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back to article NEWSFLASH: Chips cheaper than disks

You better start believing in miracles; Thai flood-caused disk drive shortages are driving up disk prices beyond flash. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers brings us the good news after talking to OCZ CEO Ryan Petersen on an investor call. Rakers says: "Recent HDD/SSD distribution indicates an average 20-25 per cent increase …

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Meh

Spinning disks are cheap at twice the price.

Unless you work in one of those small edge cases were SSDs actually make sense for how you use a computer, HDDs are still the way to go.

The MTBF issued by SSD makers might be really high, but my experience and those of others (see The Coding Horror blog, for example) would suggest that when SSDs fail, they fail hard. As in "you just lost everything" hard.

Despite what SSD makers would have you believe, it's still a nascent market and the long-term reliability of those SSDs are an unknown.

Go for it guina pigs. I will wait for the stats to roll in over time.

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Meh

@Wintermute

Using an SSD is not an excuse not to have backups.

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FAIL

Still a pain in the ass

When your PC goes casters-up and you have to find another drive and do a restore. The amount of USB flash drives suddenly going to crap keeps me from buying the same as a "disk".

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Gold badge

Brian, that is very true. However I stopped using tape for backup when it took a cabinet of tapes to backup a small server (I can't afford the latest LTO), so I now use HDDs for backup. HDDs are fine for backup because they are relatively reliable.

Now if you change everything to SSD, with unknown reliabilities and failure rates quoted that they cannot have tested because they don't have enough time, how reliable are your backups? Especially when some of the problems are down to a small firmware change that effectively resets all the testing hours for MTBF to zero.

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Holmes

@Brian 6

Having backups is not an excuse for your disks to fail, frequently.

Our experience here of SSD drives is not good. We built some development machines with SSDs to use the speed advantage they offer when running a certain memory and disk-hungry IDE. We had several failures in a couple of months. On the other hand, we have a number of machines (probably around 100) with conventional hard disks in them which have been running for some time. I can recall hearing of one disk failure in five years. Anecdotal I know, but there comes a point where the weight of anecdotal evidence demands you take notice.

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IT Angle

Amazing -10 votes

I guess that is the difference between geeks and those of us who get paid handsomely to know better and who look after terabytes of data worth astronomical sums, and for whom downtime is often measured in $100s of dollars per second.

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it *was* for guinea pigs

... 2 years ago. Now SSD are common and work very well with all *recent* releases of common operating systems (including Windows 7).

As far as information loss goes - HDD were not panacea and neither SSD are. Well organized and kept up to date backups are.

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Anonymous Coward

100 machines and 1 disk failure in 5 years?

What have you got, magic Apple flavoured disks? I don't believe you.

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WTF?

Stupidest. Post. Ever.

If you have a straight up SSD or HDD for same money per GB then SSD is definitely the way to go, unless the capacity you require per disk is not available (i.e. 2TB) or *perhaps* you need long term use of a disk which will receive VERY heavy writes.

Using SSDs or HDDs in a datacentre/business setting (as in this article) doesn't matter. Anyone who attempts anything serious on a system without RAID *and* backups is just a prize moron or asking for trouble. Servers have hotswap drives for a reason - whether spinning or not they are expected to fail, the RAID protects the data most of the time, the backup covers the worst case scenario but usually the admin just swaps the drive if it fails and nothing bad happens.

You live in the past if you like, the rest of us will just buy the best we can get for our available money, SSDs desrirable.

PS. Hard disks can also "fail hard" as you put it, all storage medium's can.

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surely...

people just use SSD for boot and HDD for data? thats what i do. fitting an SSD is like upgrading your cpu in terms of performance

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@Magic Apple-flavoured disks

I am talking of course about our desktop machines, which tend to get replaced on a 3 or 4 year cycle. I couldn't tell you about failures on our servers, these are probably higher. And that's one failure that I know of. Add to that, I have a number of disks in machines at home, some of which are getting on for being a decade old. I have only experienced one failure, and that was in an old 10Gb IDE hard disk that was six or seven years old and had seen some rough treatment. I just fail to believe that these things fail as often as some people seem to think.

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Boffin

In the Industry

For those who don't know, or don't have the position to know:

We use mainstream SSDs in our HP servers here. (well, half of them, we're transitioning slowly for obvious reasons). No SSD failures yet, and we've been running them for a year on our heavy-load production servers. The others are lighter-weight, so don't demand the I/O performance yet.

We've been "refreshing" our 3+yr desktops with little 50GB SSDs. Why not HDDs? Because we are replacing the disk drives currently in the machines as their performance tanks and internal error rates go up (which is usually a sign of immenent failure before SMART finds it). The machines run like night vs day, running the exact same image as the old machine had loaded. For the machines with <2GB of RAM, we drop in a bit of RAM and no need to refresh the hardware for another few years. Workers clamour for the old Core2duo (or a Pentium D in some [IT] humorous test-cases) rather than the newer quad-core 4GB+RAM machines. They just know "it's faster."

Failure rates among these desktop machines? None so far. Only been pushing them out for a year or so though (about when SSDs became viable price-wise for wide deployment). We now track new machines and have upgrade paths for them to get an SSD at their year-mark. Will we get failures? Sure. But we had terrible failure rates with the old spindle disks too (especially in our laptops).

So, you can argue about your MTBF assumptions, or reading a "4000 post forum!" which collects the disgruntled people who often repeat-post, and I'll continue deploying and being a satisfied SSD customer.

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Anonymous Coward

I concurr (@ Ammaross D)

Here at the PLC I work for we've been rolling out the cheap SSDs too for the past year. We've found that we have been able to ressurect PCs that we previously wrote off as being unable to improve the performance of. We were sticking them on the WEEEEEEEEEEE palette to rot. We've now got single core celerons out-performing early quad core processors with traditional HDs. It's not just the data transfer rates from the hard disk, it's also the RAM performance that increases, as the SSD page file has no seek time and maxes out the data transfer rate of the PCI bus. The previous HD was a fraction of this. All upgrades are visually noticeable by the end user.

All in all, because we've brought retired PCs out of retirement, and in some cases, stopped the planned program of retirement, I've replaced a £400 unit replacement program with a <£100 upgrade program which has pleased the bean-counters no end. It's got to the point now, where the users with high-end PCs are jealous of the crappy PCs that have had the SSDs introduced.

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Anonymous Coward

Same here

Same here.

Upgraded the workstations with Intel SSDs.

Performance improvements were massive.

Dweeb

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Allow me to add

My own anecdote. I build PCs for a living and had several "Must win teh benches!" gamer customers that refused to listen and went for the SSDs. now these guys are NOT cheap, heck one has his granny on a Skulltrail because he goes through machines trying to stay on top of the benches that was the slowest machine he had!

Well they bought top o' the line SSDs and not a single one made it to the two year mark! Not one! In fact 3 died within a year! And in EVERY case it was "flip the switch and nothing" no warning, no SMART error, zipola. i service a heck of a lot of customers and can't remember the last time i had a HDD fail i didn't get a heads up and could get their data off before they went (one I had to do the fridge trick after she dropped her lappy, but I still got it) but those SSDs? poof. sure they got replacements but who cares when your data is gone bye bye!

let the gamers and others be the beta testers, i have HDDs a decade old that still run. i'll stick with old reliable, thanks ever so.

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WTF?

small edge cases?

er, small edge cases? what, those small edge cases like 'installing, launching, removing, and compiling software'? boy, those sure are small edge cases!

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yes very small

I am yet to come across a Production system which constantly installs, removes and compiles software as its primary purpose.

I would suggest that the 'build server' which you describe is very much an edge case.

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Holmes

So what you're saying is...

You've never worked in a software company, especially one that does Continuous Integration, then.

They have these wonderful machine setups designed to compile code without running risks of creating unexpected library dependancies or whatever dreck the individual developer has installed. Sometimes, it means having a different environment setup. This means installing libraries (wow!), compiling software (zowee!), and after that's done, cleaning up for the next task including removing libraries (wowee!). Since they build software for testing or production, they're called build servers (Ooooh).

With continuous integration, that means you can easily have this process happen with each code commit, possibly dozens of times a day.

Companies that have these 'edge cases' of build servers include Google (for Android and Chrome if nothing else), Apple, Oracle, Red Hat, Microsoft, and pretty much any serious company that makes stuff that go onto shiny plastic disks that aren't just video and audio.

Now you know.

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Anonymous Coward

Keep it in perspective though, it's not as if the flash medium has got cheaper is it?

Such is the law of supply and demand and all that stuff. The market will now be running dry on traditional hd's because of this.

Pity, as they were at an all time low only a few months back.

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Orv
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Edge cases

What I keep hearing is that SSDs are fast at first, then get sluggish with use, especially if they're fairly full. It seems wear-leveling on consumer grade SSDs still doesn't perform very well. One person I know who has an SSD for their Windows install has reformatted and reinstalled repeatedly to get the performance back. I suspect the time needed to do that has wiped out all the time savings from not having to wait for a spinning disk.

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Depends on the OS and chipset support. If your OS doesn't support TRIM, then yes, the SSD will start to bog down.

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Depends on the version of Windows

Windows 7 is much more friendly to SSDs than earlier versions.

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The fast-then-sluggish thing is pretty old news and relates more to the lack of TRIM awareness in older Microsoft OSes than it does to in-drive wear levelling. Put it this way, the "64"GB Crucial on this box is packed almost to the gunwales and is running just as fast as it did on day one, which was over a year ago.

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That's nothing to do with the SSD; it's only windows being crap!

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Someone should really warn him that SSDs have limited read/write cycles. If he keeps reinstalling everything he'll be left with nothing*.

*I've never actually seen/heard this occur, yet.

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Facepalm

Wow, almost 30 seconds to google and find a guide to get performance back on an SSD!

http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=64753

And yes, I use this on my 3 year old SSD and have no problems with speed.

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Holmes

I don't even own an SSD....

....but the symptoms you describe are well known to me.

We have taken SSD's out of the equation, so is it pretty safe to deduce that the problem actually lies with Windows?

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@Andy 115

Actually no. TRIM is required to keep the speed up, and it's a new arrival to every OS I can think of.

Windows 7, OS X 10.7, Linux 2.6.33

Of those three, Windows 7 was actually the first released.

Yes, yes, I know you could have hacked it into earlier versions of OS X (10.6.6 - Still released after Win7) and Linux, but to do that you would have needed to know how to hack it in, and also have heard that it was required! So I'm talking about off-the-shelf support.

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Childcatcher

TRIM is actually not required

since around the time support for TRIM started appearing in major OSes, SSD manufactures started implementing alternative solution in firmware, i.e. garbage collection. As of today it's mature and reasonably well working technology on systems where TRIM is still lacking (ie. older OSes). Garbage collection is also implicitly used by new systems when "something" stands in a way between actual SSD and an OS, e.g. RAID , and it works well.

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Boffin

"We have taken SSD's out of the equation, so is it pretty safe to deduce that the problem actually lies with Windows?"

The "problem" in the same way that there is a "problem" that your record player can't play blu ray discs.

Shockingly, tech that was around before newer tech was invented tends not to play nice with newer tech. The SSDs should have been designed for backwards compatibility.

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75Gb????

Christ, i have blu-ray disks that top 50 gig....

When i can get a 500 gig then i'll consider swapping...

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And your point is?

Blu-ray disk = backup storage at best. SSD = hard drive replacement. Apples and oranges.

You don't use SSD for main storage, you use it for stuff that needs to be fast. OS, build trees, compilers etc. Not for long term storage of a load of blu-ray images.

Not yet, anyway.

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JC_
FAIL

Using Enterprise Drives...

...to store movies?!? Good grief, how silly can you be? Cost aside, the spinning ones run hot & noisy. Yes, there're 500GB+ SSD drives in shops right now, the M4 costs about £1/GB.

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Well....maybe

75Gb is about ten times what one needs for a full OS with applications.

All the rest is logs/swap/datafiles and they can go on to a RAID array.

Thus one can get the speed of SSDs for the binaries (which will change little) and the reliability of an HDD for other files (which can change a lot).

Of course, the actual balance will depend on the individual use case.

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Depends how much you want to spend...

http://www.google.co.uk/search?aq=f&q=SSD+512G&hl=en&tbm=shop

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Stop

That's rather like saying

You're not going to bother with a high end sports car because your compact has a trunk thats nearly as big.

You buy SSDs when you need speed (both in IOs/sec and MBytes/sec), not when you want high capacity. Your BD drive is going to be nowhere near as fast for seeks and sustained transfers.

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Stop

Windows 7 in 7.5GB?!

How on earth did you manage that!? if your windows/winsxs is below 7GB you're lucky!

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@Tomato42

Windows? Oh, in that case you're looking at around 20GB minimum before you even add applications.

Looking at the system I have here, the full OS install is about 500gb, 482gb-ish of which is my personal files (settings, media, virtual images). The actual OS portions is only 18gb and of that 9gb-ish is games related executables etc. So that's about 9gb for actual applications and important stuff.

Just because Windows doesn't do a decent job of separating executable/configuration/data files doesn't mean that every OS is like that. :)

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Linux

Bad car analogies...

> You're not going to bother with a high end sports car because your compact has a trunk thats nearly as big.

No. It's more like saying that I won't bother with the high end sports car because it offers minimal marginal performance at a dramatically reduced cost. I can already engage in felonious speeding with a reasonably priced performance sedan.

Simply don't need a car that costs more than the house.

The cheap performance sedan has a nice trunk too.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Clearly a conspiracy to promote cloud

You could have several terabytes for very little only a few months back, Apple launch iCloud and suddenly local storage is too expensive to be viable!

Coincidence?

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Anonymous Coward

Rubbish

Most of the disks sold at these prices have been in shop stock for months

I don't believe demand for disks outstrips supply and losing a factory for a single supplier isn't causing any upsets.

"Boards" of suits looking to capitalise any and every inch they can, yet again what's at the real source of woe is rich people trying to get richer.

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If you don't need the performance...

The smart money still buys HDDs. In 6 months / a year / whatever... when you want to expand your NAS box's capacity or a HDD fails, the replacement will be cheap again. The SSD won't.

The market will correct itself once supply is back to normal.

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Anonymous Coward

Optional

Funny, only yesterday we considered ordering a rack of 15K SAS disks for a DASD production server and discovered this very fact.

1: SAS disk performance is pretty well known and does not vary much between suppliers

2: SSD performance is extremely variable (depending on supplier and controller manufacturer)

3: SSD performance changes over time

4: SSDs in a RAID configuration (a requirement in server environments) has potentially more issues - TRIM probably* does not work.

5: Database IO sizes on my system are minimum 8K, usually 64K for index structure read and double that for logs and backup IO. SSD performance is nothing like you think when IO sizes are large.

I am going to buy a few SSDs to test anyway. At this stage I do not trust the technology at all beyond the desktop - and even then with reservations.

* I am unclear on this, so any information would be nice

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Pint

"TRIM probably* does not work"

you are correct on this. You want SSD with good garbage collection, I think majority have it (certainly Crucial and Intel do).

Anyway if you marry SSD with RAID, your contention is going to be RAID bandwidth anyway (unless you set the limit to few drives only). Modern SSDs are really much faster than HDDs and RAID cards can "feel" it. Also only few RAID cards support SSD, e.g. newer LSI.

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not so good news really

It seems unusual to be touting this as good news. It'd be good news if SSD prices had dropped below HDD prices but HDD prices rising so much is not good news.

I can only see this increasing demand in SSD hugely now which will then drive the price of that up when demand far outstrips supply.

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K
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WTF?

Some people are just taking the p*ss

I brought a Momentus XT HD 500Gig for my laptop 6 weeks ago, it cost £80, the same website is now selling if for £260... what a f*cking rip off.

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I noticed this too

The Samsung F4 2TB drives i bought for ~£70 are now a hilarious £180!

No-one in their right mind would pay that.

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Linux

Talk about freetardry...

> The Samsung F4 2TB drives i bought for ~£70 are now a hilarious £180!

> No-one in their right mind would pay that.

I paid $400 for my first 1G drive and my first 500G drive.

If there aren't any other options, you either pay the market price or do without. The dirt cheap drives were nice for awhile but that seems to going away for awhile.

A $400 2TB spinny disk still beats the SSD alternative if one exist.

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