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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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  • Digital Camcorders (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow.wrought@g ... om minus painter> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:39PM (#14967357) Homepage Journal
    I could see this having a pretty big impact on digital video cameras, too. No moving parts to break while you're running around with a handheld. Very cool!
    • 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.
      • Yes, but, don't 'flash drives' suffer from a more limited number of times you can read/write to them than a regular HD?

        That wouldn't be too good for a camera or a laptop...

        • Supposedly... From what i've heard, the actual limit is so high that it might as well be the same as a reg. HD... They "rate" them for a certain amount mainly for warranty purposes and they can (again: supposedly) do way beyond that.

          Anyone with "yes or no" power around?
          • I am not sure about hard drives but with flash, each bit has a limited # of times it can be read/written. So if you have an ext2 file system that writes the access time back to the disk every time the file is read, then there will be certain a certain set of bits that will be disproportionately accessed and thus would be the first to fail. I had Zaurus Linux handheld computer and when I made sure to add the noatime option when mounting the partitions. But of course, if the limit can be fairly high, then it
          • Yes they are limited.
            The mean cycle count is 150K+ on the devices I am most experienced with though the warrenty is 100K cycles.
        • 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.
          • Wrong about the cycle count, and the wear leveling.
            Cycle count is 100-500K for nand and nor flash.
            wear leveling is already built in to all Flash.
            the leveling is accomplished on a block level. If you want to kill a flash drive compute the block size and write enough data to fill n-1 blocks then continuously update a small file with new data.
            you'll burn away that last block in a few weeks to a month.
            • Re:flash wear-out (Score:5, Informative)

              by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:55PM (#14967991) Journal
              If you want to kill a flash drive compute the block size and write enough data to fill n-1 blocks then continuously update a small file with new data. you'll burn away that last block in a few weeks to a month

              Actually, this won't work. The wear levelling doesn't know if a block is 'full' or not, so it will just switch the contents of a pair of blocks. Your frequently-written file will move all over the flash chip(s), and so will your static files.

        • by HardCase ( 14757 )
          Yes, but, don't 'flash drives' suffer from a more limited number of times you can read/write to them than a regular HD?

          The typical number tossed around for NAND erase cycles is 100,000. You can read as often as you like, but to write data, you have to erase a block of data first, 132KB on the devices that I design with.

          Of course, those are the data sheet numbers - that is what the manufacturer guarantees. Reality is usually quite a bit better. And it wouldn't surprise me if Samsung and others had some mu
    • I could see this having a pretty big impact on digital video cameras, too. No moving parts to break while you're running around with a handheld. Very cool!

      Definitely. I always thought those dvdburner camcorders were a bad idea.
    • It will be nice to have the additional capacity on GPS devices and tablets used for aircraft navigation. Traditional HD's have trouble above 12,000 feet because the head's "wings" don't produce enough lift at lower pressure.

      My question is how many write operations is it rated for? Others list 300,000 -- is that a lot or a little?
  • Interesting .... (Score:5, Informative)

    by GoodOmens ( 904827 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:39PM (#14967363) Homepage
    This will only work if they can get the prices of flash down.
    $50.00~70.00 per gb is still nothing in comparison to $0.40~$0.80 you can get on hard drives.
    • Re:Interesting .... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Seagate 8 GB CompactFlash Photo HD $149.99 shipped free, Mar 20 has the new Seagate 8GB CompactFlash Photo HD ST68022C-RK for a low $149.99. No rebates. Free shipping. Tax in KS, ND, WA.

      4GB $74.09 shipped free.


      $18.5 / GB -- and who here doesn't remember when a 100MB hard drive was $300+?
      • Re:Interesting .... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by GoodOmens ( 904827 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:50PM (#14967481) Homepage
        Ehh so my math is slightly off. Its still roughly 37x the cost of a hard drive.

        Anyways you are right though. I can see solid state drives taking over hard drives in the future. The less moving parts the better.

        All I was trying to point out was its to early now for widespread adoption.

    • by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:50PM (#14967477)
      Oh, sure, but when you consider the power savings mentioned in the summary, those prices really start to pale! It costs me nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year to charge my Dell Inspiron 9100, with an old fashioned hard drive.
      • Re:Interesting .... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hadlock ( 143607 )
        I know you're kidding, but I'm excited about keeping my rapidly aging 2001 powerbook on the road by upgrading it's 20gb traditional hard drive with a 32gb flash drive in a year's time. When the battery was new, I could get 5 hours of web surfing time in with the HD spun down. I suspect a flash drive would use even less energy than a hard drive in idle mode.

        The other thing people haven't mentioned, is that many laptops use 4200 or 5400rpm drives to conserve power, which often become the limiting fact
      • I know some people modded that funny, but I have an Inspiron 9100 also, and he's not joking. Nice laptop, but it'll suck faster than a cheap hooker.
    • Hard-drive prices aren't falling nearly as fast as they were a few years ago.

      The price of flash, on the other hand, is in a total free-fall. We're paying a lot less than $50/gb right now. 10 years ago we were paying close to $50/mb.

      You also have the issue that laptop drives tend to be pretty small due to space and heat restrictions. The biggest laptop HD I've seen is 120gb, and drives that big are rare and expensive. If you could get a speedy solid-state 60gb drive for about $300, the market for it would
    • It isn't all about money. Flash has advantages over hard drives, and some people will likely pay for those advantages. (Just look at the number of iPod Nanos that sell.) I suspect a fair number of people would buy a laptop with flash memory despite the premium as it'd be lighter and have much better battery life.
  • Data Integrity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jessecurry ( 820286 ) <> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:40PM (#14967365) Homepage Journal
    Will this still be useful for critical applications? What's the current failure rate of flash memory?
    • I'm far from an expert, but the failure rate for modern flash is much much better than for hard disks. Something like millions of write operations per bit before failure.

      And correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't lots of enterprise-class servers, routers, switches, etc. booted from PC-card style flash drives?
    • Re:Data Integrity (Score:5, Informative)

      by temojen ( 678985 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:51PM (#14967492) Journal
      Flash memory that works has a much longer MTBF than hard drives, but each cell fails at approximately 10000 writes. HDDs fail randomly, Flash fails predictably, so this can be a good thing. Just make sure your filesystem rarely does or needs defragging, and does not log every read.
      • Defragging isn't relevant for a flash memory based device... you can have data spread all over the place, and it shouldn't affect your read/write speed like it does on a hard drive. The physical seek time of the head is what causes fragmentation on a hard drive to be a problem. No head, no problem.

        • Re:Not relevant... (Score:3, Informative)

          by temojen ( 678985 )
          Some filesystems (ie Reiser4) move or consolidate files (aka "defrag") in the background , and don't know what kind of block device they're on. You'd want to tell it not to do bother doing that then. Except the kernel/ATA interface still reads and writes by the block, but a block in some filesystems (Reiser4) may contain parts of several files, so you'd want to eventually consolidate files so you don't have to read/write a whole lot of blocks to access a single file which might be smaller than a block.

          A w
          • Re:Not relevant... (Score:2, Insightful)

            by RicRoc ( 41406 )
            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! :-)
      • 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?

        • On Data-Journaled filesystems, yes.
      • "Defragging" is a hard drive concept. It makes no sense with a random access storage system.
      • I can't figure out what you're claiming. Are you saying that flash has a longer MTBF as long as you don't defrag it. You appear to be saying that - in which case you're suggesting it has a worse MTBF than hard drives.
    • I'd be more worried about bits getting "stuck" that reveal critical data that can no longer be securely erased.
  • Reliability? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smoor ( 961352 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:40PM (#14967366)
    It seems like a nice way to go (solid state). I wonder what the life of a unit like this would be. Flash drives might be droppable, but what else can kill them? Somehow I feel better imagining that my stuff is magnetically etched into a platter... I guess I'm just old...
    • Re:Reliability? (Score:2, Insightful)

      Somehow I feel better seeing that my stuff is physically etched into a piece of paper... I guess I am just old... 8-)
    • If you were using this with the GDrive (Google's online unlimited storage thingy), maybe reliability is not so important because you could have backups made in real time to the GDrive. Also, you could do some sort of caching as well. Imagine a 32 gB local cache and storing the rest of your data on the network so that you can really have super fast unlimited memory capacity.
  • 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 GoodOmens ( 904827 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:44PM (#14967416) Homepage
      Hard drives also have the same limitation (You can only change the poll of a bit on the hard drive a certain amout of times). Its just you will never reach it before the mechanics of the drive fail.

      Its just a matter of time for flash.

    • by LehiNephi ( 695428 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:51PM (#14967487) Journal
      The current number-of-writes for flash is somewhere in the 100,000-1,000,000 write cycle range. That's a lot of writes. Also, keep in mind that all flash chip controllers include logic that performs "write-leveling". This means that a specific chunk of data will 'jump' from one area of the memory to another in order to prevent one area from being worn out. Add to that the fact that flash chips contain some extra capacity to compensate for bad blocks.

      With a careful configuration of Windows (no page file, no IE cache, no temporary files, use a RAM disk), this is certainly viable. In the absense of music/movie collections and monster games, even the 32GB size isn't that restrictive.
      • I could certainly imagine using this on a laptop especially. What if you could make a laptop with this as the main drive and a iPod sized hard drive as a secondary drive that you put "media" (movies, music, etc.) on?
      • With a careful configuration of Windows (no page file, no IE cache, no temporary files, use a RAM disk), this is certainly viable. In the absense of music/movie collections and monster games, even the 32GB size isn't that restrictive.
        Something like this will most likly be used to store the OS and main programs essentially being a read only drive, while a second drive can be used to store data and temporary files. I really don't see the advantage here unless the flash memory is much faster though from my exp
    • by kebes ( 861706 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:55PM (#14967526) Journal
      This is certainly a valid worry. As I understand it, however, modern flash memories have more or less dealt with this problem, because:
      (1) The number of rewrites is now quite large (hundreds of thousands?)
      (2) The writing-to-disk software/hardware implements "load balancing." If you rewrite the same file 1000 times, it won't use the same exact block on the flash disk for each of those writes. Instead it will move from block to block with various writes/deletes/modify actions. This, coupled with some "slack" (the actual disk size is a little bit bigger than the "useable" disk size) allows for the wear to be distributed over the whole device.
      (3) The system uses conventional error-correction and flagging of bad blocks.

      As another poster pointed out, magnetic hard disks also have a limited number of rewrite cycles. But in practical terms we usually don't reach this limit. For critical applications I imagine you'd use a RAID of flash disks just like a RAID of magnetic drives.
      • 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
      • For critical applications I imagine you'd use a RAID of flash disks just like a RAID of magnetic drives.
        Yeah, I wonder... stick them all in a Mirror RAID and you'll be writing to each of them at the same rate, using up their rewrite cycles simultaneously. And when the Grim Writer comes, it will come for the entire array, not just one card. Granted, they won't fail at exactly the same write, but it's gonna be a close call - too close?
      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @07:12PM (#14968084) Journal
        For critical applications I imagine you'd use a RAID of flash disks just like a RAID of magnetic drives.

        The nice thing about Flash is that after a cell has failed, it just becomes read-only. You can get around this quite easily in the OS by just marking the failed block as bad in your inode list. Over time, your flash drive will shrink in capacity. When it gets too small, you just copy it over to a new one and repeat the process.

  • 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.
  • a 128 GB at an affordable price. I'm already near capacity on my 80 GB HD as it is...
  • Warning... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:42PM (#14967393)
    These flash drives still have very low rotational speeds. I'd wait a few years until they get them spinning a little faster.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, they are working on that: the rotational speed on these drives is up to twice that of older flash drives, using established technology. Going forward, we can expect additional improvements according to Moore's law: every 18 months, the speed can be expected to double.
  • Old news (Score:2, Funny)

    by VlartBlart ( 948166 )
    I had one of these years ago.

    Ohhh, G i g a b y t e s - thougt it said megaby...
  • ...but still too expensive for the common user. $750-1000 for 32 GB...I think not. And while the performance numbers they quoted are better than the average laptop sized HDD and about on-par with desktop dized ones, 57/32 MB/s still isn't even saturating the bandwidth of modern hard disk interfaces.

    When are we going to see flash type drives that are cheap AND super fast? After all, secondary storage is perhaps the only remaining perfomance bottleneck in computers these days (well, that and crappy ISPs that
  • by Dwedit ( 232252 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:47PM (#14967444) Homepage
    During heavy disk read activity, the HD is only uses 15% of all the power. (source []) The real key to decreasing laptop power consumption is dimming the screen, which can reduce power consumption percentage from 26% down to 7%.
  • by Furp ( 935063 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:47PM (#14967449)
    This technology has already been put to use in a commercial environment, and has given outstanding performance from what I've seen. The game EVE Online [] has already done this with their clustered servers and greatly reduced the lag. Keep in mind that this is a game where there is only a single universe (No shards or other servers) and they quite often push over 20,000 simultaneously logged in accounts at a time.

    When placed in the right environment, this technology just screams. A good example would be for huge database operations that have hundreds if not thousands of concurrent accesses. The databases that maintain the pay information for the US Military come to mind easily.
    • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:27PM (#14967780) Homepage Journal
      I very much doubt they use flash based SSD's for performance enhancements.

      Most large scale systems that use SSD's to increase DB performance do so using DRAM (mainly) or SRAM based units with battery backup, RAM based RAID and controllers that dump the data to disk either on an ongoing basis or in the case of a power failure (using battery power to keep things up at least long enough to write a consistent snapshot to disk).

      The units are ridiculously expensive, but far faster than anything you'd manage to get with flash or harddisks (typically they're maxing out the controller/bus you connect to them via).

  • by ShyGuy91284 ( 701108 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:49PM (#14967473)
    It estimated to cost$700 - $1000. While this may seem like a lot, for something new, this isn't. I remember reading how much a hardrive would have cost for an old IIGS that had maybe 8 disks worth of storage space I think. And although expensive, $700 isn't expensive enough to be out of the reach for consumers. Just expensive enough to be out of the reach for most sane typical consumers.
  • and with the speed increase not see a difference. I have wanted this since my first 286.
  • 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 chrysrobyn ( 106763 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:54PM (#14967516)

    I'm trying to close on buying a house! And Samsung, Apple's iPod Nano flash supplier comes out with this?

    APPLE, please PLEASE do not come out with an Intel Mac portable featuring a flash drive (with its tasty power consumption, lower power and low low low seek times) after I clean out my savings! I would have been exceptionally happy to have a PowerPC flash computer a year ago or 6 months ago, or even maybe 3 months ago, but I'm cleaning out my savings here for the part of a house that the bank won't cover!

    Wait 6-12 months for a flash based portable and I'll forgive you for going to Intel.

  • Star Trek (Score:5, Funny)

    by orty78 ( 707288 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @05:58PM (#14967556)
    I'm reminded of Star Trek. We all know that Star Trek is the way of the future. Talk about beating a dead horse. But this story made me think back on the episode where Cmdr. Data is swapping all of those USB flash drives into a different order to overcome some technical problem. USB and Flash memory are therefor, conclusively, here to stay for good.
    • Re:Star Trek (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Akaihiryuu ( 786040 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @07:15PM (#14968105)
      The isolinear chips are actually an optical storage format. I guess you could kind of compare them to CD-RW, only they are a LOT faster, and they also store their data in 3 dimensions instead of 2. Also, a lot less effort has to be made in ST computers to make them use an optical format, because the computers themselves are optical, not electronic. Crystals instead of silicon chips, fiber optics instead of semiconductors and connecting wires. They also do some funky stuff like putting a warp field around the computer so that the fiber optics can exceed the speed of light. Actually, Star Trek tech optical tech is kind of similar to Ancient and Goa'uld (since the Goa'uld scavenged Ancient tech to come up with their stuff) tech in Stargate.
    • by iibagod ( 887140 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @12:32AM (#14969605)
      See, this is why you NEVER, EVER, post anything remotely funny about Star Trek. Let's see....3 comments pointing out that you're wrong, dead wrong, those were ISOLINEAR chips, dumbass....and 1 comment about how the robot gets laid.
      Something about ST just seems to bring out the worst part of geekdom.

      Now all the TREKKIES are going to mod me down because I called Data a ROBOT when he's clearly an ANDROID. Karmic Suicide.

      disclaimer: I'm currently watching the entire run of ENT start to finish. But I actually get away from the screen .....for HOURS at a time, even!
  • How about a "FlashBelt" which can take 10+ flash chips, a flat rechargeable battery, and Bluetooth for storage accessible by mobile phones and visited terminals? $100 32GB chips would be great, but even just forcing down the price of 10GB chips below $10 would make personal storage more "intimate".
  • 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)
  • Given the 10k-100k endurance of the flash memory, even the act of booting up a machine with a main flash drive, or starting an application on it, is going to eat endurance cycles.

    Worse if you runs Windows, where you can't even scratch yourself without causing a write to the registry. You'll find your 32GB drive shrinking over the months towards zilch.

    Guess it's probably ok for portable use, where mechanical drives have a risk of sudden failure. And one can always buy a new flash drive and copy over the data
  • by failedlogic ( 627314 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @06:26PM (#14967769)
    I would think the one advantage that Flash drives have over HDds is they're more environmentally friendly (if you don't count the huge packaging they're packed in at retail).

    They are small and lighters and take less space (doesn't use as much fuel to ship), don't produce much heat, use less electricity, and I think there's probably less wasteful throwing out a little stick when its bad than an HDD.

  • 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.
  • Shock and vibration (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Intron ( 870560 ) on Tuesday March 21, 2006 @07:16PM (#14968121)
    The article didn't mention shock and vibration resistance, but the flash is likely to be far more rugged than a rotating drive. Might have better temperature specs, too. Once we get flexible flat screen displays, I'll be able to drop my laptop without having a heart attack.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal