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Alienware Puts 64GB Solid-State Drives In Desktops

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the what's-that-spinning-noise dept.

Data Storage 235

Lucas123 writes "In the face of Seagate's announcement this week of a new hybrid drive, Dell subsidiary Alienware just upped the ante by doubling the capacity of its desktop solid-state disk drives to 64 GB. Dell has remained silent on the solid-state disk front since announcing a 32-GB solid-state option for its Latitude D420 and D629 ATG notebook computers earlier this year. Now, Alienware seems to be telling users to bypass hybrid drives altogether. 'Hybrid we consider to be a Band-Aid approach to solid state,' said Marc Diana, Alienware's product marketing manager 'Solid state pretty much puts hybrid in an obsolete class right now.'"

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what does it do to load times? (0, Offtopic)

Neotrantor (597070) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938419)

I'm assuming the PCI-e/pci/agp bus is still going to be a bottleneck, but this will cut down on seek times?

Re:what does it do to load times? (5, Informative)

evol262 (721773) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938473)

No idea who modded this 'underrated,' but those buses have nothing to do with this. The AGP bus never had any effect on storage performance (isolated), the PCIe bus is much faster than storage, etc. The IDE controller is on the Southbridge, and it's not bottlenecking. Storage is the bottleneck more often than not (seek times and raw speed). Will this cut down on seek times? Yes. Solid-state storage has nigh-instantaneous seek times, since there aren't any heads seeking.

Re:what does it do to load times? (0, Troll)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938695)

seek time hasn't been a issue for a LONG time now. transfer speed is what is king. my 3 year old U320 Scsi drives still kick the ever living crap out of anything IDE or SATA and I bet will kick the crap out of these oversized flash drives.

What nobody is pointing out is that a standard windows install will thrash the hell out of a Solid state drive. There is a reason you need to balance your writes and not treat a SS disk like a hard drive. I destroyed a Solid state IDE drive back 6 years ago (you have been able to buy them for over 15 years now) by installing windows on it. the swap space died within weeks. Yes I knew what I was doing, I was proving a point to a manager that refused to listen to his engineers. you need a special filesystem to even out writes to the SS disk to make sure your drive life is maximized. that means that you really should run the Filesystem in ram for apps that like to write to the disk all the time. Your favorite webbrowser in default config write a crapload of junk to disk. that all needs to be disabled.

Yes newer SS disks are better. Yes you can get SRAM based ones that have a battery backup. but the cheapest are the flash based and they have a limited lifetime of writes.

Re:what does it do to load times? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938941)

you sound like a badass. know any kung fu?

Re:what does it do to load times? (2, Insightful)

roscocoltran (1014187) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939031)

and what are you trying to prove now ? That the ss drive built 6 years ago were crap ? I agree, but in 6 years, the industry has changed. So did the ss drives. It would be interesting that you redo this experiment and post your results in 3 months.

Re:what does it do to load times? (3, Interesting)

Burz (138833) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939079)

Earth to Lumpy:

Flash drives have had wear-leveling as standard for several years.

Now, back to your utra-scuzzy crap kickers. :-D

Re:what does it do to load times? (4, Informative)

pslam (97660) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939335)

What nobody is pointing out is that a standard windows install will thrash the hell out of a Solid state drive. There is a reason you need to balance your writes and not treat a SS disk like a hard drive. I destroyed a Solid state IDE drive back 6 years ago (you have been able to buy them for over 15 years now) by installing windows on it. the swap space died within weeks.

These days (well, since YEARS ago now) we have this thing called Wear Leveling which means you can't wear out NAND flash by simply writing over the same portion over and over again. The writes get spread around other areas instead.

It hasn't been possible to kill a (decent) solid state drive like this in a very long time now. Please don't misinform people.

Re:what does it do to load times? (2, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939637)

You could run Windows well on flash without too much trouble, use a ramdrive and redirect TMP and TEMP to that and disable swap, set your browser to use TMP for cache or disable it altogether. Turn off timestamping on file access and it's even better. By that point if your flash has 500K writes before average failure then you have a drive that will last many years, probably longer than your average HDD.

Can we let the old "write limits" go now? (5, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939225)

I don't get it. Modern flash has 1M+ write cycles, and we might presume that there is some rudimentary write balancing in these drives. If you work 1GB of cache (not unlikely, and probably on the low side for Vista), I get 8Gb x 1M writes = 8x10^15 write operations before your 1GB area fails completely. Using load balancing, and dynamic reallocation of a 64GB disc, but taking the "limit" of useability at 50% of the write cycles before you are might start to worry, how long does it take to write 256x10^15 bits (8x10^15 x 64GB x 50%)? Well, TFA didn't give write speeds, so I'm going to presume a ludicrous write speed of 50MB/s (I'm not aware of any consumer-grade flash that writes that fast). 50x8=400Mb/s or 4x10^8 b/s. So if I've got my exponents correct, that put the 50% threshold at an even 64x10^7 seconds, or about 177,777 hours of continuous writes, or only about 20 years. That presumes you actually have your machine (a) never reading the cache, and (b) never writing anything else to the disk, since the entire bandwidth taken up by the cache writing and (c) it's doing this 24/7 (as I presume Vista attempts to do).

And at this point, your drive will be through 50% of it's theoretical write-cycle life. And about 1/1000 the capacity of the drive you would be able to buy for $100 to replace it.

Re:Can we let the old "write limits" go now? (5, Informative)

pslam (97660) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939527)

I don't get it. Modern flash has 1M+ write cycles, and we might presume that there is some rudimentary write balancing in these drives.

Strangely enough, modern flash is about 100k write cycles for high density SLC NAND and 10k writes for MLC NAND. Newer flash actually gets worse as the densities get better.

Even so, with proper wear leveling and sufficient redundancy you can achieve failure rates better than a spinning media. In fact, you can pick the numbers to achieve any arbitrary failure rate.

As for speed - you're correct, no single flash chip is 50MB/sec, but you can stack many of them in parallel and get that. That's a common way of doing it.

I think you're being overly harsh and pessimistic with your figures. There are some workloads you obviously shouldn't pair with a NAND flash, but quite frankly gaming isn't going to stress these things.

Re:what does it do to load times? (4, Informative)

skulgnome (1114401) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938561)

The PCI bus isn't a bottleneck until you start getting over 120 megs a second down from a hard disk. Basic parallel PCI transfers up to 133 megs per second, theoretical, and even a single lane of PCI-e is quicker than that.

Re:what does it do to load times? (2, Informative)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939131)

Single lane PCIe is 1.25Gbps.
After you move to bytes and remove overhead you get 150 MBps.

Re:what does it do to load times? (4, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939585)

I recently switched my home servers to using a sandisk 4G flash for / (with variable directories moved to disk; /home, /opt, and parts of /var such as /var/logs). The system now loads in about a 1/3 of the time. I have also seen that it is quieter (the regular disks sleep when not in use and the fan that ran all the time now runs infrequently ), and the temp dropped 5 degrees. I would expect that my electricity usage has dropped (as evidenced by lower heat).

All in all, I have no doubt that within a year, flash will be the rage.

Solid first! (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938427)

Maybe hybrid?

Re:Solid first! (0, Offtopic)

obergfellja (947995) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938493)

whats next? Microsoft claims to have created the market? that without M$FT that the market wouldn't even exist?

Re:Solid first! (0, Troll)

empaler (130732) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938733)

whats next? Microsoft claims to have created the market? that without M$FT that the market wouldn't even exist?
Microsoft may have created the market, but we still need to thank Al Gore for his inventions - the man is unstoppable! This time it's Solid State drives, what's next? Flying cars? Mushroom ketchup? I can't wait! :-D

Re:Solid first! (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938541)

"Hybrid we consider to be a Band-Aid approach to solid state," said Diana. "Solid state pretty much puts hybrid in an obsolete class right now."
Yes hybrid is a Band-Aid, but the wound it is trying to heal is the excessive price for solid state.

Again, for the majority of computer users, swapping to the disk is more of a problem than the ultimate speed of their HD. They'd get more bang for their buck by buying another GB of RAM... which is why I don't really see solid state prices coming down anytime soon.

There isn't a significant need for it in the general consumer market.
Maybe laptops will create enough demand for lower prices... but that remains to be see.

many write cycles? (2, Interesting)

MancunianMaskMan (701642) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938445)

can s/o comment on the durability of these (presumabily flash-based) devices? What if the OS decides to write stuff to certain sectors all the time?

Re:many write cycles? (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938481)

What if the OS decides to write stuff to certain sectors all the time?

Most flash controllers remap the sectors on the fly to ensure that the memory is not worn down prematurely. So if you rewrite the same logical sector 5 times over, a chance exists that you'll get 5 different physical sectors.

Re:many write cycles? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938525)

Most flash controllers remap the sectors on the fly to ensure that the memory is not worn down prematurely.

Do you have a source for that? Preferably a white paper from a manufacturer of one of these "drives"?

When I tried to look for such information, I couldn't find it. I've seen other Slashdotters say that it's the OS that does the remapping.

Re:many write cycles? (3, Informative)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938535)

This is an old /. topic, really. Key points:
  1. Flash used to have a limit of about 500,000 read/writes. That limit has since been surpassed. I gather it can exceed 1 million now, though Wikipedia still says the former.
  2. Although it wasn't addressed in the article (dammit), it has often been suggested that some on-disk monitoring and allocation mechanism will prevent areas from burning-out, or from being used if they do burn out. (This will be a particular issue for page/swap/scratch-files)
  3. Given that hard drives usually have a MTBF of something like 3-5 years, the technology only has to be good enough to meet that standard before it becomes as technically viable as HDDs.
  4. Given its other advantages over existing HDDs (even hybrids), I imagine that it will be considered viable - especially in laptops - long before it reaches that level of robustness.
Can I just say, it's about time they brought out a version that could compare with existing low-end laptop drives in terms of capacity. If you ask me, that's what was really holding back the big-spenders from buying into this tech.

Re:many write cycles? (3, Informative)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938785)

Given that hard drives usually have a MTBF of something like 3-5 years

Pet peeve: MTBF is not life expectancy, it's the average time between failures if you replace the drives before they are expected to die. Common MTBF are currently anywhere between 50 and 150 years (mostly made up numbers), whereas life expectancy is in the 3-5 years range (at best).

Re:many write cycles? (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939629)

Err, yeah? I would think the MTBF of a single harddisk would still be 3-5 years. Perhaps the MTBF of the system that _uses_ the harddisks (and gets them replaced) is in the 50 to 150 years range, but that isn't about the disk anymore.

Re:many write cycles? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938923)

Flash used to have a limit of about 500,000 read/writes. That limit has since been surpassed. I gather it can exceed 1 million now, though Wikipedia still says the former.

What is the read/write limit of an average hard-drive, to put things into perspective?

Re:many write cycles? (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938995)

Cost [dvnation.com] may continue [engadget.com] to be an issue as well.

CC.

Re:many write cycles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20939207)

A fifth point here: as far as flash memory is concerned, only writing causes wear & tear. Reading is free.

Re:many write cycles? (1)

Dark_MadMax666 (907288) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939305)

Current HDD technology is very reliable (well at least was so far for me) .I still use 6 year old HDD (the first 120 GB) as my primary OS drive - and have 5 others of similar age. Being a sysadmin a did not witness that many HDD failures either (depsite the drive in corporate desktops and servers are usually of very inferior quality). In fact the most drive failures I saw was from EMC SAN - imho they have just abysmal quality drives and since they reccomend to have one hot spare per 12 drive I guess they just put the cheapest poorest quality drives there.

1 million r/w cycles? -NOT excited.

Re:many write cycles? (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939447)

5. Current performance really sucks.

I'd like to see some performance numbers for the new drive in the Alienware, but after digging around I could only find these numbers [techreport.com] .

The short summary is read performance isn't fantastic, and write performance really sucks. Although the final benchmark shows a writespeed of 40MB/s, all of the "real-world" tests shows a sustained write speed of 5-10MB/s.

Basically dreadful, given that performance, prize and size are normally a pick two out of three choice for storage, finding a system that offers pick zero out of three is awful.

Re:many write cycles? (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938537)

The OS has no power to decide which sectors are written to. The drive contains it's own map of the sectors, and does the write-leveling itself. The OS may think it's writing to sector X, but it's really only a logical sector. It could actually be writing to sector A,B, or C. At least that's how I understand it. Of course this only makes sense with solid state drives, because they don't have variable seek times depending on which sector you put the data at.

No problem! (1)

amake (673443) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938767)

Do you read slashdot at all? We have this exact same question asked many times every single time an article about flash memory is posted. No, it's not a problem for the average user thanks to wear leveling. End of story.

Re:No problem! -- It was in my experience (5, Interesting)

SlashdotOgre (739181) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939259)

A couple years ago (Fall 2005) I did my senior engineering project in college using embedded Linux devices which utilized 512MB flash drives (CF) as the only storage mechanism. The devices were basically Soekris boards with Debian and some highly custom WiFi drivers/software designed for mesh networking research. After my project, I was hired on by the research institute which funded the project, so I got to play with these things for a while. Nearly every mesh node that used flash ran into "hard drive" issues within a year (we suspected the failure frequency was directly related to how often we used the devices). Most of the time it was simply the MBR becoming corrupt which you could fix by mounting the card on a Linux computer, chroot'ing and re-running LILO; but in a few cases we had to replace the entire card due to corruption. These devices had fairly typical usage patterns of a normal desktop/laptop (booted daily), and we were no where near the 3-5 year estimates most people give flash drives.

life time? (2, Interesting)

revisionz (82265) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938447)

how long are solid state drives suppose to last? Compared to the hard drive?

Re:life time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938553)

Two or three times more than a comparable HDD.

Have they solved the longevity issue? (1, Interesting)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938449)

I would pay the extra price for solid state disks on my computer tomorrow, but I can't help but be a bit nervous about the limits of flash memory in terms of the number of times a cell can be written to. On a well exercised machine, how do they pro-actively monitor this and/or avoid corrupting data when one of those cells can't reliably flip bits anymore? I'm not too stressed about it if I get a corrupt picture on my digital camera because of that, but I use my computer for real work.

Best,

Re:Have they solved the longevity issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938463)

On a well exercised machine, how do they pro-actively monitor this and/or avoid corrupting data when one of those cells can't reliably flip bits anymore?

I'm going out on a limb here and guessing that they use the exact same techniques they use with regular hard drives--mark the bit/sector/whatever as no good and write the data somewhere else.

Have they solved the integrity issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938549)

Ever notice you never get any read errors on SSD? That's because they don't spend any bits on ECC or RS codes for error correction! So it may be fast but how would you know you are reading what was written?

SSD won't be acceptable until the native capacity will be ~1.4x the accepted storage capacity.

Re:Have they solved the longevity issue? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938619)

I have a 60GB drive on one of my well-used desktops. In any given day, I can write to it anywhere from 250MB total, to around 10GB total, measured at the OS.

So maximum, absolute maximum on a busy day, I write 10GB to it, or 60GB worth of writes in an entire week.

Given firmware that spreads writes out over cells, that means in one week, I would write to every single cell in the flash drive less than once. That's in a hypothetical SUPER busy week, something I've never done.

With 100,000 writes maximum before the flash dies, that gives me about 100,000 weeks time until the flash runs out and dies, or a bit under 2,000 years.

that's at the absolute, positively, busiest use I've noticed myself doing on my desktop's drive.

Now, given I'm closer to the 2GB mark instead of 10GB worth of writes, I could probably keep going for 10,000 years with normal use, except for my own death.

Re:Have they solved the longevity issue? (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938771)

How much of the 60GB HD is empty and hence writeable?

Will the system actually relocate data which is typically only read so as to make that space available for writing to?

Things don't look so rosy if one has say a 4GB CF and ~3.25GB of that is fairly persistent data (say an install of Windows 2000 and applications and data and music) --- one then has .75GB to soak up all the usage --- which I'm going to try anyway since I got a CF-> IDE adapter for my pen slate, but I'm still waffling on whether or no I'll use a swap file, and if I do, I'm considering putting it on a second card which only holds the swap space and temp files.

William

Re:Have they solved the longevity issue? (2, Informative)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938869)

You have a flaw in your theory though; a portion of the drive won't be changing much, because OS and program files don't change too much. So there's a part of the disk that is only written to rarely, and other parts of the disk that will be written to more often, because a chunk of the drive won't change.

So while the drive would still last a long, long time, you do need to keep in mind the above.

Re:Have they solved the longevity issue? (1)

JimboFBX (1097277) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939049)

Its more like 10,000 writes, unless you want to make a drive using more reliable but lower density parts. The longer the part has been around, the better it is, but you can't match up the quality of older parts with the density of newer parts.

Re:Have they solved the longevity issue? (4, Interesting)

Amiga Lover (708890) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938703)

I have an old mac laptop, a Powerbook 1400, which was sadly limited to 64MB RAM from the factory. Combined with a slow internal HD, the use of VM to get more use out of it slows it down like a dog. The solution to its limited RAM? Add a flashram PC card, make the VM page to it, and you have a pretty quick workaround.

It's a reasonably well-known hack, and I used this powerbook with flash-based VM storage from 2001 to 2003 as one of my main internet machines, browsing and image editing, and it had a real workout in that time. It's been resting for a few years, but still fires up OK. I've seen perhaps a dozen other people who've done this, and NEVER known of a flash VM card to die.

In short, the longevity issue doesn't need solving, as it isn't an issue for anything but running something like eBay's database server on.

Re:Have they solved the longevity issue? (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938891)

Yes. I think they have

I'll let somebody else find the links on the 'net but I remember reading an article on this subject, I also once wrote a Flash based filing system for a job I was working on (albiet a simple one).

The solution is to allow read and write in any section of the disk, but to create a new entry in the FAT for any changes to a block. In this respect if you wanted to change then you created a new block with a change copied from the old. The thing to remember is that there is no seek time with flash based disk and much of the complexity can be hidden in the FW. the effect is to write only on change and erase on a sector basis only occasionally.

models based on heavy disk usage and very limited number of erases proved they would last many many tens of years. the side effect is that you add a bit extra flash storage that is hidden for system use (kind of like double buffering by the FW). the benefits is no loss of data if you cut power (kind of like a journaled system), low power consumption and no susceptibility to sudden shock. Also the system keeps count of how many times it has erased sectors and is nice enough to give an "approximation" of hour many years it recommends that you use it. though when developing kit at work we run flash chips hundreds of times past the recommended 100,000 with no problems at all (so far, and we do not do it in production kit).

the whole system as described in the article seemed very promised, how they have implemented in behind an IDE/SATA interface I do not know, but I do now that they could not sell something that suffers from a lack of longevity so they must of done. Consider my bad explanation as a way that they *could* of done it.

zzz.

obsolete? (5, Insightful)

orionop (1139819) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938451)

'Solid state pretty much puts hybrid in an obsolete class right now.'
Call me when either the capacity or price of solid state drives comes close with those obsolete drives, then we will compare...

Re:obsolete? (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938545)

And it won't. 'Economies of scale' don't happen here. Flash memory production already outstrips HDDs. The fact is that the process of manufacturing memory, including flash memory, is expensive.

Why does your computer have a relatively small amount of RAM and huge storage? It's the same economic question we've been facing since the introduction of computing. You need some fast, temporary storage and some slower permanent storage. And the reason has nothing to do with technological barriers -- it boils down to economics. Memory is expensive, hard drives are cheap. That's it. No matter what happens, nothing is going to change that equation anytime soon. SSDs will remain a niche technology for gamers with deep pockets and maybe a few other high-end uses like scientific computing. It will take at least a decade or more before this filters down to the point that the average PC is using SSDs.

Re:obsolete? (1)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938721)

The only time it will trickle down is when the average user will have so much storage that they can never fill it up.

For normal users, we may be at that point already. For people that store mp3s, we're probably at that now, as well. (Do you have more than a couple hundred gigabytes of music on your computer? If so, what the heck for?) 10 years from now we may be at that point for standard definition video.

When (storage) space no longer matters, the time to access will start to matter.

Re:obsolete? (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938781)

current storage amounts are good until one starts to store videos, like they store MP3's. Of course bandwidth is still keeping video from being common place, but that gap is narrowing.

Re:obsolete? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938967)

I think that's the point the parent (and I) are making. Eventually, yes, access time may matter more than raw storage space. Of course, I remember in the early-to-mid 90s when we were approaching what we thought were nearly 'unlimited' storage amounts -- until sound and video started filling our drives. Maybe something else will come around that we'll want to fill our drives with, though. If not, then I think we'll see where access times begin to matter more than space. At that point -- maybe we'll see SSDs dropping in price to become competitive enough to obsolete HDDs. I still doubt that, but it will take 10 years to find out, IMHO.

Actually (3, Insightful)

samael (12612) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938763)

Flash costs seem to be halving each year at the moment, while hard drive capacity is going up by a smaller amount.

Flash may eventually max out, still more expensive than hard drive space, or it may eventually overtake it. I'm not convinced that there's anything inherently more expensive about flash construction techniques in the long term.

Re:obsolete? (4, Insightful)

vagabond_gr (762469) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938971)

Memory is expensive, hard drives are cheap. That's it. No matter what happens, nothing is going to change that equation anytime soon.
You mean *per gigabyte* and that's true. But tape drives are even cheaper, yet few people are using them because 1) access is ridiculously slow 2) nobody needs so much space. Hard drives are taking the same path. I don't need more than 64GB on my laptop, and soon I'll have much more than that. What I do need is to replace my 4200 rpm slug with something faster, without draining my battery. If I can get a 64gb flash disk at the price of a 500gb hdd, I'll do it today.

Re:obsolete? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939409)

and some of us would do just fine with a 8gb storage device in our laptops.

Re:obsolete? (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939541)

You mean *per gigabyte* and that's true. But tape drives are even cheaper
No, they aren't. Go look on Pricewatch for an LTO Ultrium drive. LTO4 drives are about $1100, with the older, lower capacity LTO2s being about half that. The tapes themselves might be lower than HDDs in terms price/GB, but then they don't last nearly as long as an HDD, either.

Anyway, the biggest problem with tapes is that they aren't a random-access media. That's why they aren't used as a means of primary storage.

Or performance (1, Troll)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938799)

Last I checked, while solid state drives had excellent random performance, their transfer rate was way below that of normal drives. Now random access is all well and good, I'm glad we are improving on it, hard disks are really weak at that, but it isn't the only concern, and maybe not even the primary concern in most setups. If you have a well maintained system with a defragmented drive, and that system is a single user desktop, it's a good bet that your disk access is often fairly sequential. You go and launch a game, the drive seeks to the game executable, loads that, then seeks to the game data (which is often in a couple large pack files) and starts loading that. There's not a whole lot of jumping around. You aren't waiting on the drive because it is having to seek, you are just waiting for it to read from the platters.

As such if solid state drives aren't faster (or at least as fast) in BOTH regards, I'm not sure I see them as a better performance choice. Sure, there may be a reason to use them in servers or other multi-user situations where the majority of the disk penalty is because of seek time, but I don't think that holds true at home.

Seems to me that until it gets faster, hybrids are the way to go. That's how MS's ReadyBoost thing works. You add a flash stick to a computer and use it for ReadyBoost. It's maximum transfer rate is much slower than the disk, but its seek rate is faster. So what Vista does is cache the first part of things you frequently access there. Then, when you run it, it starts loading from flash while the disk seeks, then switches to the disk as soon as it is ready. It only works as a supplement to a drive, it isn't a replacement, it won't fully cache programs on there because, size aside, it'd actually be slower. It's just designed to try and fill the access gap, not as a real replacement.

Re:Or performance (1)

archen (447353) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938979)

It depends on what you are using them for. SSD are going into laptops first. Mainly for durability and power requirements, but also because there are speed gains to be had there. Most laptop drives perform rather poorly. Random reads are good in SSD drives, but SSD drives also excel in sustained throughput. Modern hard drives still have good bursting capability but that boost goes down the toilet rather quick. If you ever have the need to test some of this out, try derik's boot'n nuke on a regular hard drive and you can see a ways into the process that the sustained speed of most hard drives really isn't that great. I've been testing some SSD drives and was actually pretty surprised at a noticeable improvement in responsiveness, although stuff like boot times remained about the same.

Still I don't see how this would improve desktop performance. I'd think two WD Raptors in a mirror would still kick any SSD configuration. Personally I think scsi is still the performance king, but views on that vary.

Re:Or performance (1)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939211)

"You go and launch a game, the drive seeks to the game executable, loads that, then seeks to the game data (which is often in a couple large pack files)"

I am afraid you are being optimist.
Every game I have on my PC has its data spanning over thousand of files (like individual Mesh, Ani, Texture, and so on ..).
A Solid state drive would really help.

Re:Or performance (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939249)

You are overlooking a huge benefit of flash drives, namely that they consume less power. Maybe not a huge concern on the desktop, but if flash drives can improve notebook battery life significantly there will be a lot of people clamoring for them.

Crash recovery (5, Funny)

monk.e.boy (1077985) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938457)

Damn this is going to make crash recovery a nightmare. When my hard drive crashed I was able to read the data off by opening it up and using a magnifying glass, pen and paper. Using my notes and a typewriter I soon had my old drive data mirrored onto my new drive.

Is it possible to do this with a solid state drive?

Re:Crash recovery (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938483)

Yes, but you can skip the typewriter step - just use a pin directly on the new drive to poke your 0s (unpoked is 1)

Re:Crash recovery (1)

surajbarkale (877769) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938985)

Only if you have got an electron microscope.

Until they notice the throughput (3, Interesting)

akheron01 (637033) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938459)

The parts have been available for someone with a couple thousand dollars to throw around to build themself a flash based laptop for some time now. I did all of the research and considered doing it myself, but realized that the throughput speeds of current flash technologies are far too abysmal for desktop computing. It works fine for a little web browsing and music listening station, but try working with some big media like centi-layered photoshop files and video.

Re:Until they notice the throughput (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938583)

Well, from what I know, the write speeds are abysmal, but the read speeds are actually quite fast, especially when you're accessing lots of little files, because you cut down on seek times. So a flash drive would be optimal for putting static data like the OS, and Programs, which change very rarely, and contain lots of little files that need to be read very quickly. Your computer would boot a lot faster, and programs would start much quicker. I don't think these would operate well as a swap partition, but then again, the best solution to swap is just buy more RAM, so you don't have to use it.

Re:Until they notice the throughput (1)

cjsm (804001) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938947)

Flash drives seem tailor made for music samplers which can stream off the hard disk, such as Kontakt, Gigastudio, and LinuxSampler.

Samples can contain hundreds or thousands of small files. A good piano sample may contain samples for 88 notes, each note having sample files for 8 to 16 different volume levels, release samples, close and far miking samples, etc. Reading these samples in real time puts a lot of demands on a hard drive. Plus, with most samplers, you can have multiple instruments loaded, and you can overlay instruments. So having an instrument bank of full of piano, horns, drums, violin, and guitar samples can bring a hard drive to its knees.

Once you've written your samples to the flash drive, there will be only a limited need to rewrite. So the write speeds and rewrite limitations won't be a problem.

Flash drive should give a huge boost to the performance of music samplers.

Re:Until they notice the throughput (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939273)

How much space do these samples take up? It it too much to be loaded into memory? Seems to me that if you're re-reading the sample every time you need it, then there's something wrong with the way the program accesses the samples.

Re:Until they notice the throughput (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939645)

what about using raid10 to improve both ?
let's say, 6x32GB ssd, with three raid1 used in one raid0.
both read and write speeds should improve quite noticeably, total space would be ~90GB.

i don't know how large these things are, how much power 6 of those would consume and how much heat would they produce, so any of these could kill the solution.
if all three stay at the normal hdd range (single hdd :) ), that would be a killer laptop. well, maybe a killer because of the price, but we all hope the prices will drop...

Re:Until they notice the throughput (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939351)

Software raid (using RAID 0) 4 Sandisk firewire readers. Now take 4 40MB/sec read time, 8 GB flash disks from same company. RAID is fun if you don't have big seek times, and you'll have 32 GB of storage for far less money than you are trying to spend. Use RAID 5 for less performance, but bigger reliability. Actually, I'm still waiting on someone to perform this experiment, it's still too costly for me. Anyway, I just had to wait for my drive to spinup in my fanless computer, so I'll probably but a single 8 GB card and firewire reader just to see how much it can speed up my VIA EPIA system. I'll just backup to the HDD now and then, and use it for music storage as well.

Re:Until they notice the throughput (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20939671)

Who modded this clown +4 Interesting? The only thing I can imagine from your completely incorrect post is that you are trolling, in which case I got sucked in. But I can't stand by and let the +4 make other people think that what you say is even close to the truth. Please people, read up on this tech before you believe his completely idiotic statements.

The School of Hard Knocks (4, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938465)

'Solid state pretty much puts hybrid in an obsolete class right now.'

Yes, well, as a graduate of Solid State, I'm really getting a kick out of his reply.

Re:The School of Hard Knocks (5, Funny)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938571)

Yes, well, as a graduate of Solid State, I'm really getting a kick out of his reply.
As a graduate of Quantum State, I may or may not be getting a kick out of your reply.

Re:The School of Hard Knocks (5, Funny)

thegnu (557446) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938707)

Yes, well, as a graduate of Solid State, I'm really getting a kick out of his reply.

As a graduate of Quantum State, I may or may not be getting a kick out of your reply.

And I, as a graduate of String State, am inventing 7 new dimensions to account for humor.

Re:The School of Hard Knocks (2, Funny)

pragma_x (644215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939631)

Yes, well, as a graduate of Solid State, I'm really getting a kick out of his reply.

As a graduate of Quantum State, I may or may not be getting a kick out of your reply.

And I, as a graduate of String State, am inventing 7 new dimensions to account for humor.

As a graduate of Quaker State, I found your comment rather slick.

Re:The School of Hard Knocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938575)

And which classes did you take there?

Re:The School of Hard Knocks (2, Funny)

Misch (158807) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938841)

You could look at his transcripts, but when you observe them, you might change them.

Eventually (3, Insightful)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938503)

FTFA: ...the flash-based technology's steep price point continues to hamper adoption, analysts say.

Yeah, but as the first adopters and the die hard gamers looking for every advantage they can get buy more of these, we'll see the price drop eventually.

It also means that the extra speed and reliability really isn't worth the high price for most business folks who would be, I guess, the ones to really drive the market in the beginning stages after the first adopters.

Re:Eventually (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938577)

Are "die hard" gamers really going to want such a small drive though? I see this being useful in notebooks, but even the, I'd still want to wait until 128GB is affordable in the notebook form factor. Either way, I see it not being that viable for either market for a year until capacity doubles.

Re:Eventually (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938657)

Yeah, but as the first adopters and the die hard gamers looking for every advantage they can get buy more of these, we'll see the price drop eventually.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but eventually >= 10 years. Flash memory is expensive to produce, and production of flash memory already outstrips HDDs (think of all those USB thumb drives).

yuo Fai7P It (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938517)

during this file a losing battle; AMERICA) mi6ht be official GNAA irc

Hybrid is a band-aid? (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938543)

'Hybrid we consider to be a Band-Aid approach to solid state,' said Marc Diana

Now there's a misleading quote if I ever heard one. Magnetic drives currently allow for storage of 250GB and up for a cost of $0.50/GB or less. In comparison, Flash Drives are are still measured in dollars per GB. The hybrid drive allows a bit of a tradeoff. A fast storage cache combined with massive space in exchange for a slight increase in price. Thus it's possible to have 1TB or more of storage, but with the performance characteristics of Flash memory under most circumstances.

Mass produce (2, Insightful)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938595)

As soon as they ramp up production, and cut down on "bad drives" in the production process, the price will come down. Anyone remember buying a 250 megabyte drive back in the mid 90's and paying more for that, than you do for a 250 gigabyte drive today? As with anything "new" (ie: iPhone) the early adopters are going to be paying a price for the "wow" factor. I suspect in less than 24 months, these will become more mainstream.

Not too impressive... (5, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938609)

Okay, for some $1,700+ you get two 64GB SSD drives.

And what do you get for that ridiculous amount of cash? According to Alienware's best PR spin:

"speed up operating system boot and application launch/runtime by up to 2 times." ...and:

"consume up to 50 percent less power than rotating HDDs."

Those specs aren't exactly thrilling, particularly since "up to" tends to mean you'll never get close to either spec.

Seems like a complete joke to me, which oddly fits in quite well with the rest of the Alienware line-up.

Re:Not too impressive... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938687)

Hush! Those early adopters are funding cool stuff the rest of us can use after the price drops.

We should be encouraging them to buy as much of that stuff as possible. To reduce load on their gaming box, every Alienware owner needs a at least a 6TB SSD SAN. :)

Re:Not too impressive... (1)

Thwomp (773873) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939489)

Ha! The joke is on you. I'm going to invest now and wait for my rebate to roll in. Oh yeah, that's going to be *so* sweet.

Re:Not too impressive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20939241)

alienware = a fool and his money are soon parted.

They buy taiwanese oem notebooks and give them a paintjob... then drop about a 33% higher markup than other oem redistributors.

Re:Not too impressive... (2, Insightful)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939669)

If the price continues at its current 50% drop per year, we'll be looking at 2TB drives below $200 in 8 years or so. You might be able to get a 5-8TB magnetic drive for the same money in that time frame.

Right now, few people will be able to afford this, but there do exist people with too much money who will over spend for the slightest gain in performance, namely battery life, now. For business travelers, some companies might see it as justified for their employee to be able to work on his laptop on the plane for an extra hour or two before he runs out of power. If they rate the extra time that the laptop is functional against the extra work the user will be able to do while using the laptop (figured as the hourly wage of the user), the hard drive would pay for itself once it had extended the battery operation of the device by 30 hours. That is, $900/$30/hr since a business machine only one of these drives (we just got brand new XP computers with 80GB hard drives, and even that is overkill for business use). So, while it is still years from being a good buy for home use, they should be ready for the rest of us in 8-10, unless flash cost hits a tipping point sooner that causes the prices to drop even faster.

pros and cons of solid state storage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938637)

Pro:
  1. Quieter.
  2. Can be shaken about more.
Cons:
  1. Lower capacity.
  2. More expensive.
  3. Not suitable for swap.
  4. Dies after n thousand reads to a particular block.
Misleading claims:
  1. Faster - false for sequential writes. Likely true for random reads.
  2. Writes will be "balanced out" by either OS or flash firmware. Certainly not true for OS case unless one chooses eg JFFS. And is the metadata indicating physical/logical mapping also going to be moved around randomly?

Hybrid Obsolete? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20938643)

A quick look at Alien's desktop systems shows hard drives with a minimum capacity of 160G. They are announcing 64G for mid 2008. How will a small, expensive store obsolete a large, cheap hard drive?

Great on Battery life (5, Informative)

Poppageorgio (461121) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938823)

I have a Latitude D430 for work with a 32GB SSD, and while it isn't noticeably faster than the guy next to me that has a standard HDD in the same machine, my battery life is WAY better. I'm getting 10+ hours with the extended battery out of the thing. And, I'm not as scared about losing data due to a dropped laptop. (Networking = frequently dropped laptops!)

Re:Great on Battery life (2, Informative)

btSeaPig (701895) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939161)

Well, I have a Latitude D630, with the 32GB SSD, running Ubuntu 7.10. OpenOffice opens in right at one second. Very impressive if you ask me.

Re:Great on Battery life (1, Offtopic)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939215)

(Networking = frequently dropped laptops!)

Hint: Don't pick up your laptop by the network cord. The RJ-45 jack is not designed to hold any significant weight. Pick the laptop up by the case.

Problem solved. Now you can use those cheapo old fashioned hard drives.

Re:Great on Battery life (1)

Poppageorgio (461121) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939327)

I'm in networking. Hence, I routinely stand in front of a rack holding a laptop. This means I am bound to drop it at sometime in its life.

Funny. (1)

trudyscousin (258684) | more than 6 years ago | (#20938837)

"Hybrid we consider to be a Band-Aid approach to solid state."

Coming from a company that has positioned itself as the rice boys of computer hardware, that remark sounds rather appropriate.

Dell offers 128GB on XPS M1730 notebook (3, Interesting)

The Incredible Mr. L (26085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939069)

funny, I was checking out the Dell choices the other day since finding out my company has a discount.

They offer a 128GB solid state drive option on their XPS M1730 notebook.

I don't know how long they've offered that but it seems that Dell does have that option.

Re:Dell offers 128GB on XPS M1730 notebook (1)

The Incredible Mr. L (26085) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939167)

OK, I see that the article is about offering it on a desktop. As far as I can tell Dell doesn't offer Solid State drives on desktops.

I don't know why you'd want such a small drive on a desktop but c'est la vie.

/ I suppose you can have it as your system drive for faster boot times?

// wait a minute, slashies on slashdot? That's a paddlin'

Re:Dell offers 128GB on XPS M1730 notebook (2, Informative)

JPEWdev (770760) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939599)

The 128 GB Drive in the XPS M1730 is a 2x64 GB Raid, so it is not really more advanced technology.

"Solid State" (1)

jackstack (618328) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939075)

Is "solid state" really a good way to refer to flash drives? Sounds like a terrible mis-nomer to me.

Re:"Solid State" (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939431)

The term comes from Solid State physics, which in some circles ( i.e my university it seems ) is sloppily used as a synonym for "quantum physics of semiconductors" (There is actually quite a bit more to solid state physics than that, but that is a different matter).

Flash memory exploits Quantum-tunneling ( i.e because particles do not have a certain position they can "tunnel" through a barrier ) in order to store information in small cells, while a traditional harddrive rearranges the magnetic domains of a ferro-magnetic film on the disk. My guess is solid-state storage was just a more "user-friendly" term than TITRRAM (Tunnel Injection - Tunnel Release Random access memory ). However, I have to admit that as it would probably be pronounced as TITRAM, the potential for jokes about Random Access juxtapositioned with TIT would have been much more entertaining ; )

Plus 1, Tr0lL) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20939081)

to thE crOwd in by simple fucking

Slow write performance (1)

Silvers (196372) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939107)

A lot of flash-based drives I have taken a look at have very poor write performance. Why anyone would choose to use this in a high-performance desktop is strange.

Re:Slow write performance (1)

AndyboyH (837116) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939449)

perhaps because gamers and the people Alienware target their goods at don't care about writing fast?

With quick reads Windows and games will load quicker - which is what the average Alienware buyer will care about - rather than writes.

If saving and installing is the same as normal due to slow writes? Meh - so what? It doesn't matter to them so long as they can load Crysis faster than their friends and squeeze a few more FPS out of their rig...

3 things (1)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939217)

First companies will try to milk as much money out of people as they can, hybrid drives. Second, it is possible that there is not enough world capacity to produce enough flash HDD. However, the market will correctly price these drives based on demand, as supply ramps costs will drop. Third, the manufacturers are testing the water for flash HDD. The switch would be a fairly large changeover from existing HDD. Thus, production equipment would have to be scrapped before its end of life.

adtron ? (1)

bl0kkie (1172145) | more than 6 years ago | (#20939439)

Are these packed with a Adtron A25FB-20 ? Last time I checked a solid state disc was more then $1000,00
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