Flash Memory Still Not Causing The Death Of Hard Drives

from the working-together dept

Every once in a while, a crop of stories pops up on the question of whether flash memory can make hard drives obsolete, or at least take a big bit out of its share of the data storage market. One of the most vocal opponents of this idea has been the CEO of hard drive maker Seagate, Bill Watkins, who, for rather obvious reasons, would like to convince people that the whole idea is hogwash. For some time, he’s been repeating the line that as long as hard drives maintain a cost advantage over flash, the market for them will remain steady. What this means in practice is that devices with (relatively) small storage needs, like iPods, will increasingly use flash, while hard drives will still be used for things that require a lot of storage, like HD video, because at that level the cost of flash is prohibitive. Now once again, a number of analysts are chiming in on this issue, prognosticating on the the fate of the two technologies. While there seems to be some temporary price weakness in the hard drive market, it looks like the story pretty much remains the same, as both technologies have their role. In a recent interview, the Seagate CEO even spoke about how the two technologies could complement each other, such as hard drives with some flash built into them for faster data transfer. Although both technologies should stick around for awhile, this hybrid approach makes a lot of sense for a company like Seagate, and it’s a sign that the company realizes its in the business of data storage, not just in the business of hard drives.

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Comments on “Flash Memory Still Not Causing The Death Of Hard Drives”

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Anonymous Coward says:


…and it’s a sign that the company realizes its in the business of data storage, not just in the business of hard drives.

They are in the business of selling rotating magentic disk drives. Adding flash mem to a drive and allowing windows to make an even bigger, even slower page file is nothing more than an incentive to sell more rotating magnetic disk platters.

Want all the advantages of a hybrid drive wiht none of the extra costs? Get rid of your page file, and let the memory stay in RAM, where its actually fast.

David says:


And if you want to save power by hibernating or sleeping? Have faster file save times? Use a buffer for often-=read files that are a little large or unnecessary to store in RAM? There are some very valid reasons to have a fast-write, fast access, non-volatile storage medium. Just because you can’t understand them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. This article is spot-on.

Bumbling old fool (profile) says:


Oh, but I do understand them.

Yes, there are benefits to adding a non-volatile ram subsystem to a PC. There are no benefits to adding that ram to the hdd.

As for your remarks… You already can save power by hibernating, but there is no point to it. Hybrid drives won’ be improving that experience either.

You already can save power by “sleeping” aka: standby. Keeping the RAM refreshed takes very little power, and my laptops can go over two weeks in standby.

Too large to store in RAM?? you’ve got to be kidding me…

Perhaps you are confusing your susceptability to marketing as my inability to comprehend…

Joel Coehoorn says:

Forget hybrid- 64GB pure flash available this year

Saw it on Slashdot today:

64GB flash-based hard drive. That’s already bigger than what comes on many laptops. I imagine it will mighty expensive, but it will only get cheaper over time and I imagine there are more than a few who will want one of these in their high-end laptop.

I just wonder if they’ve managed to solve the problem of a limited (relatively small) number of write operations.

James says:

The article is correct...

but.. so is Seagate’s CEO (at least in the short term). Until a cheaper (or same price) and faster alternative comes along there’s little incentive to move from this well worn technology, even if it is a technical throw back to the PC dark ages.

Reality often takes time to catch up with technological possiblities. But once it does.. hard drive manufacturers will change or disappear.

fgc says:

naturally, flash storage will eat (or, already is eating) the portables market. viz me, iriver h10 6gb seagate microdrive died (i am abusive with my portables), recently replaced with a creative zen v 8gb (flash-based). i am paranoid about blowing my money away on something that can’t take a toss out the window once in a while. 🙂 this will eventually apply to all portables, notebooks, etc. wtf with all this moving parts crap? i admire the precision and craftsmanship that can go into a mechanical watch, but i also exclusively wear digital watches. that can take a toss out the window once in a while. my cat and girlfriend are also pretty durable like that. although sometimes i wish the GF didn’t actually come back.

Bumbling old fool (profile) says:

Flash is already killing the death of hard drives

Mike, your spin makes no sense, Flash already is killing he hard drive.

sure, it might take a while to get the capacity up to that of rotating magnetic platters, but it is getting there, and in the microstorage market, flash already caused the demise of rotating magentic disks.

The seagate dude is right, as long as magnetic disks are cheaper there will be a market for them. One that is on a steady decline.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Cache as cache can

I don’t understand the point of putting any kind of cache memory on the hard drive itself. Doesn’t matter how fast it is, it’s still on the wrong side of the peripheral interface (PATA, SATA, SCSI, whatever), so it will always be limited by the speed of that. Whereas using main RAM for caching means that you can access the cache at full main RAM speeds.

This is what a modern system like Linux does: it uses main RAM for caching at the filesystem level. This way, disk drivers don’t have to worry about caching–all they have to think about is moving blocks of data back and forth.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

about a year ago, there was a 64G USB flash drive available, for a huge price (AU$1000, which was about the same price as a SATA 1TB drive at the time), with the comment that an e-SATA version would soon be available. Until flash drives in the 512GB + range are both cheaper and longer-lasting than HDDs, I will keep buying magnetic disks. Where Flash will (hopefully, eventually) win, is that HDDs cannot easily be made much denser than they are now, unless some significant discovery in fundamental physics can be applied to disk manufacture. Flash memory can in principle be made as large as you can afford, which menas that if current trends continue, there may well be huge drives on the market in five-ten years, for similar prices as current HDDs.

Some people will ask the question of what we would all do with such vast quantities of data, but they are forgetting how much data capacity has grown over the last decade. Even five years ago, most people werre still using floppies, and a 100GB HDD was big. Nowadays, a 500GB HDD is not unreasonable, and over 7-800GB is not unheard of. All the higher resolution videos, 3d games of vstly higher quality, and so forth are all trends we can hope to see continue. After all, who could afford to fill 80GB of theier HDD with music five-ten years ago.

The only problem I see with the continued growth of data capacity and internet speeds is that the content of the Internet will re-balance to a much higher quantity of smut and pirated content like in the early days, before so much web traffic was around

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