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Samsung's Hard Drives And More On Endurance

Tom's Hardware's AMA With Samsung, In Its Entirety
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Q. What happened to Samsung's mechanical hard drive division? I have a Samsung Spinpoint and it's held up very well after four years of owning it.

A. We are happy to hear you are having a good experience with Samsung's technology. Samsung now focuses on SSDs as the long term future of storage. The fastest hard drives in the world can give you ~400 IOPS. A consumer-based SSD can provide you up to 90,000 IOPS. Up to 225x faster IOPS than an enterprise-based HDD. In addition, there are no spinning parts in an SSD so you can sustain more bumps without worrying whether a mechanical part (head) hit the disc that's holding your data. When's the last time you dropped your cell phone thinking that you lost all your photos? Likely you were more concerned about your screen cracking. Now, think about dropping your HDD-based notebook. Chances are you were thinking about whether your data is still there. Switch to SSDs and remove that concern.

Computer seem to get slower after a year of use? Your data gets fragmented on your HDD and most people rarely defragment their drives anymore. Even if you do, it rarely helps much. As your registry gets full, more drivers, more programs need to load, your HDD is getting overloaded with bursts of read and write requests. With typical notebook-based HDDs producing ~100 IOPS, the HDD light on your notebook is likely blinking away when your computer seems unresponsive. This is because your HDD is bottlenecking your computer. If you are experiencing this, switching to a SSD will bring new life to your PC by removing the bottleneck created by your HDD. Next time your computer is lagging and you notice your HDD-light blinking rapidly or constantly illuminated, think about how a SSD can change your overall experience with your PC. Every person I have bumped into that has an SSD said they would never go back to an HDD.

Q. When will the Samsung SSD 840 Evo be released in Asia, and do you have any plan for PCIe SSD for PC in the near future? (I really don't want to wait until August 2014 :D )

A. If you send me your question on the Samsung 840 Evo SSD availability in Asia, I will send it to our retail division to answer: ssd@ssi.samsung.com.  We have announced the first PCIe-based PC SSD recently: Samsung XP941. This is a SATAe based SSD. This is already shipping to PC OEMs so that they can ship products based on this technology later this year.  http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Samsung-XP941-SSD-Ultrabook-PCIe,23107.html

Q. SSD is the hottest tech right now and the speeds are amazing. I have been reading about MRAM based technologies for over a decade but the capacities have remained rather small and very expensive. The idea of a SSD like device with near infinite erase/write cycles is the holy grail of data storage.  When do you think MRAM or SST-MRAM might finally become mainstream? 5, 10, 15 years?

A. There are many exciting technologies that have extreme endurance characteristics. It is extremely hard to predict future markets based on these new technologies. With that being said, endurance isn't or shouldn't be really brought up as a major concern for SSD adoption. It is a characteristic that exists on NAND Flash, but wear-out characteristics exist in almost every product that exists:

  • Sole's on shoes
  • Buttons on your phone
  • Battery on your phone
  • Even DRAM has a limit of how many writes you can do (a very big one)

The point is that there is a performance/endurance rating for almost everything. The key is to ensure system designers are designing in the right ratings into their products (e.g., SSDs) that is solving a given problem. There are many types of SSDs and many types of NAND Flash (3-bit MLC, 2-bit MLC, 2-bit Enterprise MLC, SLC). Original PC-based SSDs were based off of SLC-based Flash which offers much higher endurance ratings than 3-bit MLC. However, it is rare to find a SSD storage device that is based off of SLC. The reason is quite simple: cost; and SLC provided way more endurance than was needed by the majority of consumers. If the needs of the customer can be met by a more cost-effective solution then it would make sense to explore those alternatives. What has happened in the PC SSD space is it went from SLC to 2-bit MLC, and now to 3-bit MLC. There are even Enterprise solutions that are based off of 2-bit MLC; Think about that for a second. Enterprise-based solutions that need to endure a massive amount of writes are using the same technology that's used in a majority of PC's. 3-bit MLC is a great fit for PC-based solutions and at the capacity points that consumers have moved to, and are moving to, endurance is less and less of a concern no matter which NAND Flash technology is used.

As you pointed out, endurance is something that is there but the vendors making the SSDs must consider the markets they are targeting and pick the right technology that's best for the consumer. If you are a power user and are writing extreme amounts of data to your drive (e.g., over 40GB's per day, or overwriting the entire contents of your drive every day) then you would likely need to consider endurance a little more. For the 99% of the market that doesn't do that, endurance should be the last thing on their mind.

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