SanDisk launches first SSD hard drive. Hitachi breaks the 1TB limit.

It looks like the days are numbered for traditional hard drives as SanDisk has launched their first 32GB Flash RAM based HD:

The 32GB SanDisk SSD UATA 5000 is only a 1.8” form-factor drive, but it has mighty impressive specifications despite its size: 62MB/sec sustained throughput, 0.12ms average access time, and it draws only 0.4 watts. This means that the SanDisk SSD has an average access time that is more than 100 times faster than any notebook hard drive, and it draws 50 to 87 percent less power than most notebook hard drives. While its sustained throughput is roughly on par with most notebooks, it should be noted that the throughput is the same regardless of whether it is reading at the beginning or the end of the drive. (Hard disks typically have higher throughput rates on their outer tracks and slower throughput rates on their inner tracks.) In addition, everything is solid-state, so there are no moving parts. Even if you are the type to drop or bang your laptop around on a regular basis, there are no hard disk heads to crash into spinning platters.

Although flash memory can be known to eventually “wear out” due to writing to the same area repeatedly, modern flash memory controllers have automatic “wear-leveling” to ensure longevity of the device by making sure that sectors are being written to evenly and bad sectors are dynamically remapped to good ones. According to SanDisk, the SSD UATA 5000 is rated at “two million hours mean time between failure (MTBF).”

Granted it’s only 32GBs at this point when most folks are used to having between 80 and 200GBs on their laptops and desktops these days, but it’s a start and that’s what is important. SanDisk’s offering joins two others recently announced by Samsung and TDK and it’s the cheaper of the three at $600, which is still high compared to traditional hard drives, but if it follows the same trends as USB thumb drives have then it’ll be cheap as hell within a year or two’s time. My 512MB thumb drive that I got two years ago for $75 can be bought today for $9.99. The current ETA for consumer priced drives of this sort is within three to five years, but I’d be surprised if it took even that long if these things catch on in the business world.

Meanwhile Hitachi reminds us that it’s probably premature to be predicting the death of traditional hard drives anytime soon with the release of its brand spanking new Deskstar 7K1000 1TB hard drive:

Thanks to perpendicular recording and the average consumers’ voracious appetite for porn totally legitimate data, Hitachi’s new $400 drives—available in SATA II or PATA 133 varieties, with differing speed modes, a 32MB buffer, quieting accoustics, SMART, and a 7200rpm spindle speed—will hit the market running in Q1 of this year. Also announced: the CinemaStar 7K1000, a DVR-centric drive due in Q2 which wasn’t fully detailed, but apparently has “adaptive error recovery”, “Smooth Stream Technology to optimize the drive for audio/video applications requiring reliable storage”, and other buzzy sounding stuff which just seems a lot like regular old drive features. We’ll assume it’s better tuned for high-throughput read / write performance, and leave it at that.

I can remember when discussing the idea of having 1 Terabyte of data (1,024 Gigabytes or 1,048,576 Megabytes or 1,073,741,824 bytes for those of you keeping count) on your home PC was something silly to even think about. Hell, my old Amiga 3000 only has a 320MB hard drive in it and back in the day I owned no less than three different computers (Commodore 64, Commodore 128, Amiga 1000) before ever getting to one with an actual hard drive in it. I can recall how geeked I was when a friend loaned me a 1 Gigabyte hard drive to use with my Amiga 2000 to run my BBS on for awhile. The scary thing is I can actually envision uses for a 1 Terabyte hard drive, especially in a TiVo like device. Funny, though, I always thought optical devices would end up breaking the 1TB barrier first.

OK, that’s enough of a gadget geek fest for the moment.

10 thoughts on “SanDisk launches first SSD hard drive. Hitachi breaks the 1TB limit.

  1. It’s inevitable that solid state memory will eventually displace mechanical drives- that’s been obvious for a long time.  The surprising thing is how long hard drives have held out.

  2. Sheesh—it doesn’t seem all that long since I was carrying my “life” (meaning all the important school projects and a few purile attempts at novel-writing) around on a single 350K floppy.  Now I feel just…old.  Gee, thanks heaps, Les!  tongue wink

  3. I have been looking into buying some solid state hard drives recently for my work. We think it could have a huge performance impact for our database servers. The databases themselves are less than 20 GB, so a 32 GB hard drive isn’t so bad.

    Solid state drives can be a huge boon to server based applications. The instant response times really make a big impact on the load web server, database server, etc… can handle. I just wish these things didn’t cost so damn much.

    Here is an interesting article for one brand of solid state hard drive from the manufacturer’s site.

    EVE Online & the RamSan-400:

    I saw several posts on the EVE online site that also talked about it and went into even more detail. Sadly I can’t find them at the moment or I would have posted those. I personally would prefer to hear from the people who are using it rather than the manufacturer, but in this case the article seems correct.

    Did I mention that these cost a lot? The lesser model, the RamSan-300, is $24k for a 16 GB hard drive array with a 4GB Fibre Channel controller (whatever that is). It has a lot of redundancy built into the hardware, blah, blah, blah… Anyway, it is expensive but performant.

  4. Fibre Channel from its Wikipedia entry:

    Fibre Channel is a gigabit-speed network technology primarily used for storage networking. Fibre Channel is standardized in the T11 Technical Committee of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), an American National Standard Institute–accredited standards committee. It started for use primarily in the supercomputer field, but has become the standard connection type for storage area networks in enterprise storage. Despite its name, Fibre Channel signaling can run on both twisted-pair copper wire and fiber optic cables.

    Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) is the interface protocol of SCSI on the Fibre Channel.

    Fibre Channel started in 1988, with ANSI standard approval in 1994, as a way to simplify the HIPPI system then in use for similar roles. HIPPI used a massive 50-pair cable with bulky connectors, and had limited cable lengths. Fibre Channel was primarily interested in simplifying the connections and increasing the lengths, as opposed to increasing speeds. Later it broadened its focus to address SCSI disk storage, providing higher speeds and far greater numbers of connected devices.

    It also added support for any number of “upper layer” protocols, including SCSI, ATM, and IP, with SCSI being the predominant usage.

    In short, a very useful thing to have in server storage.

    As for prices, like I said previously, if it follows the trend of USB thumb drives then the costs will come down quickly.

  5. Ah, good to know what Fibre Channel means. Thanks for looking that up, Les. Sounds very useful.

    I’m so pumped for this solid state technology.

  6. 1TB in a single drive is pretty impressive. I thought there would be an 800gb or 900gb step after Seagate’s 750gb unit.

  7. I’ve already moved my (semi)regular backup routine to flash drive, and I’m just waiting for name brand 4Gb flash to drop under $50.  The Register did a flash memory crash test a while back, and I was pretty impressed how the flash handled drops, fire, and nails.

    Flash will surpass platters, but not while platters have storage capacities that are orders of magnitudes greater.  Of course, if their speed and reliability keep increasing and price decreasing, they’d definately overtake the lower capacity platters.

    I do wonder if tape can keep up as a backup medium when you can more easily backup data to a 1Tb external drive and stick it in a fire cabinet. 

    I’m just wondering how long before someone sells an external backup drive array housed in a firesafe.

  8. I wonder if the flash drive will become a sort of large-scale cache, while the terabyte drive becomes the main storage.

    My first computer, incidentally, was (still is, actually – it still works) a Mac Classic, got it my freshman year in college. 8 MHz processor, a whopping 2 MB of RAM (and that was hot stuff), and a vast 40 MB hard drive. Good stuff. Today, it’s a very sturdy case for one floppy disk.


  9. ZX81 Memory pack

    A whole 16K (yes read it and weep 8k boys) of computing power in something only 5 inches high. 

    Something that amazed me when I bought a 16Mb CF card.

    No I have a 1GB SD card the size of a stamp. Yes I know there are bigger- but really, I don’t have enough photos for the 1Gb suitable for the Digital Photo Frame.  Likewise, I really dont understand the point of my 1Gb MP3 player.  Why the hell do I need 15 hours of music.  That much just makes the navigation fiddly! The AAA battery only lasts 12 hours.

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