SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster

Joe Stanganelli, Founder and Principal, Beacon Hill Law | 2/23/2012 | 15 comments

Joe Stanganelli
Do you like Flash-based solid state drives? Get your fill now, because in 2025 they may be more fit for the junkpile than for your datacenter.

OK, that may be a bit of a contextless exaggeration, but according to a semi-controversial research paper entitled, "The Bleak Future of NAND Flash Memory," delivered at the 2012 Usenix Conference on File and Storage Technologies earlier this month, given the rate at which SSDs are increasing in density, their quality of performance will fall to the point at which they are potentially less cost-effective than standard HDDs after 2024.

Two of the researchers, Laura M. Grupp and Steven Swanson (who presented a paper a year ago on SSD data remanence), are a graduate student and a professor, respectively, at the University of California, San Diego. A third, John D. Davis, works for Microsoft.

In empirical studies of 45 flash chips, ranging in sizes from 72nm to 25nm, from 6 different manufacturers, the researchers identified a major flaw in NAND-based SSDs -- that as SSD density increases, SSD performance and lifetime dramatically decrease. Latency and bit error rates will skyrocket. Bandwidth, throughput, energy efficiency, and program/erase endurance will plummet.

Industry analysts widely agree that by 2024, NAND flash cells will be only 6.5nm in size. Based on their empirical data, the researchers have predicted that 2024 will represent a crux in NAND-based SSD technology. This is because the way multi-level cell (MLC) and triple-level cell (TLC) Flash chips apply high voltages to move electrons around strains the insulator (known as the "gate oxide") such that eventually, the chip is no longer able to store a charge at all -- which can lead to electron leaks and data errors. The problem is compounded by the thinner cell walls and narrower distributions required as chips get both smaller and denser.

"It's not going to be viable to go past 6.5nm," said Grupp at the conference. "2024 is the end."

It's not all doom and gloom; SSDs will technically continue to offer superior results over HDDs in some areas. For instance, SSDs will still substantially outperform HDDs on throughput (even with halved input/output rates), according to the paper, with the slowest SSD configuration considered breaking 32,000 IOPS -- compared to HDD technology topping out at 200 IOPS.

Nonetheless, the outperformance in some areas simply might not be cost-efficient in a dozen years. The researchers write:

    With current trends, our SSDs could be up to 34x larger, but the latency will be 1.7x worse for reads and 2.6x worse for writes. This will reduce the write latency advantage that SSDs offer relative to disk from 8.3x (vs. a 7 ms disk access) to just 3.2x. Depending on the application, this reduced improvement may not justify the higher cost of SSDs.
Don't go writing SSD technology's obituary yet, though. Stephen Gallagher, a software engineer and technology blogger, predicts that some enterprise datacenters may increasingly mitigate the risks and costs of SSD adoption through limited deployment. "I think we'll see a lot of hybrid setups that involve using SSDs being set up as caching drives for much larger traditional hard drives," Gallagher told Enterprise Efficiency. "This way you gain the performance benefits of an SSD for whichever subset of your data is being used 'right now,' while retaining the larger portion of your data on more traditional platter drives and... tape backups."

In any case, as things tend to do in these cases, something better is bound to come along. Robin Harris of ZDNet predicts that Resistive RAM (a.k.a. "ReRAM") "looks to be a good bet" to replace the Flash-based technology of current SSDs in computers within the next 10 years. Other suitable technologies could also step into the picture in the meantime.

The cost efficiency of NAND Flash, however, appears to have a finite lifespan. Plan accordingly.

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MDMConsult   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   6/2/2013 8:34:18 AM
Re: SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster
Yes, organizations today have to be prepared to save costs with this in solving capacity challenges with SSD. Software that provides the right data management and automations. Then the organizations are still able to benefit from the speed of Flash and SSDs in a cost effective manner.
qo   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   4/12/2012 2:04:55 AM
Re: SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster
Forget SSDs when thinking strategically vs tactically.  On strategic time scales, Earth is not only trending toward the dumpster, but will be IN the dumpster in a few billion years; and with it, ReRAM, SuperTopRAM and IsMostExcellentQuantumSchrodingersCatRAM.  Everything's relative, no?
Madbiker   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   4/10/2012 2:31:22 PM
Re: a dozen years is a long time in computing
Your Commodore was very, very, very far from being 64 bit, it had 64k, as in kilobytes, of memory... It was however, 8 bit ...

Just for a simple non-sense breakdown:



256k+256K=512K,  the half of a megabyte mark wheww

My 1st real machine was a 486DX33 w/ 1MB of RAM and a 512k Trident VGA adapter oh and I 130MB hard drive,   UBER circa 1992 or '93
batye   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   3/2/2012 6:23:12 AM
Re: Eye Opening
only time will tell

but technology jumping in quantum leaps this day's

if I live to see 2025 I wounder would we need hard drives at all...

maybe basic implant could unlock out brain for storage like in Johnny Mnemonic

few years ago I did heard about some hush hush research using brain cells for storage and before in 2001 some researchers taking about bio cpu....

with SSD drives same as with Flash memory or even regular old school plater hard drives - for my clients with real sensative data (end of life) I do recomend physical destruction of the unit...


kstaron   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   2/28/2012 9:35:53 AM
a dozen years is a long time in computing
I can't help but think that 12 years is approximately a geologic age when refering to computer technology. From the mid 1980's where I had a 64 bit commodore computing system that used cartridges, to the late 1990's where the internet truly blossomed. Somehow, I think another 12 years will mean something completely different.
DBK   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   2/24/2012 8:04:29 PM
Re: Make sure it's the recycling dumpster
@LuFu very true and it they make it to 2025 I would say that was a good long run.  Be happy and proud
LuFu   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   2/24/2012 1:27:10 PM
Make sure it's the recycling dumpster
Having worked many years in the data storage industry flogging everything from st-506 hdds, umpteen tape backup flavors, and be-all-end-all MO drives; the most important thing I learned was that no storage technology goes on ad infinitum. That, and there's always a replacement solution.
Joe Stanganelli   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   2/24/2012 10:03:03 AM
Re: how should that change spending?
That's true too, Zaius, and a relevant consideration for the enterprise as well.  Indeed, as Curtis Franklin and Andrew Froehlich have previously blogged, the reduced heat from SSDs can reduce your total cost of ownership dramatically even in the datacenter.
Zaius   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   2/24/2012 7:05:29 AM
Re: how should that change spending?
As I understand it, there is more than one reason to want an SSD outsidfe the datacenter: heat. I am looking to replace my laptop drive to try and give it a little longer life, since I actually like it and it ruins too hot.
Joe Stanganelli   SSDs Might Be Trending Toward the Dumpster   2/23/2012 5:49:56 PM
Re: how should that change spending?
Personally, I take other issue with SSDs... the expense, plus the difficulty of wiping them clean when you're done with them (although the paper by Grupp and Swanson from a year ago, linked to in this article, purports to detail a way to accomplish this successfully).  Of course, they definitely have their benefits, too, in terms of efficiency (for now).

That said, look: any hard drives you buy now are probably going to be junk anyway in 12 years, so these findings should not affect immediate purchasing decisions -- but they almost certainly should impact long-range datacenter and IT planning decisions.
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