THE SSD EFFECT
Why industry watchers and players are calling SSDs one of the most important inventions in recent history.
SSDs have been around longer than you might expect. The earliest SSDs were developed in the 1950s and used volatile memory and were prohibitively expensive, so much so that they were only used in very specialized industries. The first flash-based SSDs that used nonvolatile memory, similar to the ones we are familiar with now, were introduced only toward the end of the 80’s.
Although flash memory paved the way for widespread mainstream adoption, it wasn’t only until the past two or so years that people - OEMs, businesses, consumers - really took notice of SSDs. Early flash-based SSDs had erratic performance and plagued by reliability issues. Although these problems went away as the technology matured, cost was still a prohibiting factor. This changed around 2010 when demand for NAND memory grew and manufacturers ramped up production. Prices of SSDs have fallen rapidly in the past two years - allowing for widespread adoption, across not just consumer devices, but also in the enterprise space.
Example, ChyronHego, one of the world’s largest providers of broadcast graphics, leverages on SSDs to build systems capable of handling the intensive bandwidth demands of modern day high-resolution broadcasting. If you watch television regularly, there’s a high chance you’ve seen ChyronHego’s work on air without knowing.
At the recent Samsung SSD Summit in South Korea, ChyronHego was effusive in their praise for what SSDs can do for them. With a growing demand for 4K video content and the need to meet high bandwidth demands of such workflows, the company has switched to using SSDs. Peter Morrone, Senior Vice President of Engineering at ChryonHego, also said that SSDs helped simplify their systems because a single SSD can provide the same level of performance as a complicated RAID array of hard disk drives. As a result, they can build
by systems of higher performance that are less complex, takes up less space, and require less energy.
The average power consumption of an SSD is between 3W to 4W, while idle power draw can be as little as 5mW or 0.005W. On the other hand, a high-performance 7,200rpm HDD designed for enterprise workloads can draw as much as 10W of power, while idle power draw is usually in the region of 1.5W. Not only that, because an SSD is so quick, it can complete its task and return to an idle state much faster than a hard disk drive, thus saving even more power in the long run. This is one of the reasons why notebook manufacturers favor SSDs over hard disk drives - apart from improved performance and compact dimensions, they can also have a significant positive impact on battery life.
However, it is in data centers that the power efficiency of SSDs can be best appreciated. Data centers housing a large number of drives enjoy very significant cost savings and even the fringe benefits add up. Because SSDs consume less power, they generate less heat, saving on cooling requirements. They also have no moving parts, which saves on facility setup, e.g., racks no longer need to compensate for vibrations.
Thanks to the many benefits of SSDs, the market is expected to grow at double-digit rates, and will more than double in the next five years. Samsung, one of the leaders in the market, currently estimates that the demand for flash memory is at around 60 billion GB, and it expects this figure to grow to over 120 billion GB in 2020. Already, the capacities of SSDs are approaching that of hard disk drives. Next year, Samsung will roll out 4TB versions of its SSD 850 PRO and 850 EVO drives. And as production of its latest memory chip ramps up, expect these large-capacity SSDs to become more affordable. So as SSD capacities and prices catch up to that of hard disk drives, the bigger question is whether hard disk drives can weather this onslaught and remain relevant in the future, or will they be made obsolete in the same way digital cameras killed off film.