SSDs: Transforming Next-Gen Notebooks

From time to time we will run guest posts here on Inside IT. This installment comes from Michael Yang, Flash Product Manager at Samsung Semiconductor. Thanks for writing Michael. 


I've been watching some of the conversations happening regarding NAND Flash and solid state drives (SSD). Dell agreed that it's an area of interest from a wide range of its customers and asked me to provide some perspective on Inside IT, so consider this.

Most electronic devices have some kind of flash memory – even TVs and DVD players have flash – that's how they store channels and settings. MP3s, DSCs, DVCs, GPS devices and saved video games make use of flash storage, as well as virtually all cell phones with cameras or 3G connectivity.  PCs represent the next major target for a flash transformation.  Is this the end of the hard drive?  Time will tell. In the next year or two, we expect to see growing competitive pressure from the higher performing, more reliable and more design-flexible SSDs. 

With every new technology, there is "uncertainty", especially in the first couple of years.  We are frequently asked about the cost and reliability of an SSD, so allow me to address these concerns.

When you consider cost, it is important that you take initial purchase price and how much a system costs over its lifecycle into consideration.  Generally, the actual cost of a business laptop is a small part of the overall expense of maintaining and servicing it.  When you take a look at the initial high cost of an SSD, it pales in comparison to the cost of a hard drive thru its entire lifecycle.    

With the average hard drive failure rate around 5-8 percent annually (McKinsey & Company, 2007), many customers tell us that the cost of a laptop is an extremely small price to pay for the information stored on a drive. What if a company manager spent 66 hours in 3.5 days toiling over for a report tomorrow to the CFO? From a consumer perspective, it may be impossible to replace years of countless hours spent creating and re-creating digital scrapbooks for your children.  Drop an HDD-equipped notebook and stand a fair chance of kissing valuable data goodbye, while tests show that the SSD is much more resistant to jarring or dropping.

How reliable are SSDs?  You may have heard about the 100,000 program/erase cycles for flash.  Is that enough?  Similar to HDDs, SSDs employ techniques (wear-leveling and error correction algorithms to minimize degradation and extend the life of the drive.  According to top engineers at the world's largest technology companies, SSDs can last well over 50 years in typical usage situations.  For comparison, SSD's are rated at 2 million hours between failures (MTBF) which is approximately 3-4 times that of a hard drive. 

Some of you may have seen that we recently introduced higher-performance SSDs. I saw that Sarah Williams mentioned in her post that these drives outperformed 10K drives in several instances. A Dell customer named Les Tokar recently published a review on that confirms the strong performance.

SSDs will make notebooks more energy-efficient, faster, more durable and even less expensive to use when you look at the cost of lost data.  For more comparative data, I invite you to check out this comparison of hard drives vs. SSDs from Samsung. 

About the Author: David Graves