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The past, present and future of SSDs

Posted: 18 Aug 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solid-state drives  Flash Memory Summit  hard drives  emerging technology 

At the Flash Memory Summit, Dean Klein, VP of memory system development at Micron Technology Inc., provided the participants a glimpse of the past, present and future of the latest hot topic in the industry: solid-state drives (SSDs). Based on NAND flash, SSDs are an emerging technology that is supposed to replace hard drives in systems.


According to Klein, now-defunct Storage Technology rolled out the world's first SSD in 1978. It was a DRAM-based storage device, which could hold 45MB of capacity and sold for Rs.3.77 lakh ($8,800). ''They sold quite a few," Klein said in an interview. (In 2005, Sun Microsystems Inc. acquired Storage Technology.)


Today, vendors are rolling out what could be considered the ''fourth generation'' of SSDs in the marketplace, he said. For example, Micron recently rolled out its next-generation SSDs for enterprise computing and notebook applications. The 2.5-inch SSDs range in density from 16GB to 128GB, support multi-channel capabilities, and provides fast SATA-based sequential read and write speeds.

However, BiTMICRO Networks Inc. holds the current record for capacity. Its 3.5-inch SSD is said to hold up to 1.6Tbytes of capacity. But Klein believes that solution is too ''expensive'' for the current market.

In any case, Apple, Dell and other PC vendors are jumping on SSDs. "SSDs are not just for notebooks,'' he said during a keynote at the event. SSDs are also aimed for the ''enterprise server market.''


Klein said SSDs won't replace all hard drives in systems, but the handwriting is on the wall for magnetic media or what he called ''rotation rust.''

In so-called fifth-generation SSDs, look for cheaper, lower power 320GB and 460GB products. They will support parallel NAND channels and reach the limits of SATA, he said.

SSDs are still expensive. The price parity between SSDs and hard drives is a moving target, but he sees the ''crossover'' price point for a 1.8-inch drive with 300GB of capacity within the next five years.

Much of this depends on the pricing and die shrinks of NAND flash. NAND has already seen a major plunge in average selling prices (ASPs). In fact, there is a downturn in the NAND arena, which impacts ASPs.

''How low do you want us to go? We're almost giving it away now," he said during the keynote.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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