Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Solid State Drives

I'm spending this summer working as an intern for Micron in the Solid State Drive Product Engineering group.  I'm working on some interesting things that haven't come to market yet.  Since I've been here, I've talked to a few friends who don't know much about SSDs.  Here are a few questions with answers.  There's nothing here that you couldn't find by searching around.

1)  Are SSDs as reliable as traditional hard drives?

While I can't make any blanket statements, here are a few points to consider.  SSDs contain no mechanical parts.  Traditional hard drives have motors and spin and things move around.  If a tiny component were to break, you would hear a wonderful clicking noise before seeing the "Blue Screen of Death".  SSDs do not suffer from the same problems.

2)  Do SSDs wear out faster than traditional hard drives?

Not all SSDs are created equal.  Because SSDs use flash memory, there is a limited number of times each block can be erase and rewritten.  This varies greatly from 3k writes to 100k writes.  But even at 3k writes, that means that you can erase and rewrite the entire drive 3 thousand times before it fails.  On a 64GB drive, that means you will write 192 TB of data, or 100 GB a day (more than the entire drive) for the next 5 years.  One concern is if you rewrite a single file more than 3k times.  Most SSDs are smart enough to "share the wealth" and move that file around so it wears the drive out evenly.  Think of it like rotating your cars tires.  Since not all SSDs are created equally, do a little research into the life of the drive.  Most manufacturers release that information (Micron does).

3)  SSDs are really expensive.  Do they really make a difference?

According to many benchmarks I've seen, a good SSD will speed up your random file access something like a half second.  Not much on paper.  But in actual use, that half second makes a lot of difference.  Many people say that an SSD is not something you notice being there, but you definitely notice when it's not.  With an SSD, opening an application is practically instantaneous.  Reboots take 20 seconds.  Everything just feels so much snappier.  There's a reason so many people have said that an SSD is the best available upgrade to your computer.

If anyone has other questions, just ask in the comments.

I'm having a blast.  There's a lot of cool stuff going on under the hood.  Micron is unique in that they are one of the few companies who manufacture their own memory.  This lets us do some cool things most other SSD companies can't do.  Cool stuff on the horizon.

UPDATE:
I figured it would be cool to post the drives I'm working with:

Crucial CT256M4SSD2 256GB M4 SSD 2.5" SATA III
Crucial 512 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s
Crucial 256 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s
Crucial 128 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s
Crucial 64 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s

Those are the new models that just launched last month. (That 512 GB is expensive, I know)

These are the last generation of drives.  Still very fast.  They've got a lot of great reviews, which is why I'm linking to them.

Crucial Technology 256 GB Crucial RealSSD C300 Series Solid State Drive CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1
Crucial Technology 256 GB Crucial RealSSD C300 Series Solid State Drive
Crucial Technology 128 GB Crucial RealSSD C300 Series Solid State Drive
Crucial Technology 64 GB Crucial RealSSD C300 Series Solid State Drive

Also, I should probably make some sort of disclaimer.  I work for Micron.  This blog is in no way affiliated with Micron.  The views expressed here are my own and do not represent Micron in any way.