Summary of SSDs development

Invented in the 1970s, first widely used in 2000s as small, convenient storage called USB drives, or, thumbdrives – a name derived from their revolutionary, small size. Solid state memory, as the name suggests is the first easily available chip memory that could hold information even after disconnecting it from their power source. The only mass produced non-plate based storage so far was system memory – RAM. Even though SSDs were slower in the first years it was a breakthrough, since it could be extremely small, as small as a USB plug, resistant to shaking and relatively to their size generous in storage. Nowadays, after designing new controllers and advanced manufacturing of NAND chips they’ve become the fastest storage on the market by a huge margin already.

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The fastest HDDs can achieve up to around 200MB/s of throughput, while having latency in miliseconds (1/1000 of a second), while mainstream SSDs go as fast as 500MB/s with latency in microseconds (1/1000 000). High end ones reach transfers of around 2000MB/s. The other main disadvantage of HDDs are the heads reading data from plates. You usually have just one of them, VERY unusually more, but this still limits the access time. So, even disregarding slower speeds, SSDs are a couple of orders of magnitude slower to respond even when based on HDD’s standard – AHCI. The new one, NVMe is developed specifically for NAND storage and will be able to process massive amounts of processes concurrently. Today, in 2016, we can get an SSD for 22-60 cents per GB depending on performance and capacity – the most cost effective are 1TB drives. HDDs can be bought for 6-20 cents per GB. The minimum price for those in the last five years has dropped by around 30% – from 9c/GB to 6c/GB. In the meantime the SSDs have literally fallen from 120c/GB to 22c/GB – a 6-fold drop. Now, what’s in the next 5 years that’s most interesting. While HDDs development slowly grinds to a halt, thanks to 3D NAND introduced 2 years ago and possible new developments the minimum prices for SSDs will be, I reckon, between 5-7c/GB. This will very likely match them with the cheapest HDDs by then.

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While high performance HDDs like WD Black should be made redundant within 2 years from now, the high capacity, cheap ones should still be cost effective for fewer and fewer people up until about 2019, when SSDs will take over every single market.

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The most astonishing thing is that up until the mass adoption of SSDs, storage was one of the most boring aspect of assembling a computer system among enthusiasts. After that moment SSDs’ reviews are one of the most interesting to read since there are so many different ones with different properties and every generation brings new performance monsters that make managing previously unthinkable amounts of data effortless.

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