 7 years ago | (#20337945)

is projected out in the future? Normal hard drive capacity growth has certainly seemed to level off lately and perhaps is stagnating (so it seems to me). Yes, flash has grown astronomically the past few years, but is it sustainable to the point of meeting and exceeding conventional drives?

If we had the rate of growth in conventional drives that we had a few years back, we would almost certainly be looking at multi-TB drives right now.

Re:I wonder what Flash capacity growth (2, Interesting)

sayfawa (1099071) | about 7 years ago | (#20338091)

I suspect that the levelling off of consumer drives is due to there being not enough demand by average consumers. I myself am a bit of a file hog, but a 500GB drive would still hold all my dvd rips and music. Now I'm sure that's average or less for folks around here, but I bet most people are satisfied with the wimpy 80-160GB drives that come with their computer.

On the other hand, flash storage is at that point where it's almost enough for a lot of people but not quite, so the companies are probably working even harder now to get it past the tipping point. I read somewhere that Samsung has stated they will double flash sizes every year for the foreseeable future.

Re:I wonder what Flash capacity growth (4, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 years ago | (#20338159)

I'm not sure flash drives need to meet and exceed conventional drives in capacity (maybe that's why conventional drives have slowed in growth)? I like to use virtual machines for development, but never had the right medium to work on them, exchange them between developers, etc. They're just to big to swap easily by network, external hard drives are too big and fragile, etc. But now I see 16 GB [newegg.com] usb flash drives are available, and only $130 to boot! I'm going to try installing a VM on one and buy a few more if it works well. 16 GB is PLENTY for installing a linux development environment, and I think for XP, too. Vista, I don't know.

Re:I wonder what Flash capacity growth (1)

EagleEye101 (834633) | about 7 years ago | (#20338521)

At least right now, for desktop use at least, I would try to put all my apps on one of these things and still try to store most of my data on one of those big mechanical drives. Besides, unless im storing movies or uncompressed music I don't really need anything bigger than 40-80 gigs.

Yes, But what is the best File system ? (5, Informative)

EEPROMS (889169) | about 7 years ago | (#20337965)

The headache now is that most file systems are optimised for mechanical based storage media so wont this also mean we will have to look at changing to new file systems ?

Re:Yes, But what is the best File system ? (3, Interesting)

osu-neko (2604) | about 7 years ago | (#20338725)

No. Why would it? If you're using a RAM-based medium, any block is read with essentially identical speed. So if you're using a mechanism that's optimized for mechanical storage, or using one that just allocates blocks sequentially, or one that allocates them completely randomly, or one that tries as hard as possible to *slow down* reads from hard disks, it all makes no difference. From a RAM-based system, they'll all work equally well.

Countdown to new iPod version... (1)

Kemanorel (127835) | about 7 years ago | (#20337969)

With sizes up to 160 GB (according to TFA), any guesses on how long until the announcement of a new iPod design using these? If they can get to be price compatible, I know it would make me think about an upgrade from my 3G iPod.

Re:Countdown to new iPod version... (4, Interesting)

bomanbot (980297) | about 7 years ago | (#20338001)

I think the 160 GB refers to the hybrid disks Seagate also has in their lineup (which are also mentioned in TFA). Would be more logical too because even with todays cheap flash prices, a 160 GB flash drive would still be relatively pricey.

Re:Countdown to new iPod version... (1)

Kemanorel (127835) | about 7 years ago | (#20338573)

Good point. I missed that part. I blame the vicodin.

About Time (-1, Troll)

NosTROLLdamus (979044) | about 7 years ago | (#20338021)

FUCK YEAH SEAGATE!

Noise (5, Insightful)

ddoctor (977173) | about 7 years ago | (#20338081)

Nobody mentioned the noise! SSD's are silent.

I can't wait for ssd's. Every hard drive I've owned has been noisy and they drive me nuts.

As for durability... hrmm... maybe in its current state, flash doesn't last that long. But, the potential has got to be better than a constantly-spinning platter of disks. I've never had a RAM stick, or flash card die on me, but I've lost many hard drives.

Also, I think there may be greater potential for memory density. Spinning platters inevitably have wasted space, forming a cylinder in a rectangular prism.

I'd be interested to see the effect of SSD's on prices of normal hard drives. Normal HDD prices have been plummetting rapidly over the last couple of years - I wonder if the lure of flash will push them down further.

I think with capacity being so important, price/MB will be a big determining factor in getting flash into enterprise storage. I think the desktop, and (obviously) laptop markets will lap it up first.

Re:Noise (1)

antdude (79039) | about 7 years ago | (#20338683)

To me, the fans are the loud ones. I don't mind the HDD noises.

Re:Noise (1)

shawb (16347) | about 7 years ago | (#20338833)

If you think about it, the article mentions lower power usage as one of the benefits of solid state storage. Lower power usage means less heat, therefore less fans or lower RPMs on existing fans for adequate cooling.

Fan noise is one of the largest sources of sound in most commercial computing applications. In silent computing applications such as sound recording, however, those have been reduced to the point where often times the hard drive is one of the larger components. I have heard of setups where a smallish flash drive is used to bootstrap a computer that then saves data on a remote server, but then bandwidth and latency can become the limiting factors. Attempting to build a box around a hard drive will cut the noise levels, but the box generally insulates against heat at least as well as against noise. Trying to isolate the hard drive sounds can lead to overheating problems and the associated shortened life expectancy and therefore potential for data loss.

But for the average slashdotter, yes, the sound of the fans far outweighs any hard drive noise.

How will this affect hardware architecture? (4, Interesting)

Associate (317603) | about 7 years ago | (#20338095)

Am I safe in assuming SATA transfer rates are sufficient to handle a SSD?
Will it move choke points elsewhere on the system?
I'd like to know what other practical benefits such would have other than lower power consumption and durability.

Limit on writes... (5, Informative)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 7 years ago | (#20338135)


It's not all that bad. If I remember correctly, most flash memory can take 100,000-300,000.. according to wikipedia:


"while high endurance Flash storage is often marketed with endurance of 1-5 million write cycles"


I did a small research project (informational) on flash stuff recently for school, I believe solid state hard drives back in June or so were said to have about 2 million writes.


2 million writes per sector. You can always move the information around, and algorithms are being written to do that.


But, with all that, seems like hybrid drives would be the way to go right now.. after all, there's no limit on READING from solid state drives, just writing.

Would benefit from user education, OS optimisation (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 7 years ago | (#20338543)

Just for starters...

No need to defrag the drive - indeed, would me harmful (uses scarce 'write' cycles). Is a waste of time, since flash memory is written to in a 'random walk' pattern to spread the damage evenly. That's one the main reason it's so hard to 'undelete' stuff from flash mem.

More careful OS management of swapping & caching.

etc.

Not that faster (0, Troll)

Via_Patrino (702161) | about 7 years ago | (#20338151)

The speed of sequential access is about the same for HD and flash.

Flash is better for random access which is not very important for end-user, that's why end user doesn't care about SCSI, since for them HD is just storage as it supposed to be.

Kernels/filesystems/application aren't just prepared to use the "power" of flash. What's the point of having flash as a disk cache if RAM already does that?
I don't see where the "most used" algorithm of flash disks is different from those used for RAM, so you happen to have a lot data cached twice for no purpose.

RAM is way faster than Flash and 64bits processors give a big limit (32GB) of RAM/processor. Flash is cheaper but, as said, much slower, flash disks will be as commom as buying a 36GB 15k HD to use as cache of your 750GB 7.2k

Re:Not that faster (1)

ben there... (946946) | about 7 years ago | (#20338405)

Flash is better for random access which is not very important for end-user, that's why end user doesn't care about SCSI, since for them HD is just storage as it supposed to be.
It should result in a more responsive system with lower latency. Quick seek times would mean that generating thumbnails for a directory or any type of indexing of small files should be fast. Jumping to the next mp3 or video in a playlist should be quicker. Actually, the only time most users care about sequential access is when dealing with large files such as video files, when converting or copying them. Even then, if the large files are fragmented, seek time is still important.

Re:Not that faster (1)

Via_Patrino (702161) | about 7 years ago | (#20338749)

That will only work if you already have all those data on your flash drive. Flash drives for end-users are like 16GB today, will people use that for their primary drives? I don't know you have read the FTA but the advertised 160GB HD is a regular HD with a regular flash drive as cache.

Otherwise any of those enhancements could only and probably are already done preemptively by application, like your file explorer keeping a thumbnails file and your media player pre-fetching your playlist. Which work the same way for either flash or HD

Your OS/filesystem is smart enough to allocate big files on a continuous space, you'd only have fragmentation problems with that kind of files if your HD is almost full. Where the problem is the size of the HD and the solution isn't flash disks because they're much smaller.

Re:Not that faster (1)

bataras (169548) | about 7 years ago | (#20338511)

wha? a flash drive is not flash cache. it -replaces- the drive. And as for sequential vs random access not being important to the end user I totally disagree. I am -always- waiting for my computer to do stuff where it's sitting there, the disk light is thrashing and the CPU usage is hovering around 20%. Guess what? when you're waiting 1 minute for your computer to do something, it's using only 20% of the CPU and the disk is going nuts, you my friend are a victim of random access/disk seek time (and some IO time). A huge amount of that goes away with SSD.

Flash + Low-speed HD = Best of Both (4, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | about 7 years ago | (#20338253)

I wonder to what extent current high capacity HDs owe their high power consumption to the needs of high performance (low access time and high bandwidth). But if a large flash cache (say 4-16 GB) buffers the HD, then the HD mechanism could be redesigned to a much lower spec. I'd bet that a ultraslow 300 RPM platter with a stepper-motor head (versus the 4200 to 7500 rpm platter + voice coil technology currently used) would provide adequate performance (and low power consumption) if flash handled the vast majority of accesses and high speed read-writes. The physical disk mechanism would only need to support a bandwidth of about 2-3 Mbytes/sec (for a sustained read of an HD video stream) and flash would provide the 80-150 MBytes/sec burst bandwidth to compete with current laptop drives. (Hardcore video editors wouldn't use this device, but then they wouldn't use most of the low-power laptops on the market anyway).

Re:Flash + Low-speed HD = great idea. (1)

Kludge (13653) | about 7 years ago | (#20338509)

If they built a small amount of intelligence into the firmware, this would be extremely effective for boot and application start up speeds. That is, have the hard drive cache the most regularly requested pieces of data: the kernel, c libraries, browser executables and libraries, etc. Startups would be much faster due to faster speeds and lower latencies.

Flash+Low-speed HD=Popping the Paradigm Clutch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338671)

Non-volatile memory would do a lot more than that. I'll leave it to the rest of you to figure it out.

Flash/RAM Drives? (1, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#20338273)

The problem with Flash (~$12:GB) drives as replacements for rotating magnetic hard drives (~$0.18:GB) is that Flash is a lot more expensive, and Flash wears out after relatively few rewrites. RAM (~$35:GB) is even more expensive, but it doesn't wear out and has much faster performance.

For smaller storage (<10GB, for mobiles), what about a Flash drive with a RAM cache? That gets flushed to Flash once every hour or day or so. For that matter, how come we never saw magnetic drives with builtin RAM caches in the GB scale, occasionally written (in parallel) back to the magnetic disc for reliability? We can set up RAMdisks in SW, but that eats main memory and takes extra configuration. Magnetic or Flash drives with big RAM caches would have much higher performance, and HD vendors could diversify in their extremely competitive market.

Re:Flash/RAM Drives? (1, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#20338439)

Moderation -1
    100% Flamebait

TrollMods have gone completely insane.

Re:Flash/RAM Drives? (1)

tftp (111690) | about 7 years ago | (#20338629)

how come we never saw magnetic drives with builtin RAM caches in the GB scale

In terms of lazy write, the controller probably wants to write all the cache onto the platters in case of power failure. This takes time, and you can write only so much until the power becomes too low to write.

In terms of read caching, it would require a DDR2 design on the controller board, and those controllers aren't high-tech enough for that. DDR2 is very difficult to connect, requires picky controllers, and consumes a lot of power. Why would anyone do that if the computer already has tons of RAM, and you can add more if you want?

Besides, caching in main RAM is better because the CPU knows what is where and can control caching. A RAM cache is a virtual page away from being physically accessible to your needy process; nanoseconds, in other words. But if you do your caching in the HDD controller then you are doing it after squeezing through the [S]ATA bottleneck, and the controller only has bits and pieces of the information. For example, the main CPU can recognize that you are reading a file, and can pre-read subsequent sectors anticipating your future request. The HDD controller doesn't know what a file is, and so it can only react to events.

Here's a White Paper (3, Informative)

Televiper2000 (1145415) | about 7 years ago | (#20338371)

I did some poking around the net for information on NAND write cycles. They've already been quoted in the comments here (100,000 to 2,000,000) so I'm just going to post this neat white paper I found on Zeus drives that explains the endurance they get from their SSD Drive. http://www.baydel.com/images/gallery/NAND%20flash% 20resilience.pdf [baydel.com]

DOLL (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338413)

Solid state (2, Funny)

iminplaya (723125) | about 7 years ago | (#20338577)

How big would one of these things be if they were made using vacuum tubes?

And now the clock is ticking (1)

lotekppc (795609) | about 7 years ago | (#20338655)

on the accompaning announcement from Apple about the new high-capacity diskless ipods.

Nobody gets it (-1, Troll)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20338759)

This is obviously an attempt to FINALLY find some hardware fast enough to support Vista!

Expected lifetime calculation (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338785)

Let's explore a worst case scenario:

Let's assume write-speed is 64MB/s, and that the memory is spec'd to one million writes/cell.

If we assume the same standard as plain ol' disks, 512 byte sectors, and fill the disk to the brim, leaving only a single sector free to write to, let's see what happens.

64MB/512 = 131072 (aka 128K) writes/second to that single cell.

1000000 / 131072 ~= 7,629394531

That's the expected lifetime of that cell. Seven point six three seconds.

Don't bullshit me with "will not happen in your lifetime", please.

Re:Expected lifetime calculation (2, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | about 7 years ago | (#20338971)

That's why you don't *do* that. Or, more precisely, why the SSD shouldn't *let* you do that. All it needs to do is keep some hidden spare space (10%? 5%? 1%? I don't know, but it's not huge) and dynamically remap sectors to balance writes. If you have GB of remapping room, even a "full" disk with heavy load would take a long time to wear out.

Re:Expected lifetime calculation (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20338975)

You know, you're too stupid to know why your so stupid, even if I explained it to you.

Will SSD drives change the design of software? (1)

MrSteveSD (801820) | about 7 years ago | (#20338925)

As I understand it, solid state drives will have zero seek time (since their is no physical head that has to be moved). In contrast with a HDD you have a mechanical arm that has to whiz about all over the place, sometimes short distances, sometimes longer distances. As a result of this, lots of things are designed to minimize accessing data that's far apart on hard drives, particularly in applications like databases. It sounds like SSD drives with their zero seek times could simplify a lot of software and various design issues.
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