SSD – the real winner against HDD?


SSD – the real winner against HDD?

The solid-state drive (SSD) has big shoes to fill. Its reputation as the technology frontrunner set to replace hard disk drives (HDD) means it faces a public downfall if its promises are not delivered.

They can, and will, be compared against each other until the cows come home. However, the truth is SSD provides an opportunity within certain applications where the environment is simply so extreme that HDD would not survive.

On the other side of the argument, SSD is not always superior to HDD for reasons such as write endurance, error correction and block management, among others – yet fuelled by the hype, users assume SSD is always superior to HDD in both performance and reliability. It seems the argument requires much closer inspection to fully comprehend where each technology’s pros and cons lie.

For many, the argument remains that the two technologies can, and will, co-exist. There is a common misconception that all SSDs can fulfil all requirements and applications, but that is not the case. Not all SSDs are equal, as some are based upon single-level cell (SLC) and others use multi-level cell (MLC) flash.

Today there are various configurations of SSD, with characteristics suited to different market segments. Some are aimed at the notebook space, which tend to have lower capacity and low power requirements; others are targeted at the typical enterprise space where higher capacity/IOPS are essential;
while there are other true industrial grade options, which need to be fully ruggedised, and therefore have longer service life.

However, HDD still has four to six times the capacity of SSD, with 2.5in/500GB and 3.5in/1.5TB compared with 2.5in/128-160GB and 3.5in/256GB respectively. The cost per gigabyte for SSD over HDD is also typically tenfold so there remains a significant price difference.

SSD is, and will for the foreseeable future, continue to be a niche technology when compared with HDD. Cost and capacity, among others, will be the deciding factors – however, with each having their own sets of strengths and
weaknesses, it is a case of ‘each to their own’ when it comes to choosing an outright winner for each individual requirement.

Nick Powling is disk business development manager at Hammer

This was first published in December 2008

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