Solid State Drive as option in Notebooks

March 28, 2007

821 Votes

Status: Implemented

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Definition

A solid state drive is primarily a data storage device, for use in computing applications that traditionally use a hard disk drive.

A solid state drive is based on non-volatile memory instead of the spinning platter and mechanical-magnetic head found in a conventional hard disk drive. With no moving parts, a solid state drive eliminates seek time, latency and other electro-mechanical delays and failures associated with a conventional hard disk drive.

Advantages

* Faster startup - Since no spin-up required.
* Faster read time – In some cases, twice or more than that of the fastest hard drives.
* Low read and write latency (seek) time, hundreds of times faster than a mechanical disk.
* Faster boot and application launch time - Result of the faster read and especially seek time. But only if application already resides in flash and is more dependent on read speed than other issues, eg. OS bootup that detects devices will not be significantly sped up even with faster seeks & reads.
* Lower power consumption and heat production - no mechanical parts results in less power consumption.
* No noise - Lack of mechanical parts makes the SSD completely silent.
* Better mechanical reliability - Lack of mechanical parts results in less wear and tear. High level of ability to endure extreme shock, vibration and temperatures, which apply to laptops and other mobile devices, or when transported.
* Security - allowing a very quick "wipe" of all data stored.
* Deterministic performance - unlike mechanical hard drives, performance of SSDs is constant and deterministic across the entire storage. "Seek" time is constant, and performance does not deteriorate as the media fills up (See: Fragmentation).
* Lower weight and (depending upon type) size
* Faster than conventional disks on random I/O
DELL/ Status Update
Check out the Idea in Action on the SSD enhancements Dell is making.


 

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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    Oops, forgot to mention your RAID 0 comment. Since SATA drives each have their own data cable back to the controller, you don't see data bottlenecks due to saturated data cables like you might have seen with the older PATA drives. I think that the standards that were ratified are just designed with plenty of room for growth (otherwise we'd have new standards every couple of years). Indeed, you're now seeing SSD drives that come far closer to the bandwidth limit than ever before!
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    nicopoon, you are correct. SATA2 is a forward looking standard, when today's drives do not come close to exceeding the original specification for sustained throughput. They key word there is sustained. Peak (aka burst) data transmissions from the drive may far exceed the sustained rate. This is due to the HDD's cache memory - any data that is in the cache can go flying down the pipe at warp speed...until it's depleted, and the drive has to fetch the rest of the data request off the platters. Another aspect of the SATA2 specification is NCQ (Native Command Queing), another feature borrowed from SCSI disk systems. Google it and read up on it if you're curious, but I have it on good authority that it really doesn't come into play in single user systems (and may degrade performance if turned on). NCQ shines in server environments, where multiple users data requests may hit a server simultaneously - NCQ goes to work reshuffling the data requests so that the data is pulled off the platter in the most logical order possible (reducing innefficiency while the hard drive armature has to sweep back and forth to gather data). For example, if data requests came in 1,2,3,4,5 - NCQ might reshuffle the requests 5,2,3,1,4 because fetching the data in this order would reduce the amount of seekig. I'm sure I'm grossly over-simplifying, so if you're interested I recommend you continue looking up info on it. Back to the subject at hand: Burst cache rates. I think they are only about 50% faster than SSD...which you might consider to be all burst cache - so why the difference? SSD's are non-volatile RAM (aka "Flash Memory," think USB thumb drive - but bigger), so they don't lose information when they lose power. The cache RAM on your HDD (& indeed your DRAM main memory) is volatile memory, which is faster but is lost if you lose power. I've seen published SATA HDD burst rates of 100 MB/s, which is still below SATA, but faster than the sustained SSD 60-65 MB/s transfer rates. If the planned Hybrid Drives ever make it to market (I've seen Seagate product sheets for months now), you'll see HDD's with massive amounts of fast DRAM (say 128-256 MB instead of 8-16 MB found on today's drives). This should make better use of the SATA bandwidth, assuming the drive controller is intelligent enough to guess fairly accurately what data you are going to want next, most of the time. I wonder if we'll eventually see Hybrid SSD drives, that would combine a massive fast DRAM cache to the already fast drive? It could be that flash RAM technology will continue to get faster (as it has been), and there will be no technical advantage to such a hybrid SSD drive - or it might be that the cost & availability of SSD's improve so much that vendors will have to differentiate their performance products. Exiting times in storage ahead!
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    HJ: that brings up another question... if even a solid state disk maxes out at 65MB/sec, why does the world need SATA2 when SATA's 150MB/sec is more than 2x the throughput than the disk can produce? That would mean the disk would remain the bottleneck in IO intensive operations. Perhaps that's when RAID0 comes into play....
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    The SSD's are SATA interface! SATA standard has max throughput specification of 150 MB/s, while SATA2 has 300 MB/s. These are peak transfer rates, and are higher than can be maintained. The sustained transfer rate of SSD is far higher than HDD: 60-65 MB/s vs. 15-30 MB/s. Add to that no noise, less power draw, higher MTBF, zero seek times - and you have yourself a very winning new technology. The issues with SSD's are that they have low capacities compared to HDD's, they haven't been in mass production long enough to get real-world failure rate statistics, and they have a very high cost per GB. That will all change as time goes on (though it's a question on whether or not HDD's will stay ahead in terms of lower cost & higher capacities - don't count spinning platters dead yet)! Here's an informative site that discusses both SSD & HDD usage in test environments:
         http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/tut/p/id/5730
    
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    A SATA version would be nice.
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    Right, after all if we back it up externally, RAID0 might be a good option. But, expensive I imagine, using 2 x solid state disks. In that case, wouldn't the I/O bottleneck become the SATA interface or front side bus? What's the throughput of the SS disk vs. what the SATA interface can take?
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    Good discussion, Nick! I understand your reasoning. As far as RAID 0 is concerned, I agree with you on the data loss risk with HDD's - but with SSD's having an MTBF of 2,000,000 hours (versus HDD 150,000 hours), I think the risk falls back to acceptable levels (especially if you do drive backups regularly as you already plan to do). Good luck on your replacement notebook shopping! Drop back here and post what you end up with!
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    Hi guys, Interesting... I will indeed wait for the next gen systems, I like Dell systems but right now the other guys have the newer laptops with the dual hard drives and onboard web cams etc. HJ: I should probably have said "very shortly". My system is turning 3 years old next month, time for a new puppy. As for the HD capacity, I've come to think that 32GB is probably OK, which allows me to add a portable external drive for music and other multimedia, + backup, so that I have a copy of the data in case of theft. I'm not a big fan of RAID0 as you increase your risk exponentially, and RAID1 reduces your storage capacity in half. A good external drive is the way to go, IMHO. Cheers Nick
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    Nick, your request for SSD's on 17" notebooks got my brain firing about all the things I would like to see on the next XPS M1710. If that's a model you're considering purchasing, you might want to pop over to my post and vote on it:
         http://www.ideastorm.com/article/show/66663
    
    I have included mentions of SSD options, as well as dual storage drive bays (as benjesuit just posted here).
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  • Apr 18, 2008     Comment Link

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    Hopefully the new notebooks to debut in June will have dual HDs. This way boot drive could be SSD and aux HD can be whatever you want. RAID 0 of course. If raid is the way they're going to go.

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