Client SSDs

Why SSD and HDD Prices Move in Parallel

ASTC 2016 HDD RoadmapWhy are HDD prices tracking SSD prices?  Why don’t they cross over?  These are questions that The SSD Guy is often asked, especially by people who anticipate a crossover in the near future.

In essence it’s because both the HDD industry and the semiconductor industry have set goals for themselves to achieve 30% average annual price reductions.  If they are both on the same trajectory, and if there’s an order of magnitude difference between HDD and SSD prices today, then there will be an order of magnitude difference in the future as well.

The 30% average annual decline in SSD prices has a convenient name: Moore’s Law.  Although there’s no physical, economic, or other restriction behind Moore’s Law (so it’s not really a law at all) it serves as a guide for the industry.  Chip makers set their sights at doubling the number of transistors on a chip every couple of years, and this equates to average annual price decreases of 30%.

The HDD business also Continue reading

Toshiba Reveals Restructuring Plans

Toshiba's Yokkaichi Manufacturing ComplexOn Friday Toshiba revealed its restructuring plans aimed at returning the company to profitability and growth through management accountability.

Of special interest to The SSD Guy was the fact that the company will refocus its semiconductor and HDD businesses, currently called the “Semiconductor & Storage Products Company” partly by giving it a new name: “Storage & Electron Devices Company”.  This division will focus on the semiconductor group’s good prospects and profitability while maintaining a focus on the fact that SSDs and HDDs share a business.  In the not-too-distant past Toshiba has run these two businesses separately.

The group plans to be “A pillar of income with Memories as a core business”.  To achieve this, Toshiba has stated that it will enhance its NAND cost competitiveness by accelerating development of BiCS (Toshiba’s 3D NAND technology) and by expanding the SSD business.   There are three parts to this Continue reading

Is an HDD/SSD Price Crossover Coming Soon?

Western Digital's 10TB Ultrastar He HDDThe SSD Guy was recently asked whether HDDs would continue, at least through 2019, to remain preferable to SSDs as cost-effective high-capacity storage.  The answer was “Yes”.

Longtime readers will note that I steadfastly maintain that HDD and SSD gigabyte prices are unlikely to cross for a very long time.  Historically, a gigabyte of NAND flash has cost between ten to twenty times as much as a gigabyte of HDD.  Let’s look at where Objective Analysis expects things to go by 2019.

Our current projections call for NAND price per gigabyte to reach 4.4 cents in 2019.  I would expect for HDD to still be 1/10th to 1/20th of that price.  Most likely 1/10th, since we expect for NAND flash to be in a significant oversupply at that time and will be selling at cost.

If HDD prices continue to hover around $50, then a 2019 HDD price of 0.44 to 0.22 cents per gigabyte (1/10th to 1/20th of the price of NAND flash) would imply an average HDD capacity of 11-23TB.

A couple of weeks ago, on December 2, 2015, Western Digital’s HGST introduced its Continue reading

Comparing DWPD to TBW

TBW-DWPDA couple of specifications for SSD endurance are in common use today: Terabytes Written (TBW) and Drive Writes Per Day (DWPD).  Both are different ways to express the same thing.  It seems that one vendor will specify endurance using TBW, while another will specify DWPD.  How do you compare the two?

First, some definitions.  “Terabytes Written” is the total amount of data that can be written into an SSD before it is likely to fail.  “Drive Writes Per Day” tells how many times you can overwrite the entire capacity of the SSD every single day of its usable life without failure during the warranty period.  Since both of these are guaranteed specifications, then your drive is most likely to last a lot longer than the number given by the SSD’s maker.

To convert between the two you must know the disk’s capacity and the warranty period.  If  drive maker gives you TBW but you want to know DWPD you would approach it Continue reading

SanDisk: SSD at HDD Prices

SSD & HDD Price vs CapacityYesterday SanDisk announced a new low-end family of SSDs that the company said would sell: “at a price point on par with HDDs. (Pricing comparison dependent upon capacity.)”  The sub-headline states: “Z400s SSD Brings New Levels of Affordability to Replace Hard Drives…”

The release provided no actual prices to back up this claim.

So how does this work?  Can you actually now buy a 1TB SSD for cheaper than a 1TB HDD?  Not at all.  Instead you have to look at things a little differently using a concept that I frequently explained five years ago when SSDs were pretty new – that very low capacity SSDs can be cheaper than HDDs.

This post’s graph plots this out.  It’s a chart of HDD and SSD prices over a range of capacities.  It’s on a log-log scale, but it works well on a standard linear chart as well.  Note that prices are for 2010, and prices have come down significantly for both SSDs and HDDs since then.  This means that the numbers on the X and Y axes need adjustment to bring them to today’s levels, but the shape of the curves would remain the same.

The red line represents SSD costs over the range of capacities, and the black line represents HDDs.  Although HDDs are cheaper than SSDs  Continue reading

MLC vs. eMLC – What’s the Difference?

eMLCFrom time to time IT managers ask The SSD Guy if there’s an easy way to compare SSDs made with MLC flash against those made using eMLC flash.  Most folks understand that eMLC flash is a less costly alternative to SLC flash, both of which provide longer wear than standard MLC flash, but not everyone realizes that eMLC’s superior endurance comes at the cost of slower write speed.  By writing to the flash more gently the technology can be made to last considerably longer.

So how do you compare the two?  OCZ introduced MLC and eMLC versions of the same SSD this week, and this provides a beautiful opportunity to explore the difference.

As you would expect, the read parameters are all identical.  This stands to reason, since Continue reading

The Impact of SSDs on Coffee Prices

Coffee 5-year Prices (BarChart.com)A friend who trades in commodities has been having a difficult time lately.  He placed a sizeable bet on coffee futures back in 2011, only to see prices slide from a $314 peak to today’s $151 prices.

So why would this appear in the pages of The SSD Guy blog?

In a nutshell, coffee demand is falling thanks to increased use of SSDs.  It’s not that people were giving their computers coffee to speed them up, nor were managers ladling coffee into their employees to get more out of them when the real problem was slow PC performance.  Instead it’s about boot-up time.

For the past few decades the average worker comes into the office, turns on the PC, then goes to the coffee room to get the morning’s first cup of brew while the PC slowly finds its way to full operation.  While in the coffee room that worker may encounter workmates, and delve into a heady conversation about last night’s TV programs, or a sporting event, or even politics.  This might turn that one-cup coffee-room visit into a 2-cup session.

Now that savvy bosses are Continue reading

What’s In My SSD? SLC, MLC, or TLC?

SLC, MLC, or TLC?Someone recently asked The SSD Guy if there is a way to determine whether an SSD is SLC, MLC, eMLC or TLC.

I found it a little odd to be asked this, since most vendors tell what kind of flash they use in an SSD’s specifications, especially if it’s SLC.

Not finding it there then the next thing I would look at is the price.  Raw SLC NAND flash now sells for about 6-10 times as much as its MLC counterpart, so an SSD with a price of around $1/GB is likely to be MLC and one that sells for around $10/GB is probably SLC.

TLC SSDs are really rare.  There is the Continue reading

Comparing Samsung’s Planar and V-NAND SSDs

Samsung 3D V-NAND Press PhotoSamsung recently introduced  its 3D V-NAND-based 850 SSD which, according to The Tech Report, uses the same MEX controller as the company’s 3-bit planar SSD, the 840, introduced last year.

Samsung said in its keynote speech at the 2013 Flash Memory Summit that V-NAND consumes an average of 27% less power and runs at least 20% faster than its planar counterpart in an SSD application, all while providing ten times the endurance.  It’s only natural to assume that this would allow designers to produce a V-NAND SSD that would significantly outperform its planar NAND counterpart.

The SSD Guy had an opportunity to review Continue reading

SanDisk: We’ll Upgrade Your PCs For You!

SanDisk Tech Assisted Refresh (STAR)In a move that The SSD Guy wishes he had thought of for himself, SanDisk has begun to help corporations upgrade their fleets of notebook PCs by replacing their HDDs with SSDs.

SanDisk calls this program STAR for: “SanDisk Tech-Assisted Refresh”.  According to the press release: “Through the STAR program, SanDisk relieves IT departments of having to manage all aspects of upgrading corporate laptops such as, endpoint inventory analysis, employee service scheduling, system upgrades, data migration, daily progress reporting, post-upgrade analysis and support.”

SanDisk points out that PCs slow down with disk utilization and software updates, lowering users’ productivity.  Often faster storage can solve that problem.

This is not an altogether new Continue reading