SSD

HDD & SSD Combined Into One

Wafer Scale HDDThe SSD Guy has often explained to readers that the storage industry is caught between two alternatives:  fast and costly, or cheap and slow.  This is the key difference between SSDs and HDDs.  I have recently learned of a new secret government research effort, code named “SiliDisk,” that will provide the best of both worlds by marrying flash memory with the mechanics of an HDD.

The approach is incredibly ingenious, while remaining deceptively simple: All that is required is to replace the disks in an HDD with the wafers used to manufacture NAND flash.  Both are round, so there’s little engineering effort to switch from a magnetic disk to a flash wafer.

The NAND flash on the wafer is almost completely standard.  The only two changes are that the chips aren’t scribed or sawn apart, saving a small sum, but a hole must be etched through the center (which can be seen in the photo below) offsetting this savings.  The HDD mechanisms are unchanged with one exception: While today’s HDDs are largely manufactured using 2.5″ and 3.5″ platters (65mm & 90mm), NAND flash is exclusively produced on 300mm wafers.  This means that Continue reading

The Micron QLC SSD – No Surprises Here

Progression of SSDsLast Monday, May 21, Micron introduced the industry’s first QLC SSD for enterprise applications.  Micron’s press release is HERE.

Although this is a laudatory feat, the industry has been headed in this direction for a number of years.  In fact, this was the subject of a presentation that I made to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) during its Winter Symposium in January 2014.

The slide in which I discussed this appears as this post’s graphic.  (Click on it to see a larger rendition.)  This table attempted to illustrate that all SSDs were headed towards TLC (and implicitly QLC) over the long term despite the fact that naysayers persistently argued that this could never happen.  It looks at attitudes over history and considers the fact that things that the industry said could “Never” happen ended up eventually becoming the mainstream technology.

Since I live, eat, and breathe 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

Why Aren’t SSDs Popular in New PCs?

Fry's Electronics PC adFor the past decade I have been asked when SSDs will overtake HDDs in the PC market- when will more PCs ship with an SSD than with an HDD?

My usual reply is: “Never!”  I then go on to explain that two factors work against this ever happening.  The first is the fact that SSD prices are unlikely to ever match HDD price per gigabyte, which is the subject of a few posts on The SSD Guy, the most recent appearing HERE.  The second reason is that most PC buyers find SSDs unappealing when they are shopping for a new PC because of the price difference between an SSD and an HDD of the same capacity.

There are six Continue reading

Big New HDDs Indefinitely Postpone SSD/HDD Price Crossover

HGST's 10TB Shingled HDDEarlier this month Western Digital’s HGST division invited The SSD Guy to a launch of a number of products.  On the HDD side there were:

  • 6TB air HDD, HGST’s last air-filled enterprise HDD
  • 8TB helium HDD, an incremental upgrade of last year’s 6TB helium HDD
  • 10TB shingled helium HDD (pictured)

I view these as very solid evidence that HDD costs will continue to stay an order of magnitude cheaper than SSD costs, thwarting the price-per-gigabyte crossover that others have been predicting for years.

In fact, since my last post on the price crossover in 2011, very little has changed.

It’s safe to assume that the HDD industry will Continue reading

How Big Can an SSD Get?

SSD circuit board - courtesey of Intel Corp.Someone recently asked The SSD Guy to guess what would be the largest amount of flash that could be fit into an SSD’s case.  This sounded like a fun problem, so I did a “Back-of-the-Envelope” estimate to try and figure it out.

First of all, I would judge by this post’s picture that you could get no more than 20 chip packages (4 x 5) on one side of a PC board for a 2.5″ SSD.  That’s probably an optimistic estimate.

If you ignore the controller that would allow you to squeeze 40 packages onto a single circuit board.

Certain high-capacity SSDs use a “Butterfly” design to fit three circuit boards into a single 2.5″ HDD housing.  With three 40-package circuit boards you could fit 120 chip packages into the 2.5″ HDD housing.

Today’s densest flash chip stores 128 gigabits or 16 gigabytes.  Samsung and SanDisk can stack 16 of these chips within a single package, making a 16 x 16 gigabyte or 256 gigabyte package.  SanDisk just announced a 512 gigabyte SD Card that doubles Continue reading

SanDisk to Acquire SMART Storage

The following is excerpted from an Objective Analysis Alert e-mailed to our clients on 2 July, 2013:

SanDisk to Acquire SMART Storage SystemsSanDisk Corporation announced on 2 July 2013 an agreement to acquire SMART Storage Systems, the SSD arm of SMART Modular Technologies, for $307 million in cash and equity. The transaction is expected to close in August, 2013.

SMART has strong SSD technology that allows the company to ship MLC-based SSDs with endurance specifications superior to those of some SLC SSDs.  The SSD maker had shipments of about $25M in its most recent quarter.

The SMART acquisition will be the fourth Continue reading

IBM to Invest $1B in Flash Promotion

The following is excerpted from an Objective Analysis Brief e-mailed to our clients on 15 April, 2013:

Comparison of 3-Year Operating Costs: Flash vs HDD (Wikibon)On April 11 IBM kicked off “The IBM Flash Ahead Initiative”, committing to spend more than $1 billion for flash systems and software R&D and to open twelve IBM Flash Centers of Competency around the world staffed with flash experts armed with flash systems to help clients test drive flash in their own situations.

This follows from IBM’s August 2012 agreement to acquire privately-held Texas Memory Systems (TMS), a very low profile manufacturer of high-performance flash-based memory arrays and PCIe SSDs. TMS is the world’s oldest SSD maker, founded in 1976, to manufacture RAM-based replicas of HDDs. About four years ago TMS used its Continue reading

WDC’s HGST Intros 12G SAS MLC SSDs

Latencey Histogram of HGST's MLC SSDIn case you didn’t have enough abbreviations in your life, The SSD Guy brings you the headline above, with the promise that the news below is really interesting: HGST (formerly Hitachi Global Storage Technology, but now a division of WDC – Western Digital Corp.) has brought out a new line of 12Gb/s SAS SSDs based on MLC flash.  These are a part of the UltraStar line.

Whereas HGST’s first-generation UltraStar SAS SSDs used SLC flash, the new SSDs are based on 25nm MLC flash but offer the same warranties as HGST’s prior generation.  Even so, performance for the new SSDs is significantly faster than that of their SLC-based predecessors, with no reduction in wear or lifetime specifications.

These SSDs are the first to support Continue reading

Are HDDs Vibration Sensitive?

Brendan Gregg in Sun's Fishworks Lab shouting at an HDD arrayOne reason to use SSDs is that, with no moving parts, these devices are insensitive to shock and vibration.  HDDs, on the other hand, are sensitive enough to vibration that it can cause access delays.

How sensitive are they?  Well, I have seen some overblown claims from SSD makers that shock will cause HDD head crashes.  I am not sure that I believe such claims, but I certainly do believe that an HDD’s actuator (the read/write head mechanism) can be shaken away from its track, causing a Continue reading