Though solid-state drives are in vogue, market forces and technical issues are giving the venerable hard-disk drive new life.
DRAMexchange, a Taipei-based market intelligence firm, said last week that the adoption of solid-state drives by computer vendors has slowed as the price of the NAND chips--the raw material of solid-state drives--has increased. The firm also said that computer makers have been cautious about using solid-state drives because current Windows operating systems are not fully optimized for SSDs.
And the popularity of flash storage is waning in Netbooks. These tiny laptops at one time used solid-state drives almost exclusively. But Acer, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and others are moving en masse to configurations with large hard-disk drives in lieu of smaller-capacity solid-state drives.
SSDs typically offer higher performance--often much higher performance--than hard-disk drives and are more durable since they have no moving parts.
While those merits still apply, lingering doubts about the long-term retention of the data in a solid-state drive is making the hard disk look not quite so pass?. Ed Doller, the chief technical officer of Numonyx, a flash memory chip maker which was spun off from Intel and STMicroelectronics last year, addressed this issue in a recent phone interview. Numonyx makes two kinds of flash: NOR, used for storing computer programs, and NAND, used widely as a data storage medium in digital cameras, media players, smartphones, and solid-state drives.
"It's if versus when. With a hard drive it's if it's going to fail. With an SSD, it's when is it going to fail," Doller said, who critiques NAND only because his company is looking for a new storage medium--such as phase change memory--that can overcome some of NAND's inherent limitations.
Doller spoke about an epiphany he had after booting up a 20-year-old IBM AT. "I fired that thing up and it actually booted from the hard drive. If that same computer had been built with a solid-state drive, I can almost guarantee you that would not have worked. It would have lost its information over that period of time," Doller said.… Read more