Hard drives

Solid State Disk Will Go Mainstream in 3, 2, 1...

Solid-state disk, once considered a niche technology for ruggedized, industrial and military applications, is on its way to the mainstream. This is partly because of SSD benefits, which include performance, power efficiency, ruggedness and a lightweight, compact size. But other developments have also come into play, including technology and market developments that have begun to help this technology overcome its pitfalls -- namely capacity, reliability and price.

Because SSD is based on NAND flash memory chip technology, it has no moving parts, which makes it faster and less prone to mechanical failure than hard disk drives. Today, costs are shrinking faster than ever, thanks to market growth, new technology developments and vendors working overtime to accelerate their SSD development.

For instance, Intel Corp. has been working since early this year to turn around its troubled flash memory business, which has been hit hard by decreased consumer spending on MP3s, phones and other devices that use flash memory. To combat those losses, it announced plans to accelerate the introduction of higher-density NAND flash chips for enterprise storage arrays.

So, the question is not whether but when SSD will go mainstream. There are two main application areas where enthusiasm is growing about SSD: notebook computers and enterprise storage. According to IDC, SSD unit shipments will increase at 76% from 2007 to 2012, driven by the notebook, ultrasmall notebook and enterprise storage spaces. Revenues will grow at a 70% compound annual growth rate in that time period, to over $5 billion in 2012. Meanwhile, per-gigabyte prices in the SSD notebook market will decline 44% from 2007 to 2012.

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