While the solid state drive market might seem like it’s sprawling, Seagate politely disagrees… for now. The world’s largest hard drive maker is planning to get into the SSD game in mid-2009, when there will be more possibilities to make money.
Seagate’s CEO Bill Watkins recently said in an interview, “The problem is you can't make money out of it [mobile flash memory]… I don't need to get into a market I can't make money out of. I can get into that market any time - all I have to do is show up with a product and price it. The problem is, I can't show up with a product that's any better or significantly better than what they're getting now so I have to match their price.” And, according to Watkins both Micron and Samsung (big names in the current SSD industry) are selling at a loss. “To do the product is not a big deal but to make money at it - it's important to us.”
Aside from mentioning Seagate’s will to do well financially in the flash market, some plans were finally outlined by Watkins as to just how they’ll break onto the scene. They plan to do so with a “combo” drive. The Seagate drive will feature both single layer chips and multilayer chips of flash memory. The combination of these two technologies will offset the pros and cons of each, providing both a reliable and reasonably priced drive.
If solid state drives (SSDs) continue to march into the mainstream market, 2008 might very well one day be looked at as the start of the SSD era. But for that to happen, the performance numbers have to improve and users have to be convinced that the technology can be reliable on a long-term basis. Performance, which is supposed to SSD's strong point, has come under fire amid real-world benchmark comparisons, and as far as SanDisk is concerned, Vista is to blame.
Taking matters into its own hands, SanDisk has developed a new file system, ExtremeFFS, which the company claims has the potential to increase write performance by up to 100 times in SSDs over existing systems.
"To maximize random write performance, SanDisk developed the ExtremeFFS flash file management system," the company wrote in a press release. "This operates on a page-based algorithm, which means there is no fixed coupling between physical and logical location. When a sector of data is written, the SSD puts it where it is most convenient and efficient. The result is an improvement in random write performance – by up to 100 times – as well as in overall endurance."
ExtremeFFS allows NAND channels to work independently of each other, so while some might be reading data, others can be simultaneously writing. The technology also purports to "learn" user patterns and eventually localize data, which sounds a lot like advanced defragging routines. Admittedly, SanDisk senior VP and GM Rich Heye's concedes that it might not make a difference in benchmarks, but believes "it is the right thing to do for end-users."
In related news, SanDisk has also come up with a performance metric it is calling vRPM, or virtual RPM. The metric has been designed to let users know how fast a typical hard drive would need to spin to match the performance of an SSD, which would also allow for a performance comparison between SSDs.
Early batches of Dell's Inspiron Mini 9 notebooks had customers scratching their heads over what appeared to be a case of paying for a larger size solid state drive but receiving a smaller one instead. How else would you explain paying for a 16GB SSD only to find 4GB of usable space in the default shipping state?
The answer, says Dell, is a partitioning SNAFU. The confusion stemmed from Dell using a 4GB Ubuntu image for new installs regardless of the SSD size, causing some customers to "freak out" before discovering the unused and unpartitioned remaining space. The problem has since been addressed, but if you own an early model with the incorrect partition scheme, running the included system restore DVD partitions the entire drive and makes the world right again.
Noticeably late to the solid state storage (SSD) party is Seagate, who earlier said it would offer its first SSDs sometime in 2008. As the year is quickly coming to an end, the company has now pushed its entry into 2009.
"Our history is based on rotating magnetic media," Seagate's senior manager of market development Rich Vignes told Cnet. "But as solid-state comes online, we're embracing this new media type."
Not everyone would agree that Seagate is "embracing" the increasingly popular storage medium. While several companies have made a push to get SSDs into the mainstream market, Seagate's late entry will focus solely on the enterprise market with consumer drivers to be sold "later." So far the company has not yet announced announced plans to manufacturer NAND flash memory by itself like many of it competitors are doing. Instead, Seagate has kept the focus of its flash business to hybrid (flash/HDD) hard drives.
Despite all the recent buzz surrounding solid state storage (SSD), it's the clear the technology still has a ways to go before challenging mechanical hard drives in performance superiority. The latest issue of Maximum PC (November 2008, pg. 40) pits several different SSDs against Western Digital's Velociraptor and Samsung's 1TB HD103UJ, and for the most part, the represented SSDs showed they're more suitable for notebooks than a desktop environment. And that's exactly the sector Super Talent is targeting with its newest batch of flash media.
Super Talent announced three new mini PCI-E SSDs it says have been designed specifically for the Asus Eee PC. The three drives - 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB - each boast maximum read and write speeds of 40MB/s and 15MB/s.
"It's a natural extension of our SSD product range to offer SSDs for popular netbook brands," said Super Talent director of marketing Joe James in a press release. "Solid state storage is ideal for entry level mobile PCs."
Super Talent says the new lineup will go in mass product next month with expected street pricing for the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models at $53, $79, and $149 respectively.
SSD’s are hot, but how do you mount your new 2.5-inch solid state drive in a 3.5-inch bay without it looking ghettolicious?
The answer: Use a VelociRaptor’s extruded aluminum shell with Intel’s wicked fast SSD. The result is one a combination even better than peanut butter and chocolate if we may so say our selves.
Does it make sense to do this with a live VelociRaptor? Probably not, but we just happened to have a dead unit and rather than toss it in the garbage, we shucked out the dead drive by removing the four Torqx screws and mounted the Intel X25-M in its place. You can actually do this with a live VelociRaptor but you’ll immediately void the warranty on the drive. Does an SSD need all that aluminum to keep it cool? The answer is no, but it sure looks cool, right?
Super Talent continues to push its presence in the SSD market whether you're ready to invest in the technology or not. Earlier this month the company put the focus on the higher end by launching the MLC-based MasterDrive OX series with read and write speeds of 150MB/sec and 100MB/sec respectively. Price points ranging from $149 for the 32GB model to $419 for a 128GB drive means the drives aren't likely to attract many budget minded consumers, but Super Talent's new MasterDrive LX line might.
These new drives will set its sights squarely on those tempted by SSD technology but without the big bucks for higher end models. Lower prices comes at the expense of performance, however, and the MasterDrive LX 64GB and 128GB drop the read and write speeds to 100MB/sec and 40MB/sec.
"The MasterDrive LX is our most cost-effective SSD yet. However, we've made no compromises in quality and reliability," said Super Talent director of marketing Joe James.
Good thing too, because the new drives will only carry a 1-year warranty. Then again, if Samsung's latest PR stunt is any indication (check it out here), you have nothing to worry about anyway.
MSRP has been set to $179 for the 64GB and $299 for the 128GB.
Arguably no other company is doing more to push SSDs into the mainstream than OCZ, who earlier this year released its Core Series SATA II SSD drives, undercutting the competition in price and hurdling past in performance. Now the company is at it again, slashing prices one more time.
It was just a week ago that OCZ's 32GB Core SSD dropped down to just $99 after mail-in-rebate, and now the company's 64GB model is receiving similar treatment. Newegg is now selling the bigger model for the same price after a $70 mail-in-rebate, which means you can now get double the storage space for a single C-note than what you could have received last week.
It's not all peaches and cream, though, as the price cuts come on the heels of heavy criticism by Anandtech, who faulted the drives for random write issues resulting in "horrible stuttering/pausing/lagging."
Is the new low price per gigabyte enough to make up for SSD technology's shortcomings?
Let's start with the good news. Intel's new SSDs aren't just fast, they appear to be stupid-fast. The chip maker claims read speeds up to 250MB per second and write speeds up to 70MB per second, along with an 85ms read latency. And while Maximum PC has yet to put these numbers to the test, initial reports (BAM, POW) at least look promising.
Now the bad news. While Intel might be helping SSD technology regain its reputation for speed, the company's also pushing SSDs right back into stratosphere pricing tiers at a time when vendors are making a push for higher price/GB ratios. Intel announced its 80GB version will cost $595 (available now), and that's in 1,000 quantities - yikes! The 160GB model will debut later this year for an unspecified amount, but it's probably safe to assume it will command over $1,000.
Anyone think the additional speed is worth the pricing premium?
Solid state drives (SSDs) are best known for the potential performance gains, but the numbers currently being touted could be just the tip of the iceberg. Engineers and researchers at the IBM Hursley development lab in England and Almaden Research Center in California have taken SSD technology to new heights by demonstrating performance results that surpass the world's fastest disk storage solution by 250 percent.
Using a combination of flash solid-state technology and IBM's storage virtualization technology, the company managed to transfer data at a sustained rate of over one million Input/Output (I/O) per second boasting a response time of under one millisecond. When pitted against the fastest industry benchmarked disk system, the company claims not only was performance improved by 250 percent, but it did so at less than 1/20th the response time and by taking up 1/5th the floor space, all the while requiring only 55 percent of the power and cooling.