There has been a certain curiosity about where flash memory is going. It is typically hard to locate good material on subjects like this. There was luck on this tonight. Jim Cooke from Micron gave a presentation at WinHEC in 2007 about “Flash Memory Technology Direction“. For those of you that love technical detail, you’ll most likely love this one.
As part of the presentation, it focuses on the coming trends with the drives. Something which has been coming for a while is solid state drives. I first heard about these devices in 1999 but they were based on a kind of DRAM approach. Today, flash is maturing and becoming cheap enough in big enough capacity to replace some standard hard disk drives.
SSDs are data storage device devices that uses nonvolatile memory(Flash) and volatile memory (SDRAM) to store data. While technically not “disks,” these devices are referred to this way because they are typically used used as as replacements for HDDs.
There are a number of reasons for doing the switch. The presentation summarizes this well. The most obvious ones are lower power, faster speed, more rugged, smaller size and weight. There have been a number of sources lately saying that this trend is real. The most likely devices to benefit from this are portable devices such as laptops.
Longer term all systems will be based on solid state drives. Just like the floppy succumbed to USB flash drives, so will the HDD lose to the SSD (Solid State Drive). In the near term cost and availability will probably limit acceptance for bigger drives as SSD.
It’s an interesting transition because a similar move happened with electronics in the late 1960s. At the time, everything was being switched to “Solid state” as a means to reduce size and complexity with the radio tubes. In general, it is always better to have a device that has no moving or easily breakable parts.
It is difficult to imagine that the magnetic hard disk technology is going away eventually. From a non-sentimental point of view, it sure would be nice to be done with hard disk crashes based on long term use or accidents. Over the last five years I have seen around four drives die. It is never a pleasant experience, even when I do have backups.
It is time to classify flash as a truly disruptive technology that is about to take the market by storm in a whole new area. Just think what it would do with suspend and resume. If done correctly, it could be almost instantly performed.