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A glimpse of SSDs' evolution

Posted: 15 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SSD? hard drive? memory? NAND?

At the Flash Memory Summit, Dean Klein, VP of memory system development at Micron Technology Inc., gave a glimpse of the past, present and future of the latest developments in solid-state drives (SSDs). Based on NAND flash, SSDs are an emerging technology that is expected to replace hard drives in systems.

According to Klein, now defunct Storage Technology released the world's first SSD in 1978. It was a DRAM-based storage device, which could hold 45Mbyte of capacity and sold for $8,800. "They sold quite a few," Klein said in an interview. In 2005, Sun Microsystems Inc. acquired Storage Technology.

"At present, vendors are rolling out what can be considered the fourth-generation SSDs in the marketplace," he said. For example, Micron recently introduced its next-gen SSDs for enterprise computing and notebook applications. The 2.5-inch SSDs range in density from 16Gbyte to 128Gbyte, support multichannel capabilities, and provide fast SATA-based sequential read and write speeds.

However, BiTMICRO Networks Inc. holds the current record for capacity. Its 3.5-inch SSD is believed to hold up to 1.6Tbyte of capacity. But Klein believes that solution is too expensive for the current market.

In any case, Apple, Dell and other PC vendors are jumping on SSDs. "SSDs are not just for notebooks," he said, adding that they are also aimed for the enterprise server market."

Klein said SSDs won't replace all hard drives in systems, but the handwriting is on the wall for magnetic media or what he called rotation rust.

"For the so-called fifth-generation SSDs, look for cheaper, lower power 320Gbyte and 460Gbyte products. They will support parallel NAND channels and reach the limits of SATA," he said.

SSDs are still expensive. The price parity between SSDs and hard drives is a moving target, but he sees the "crossover" price point for a 1.8-inch drive with 300Gbyte of capacity within the next five years.

"Much of this depends on the pricing and die shrinks of NAND flash. NAND has already seen a major plunge in average selling prices (ASPs). In fact, there is a downturn in the NAND arena, which impacts ASPs. How low do you want us to go? We're almost giving it away now," he stressed.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times

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