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32 GB Flash Storage Drive Announced 381

Audrius writes to tell us TG Daily is reporting that Samsung has just announced a new 32 GB Flash storage device. The aim of this new solid state disk (SSD) drive is to completely replace the traditional hard drives in many laptops on the market. Some of the advantages offered are the 1.8" form factor, read speeds more than twice that of a normal hard drive, and the promise of 95% less power use.
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32 GB Flash Storage Drive Announced

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  • by jay2003 ( 668095 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:40PM (#14967373)
    I have the understanding that flash memory has a finite number of writes and that conventional filesystems with their update of metadata even on file read could essentially wear out a flash drive quickly if it was used as the main disk drive (as opposed to digital camera use or the like where access is comparably infrequent)
  • by SheeEttin ( 899897 ) <sheeettin@gmail.cEULERom minus math_god> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:41PM (#14967384) Homepage
    and the promise of 95% less power use

    In my experience, promised things usually fall flat on their face. Microsoft springs immediately to mind.

    And hopefully, Flash drives will replace the current magnetic platter ones. It's kind of odd for one of the most important devices in a computer to be the only moving one (And therefore the most susceptible to damage, especially in laptops).
  • I'd buy it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eightyford ( 893696 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:41PM (#14967386) Homepage
    I'd buy it. All that is needed is a wireless link to a network attatched file server. 32 GB holds a lot of non-multimedia files.
  • by jessecurry ( 820286 ) <jesse@jessecurry.net> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:42PM (#14967398) Homepage Journal
    That actually would be pretty nice, although I think that the price is still well above that of magnetic tape; maybe it would be a little more useful in a professional setting where the video could be pulled onto an editing station and then erased from the original flash media.
  • Re:Reliability? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by manifoldronin ( 827401 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:45PM (#14967420)
    Somehow I feel better seeing that my stuff is physically etched into a piece of paper... I guess I am just old... 8-)
  • This is big news. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zymano ( 581466 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:50PM (#14967480)
    Only price is the barrier now for the slllloooooooowest parts of a computer.
  • by Lispy ( 136512 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:02PM (#14967597) Homepage
    hm. Where I come from the future seems to be always 5 years in the future. ;-/
  • by Demon-Xanth ( 100910 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:02PM (#14967602)
    Ruggedized applications.

    Example: a mechanic using it to interface with a car's OBD port.
    He's not going to be writing to the HD a while lot, but you know damned well that it's not going to be treated lightly. 32GB is pleanty large to put and OS and the diagnostic/tuning apps on.

    Make that laptop low enough power to plug into a cigarette lighter and you got a nice tool.

    Another example: Some geologist needs to take data off of some geophones in the middle of places with names like "Desolation Wilderness". A laptop with a longer battery life and a HD that is going to survive being in a backpack is going to make things alot easier. Hiking out 10 miles to the middle of nowhere isn't something that you want to have to re-do because something broke or you ran out of battery life.

    I don't forsee anyone having one at the next LAN party. Though given the number of people with hilarious setups, it could happen. Afterall, who'd buy a 150GB HD that cost $350? (WD Raptor)
  • Re:Data Integrity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nbert ( 785663 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:14PM (#14967692) Homepage Journal
    Just make sure your filesystem rarely does or needs defragging, and does not log every read.
    On a flash drive it's not really important into how many segments a file is split or where they are located since there's no head spinning back and forth. So there's only a problem if your fs does defraging automatically, but it's quite easy to switch this off (at least for developers)
    Guess we have to reconsider some habits we've got accustomed to if traditional hds are replaced.
  • Fragmentation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:14PM (#14967698)

    Does fragmentation matter when there are no heads to move?

  • flash wear-out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by soundofthemoon ( 623369 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:27PM (#14967776)
    Flash memory cells will indeed wear out after some number of writes. This number is typically pretty high, on the order of a million writes. For most file operations that will probably be a higher MTBF than a magnetic disk with moving parts. Any significant problem would be with hot spots, like VM backing store and file system tables. However you can level wear by using cells in a something like a round-robin fashion. Remember that contiguity isn't an issue with flash because there is no seek time waiting for the head to move. There will probably be some challenges in balancing wear leveling against optimizing file system and VM performance, but in the long run flash drives will likely be much faster and more reliable than magnetic disks.
  • Re:Not relevant... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RicRoc ( 41406 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:30PM (#14967801) Homepage
    Perhaps someone could invent a file system that fits better with the new hardware. Filesystems today are designed for disc access -- tomorrow's hardware requires tomorrow's software. And I bet Reiser will be on top of that too! :-)
  • by TopSpin ( 753 ) * on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:34PM (#14967829) Journal
    The writing-to-disk software/hardware implements "load balancing."

    This will be further enhanced with small, battery backed RAM write cache integral to the device. BBWC is commonplace in storage. Flash storage (eventually it will occur to us that emulating disks isn't useful) will just scale it down to a few hundred kilobytes + tiny battery and some large percentage of writes direct to Flash will not occur. Between the write cache and write balancing you'll get many years of use, and failure predicted by a simple progress bar as the device approaches its write limit.

    This will, of course, take about a decade of hashing around with new "standards", including excellent proprietary solutions from Apple that won't go anywhere due to royalties, various bad reimplementations from everyone else that will complicate the market and slow adoption, etc.


  • by cliveholloway ( 132299 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:45PM (#14967910) Homepage Journal
    $300? I just bought one for $160 on eBay. I think it must be a while since you last looked at prices ;-)
  • by prozac79 ( 651102 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @07:06PM (#14968050)
    So, I see a lot of "But my hard drive stores 500 GB at a fraction of the price" comments. However, a flash drive can be yet another level of caching that sits between memory and the hard drive. The order of data access would then become L* cache, RAM, flash drive, hard drive. 32 GB is plenty of space to load the OS and run normal apps like a web browser, email client, etc. So, instead of writing a page/swap file out to the hard drive, one would be able to write it out to the flash drive instead. This would result in faster reads and not consume as much power (think laptops). Also, since it's persistent (unlike RAM) then you could have better computer boot times. Basically the mechanical hard drive becomes a type of nearline storage device that gets accessed later (and less often) in the pipeline. Does that make any sense? I often fell asleep in my OS class in college.
  • Re:Fragmentation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by temojen ( 678985 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @07:42PM (#14968266) Journal
    Data-Journalled filesystems (eg Reiser4) keep data in the journal too, not just metadata (those are metadata-journaled filesystems eg Ext3FS), so each block may have parts of several files, and each file may be spread across many more blocks than it would fill on it's own.

    You eventually have to consolidate the data of each file. Not nescesarily to sequential blocks, but so files are not sharing blocks.

    For flash memory, non-journalled filesystems like Ext2 (mounted -o noatime) may be best. Although that still tries to keep large chunks of files sequential. It might be better to have a non-journalled filesystem that does not pre-allocate inodes and data blocks, but just keeps a free block list and allocates from it in Least-Recently-Used order.
  • by MrLizardo ( 264289 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @07:50PM (#14968311) Journal
    The problem is that you want an apples-to-apples comparison of apples and oranges. The primary reason for hard drive failure is failure of the mechanical moving parts. The primary reason for flash drive failure is destroying a cell by writing to it too many times. Also, your statement about it being "trivially obvious that defragging any kind of drive reduces its lifespan" isn't quite as trivially obvious as you think. A hard drive will almost certainly suffer a mechanical failure long before it's gone through its allotment of spare blocks. On a flash drive that's written to a lot, bad blocks cropping up will probably be the first thing to go wrong.

    If you buy a flash drive, fill it with data, and then never write to it again, you can read all you want and it's minimum MTBF will be ~10 years (AFAIK, there's no reason they couldn't last longer, it's just that more testing needs to be done to prove that they will last longer).

    Another problem in comparing hard drives and flash drives is based on what kind of environment they're subjected to. Flash drives are usually portable devices that live in pockets, and are subject to static shocks and being plugged/unplugged on a regular basis. hard drives for the most part live in computers where they're protected from the elements and aren't often disconnected, especially not with the power on. In your case, I'd be willing to bet that your flash drives are dying from a failure in the onboard controller (rather than individual cells dying). It might be interesting to purchase a small USB hard drive and compare how long it lasts when subjected to the same environment as your flash drives.

    -Mr. Lizard
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @08:35PM (#14968584)
    Personally, I don't think he's a twat.

    Hell, I think you're a twat for having such an inane irritation such as that. Twat.

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