As the market for NAND Flash stabilizes in the latter half of the year, consumer and enterprise demand for solid-state drives is expected to surpass hard drives.
Sound familiar? The topsy-turvy world of predictions surrounding the storage market has swung back from peril to optimism. Industry research firm DRAMeXchange is reporting that the oversupply of NAND flash weakening the global solid-state-storage market is scheduled to balance out toward the latter half of 2009. This will allow the price gap between traditional hard drives and their expensive, solid-state counterparts to narrow, ultimately launching the HD-to-SSD replacement cycle that was delayed as a result of the worldwide economic crises.
Computer manufacturers have been foreshadowing the transition, especially in the context of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Not only have we seen the usual flurry of SSD price cuts and size increases, but there’s been more talk about the enterprise market and its use of solid-state technology. SanDisk expects flash-based laptops to penetrate the market in 2009, and has launched its third-generation line of SSDs to be ready to meet the expected demand. According to the company, these drives would allow a business to convert a standard, Windows XP-based laptop to a 60GB “flashtop,” as they’re being branded, for only $150. Rival Samsung is pushing its new SSDs toward the server markets, rather than portable computing. But company representatives also agree that 2009 is going to be a big year for SSD-only business notebooks.
Seagate has also given some insight as to how flash-based storage plays a role in the company’s storage roadmap. According to Seagate CTO Robert Whitmore, the company plans to launch its first solid-state enterprise drive later in 2009. Industry critics are doubtfully responding with, “about time” to the announcement. Seagate’s been dragging its heels with flash-based technology compared to its peers, offering more conjectures – the growth of hybrid storage in 2009 and potential SLC and MLC combination SSDs – than tangible products. Although the company has been busy with the SSD market in one context: Suing solid-state drive manufacturers for alleged patent violations.
Most consumer usage doesn't see a great speed advantage from SSD, web browsing, email, media playback (or encoding/transcoding) isn't particularly sensitive to the latency on a HD, so SSD makes very little difference. Unless usage patterns change (e.g. a new "killer app" that is latency sensitive arises), price and capacity are going to continue to be the driving factors in consumer electronics.
What could drive SSD demand in consumer PCs and Laptops is laptops with both a smaller (16GB-32GB) SSD for the OS & applications plus a large, cheap HD for data (e.g. media file) storage. However, that may require a lot of changes in installers and/or applications and/or user habits to get the data stored on a separate volume from the OS & applications, so it's not something that is likely to occur in a year or two. Yes, it can be done today and I've been using that method for my business clients for years, but it requires a moderate level of computer expertise to set it up that way and users don't always understand it. It can be very tedious to get some applications to install or work that way.
Depends on the application. For databases with many random reads sure... for an e-mail environment that stores TB and TB of data probably not. Same thing for file servers... the capacity trade off isn't quite there IMO just yet, but really isn't too far away (seeing as enterprise HDD's (10K & 15K) have lagged in capacity (450 GB being the largest and that was released relatively recently). I give it until 2010 for SDD's to provide a serious case t go into the majority of servers.
Excuse me, what peers? Check Newegg for SATA SSD drives and note that there are zero models from manufacturers of conventional HDs. ZERO.
None of the producers of SATA SSDs so far are in any way even close to a peer of Seagate. The fledgling SATA SSD manufacturers are providing the market with some great products and I'm glad. I even bought an Intel X25-M which I'm predictably thrilled with.
But the press is being childish in trying to constantly chide Seagate for being resistant to try and compete with these pipsqueak SSD manufacturers on some arbitrary timetable in their heads that has nothing to do with how business actually works.
Seagate knows what they are doing, as do the other big conventional HD manufacturers. They will release SSDs when they feel they can make a profit at it without unacceptable drawbacks like a severe devaluing of their existing product lines.