Demise of the Hard-Disk? I think not
Computer world is running a post talking about the demise of the hard-disk (HD) in favor of solid state drives (SSD). The post has so many errors in it I have a hard time figuring out where to begin. First let me give you some background. Hard-Disk drives have been a de facto standard for some time now. The technology has advance through the ages from SCSI to PATA and now to SATA hard-disk drives, and we’ll throw SAS drives in they are found in extreme high end computers and servers. The technology has been around for a long time. A few problems exist with the technology, for one it is susceptible to movement, magnets, electric shock, or just wear and tear. When they fail they tend to fail hard and often your data with it. They are also bulky, so if you want something in your pocket hard-disks just won’t do. But there wasn’t any viable alternative that equaled hard-disks storage, performance, and price. Indeed, if you do a casual look on Newegg you will find plenty of 500GB or even 750GB for under $200 (this is looking primarily at desktop performance, so SATA drives no SCSI or SAS). Anyone who has been watching knows that the price of HDs has dropped dramatically in recent years. A couple of advantages to SSD is they are quiet, light, resilient to movement, and tend to take less energy to run. This makes them perfect for laptops, which is where, as the article notes, we have seen the boom in SSD technology. Netbooks, especially, have pushed this technology.
Now back to the article here is a quote in reference to ditching the hard-disk in favor SSD:
Sound impossible? Actually it’s all too possible. SSD (Solid State Drives) have gone from being small and pricey to being roomy and affordable. At the year’s beginning, you could only find 4 and 8GB SSDs on inexpensive, Linux-powered netbooks or a 64GB SSD on the expensive Rolls-Royce of laptops, the Macbook Air.
Now first off that “Roll-Royce of laptops” initially, if memory serves me right, came at an increase of $900 for the SSD option, hardly seems affordable to me. But secondly in all of these devices performance of the SSD is always mentioned as a potential problem. In other words, the performance of SSD is not up to par with HDD. This is true, my wife’s laptop is a netbook with an SSD. The machine is nice and light, but there is some noticeable lag time here and there. It isn’t all that bad, but it is still notable. This is a particular hurdle for SSD to overcome. Performance and speed become quite essential to the power desktop user (of which the author thinks will be using SSDs by the end of 09).
To be fair the article covers performance:
You say you want top performance? Then you really want a SSD. In a recent ComputerWorld review of the Intel X25 SSD, a 2.5-inch form factor 80GB drive, zipped by a Western Digital VelociRaptor. The VelociRaptor clocked in with a 250.2MB/sec. burst speed and 105.6MB/sec. average read through using the HD Tach speed tests. That’s a great time. The X25, though, beat it with a 256.7MB/sec. burst speed and what’s far more interesting, a sustained 230.2MB/sec. transfer speed.
The problem here is that he contradicts himself from his earlier claim, ” SSD (Solid State Drives) have gone from being small and pricey to being roomy and affordable.” Here is the lowdown. He is comparing the Intel X25 to the WD VelociRaptor. While the study may show that the SSD is marginally faster, right now the storage capacity is maxed at 80GB compared to the WD at 300GB (with 80GB I could barely fit my mp3 collection on it). How about price? Intel will set you back over $500 while the WD will cost you only $250 or so. What is this about, “roomy and affordable?” 80GB isn’t enough for anyone looking to do more than simply surf the net and check email. A couple of movies, an mp3 collection, and your digital pictures will soon land you in the upgrade aisle. And how about the price, Intel sets you back $6.25 PG (per gigabyte), whereas the WD sets you back $.83 PG (and that was giving Intel the benefit of the doubt factoring the cost at $500). Further the WD VelociRaptor is overkill for most desktop users. This WD from Newegg (adequate for most desktop users) costs a mere $89.99 which is just $.12 PG. I’m sorry, but at these prices you would have to pry the HD out of my cold dead fingers before I make the switch to SSD.
He then asserts, “After that it may not be long before they start replacing hard drives on servers. ‘Impossible!’ You say? Think again. It seems Google is already putting SSDs into service.” Well that may be fine for Google and their endless cash, but I work in the real world with real companies. I can tell you that the university I worked for wasn’t even, remotely, considering switching to SSDs and my current company isn’t considering it either. The author also ignores the current economic downturn as well. Tell me that CEOs, CFOs, and CTOs are going to look at $.89 PG to $6.25 PG and still choose SSDs? Maybe Google can do that, but most companies wouldn’t, even if the economy weren’t so dire.
SSD technology still has room to grow. I think it is a very compelling technology and perhaps one day will surpass HD, but 2009 is certainly not that year. So far almost every offering out there either under-performs or is simply not an adequate replacement (in terms of space and price) to the HD. And everything that was cited as such is vaporware as of now. No HDs are here to stay and given the price I’d say that is a good thing.