SSDs push further down into the HDD space

October 23, 2014 OpenSystems Media

I know the argument is getting old, but it bears repeating: solid-state drives (SSDs) aren’t replacing hard-disk drives (HDDs) anytime soon in super-high-capacity applications, places that require tens of terabytes rather than gigabytes. The ever-growing cloud is currently the largest and fastest growing of those applications, and is a huge consumer of storage space.

This fact is confirmed by the self-proclaimed SSD Guy, Jim Handy, who says that the latest announcements “provide solid evidence that 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.”

That’s not to say that there’s not a place for SSDs. In fact, that “place” is also growing in leaps and bounds. My regular laptop contains an SSD rather than an HDD, and I’ll never go back. The speed at which the computer boots, applications load, and the low-power consumption, makes it run the way I’d expect it to run. Yes, the tradeoff was a smaller capacity, but I’m pretty far from hitting the wall. It also had a higher price, but not enough to scare me off.

SanDisk, one of the leaders in SSDs, recently announced its ULLtraDIMM SSD. The company claims that it’s the industry’s first enterprise-class, ultra-low latency, memory channel-connected storage solution. Adding flash storage to the memory bus results in a powerful solution for data center applications, as it can be integrated into an existing DIMM slot. This removes the performance bottleneck from the storage subsystem and ensures ultra-low-latency operation. Capacities of 200 and 400 Gb are available.

That’s also not to say that capacities in the Tb range aren’t available, they’re just more pricey than their rotating brethren. I must admit, however, that the prices for the SSDs surprised me a little (they’re lower than I realized). For example, Samsung offers its 840 EVO 2.5î SATA drive that stores 1 Tb. There’s an online price of $460 for the drive. A similar rotating model can be had for well under $100.

Speaking of the enterprise, NVM Express, the organization that developed the NVM Express specification for accessing SSDs on a PCI Express (PCIe) bus, has initiated an effort to specify a standard for NVM Express (NVMe) over fabrics. Such a standard would extend the use of SSDs to hundreds of drives. Such a topology would be employed where using a fabric as an attach point is more appropriate than using PCI Express. Ethernet with RDMA, InfiniBand, and Intel’s Omni Scale Fabric would be examples of where this could be used.

So you’re not confused (like I was), NVM Express is the name of the optimized, high-performance, scalable host controller interface. It was developed by NVM Express, Inc., and an organization formed as the NVM Express Work Group to define a new storage interface protocol, you guessed it, NVM Express. Now you can see the confusion. The goal of the standard is to enable the full performance potential provided by non-volatile memory (NVM) storage technology, such as PCIe SSDs.

Looking at desktop-like applications, Intel’s Pro 2500 series offers just about all the features you’d want and expect in an SSD: high performance, an overall lower total cost of ownership (TCO), and advanced security by self-encrypting with hardware-based 256-bit encryption. In addition, the 2.5″ and M.2 form factor drives feature the Trusted Computing Group’s OPAL 2.0 standard and are Microsoft eDrive capable.

The bottom line is that there’s a rosy future for SSDs as the feature list continues to grow and the cost per Mb line continues to fall. Maybe now we should be looking at cost per Tb.

Rich Nass, Embedded Computing Brand Director
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