Western Digital Spends $65 Million to Enter SSD Market

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josephb

I've owned a OCZ Solid Series SSD for about two months. So far, booting 32-bit WinXP-SP3 to the SSD is definitely faster than booting from my HDD (1 minute vs 4 minutes). But benchmarks put the SSD boot drive only about 20% faster than my Seagate Barracuda 250GB 7200.11 boot drive. I've also tested the SSD with 64-bit Win7 and it performed abysmally - faster reads than the Seagate (18MB/sec vs 8MB/sec for 4KB files) but WAY slower writes (1MB/sec vs 7MB/sec) (using DiskMark). 

The problem, as I've discovered by reading the OCZ forums (THE place for info on SSDs of any stripe), is that there is an inherent problem with the SSD technology. Basically, due to the way SSDs store information, they tend to slow with usage - especially after every cell has been written to at least once. Further, at this point in time (Apr 2009) there is no way to "reset" a SSD disk back to its original condition without using VERY low level apps that don't work on every PC - or by flashing the SSD with a firmware update. And if you use your SSD a lot, expect to do this every two to four months - or get used to slower performance over time.

 This technology is NOT YET READY FOR PRIME TIME. It's tempting to jump in and "feel the burn" of blazing speed - as I did - but it comes at too high a price yet. Perhaps WD will figure out how to make these drives work past this one critical issue - that would be nice. But I don't see it happening any time soon.

Perhaps a MaxPC editor will tackle the job of investigating SSDs further - and give us all the straight skinny on them - and in particular, the issue of performance degredation over time. 

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Gameaholic1337

I am definitely getting a SSD for my OS for my next rig which I am going to build in a month or two.  Speed, reliability (no moving parts), less heat, and less noise sound good to me.  I have been following the prices on the intel SSDs on newegg and they have been dropping steadily each month or so.  I just hope that when I buy one that the price doesn't drop 50 bucks the next week.         

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Keith E. Whisman

The problem is the costs of manufacturing just for the parts are really high and the capacity of the largest drives make them prohibitively expensive. Now lets say WD makes a 512Gig SSD and it costs them $400 to make and nobody is going to purchase them at that price because 1Tb HDD are only $100 dollars so WD has to sell these SSD's at a very narrow profit margin say $405 dollars each. Now they have to sell them at this $405 price to retailers that have to increase the price even further to make a profit they might sell them for $450dollars or more. Now I don't think alot of people are going to or are capable of spending that much money on storage so only a small market of individuals will buy these. So if they make 10,000 of these drives but can only sell 5,000 so you see they lose it's not a great investment right now. Wait until the economy is back up. And for a 512Gb drive it's going to be more like $2000 so tell me how many people are going to run out and buy these things when the costs are so high and the profit margin is so tiny because of the high cost of manufacture, shipping and retail prices over whosale prices. And whosale prices are only going to be a few bucks more than the manufacturing cost. 

Also market saturation is going to be extremely limited at these prices. These things are so expensive netbooks come with slow and low capacity SSD's.

And where are all the PC's being sold today that come with SSD's? 

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Velcrow

You're forgetting that a recession is a fantastic time to purchase companies, property, IP's, etc. if you've got the extra cash. And the memory/flash market is supposed to be really down. I'm willing to bet WD is saving a fortune by purchasing now during the recession. Smart move.

Also, the initial high prices on new products is usually to recover from the high cost of R&D. Depending on how good the IP tech is they just bought, we may see WD make a massive entrance into the market, undercutting everyone and driving all prices down. Another thing to remember is that the price per unit is lowered by quantity, so a large manufacturer like HP or Dell will get them at much lower prices. We will see these SSD's in laptops more readily and for better prices than we can get individually. At first.

And finally, waiting could have been extremely foolish. It is much harder to take market share from a competitor than to lead the way and claim it all before anyone else. Fighting an uphill battle. WD needs to get in now before the big manufacturers already have long-term contracts with other SSD companies. The real money is in those contracts.

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rruscio

A few things are true: 

- Only a handful on companies on Earth will actually make the flash parts for these drives. They already exist, and pending some technical revolution, they're IT. No More. Farking period.

- The architecture and design of the controller is 'the Intellectual Property' here. That's what Intel's got, and what WD is hoping they bought. If they did, $65M is chump change.

 - The SSD business will turn into a high volume / low margin business as soon as it can. Aparently, 'the Intellectual Property' problem is hard. Hard == high rents == $$$$$

- If storage size matters, SSD's are years away. If speed / heat / noise / computer responsiveness matter, HDD's are so screwed. I've got multi TB on the server, a TB Black drive, and want this machine to feel like a good ... car: fast, responsive, and attentive. SSD's can do that. All the RAID in the world cannot.

Go read this. http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531

Get a clue about Business ("It's ONLY about money"). 

Go find a technology / cost curve for Flash.

Come on people. I'm depressed enough.

 

rr 

 

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MAXPCreader07

I hope WD makes some fast SSDs to compete with Intel.

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xveganx

Why would WD wait until SSD's were huge to get into the market? It is an up and coming technology, and once the prices drop on the higher quality drives it is sure to take off. I don't think it is a "risky investment" at all. I think now is the best time to get in, while SSD's are established but haven't quite taken off due to their infancy. It takes time for new technologies to be fully adopted by the market, but I think SSd's are a sure thing. Once the price and capacity are right, tons of people will start jumping on the bandwagon.

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Keith E. Whisman

If I were WD and I'm not but if I were the person that makes decisions like this I would wait. I would set aside assets for production of SSD's now but only as my company can afford it. Then when the time is right and the technology is mature and a big hit that is when I would jump in to SSD's.

There was a HDD company that waited for SATA to really hit big time befor hitting that market and then another company that waited on Perpendicular recording and only producing those drives when it became profitable to do so.

I say let you competition spend all it's money on R&D. It's not that hard to make an SSD but it's almost impossible to make a fast, high capacity SSD that is also as cheap as a high capacity and fast HDD. When the chips are cheaper that is when I would enter the market.  

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armada439

You don't just set aside production resources, every second that equipment sits idle is $xxxx lost because you were not producing.  Let the competition spend money on R&D?  You think they are going to share their knowledge with you?

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rruscio

Anandtech has a great ... overview ... of SSD's and their current state. It's a great read. The best line is "Once you try one, you'll never want to go back" (to a rotating HDD).

 

I agree, and I bought and paid for a 'poor' one (64GB FM-25S2S-64GB) for $100 or so, put Windows 7 on it, in my Presario V6000 laptop. It's a very different machine. Where before it was not too responsive, now it is. Warm, now not. Some noise, now less. Makes me wonder if a CPU upgrade for my desktop Core 2 Duo when 7 goes RTM is worthwhile. I'd love to get the Raptor out of my case, and kill more noise and heat.

I'm patiently awaiting 7, and then I'll buy the best one there is. Don't need space, just speed, no heat, and no noise.

 

rr 

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Keith E. Whisman

I have 2Tb of HDD storage consisting of two sata HDD's. I paid $119 for my 1.5Tb drive and I paid $79 for my 500Gb HDD. 

What kind of storage capacity could I expect for $200 if I spent it on SSD's? 

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quickone

Thats fine and dandy but how many people actually need/use 2Tb of
storage?  For the vast majority speed trumps volume, at least once one
gets past a couple hundred Gb or so.  I agree with rruscio
on this one, less noise, heat, lag time, better performance and
reliability. It was not too long ago that 500Gb was plenty, bit torrent
pushes those limits a bit.

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Keith E. Whisman

What a great time to spend millions of dollars in a struggling economy on a relitively new market that isn't exactly taking off. In fact last I heard SSD sales weren't exactly taking off. What a great time to make a risky investment right when profit margins are tiny and risks are high and sales are low.

How many people visiting this website has actually paid for and installed an SSD in their systems. Prove me wrong. If you have SSD's post a reply.

I just don't think sales are high enough to justify risky investment. Not until SSD start to actually compete with HDD's in storage capacity, price and reliability. 

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DOOMHAMMA

No one sees SSD as a risky investment, it is the future. In 5 years it will probably become the standard for all computers. It is good timing on WD's part.

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