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Ars Technica editor Lee Hutchinson recently wrote a detailed analysis of Nand Flash storage solutions *SSD's*, that provides a fascinating view into the world of data storage.

This article confirms my initial conclusions and personal data storage preference: SSD's are good for your primary boot disk where applications and the OS is located, while bulk storage of music, movies, video, pictures and other large files is more effectively and feasibly accomplished by large capacity Disk Drives (Hard-drives). This combination solution provides the best peak performance while also offering the best overall value! 

A Computer

Computers are essentially made of a processor and memory of some kind. Lots of things are computers. An iPod Touch for example fits the modern cultural definition of a computer: it has a processor and memory and a means for interacting with these components such that they can perform some kind of function. 

Disk Lag Bottleneck

The storage memory of a computer is typically the performance bottleneck. If you look at the CPU activity, most of the time a CPU is on it is running slowly and underutilized waiting for the harddrive. Booting up a computer from off for example is slow because it takes a long time for the harddrive to readout all of the information for booting. The other kind of computer memory, ram, is really fast, but it looses the information it holds when the power is off.

HDD Limited

Hard disk drives made of magnetic spinning disks have been the dominate storage data medium for personal computers for a long time. In mobil computers, these spinning disks are problematic for several reasons. In all computers these spinning disks are slow, holding the rest of the computer back from greater performance. Solid state drives offer a costly solution to the slowness problems of spinning mechanical disk drives. Solid state drives have no moving parts, they use less power, and typically they are between 2 and 10 times faster than conventional spinning disk hard drives.

SSD : the Mobil Standard 

Solid state drives are at the heart of most mobil technology today. Smartphones, dumbphones, cameras, mobil internet devices, tablets, and personal music players: these mobil devices store information on NAND flash chips. These nand flash based Solid State drives or SSD's, are typically held back by two major problems: price and durability. 

Cost per GB

Today, SSD's typically cost something like $1 per GB, if you are careful you can find them for around $0.70 per GB: this makes SSD's about %700 more expensive then mechanical hard-drives which typically cost about $0.10 per GB. 

Robust HDD's

Mechanical hard-drives can re-write a sector tens of thousands of times without any significant degradation in performance. SSD's experience sector storage issues after several thousand write cycles.

Overcoming Limits

Technology is being developed to address the limited re-write cycles than NAND flash based SSD's can accomplish: most of them involve very complicated electrical engineering solutions, while others rely on simple data layout manipulation techniques. 

Markets Demand SSD's 

One way or the other there is a lot of market demand for lower cost  high capacity solid state drives. This means that the feature size of these SSD's will continue to shrink, the same way that we have seen the transistor feature size of CPU's shrink over the years.

Feature Sizes 

CPU and SSD' chips are made with 20something nano-meter sized features today: 22nm in the case of Intel's Ivy Bridge CPUs and 25 in the case of Samsung's 830 series SSD NAND chips. Negative pundits and other pessimistic naysayers suggest that going smaller than this is problematic and too cumbersome to be feasible: they are wrong. These trolls have been saying stuff like this since the days of 130nm some 10 or more years ago. They seem to forget that well funded human innovation is unlimited.

Local Storage Needs? 

How many GB do you really need in your mobil thing? Most phones and tablets and iPod Touch like things tend to have storage capacities in the 8 to 64GB range. Large mobil computers with OEM SSD's like the Macbook Air come with 128GB or 256GB. SSD' drives come in capacities as large as 512GB. SSD's of the TB size are still thousands of dollars.

The Streaming Solution

Streaming from the cloud will eliminate a lot of the need for large quantities of local storage in many cases of media consumption. Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, SOMA- there are a lot of internet radio options. Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Itunes : there are other options emerging for TV and Movie streaming.

No Crystal Ball 

The future of local storage and physical media is hard to predict. Physical media is cool is some instances. Lets use my blu-ray copy of Inception: at north of 25GB, the disk has a lot of content data on it. I paid about $20 for it. I can take the disk with me to anyone's home that has a blu-ray player and watch the movie. I can sell this blu-ray disk used to someone else, and transfer the viewing rights. I can watch movies using a blu-ray disk and player without torturing a harddrive or computer with intense stream reading. 

Optical Disks to enable 4K Resolution: 
The Next HD standard

With 4K resolutions coming up next as the new HD format, movie file size for that resolution are going to go north of 100GB. The future of physical medial storage looks different depending on how you look at it. While streaming is more nimble, fidelity is limited by bandwidth restrictions. Our networks are already fairly bogged down, so any fidelity increase is going to cause lag issues. In this context physical media looks bright!

Local Movie Storage 

How many 1080P movies can you fit on that HD? Local storage can start to become a bottleneck for heavy data users. I am reminded of the wedding photographers who shot my sisters wedding: they hav to lease hundreds of TB worth of space from a cloud storage provider to host all of their customers photos.

Video Data Hog 

Video production can be a data hog too. I recently shot a 30min 720P video of a lightning storm that used of 3.4GB of SD space on my cameras brand new 16GB class 10 card: after isolating the good parts and editing with iMove, I was able to get this video down to under 100MB while still retaining 720P resolution. Check it out.

Yes, its on a cloud, via a YouTube storage cluster: I also put it on facebook: yet another cloud. After editing it on my SSD based macbook, I moved the file via a solid state thumb drive to bulk storage on a TB sized HDD on a desktop. Tripple redundancy for my artwork: I should hope so considering the amount of time that went into shooting and editing and publishing that short video! lol
Now you can enjoy it via streaming...

Looking Ahead

Mechanical harddrives are here to stay, so are SSD's. The future will be brighter with a mixture of data storage technologies. We are going to need creative solutions to store all of the content that is created every day... it will be interesting to see how data storage trends change over time: predicting what trajectory data storage will take would require a crystal ball, and I lack one, so woot woot to enjoying the ride and seeing what comes along as it does to meet demands through the materialization of innovation in data storage solutions!

A Look Back into the History of the HDD 

In september of 1956 IBM introduced the RAMAC 350, the first hard disk drive. 

Source :

On fifty dual sided 24inch disks, it stored a massive 3.75MB worth of data, spinning at 1200 RPM's. It cost over $160,000 in 2012 USD equivalent. 

Innovation in HDD design resulted in radical size, weight and cost reductions. The following facts highlight the innovations: via Wikipedia :

HDD disk area data storage capacity innovations caused doubling every two to four years: 

  • Capacity per HDD increasing from 3.75 megabytes to 4 terabytes or more, more than a million times larger
  • Physical volume of HDD decreasing from 68 ft3 or about 2,000 litre (comparable to a large side-by-side refrigerator), to less than 20 ml (1.2 in3), a 100,000-to-1 decrease.
  • Weight decreasing from 2,000 lbs (~900 kg) to 48 grams (~0.1 lb), a 20,000-to-1 decrease.
  • Price decreasing from about US$15,000 per megabyte to less than $0.0001 per megabyte ($100/1 terabyte), a greater than 150-million-to-1 decrease.
  • Average access time decreasing from over 100 milliseconds to a few milliseconds, a greater than 40-to-1 improvement.
  • Market application expanding from mainframe computers of the late 1950s to most most mass storage applications including computers and consumer applications such as storage of entertainment content.

The Innovations Continue 

Driven by intense competition and rapid innovation, the areal density of hard disk drives is still being improved. Single 3.5inch desktop standard sized drives are now widely available in 3TB sizes. Just a few years ago 1TB was the largest widely available desktop drive. 4TB drives are about to launch. As consumer we should see single 3.5inch 10TB drives in a few years.

SSD's are driven more by a price war : most laptop users find 128GB sufficient for their normal use, whilst power notebook users often opt for 256 or 512GB SSD's. The price war in SSD markets has rendered drives of 128GB capacity for around $120. 256GB drives still hover close to $300. 512GB drives are around $1000 right now, and TB sized SSD are rare and cost north of $2200. With NAND chip capacities on the rise with feature size decreases into the sub 20nm scale, we should see 256GB drive come down to under $200 in the near future.

Speed: Sata 6G is the the 6Gbit/s defacto performance standard for mass market computers. Only a few years ago the Sata 3G or 3Gbit/s was the norm. Fast SSD's can read and write at north of 500MB/ second ^^

Faster options are available. PCIE based SSD's can offer read and write speeds of 1400MB/ second. Companies like Fusio IO make drives like this, and they are costly!

HDD' drive speed is improving with improved storage methodologies and intelligent disk cache implementation. The drive speed 5400RPM, 7200RPM and 10000RPM affect latency and read write performance: faster drives perform better at the expense of generating more noise and heat while using more power. 5400RPM drives are efficient from a cost to performance ratio, but they tend to be kind poky... 7200RPM drives hit a sweet spot for balanced performance for bulk storage. 

In the server market, SAS drives are more normal, and 10K RPM drives are commonplace. Unlike most personal computers, servers has clusters of drives, often run as elastic mirrored cloud storage: with broad dynamic scaling capacity, great performance, and excellent value. A service like Amazon's S3 gives customers cost flexible access to this kind of server storage. SmugMug, a photography storage service provider is a large customer of the Amazon S3 service for example. 


  1. SSD is convient but expensive and HDD is cheaper but not as convient as SSD. i am just want to buy a ssd, how much a 240gb ssd drive cost?? I find ssd is about $270 in linkdelight(source:240gb ssd drive)

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