Good-Bye, Hard Drives

I'm old enough to remember when some of the first hard drives, such as the IBM Winchester-two disks with 30MBs each, hence 30/30, thus Winchester after the 30/30 rifle-showed up. I can also recall using cassette-tapes and 8-inch floppy disks on PCs. I've met people in their twenties who are unclear about what cassette-tapes are exactly and floppy disks are rapidly falling away from our collective memory. Now, it looks like hard-drives will soon be following them into history's dustbin.

Sound impossible? Actually it's all too possible. SSD (Solid State Drives) have gone from being small and pricey to being roomy and affordable. At the year's beginning, you could only find 4 and 8GB SSDs on inexpensive, Linux-powered netbooks or a 64GB SSD on the expensive Rolls-Royce of laptops, the Macbook Air.

As 2008 comes to a close though. It's a different story. The drives are getting bigger and cheaper. 128GB drives are now common, 256GBs are on their way, and Toshiba will soon be selling 512GB drives.

You say you want top performance? Then you really want a SSD. In a recent ComputerWorld review of the Intel X25 SSD, a 2.5-inch form factor 80GB drive, zipped by a Western Digital VelociRaptor. The VelociRaptor clocked in with a 250.2MB/sec. burst speed and 105.6MB/sec. average read through using the HD Tach speed tests. That's a great time. The X25, though, beat it with a 256.7MB/sec. burst speed and what's far more interesting, a sustained 230.2MB/sec. transfer speed.

SSDs aren't anywhere close to their top performance though. Micro claims that their next generation of SSDs, due out in the first quarter of 2009, will hit 1Gb/sec. throughput.

Put it all together and I can see SSDs putting hard drives out to pasture by 2009's end on desktops and laptops. After that it may not be long before they start replacing hard drives on servers. "Impossible!" You say? Think again. It seems Google is already putting SSDs into service.

It's been nice knowing you hard-drives, but it looks like we'll be saying good-bye to you soon.

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This story, "Good-Bye, Hard Drives" was originally published by Computerworld.

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