Why Solid State Hard Drives Are Taking Over James Duval July 16, 2013 Hardware Image by: D-Kuru People have been making a lot of noise about Solid State Hard Drives (SSDs) for quite a while now, but over the last year or so the clamour has gotten noticeably more intense. The cause of this increased level of interest from both businesses and consumers? Well, while there are many reasons SSDs may be a sound purchase, the main contributor has most certainly been a gradual drop in price. Four years ago SSDs were an expensive proposition. And while still not exactly what you would call cheap, prices do seem to have been dropping steadily since around 2011. But does the fact that they cost less now than they did equate to them being on the verge of widespread adoption? The fact is that SSDs can also have a range of other benefits that all computer users should be interested in. So just what makes SSD so important and why are they on the takeover? What is a SSD? An SSD is a device used to store data that uses integrated circuitry in order to be able to store data persistently. SSD’s primary structural difference to more commonly used electromechanical varieties such as Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) is that the former contain no moving mechanical parts in their design. The vast majority of SSDs have non-volatile NAND Flash memory. This is not only because of the ability to have continual data storage with a constant power supply (and therefore not be affected by sudden or unplanned power outages or downtime) but also because of the lower cost to manufacturers relative to DRAM. SSDs that utilise volatile forms of memory such as DRAM are commercially available, and while their prices are also falling they are failing to do so on quite the same scale as those with Flash. Before 2009 SSDs were used by businesses in a limited number of ways, mostly to ensure that storage system speed was as fast as it could be in those areas of activity that were considered “mission critical.” Powerful SSDs like this one are obviously primarily of interest to relatively high-end customers, due to their price. However, their broader use in both commercial and private user settings has been gathering pace over the last couple of years. In 2009 global shipments of SDDs amounted to around 11 million units, which grew to 17.3 million in 2011 and is predicted to rise as high as 227 million by 2017. SSDs and HDDs SSDs have a number of distinct advantages over the more commonly used HDDs that are likely to see them begin to be adopted on a much wider scale as the commercial price continues to drop. The main benefit that SSDs have over their electromechanically bounded counterparts is that they are substantially quicker in the time it takes them to locate data. This is not only the case with regards to random access time (typically under 100 µs) but also in start-up time, where the lack of moving mechanical components really makes a difference. Because SDDs aren’t as concerned as HDDS with where data is stored on its chips, they do not need a physical read head and are therefore inherently faster. This incredibly fast speed is incredibly efficient at reducing bottlenecks in a whole range of applications. The lack of moving parts also acts to make SSDs more resilient, more durable, lighter and longer lasting than your average HDD. This is not to say that they are immune to the inevitable ravages of time and a high level of usage of course, as just like everything else an SSD will become slower as time goes on, but it has been argued that there are significant gains to be had over HDDs. Why SSDs are taking over The SSD market is definitely starting to hot up as both big and little fish begin to anticipate the increased interest that their pond is likely to be getting in the near future. An exciting example of the kind of significant market manoeuvres currently taking place is HP 3PARs move into the all-flash array market. When Intel released its latest set of Ultrabook specifications many manufacturers began producing laptops that have two available drive slots; one of these for a HDD and the other for a low capacity SSD. In this scenario the SSD is working with the hard disk with the effect being to speed up application and boot load times significantly. As the price continues to fall and the performance boost that SSDs would allow for most users becomes within their reach, we are likely to see the market begin to expand significantly. Do you agree that SDDs are going to take over during the next few years, or have I just clearly taken leave of my senses?