Saturday, January 27, 2007

Next Generation Hard Drives

Hard drives have been around for over 50+ years, and during that time they have evolved significantly but their core technologies (i.e.: rotating magnetic disks, with heads that read the data) stayed the same.

For example: there have been some major advances in hard drive technologies, such as Perpendicular Recording which compresses more and more data into smaller spaces. There have also been significant advances in head design (Giant Magnetoresistive [GMR]).

Modern hard drives are far superior to their predecessors, their faster, cheaper, higher quality, more efficient, have greater storage capacities, and easier to use. Modern hard drives can store up to terabyte of data, have fast spindal speeds (7200 and 10K, and 15K RPM), have larger caches, and have faster drive interfaces such as SATA, and SCSI. Compared to other storage medium hard drives are one of the cheapest forms of storage.

The problem with modern hard drives is they're still mechanical, and no matter how fast they make them their still a bottleneck to the computer's performance. The magnetic medium in which they store data can have defects from the factory. The solution to this problem is using solid-state NAND flash memory, which is used by all USB flash drives.

Flash memory has several technical advantages when compared to traditional hard drives, but it also has a few disadvantages. The two major disadvantages of flash drives are the price per GB and storage capacity (when compared to mechanical hard drive), but these problems should be solved as it becomes more of a mass market device.

Below is a list of the technical advantages of Flash memory:
  • Its faster then any mechanical hard drive.
  • It can be formed into just about any shape or size.
  • There are no mechanical moving parts, so its no subject to shock.
  • It consumes less power, so the battery will last longer.
  • Storage capacities and access speed are constantly being improved.
Like all technologies it will have to evolve, and get better. The first generation of these drives are going to be expensive, and the capacities are going to be lower then traditional mechanical hard drives. Although overtime, they may one day surpass traditional hard drives in price and capacity.

The biggest market for these drives will be highend notebooks and workstations, because people who purchase these computers are willing to pay a premium price to have the latest technology. Although, eventually this technology will come down in price and start to show up in more traditional computers.

If you might be wondering how long it will be before you see the first flash based hard drives become available? The answer is you don't have to wait because they're already here. Below is a recent list of how flash based hard drives technologies are already being implemented:
  • SanDisk recently announced an all flash memory based hard drive.
  • Microsoft Windows Vista supports a hybrid hard drive technology known as ReadyDrive that uses a combination of traditional mechanical technologies, that is augmented flash memory.
  • Windows Vista includes support for a Microsoft technology to increase system performance called ReadyBoost. ReadyBoost uses a high-speed flash drive to read/write the Virtual Memory file.
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