Predictions

by Joseph Weisenthal




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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2007 @ 1:00pm

    WRONG

    ...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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 27 Mar 2007 @ 1:31pm

      Re: WRONG

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bumbling old fool, 27 Mar 2007 @ 4:00pm

        Re: Re: WRONG

        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...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2007 @ 1:53pm

      Re: WRONG

      Can you tell me where I may find a "rotating magentic disk drive"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    drummer, 27 Mar 2007 @ 1:35pm

    How about just a new type of drive.

    On the other hand you have flash based hard drives being announced as we peck away on our keyboards that could change the whole scene.
    see this article -
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/03/27/1832222&from=rss

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dataGuy, 27 Mar 2007 @ 1:39pm

    hybrid drives avaiable soon

    In case you have not heard Samsung is already releasing hybrid drive to OEMS:

    http://www.engadget.com/2007/03/07/samsungs-hybrid-hard-drive-hhd-released-to-oems/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, 27 Mar 2007 @ 1:45pm

    Forget hybrid- 64GB pure flash available this year

    Saw it on Slashdot today:
    http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/03/27/1832222&from=rss

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    James, 27 Mar 2007 @ 2:12pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2007 @ 2:40pm

    What happens when the battery needs to be pulled out for some reason?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2007 @ 2:47pm

    N/M. for some reason my mind when to RAM drives. Flash doesn't lose data from power loss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    fgc, 27 Mar 2007 @ 3:55pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bumbling old fool, 27 Mar 2007 @ 4:04pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 27 Mar 2007 @ 5:41pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bill Pytlovany, 27 Mar 2007 @ 6:14pm

    Remember Kodak

    Ten years ago Kodak felt the same way.
    Digital cameras would never match the quality of film.

    I can't imagine in 2017 using any storage device with moving parts.


    Bill

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, 28 Mar 2007 @ 8:14am

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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