It seems that the technology media has predicted the demise of the hard disk drive (HDD) for many years. The current popular view is that solid state drives (SSDs) are now set to deliver performance and cost benefits such that they will have a widespread impact on HDD consumption. The reality, though, is that while SSDs are gaining traction and will see some reasonable revenue growth in 2011, we will continue to see a robust – and growing – market for HDDs in 2011 and beyond. Nonetheless, the simple fact that both options are available means that professional IT and data center managers may be asking themselves, "What’s right for me: HDD or SSD?"
In order to fully understand the implications of enterprise adoption of SSDs, it is important to take a look at the key features and benefits of both HDDs and SSDs. Hard disk drives are the mainstay of all storage systems and offer significantly lower price per GB compared to SSDs. HDDs also offer significantly higher capacity per device and high endurance with essentially unlimited write and read cycles. On the other hand, solid state drives offer industry leading performance – particularly in read-intensive applications – and lower power consumption. And, as SSDs do not have moving parts, they can offer improved reliability in higher vibration environments. However, SSDs do come with some caveats. For one, SSDs are much more expensive in terms of pure cost per GB. Also, SSDs typically do not show performance in heavy write environments that is on par with their performance in read environments. Finally, users should consider the limitations of SSDs with respect to the number of writes per cell (known as Program-Erase cycles) for the NAND memory chips that make up the drive’s storage capacity.
So if SSDs aren’t necessarily a better option than HDDs, why all of the fuss? One of the major reasons for the optimistic growth predictions is the expectation that consumer grade NAND memory prices will continue to decline and, consequently, enable much lower cost enterprise SSDs (eSSDs). Unfortunately, the fallacy of this assumption is that most of the cost estimates are based upon the expected reductions of consumer grade multi-level cell (MLC) NAND memory chips. In order to provide the reliability required for enterprise applications, most SSD vendors are using more expensive single-level cell (SLC) NAND Memory chips or enterprise grade MLC (eMLC) NAND chips, which will not follow the aggressive consumer grade NAND price reductions.
As the inventor of NAND Flash Memory, Toshiba understands the performance implications and cost outlook for true enterprise class eSSDs. As a hard disk drive manufacturer with more than 40 years of experience, we also see (through the eyes of our customers) the reasons that hard disk drives will remain the dominant storage device for the foreseeable future. That said, SSDs and HDDs will increasingly co-exist in large storage systems to allow the best of both worlds: high performance IOPs from SSDs and large storage capacity from HDDs for the lowest cost per GB. Whether you’re a professional IT manager or the Chief Information Officer of your home, chances are we all will eventually use a mix of HDD and SSD storage to manage data. That’s why Toshiba is delivering a full range of consumer grade NAND memory, SSDs and HDDs for mobile applications, and enterprise grade HDDs and SSDs.
So what are your plans? Are you planning to make the switch to SSDs or will you stick with HDDs?
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc.