|Seagate Cheetah 15K.7 SAS Hard Drive ST3600057SS|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 27 October 2009|
Page 11 of 12
Storage Media Final Thoughts
At some point, the Enterprise sector will eventually succumb to the allure of Solid State Drive technology. IOPS performance and bandwidth speed already favor the SSD. The price barrier is already nearing a break point, and technological advancements will yield long-term longevity as reliable as we've seen it with the Seagate Cheetah 15K.7-series. Nevertheless, we're still a few years from the age of widespread SSDs; even if the popularity of retail desktop SSDs makes it seem otherwise. The Enterprise storage sector will, at some point, belong to Solid State.
New technology always has one major hurdle to face: the consumer. I have long maintained my opinion that DDR3 system memory is every bit an excellent replacement to the aging DDR2 standard, but the argument of high price and limited adoption by manufacturers has hushed my position. Of course, everything changes in time, and an economic recession actually helped DDR3 make its way mainstream. Faced with a similar situation, Solid State Drive technology has suffered the same difficult transition towards widespread use and it's a matter of time before the SSD replaces Hard Disk Drive technology completely. Like most electronics, it wasn't a question of how much of a technology improvement was evident, it was price.
There's no argument that HDDs still capture the capacity-hungry market segment; especially since SSDs cannot compete there. But the premium high-performance desktop storage market is losing patience with Hard Disk Drive technology, and as a result consumers are turning to Solid State Drive technology in large numbers. It's no surprise then that the industries premier names in high-performance HDD technology have also invested in SSD solutions. As of August 2009, the Western Digital SiliconDrive III SSD has been launched, but retail enthusiasm has been very mild. While Western Digital Solid State Storage (official name of SSD division) may have a leg up on Seagate in regard to SSD options for the moment (Seagate has promised to launch their own SSD series in the next month or two), the SiliconDrive series is hardly a threat to more familiar SSD market share leaders like Samsung, Mtron, Intel, and OCZ.
I'll discuss price in a moment, but considering how each new series of SSD product employs greater performance than the one before it, the gray area surrounding SSD performance benchmarks have got me concerned. You might not know this, but SSDs can be very temperamental. In my experience some designs are better for performance benchmarking than others, such as controllers from Mtron, MemoRight, Samsung and Intel; all of which require no special care or attention. JMicron controllers are difficult to test because of an inconsistent range of results, while the Indilinx Barefoot controller seems to really favor 'clean' NAND or they perform well below peak. The reason all of this matter is simple: the performance results reported to consumers in product reviews are often the very best performance numbers possible, and even then, the process to obtain those results isn't the same as real-world usage.
Getting back to price, back in May of 2008 when I reviewed the OCZ SATA-II 32GB SSD it seemed like $17 per gigabyte was a relatively good price for SSD products at the time. Consider for a moment that before then, SSD's such the elite-level 32 GB MemoRight GT cost on the level of $33 per gigabyte. Even products like the entry-level 32 GB Mtron MOBI 3000 were still selling for $14 per gigabyte, making the price of admission seem quite high for even the lower-level SKU's. So when OCZ announced the CORE series SSD tin July of 2008, the new $4/GB price range made SSDs an affordable reality. This event in itself should have probably started the long-awaited dawn of widespread consumer acceptance for SSD products... but there was a problem.
As it turned out, the first generation (v1) OCZ Core Series SSDs I touted in my review was prone to long-term data corruption and occasional delay stuttering. Although OCZ would later issue a second version (v2) of the CORE series, and resolve most problems though firmware updates, a lingering fear of product reliability associated with Solid State Drives remained. Thankfully, now several product generations later, data corruption and read/write delays are virtually non-existent. Now the only problems are price and maintaining peak performance through NAND garbage collection (TRIM).
Once again, everything tends to change over time, and Solid State Drive sale prices are much more affordable compared to their early years. When it comes to computer hardware, generally speaking the newer, faster, and better performing products traditionally cost more than their older predecessors... but oddly enough this is not the case with SSD's. I recognize that the current selection of SSD products on the market right now share a range of bandwidth speeds from abysmal to phenomenal and everywhere in-between, but the prices don't seem to correspond to performance. SSD's are filling store shelves, and several Solid State Drive models now sell for as low as $2.07 per gigabyte, which is getting dangerously close to Western Digital's VelociRaptor at $0.76 per gigabyte of storage. The future is SSD, and the day when HDDs are obsolete is nearing, but there are still a few bumps in the road to navigate.