Good news for the long march towards instant on computing

One of the most irritating things about PCs, especially those running on Windows, is the long time it takes to fire them up, launch applications and data, and shut down. There is a solution though.. 

That solution is called a solid state disk (SSD). We’ve written before about these, but here are the advantages:

  1. SSD’s have no moving parts (their chips, flash memory), therefore they are much more robust in terms of ability to withstand abuse. Present day hard disks are spinning disks with a head dangerously close to the disks, a set-up which is inherently vulnerable
  2. SSD’s are also more durable, they last longer than hard disks, which is good for data protection
  3. SSD’s, because they have no moving parts, use less energy which is good for laptops and (especially) for server farms (see here for an example) and, as a consequence, for the environment
  4. Data moves much faster, especially on the latest disks (and the improvement curve is very steep at the moment because this sector is relatively new)

The disadvantage is that, currently, SSD’s are still much more expensive compared to hard disks. But Moore’s Law, combined with mass adoptation, will work wonders here. We expect that steep price gap to be closing rapidly over the next coming years.

One example is the following:

Sandisk speeds up SSD
FFS… that’s fast!
By Stewart Meagher: Thursday, 06 November 2008, 2:33 PM

  • DISK DABBLER Sandisk has announced that it can make Solid State Drives work up to 100 times faster than is currently possible.
  • The company’s new Flash File System (FFS… yes we know… stop sniggering at the back there) will ship with devices in early 2009.
  • Extreme FFS operates on a page-based algorithm, which, according to Sandisk’s boffins, means there is no fixed coupling between the physical and logical location of data. When a sector of data is written, the SSD puts it where it is most convenient and efficient. The result is an improvement in random write performance – theoretically by up to 100 times – as well as in overall endurance.
  • The system also learns user patterns and, over time, will know where to park frequently-used chunks of data. µ

Another disadvantage is that Windows operating system do not take advantage of the full speed of SSD’s, but this is about to change:

Microsoft adds SSD to the Windows 7 recipe
Solidly stating its plans
By Sylvie Barak: Wednesday, 05 November 2008, 3:11 PM

  • MICROSOFT IS LOOKING to implement a change people can believe in when it comes to the way Solid State Drives (SSDs) work with Windows software, and will be discussing how at its upcoming Windows Hardware Engineering Conference this week.
  • The performance of SSDs under The Vole’s Windows XP and Vista operating systems has been shabby to say the least but the Redmond Giant plans to turn the tables when Windows 7 hits the market.
  • Mighty-Soft plans to use its WinHEC2008, which kicks off on Wednesday, to discuss “Windows 7 Enhancements for Solid-State Drives,” amongst other things. In the abstract for the session, the Vole notes “PC systems that have solid-state drives are shipping in increasing volumes” and adds it plans on having “Windows enhancements that take advantage of the latest updates to standardized command sets, such as ATA.”
  • Microsoft will also apparently devote time to talking about file system optimisations, the future of SSDs and their role in Windows. The Vole will purportedly also be discussing issues surrounding the lifetime of SSDs used in netbooks and ways to develop flash-based netbooks using Windows 7.
  • Analysts seem to agree that Microsoft weighing in on the issue is an important step, with Jim Handy, an analyst at Objective Analysis telling CNET, “It is pretty widely held that SSDs are unlikely to meet with much acceptance until Windows undergoes significant tuning to take advantage of all the speed that SSDs have to offer”.
  • Gregory Wong of Forward Insights has high hopes for Windows 7, noting it “will be able to identify a SSD uniquely. Certain ATA commands will improve the speed that solid state drives write to disk”.
  • Let’s hope Wong is right about that. µ

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