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The Brave New World of SSDs Print E-mail
Written by Michael Schuette   
Nov 10, 2009 at 09:00 AM

Solid State Drives have entered the market and are capturing market share not only in the desktop segment but also in the enterprise market. This is true especially in data centers where access latencies, reliability and power consumption easily offset the initial cost overhead.

The predominant SSD storage medium at this moment is NAND flash memory and this is not likely to change in the near future even though new technologies such as phase change memory, magnetoresistive memory, resistive memory, organic memory, nanotube-based memory and finally NOR flash are on the horizon. NAND flash memory has some peculiarities; some of them are making it the media of choice in the current technology landscape, others, though, are posing some severe limitations with respect to the applicability of NAND flash as a drop-in replacement for rotatable media, at least for those unaware of the possible pitfalls.

In the first installment of this series, we'll take another technology deep dive into NAND technology and in the following articles apply the insights into the NAND idiosyncrasies to Solid State Drive management in order to optimize performance, minimize wear, and most importantly, maintain performance over the live of an ageing drive.

Solid State Drives vs. Hard Disc Drives

Hard disc drives have been the predominant storage media in the computer world for the last 30 years with most of the development driven by companies like IBM (now Hitachi), Seagate and Western Digital. Many of the players in this field have fallen by the wayside, Conner, Quantum (Bigfoot), Maxtor, Micropolis are just a few names that are slowly fading into oblivion, whereas some of the east Asian companies like Samsung and Fujitsu are still holding their own. Forgotten anybody? Probably but it doesn’t really matter in this context, the bottom line is that there were never more than maybe a dozen players out there to begin with.

Being in the HDD manufacturing business requires extreme resources. The very nature of sophisticated electromechanical devices means that HDDs require the best of both electrical and mechanical worlds with respect to engineering and facilities. Clean rooms for assembly and repairs are among the minimum prerequisites since drive platters are rotating at 100 miles / hour surface speed and even a tiny spec of dust will have a similar impact on a read/write head as a freight train - there is no escalation of catastrophic, if you’re dead you’re dead. The take-home message is, though, that you need to be a big company to be in the HDD business and you need to be possibly even bigger to survive there.

Last Updated ( Dec 10, 2009 at 05:41 AM )
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