The Era of Solid-State Storage

Arthur Cole

It looks like solid-state will be the method of choice for the majority of laptops going forward, and it is even making inroads into the enterprise.


Our first bit of news comes from industry tracker iSupply, which is predicting nearly 60 percent penetration of solid-state or hybrid drives in the laptop market by 2009, with 54 percent of the ultramobile market to boot. Driving the trend will be an increased demand for hard drives with Flash memory capabilities. While Flash memory will still be 14 times more expensive than traditional hard drives in two years, that will be a vast improvement over the 100x cost factor of just a few years ago.


One of the latest laptop families to start sporting solid-state drives (SSDs) is the Dell Latitude. The Latitude D420 ultramobile and ATG semi-rugged machines can now be outfitted with SanDisk's 1.8-inch, 32 GB SSD. Company specs say they increase performance 23 percent and cut boot time by 34 percent.


There is also a steady stream of board-level solutions, ensuring a range of options in the coming years. Lexar Media just came out with a new ExpressCard SSD that provides built-in auto-backup. The card comes in 4 GB, 8 GB and 16 GB configurations and is compatible with Vista's ReadyBoost system that improves DRAM performance.


And did we mention the enterprise earlier? It's now clear that solid-state is more than qualified to handle high-performance, mass data environments. A small company called Diamond Point is showing off the Stec Zeusiops enterprise-class SSD, which the company claims can offer I/O tasks 200 times faster than standard 15K RPM drives. The system uses single-level cell, non-volatile NAND Flash memory that cuts access time down to 20 microseconds. The drives can be formatted up to 146 GB.


With solid-states running cooler, using less energy, requiring less maintenance and less hardware than traditional drives, it seems likely that solid-states will continue to be a compelling solution from here on in.

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