Wednesday, December 24, 2008

SSD and Me!

I just read about some SSD goodness. I love me some SSD. What is SSD you ask? Well, the hard drive that you probably have in your computer is made up of many moving parts. All must work perfectly in tandem to read and write things to and from large metal platters. They have a reasonably long operating life, but once something gets out of whack, your hard drive is most likely kaput. SSD stands for Solid State Drive. Basically, a data storage device with no moving parts.

Yes, I know, solid state storage has been around for a while (in computer terms), but mostly in small devices like media players (Ipod, Zune, etc) and thumb drives. Until recently, the tech was not refined enough to provide storage capacity large enough to be a feasible desktop/laptop hard drive. Just in the last year or two have we started seeing SSDs with storage comparable to small hard drives, around 30 or 40 GB. And while they are not yet approaching the storage capacity of standard hard drives, they are closing the gap in leaps and bounds.

Enter Intel, who has just released a 160 GB SSD. That's bigger than the 145 GB drive I have in my desktop PC, and a doubling of capacity from just a few months ago (the article mentions Intel announcing an 80 GB drive in August). Holy crap! If anything close to that trend keeps up, we're looking at SSD catching standard hard drives within a year or two. Now I don't know what technical or engineering issues could stand in the way of ever increasing capacity, but still, that's pretty sweet.

Of course, price is a big factor. Standard hard drives are pretty inexpensive. A friend of mine at work is fond of saying "storage is cheap." With SSD, that's not the case. Intel has not mentioned a price for this 160 GB drive, but the 80 GB that I mentioned above is going for about $500 on That's probably on the lower end of the price spectrum. On the same site, I can get a traditional Western Digital hard drive with a storage capacity of 1 TB for $120. That's a pretty big difference, and because of that, I don't see a mass exodus towards SSD. Yet.

As the technology matures, the capacity increases, and the price decreases (which is the natural flow of computer hardware), I think you will see the traditional hard drives being steadily replaced by SSD. They are faster and more reliable. There really isn't a downside, so I think the switch will be inevitable. Once the price comes down, maybe late 2009, I might look at getting one to at least play around with. I mean, I couldn't call myself a geek if I didn't get excited about things like new hard drive technology. Right?

1 comment:

Ric said...

Jerry Pournelle has been saying that at some point, SSD would over-take standard hard drives on price/size/performance for the entire 25 years I've been reading his stuff. At some point, he will be right if only for reasons of physics. But the hard drive makers have surprised everyone (including themselves) at just how small, fast, and cheap they've been able to make spinning metal platters.

Personally, with my 1TB Drobo, I could easily make do with an 80GB internal SSD if they can get the price down a bit. Even if it cost more than a standard hard drive, the greater reliability, lower energy consumption and longer life could make the price difference moot.

Aside: First hard drive I ever saw was at Radio Shack. It was 5MB, cost $3,000, weighed about ten pounds, and sounded like a vacuum sweeper with a rock stuck in it when it was accessing data. In the winter, it doubled as a space heater. And it was magnificent.