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SSDs arrive - what are they?

SSDs arrive - what are they?

Postby Grav!ty » Fri Dec 05, 2008 9:53 pm

Reading what Absolute- Zero had to say about Solid State Drives HERE was very interesting, so this article caught my attention:

SSDs arrive - what are they?

December 05, 2008
Jay Dougherty


Washington - For years, the biggest bottleneck in personal computers has not been processor speed, memory, or video cards. It's been the hard drive. Thanks to the emergence of solid state disks (SSD), that's about to change.

Instead of spinning platters that can never spin quite fast enough to keep up, SSDs store data on memory chips - flash memory, to be precise.

Early models have been both prohibitively expensive and of capacities that were too meagre to be of interest. Things are different now, though, and an SSD just might be the best choice for your storage needs - now. Read on to learn more.

Q: Why should I consider an SSD over a traditional hard drive?

A: SSDs are much faster at reading data than are traditional hard drives. That means your operating system will load faster and applications will load and run faster.

Solid state drives also run cooler and quieter - and they consume less power. Because there are no moving parts, they are essentially silent, in fact. Low power usage means longer battery life in notebook computers.

Finally, SSDs are not nearly as fragile as traditional hard drives. If you drop a notebook computer with an SSD in it, the drive will probably survive, although the notebook itself may not. A traditional hard drive is quite sensitive to shock and may easily be damaged if dropped while running.

Q: What are the disadvantages?

A: Primarily low capacity and high cost relative to traditional platter-based drives. Capacities of SSDs currently top out at around 128 gigabytes (GB) - plenty for a notebook hard drive, but meagre compared to the 500 GB to 1.5 terabyte (TB) capacities offered by traditional hard drives.

Cost is currently high when compared to platter-based drives, but thanks to competition and the increasing popularity of these drives, prices are coming down quickly.

Currently, 64 GB SSDs are retailing for around $150 to $225, although some models with dramatically higher performance ratings cost several times more.

Q: Are SSDs compatible with my current computer?

A: Yes. Most SSDs today come in the 2.5-inch form factor, which means they're the same size as today's notebook and laptop computer hard drives. And they use today's SATA connectors, so no special cabling is required to hook them up to recent-vintage computers.

Most of today's notebooks will recognise SSDs as a conventional hard drive, with no further driver or software installation necessary.

Occasionally you may need to update the "chipset" software for your notebook's motherboard, however, in order for the drive to be usable in your system. Before you swap out your old hard drive for an SSD, it's a good idea to first update any drivers or software available for your system from the manufacturer's website.

Most desktop computers are designed to accept larger hard drives in the 3.5-inch form factor. You can still use an SSD in a desktop computer, but you'll probably need a 3.5-inch adapter kit which will allow you to secure the 2.5-inch drive into the drive bay of the desktop computer.

These adapter kits are widely available - search for "2.5 to 3.5 inch drive adapter kit" - and are usually inexpensive.

Q: Who makes solid state drives?

A: Storage consumers are used to buying products from disk drive makers such as Seagate, Western Digital, and Hitachi. These names, though, are largely absent from the SSD market.

Instead, the memory makers are putting out SSDs. So when you go shopping, you'll find models from vendors such as Intel, Patriot, OCZ, Transcend, Ridata, G.Skill, and others.

Thanks to the abundance of players in the market, price competition is in full force and is making these drives affordable.

The traditional magnetic storage manufacturers such as Seagate and Western Digital are late in bringing out products, but most have either announced a move into the market or are readying products.

Q: What is the life expectancy of an SSD?

A: Flash memory - the stuff of which SSDs are made - does not last forever. Its life expectancy is reduced each time data is stored on it.

However, SSD manufacturers are using a technology called "wear levelling," which ensures that data written to an SSD is distributed evenly across the memory cells that make up the drive. Thus the overall life expectancy of the drive is maximised.

Current drives are estimated to last anywhere from 2 to 15 years - with the lower number being the life expectancy when data is written to the drive constantly and the higher number representing the life expectancy of a drive under normal use.

Conventional drives cannot be expected to last any longer under the same conditions, so life expectancy should not be a factor in whether you purchase an SSD.

Q: Is it necessary to defragment SSDs?

A: No. In fact, defragmenting an SSD will reduce the life expectancy of the drive and do nothing to improve performance.

The idea behind defragmenting a conventional hard drive is that by placing files and pieces of files contiguously, the read-write heads will be able to retrieve information faster and therefore improve performance.

But with SSDs, there are no read-write heads - indeed, no moving parts -and all data, no matter where it is placed, is accessible with the exact same speed.

So you should not defragment an SSD, and you should turn off any automatic defragmentation routines that you may have set up for your conventional disks. - dpa


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Postby kanaloa » Fri Dec 05, 2008 10:33 pm

Interesting. Sounds like the old days of the hard drive whirring up and down are finally coming to a end. Man I'll sure miss that 'clicking' noise of the head jumping on a hard drive that's about to kick the can. :whistle
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Postby mnemonicj » Sat Dec 06, 2008 4:38 am

I have been waiting for this day ever since I made a presentation about this technology in 2000 in a class in college. I said that the "RAM drive" would need to have the speed of RAM and the non-volatile feature and reliability of flash memory.

I was even able to fins an article on the internet about a guy that had 512MB of RAM (unheard of in 2000) and used half for running his online first person shooter, while the other half was used to load and store the next map that the game would use. He was able to have a 10 second head start on everyone else loading the map off of their hard drives.

My presentation also told of the benefits including, no need for hard drive scans, data transferred at the same speed to and from the drive no matter how much data was on the drive, increased speed of virus scans and file searches, rebooting a server that is only down for seconds not minutes, etc.

Some of the things that I mentioned that we are still waiting on that even SSDs can't do, Instant ON computers (not Standby), full and reliable OSes on handheld computers (almost there with Netbooks), RAM and a hard drive in one (no need for separate RAM).

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Postby JabbaPapa » Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:47 am

That's a very informative piece about SSDs, I'd never heard some of it before, especially the part about "no defrag necessary".

mnemonicj wrote:I have been waiting for this day ever since I made a presentation about this technology in 2000 in a class in college


Nice :notworthy

mnemonicj wrote:Some of the things that I mentioned that we are still waiting on that even SSDs can't do, Instant ON computers (not Standby), full and reliable OSes on handheld computers (almost there with Netbooks), RAM and a hard drive in one (no need for separate RAM).


There would need to be major technological and market model breakthroughs before we can ever hope to see the fastest RAM available to be non-volatile, but if/when these breakthroughs occurred, I think that some of the (positive) consequences are actually unimaginable ;)

Anyway, just my opinion about some things you suggested :

1) instant (or near-instant) ON rigs are probably feasible using some form of hybrid volatile RAM/flash RAM combination independant of main drive type, although of course SSDs will be enormously helpful ;)

2) full and reliable OSes on handheld computers are possible using small-scale magnetic data technology, although of course SSDs will be enormously helpful ;)

3) it remains to be seen whether using a single memory source for memory and data would always be desirable, especially in the desktop market, where there is a demand among gamers for constant improvement in their graphics cards capabilities, and given that using multiple memory locations (RAM, HDD/SSD, caches, VRAM, sound card memory, etc) is better in many ways than using a single location -- although of course the modular nature of solid-state memory could be used to fulfil many, most, and possibly all such needs, as depending on the motherboard, daughterboard, and SSD form factors that might eventually emerge from these new technologies :)

Certainly though, there are many conceivable mobile and ultra-mobile devices and mainstream computing needs that could benefit greatly from using a single, fast, non-volatile, large MEM device --- it isn't all about having the latest gaming hardware available hehehe
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Re: SSDs arrive - what are they?

Postby harbaughisback » Sun Jan 18, 2009 1:23 pm

flash ssd's may have a longer life than was stated above (much longer if this page is right), but what about ram-based ssd's? are mram ssd's a viable option yet?
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Re: SSDs arrive - what are they?

Postby kd1966 » Sun Jan 18, 2009 4:47 pm

The truly sad part about this new technology is that it is already too expensive for "stick in the mud" pennypincher companies like the one I work for; we have notified them about the technology and comparing new features (Apparantly none are outstanding enough to warrant spending the extra $$$) vs price......... :no

Man, this would have made a SWEEEEET replacement for our iSCSI SAS disk based SAN............... :drool: We're currently running dual redundant (Mirrored) SAN's with MD-3000/1000, or about an 8TB storage array :yesnod:

Orrrrrr................. how about as a replacement for an already outdated backup array - MSA-60 with SATA drives (Box attaches with SAS cables) :confused
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Re: SSDs arrive - what are they?

Postby leo27 » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:52 pm

the bright side about this new tech is that it is maturing very rapidly. A few months ago ssd's where areound 64gb, now they are reaching around 500gb with a rapid increase in speed whilst prices are comming down. I admit that the prices are still out of reach of most of us, but given the rapid advancements being made i'd expect to be able to buy a high capacity ssd with insane speeds buy the end of 2009-early 2010.
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Re: SSDs arrive - what are they?

Postby kd1966 » Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:12 am

I am still hopeful that after maybe 1yr, possibly 2, we will see a lessening/loosening of the noose around the economy in general. I also think that some of these companies need to focus their products on the consumer market.......... HINT: Smaller products = smaller monetary gain = LARGER PROFIT
Annnnd I'm back off the soapbox again............... :lol: but really, isn't that the way to go??? Make smaller, less profitable, GOOD products, sell more, make more, and EVENTUALLY make the larger, more expensive business line products. Am I a complete idiot here?? Was my Business degree for naught?? Who's running these companies these days....... :whistle
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Re: SSDs arrive - what are they?

Postby Absolute-Zero » Mon Jan 19, 2009 1:14 pm

kd1966 wrote:Who's running these companies these days....... :whistle

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Re: SSDs arrive - what are they?

Postby JabbaPapa » Sat Feb 28, 2009 12:27 pm

harbaughisback wrote:flash ssd's may have a longer life than was stated above (much longer if this page is right), but what about ram-based ssd's? are mram ssd's a viable option yet?


From what I understand, the current technological models mean that RAM will remain volatile for some time to come, because of performance issues with non-volatile RAM technology.

Quantum computing and/or Optical RAM if it/they ever became mainstream would resolve these performance issues AFAIK.
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