Solid state drive and memory-card maker SanDisk on Jan. 4 introduced a 32GB, 1.8-inch solid state drive that can be used as a drop-in replacement for a standard spinning-disk hard drive.
Initially aimed at OEMs for enterprise users as the first step toward mass consumer adoption, the SanDisk SSD primarily offers high durability to keep mobile PCs working in tough conditions, a company spokesperson said.
Previously, large capacity flash-based drives had been used mainly by the military, aerospace and telecom industries, which demanded high performance and reliability under challenging environmental conditions.
However, the declining cost of NAND flash memory has made SSD a viable and economically attractive alternative to existing technologies in a wider variety of applications, including mobile PCs aimed at enterprise and consumer users, a SanDisk spokesperson said.
The 32GB SSD is an important milestone, said SanDisk CEO Eli Harari.
"The SSD that we are announcing today represents the fifth generation of flash-based solid state drives developed by M-Systems, which we recently acquired," Harari said.
"Once we begin shipping the 32GB SSD for notebook PCs, we expect to see its increasing adoption in the coming years as we continue to reduce the cost of flash memory. When these SSD devices become more affordable, we expect that their superior features over rotating disk drives will create a new consumer category for our retail sales channels worldwide."
It is projected that inclusion of the SanDisk 32GB SSD in a notebook PC could increase the user price by around $600 in the first half of 2007, Harari said.
SanDisk already sells flash-based SSDs with capacities up to 350GB for military applications, Harari said, but cost is the main barrier to bring those to consumers at this time, he said.
This is not the first 32GB SSD of its kind available for OEMs.
"Samsung was the first one to [produce] the 32GB SSD and have it destined for the OEM market," analyst Krishna Chander of iSuppli in El Segundo, Calif., told eWEEK. "Others have also [built] SSDs in the past for military and industrial apps."
How long might this take to get to the general public?
"The general public would find it expensive in the early years," Chander said. "Give it another three to four years and the higher end of the consumers [general public] would be receptive. Some price premiums would continue for the foreseeable future."
Using NAND flash enhanced by SanDisks own TrueFFS flash management technology, SanDisk SSD delivers 2 million hours mean time between failures, the spokesperson said.
With no moving parts, it does not need to spin into action or seek files in the way that conventional hard disk drives do.
The new SSD achieves a sustained read rate of 62M bps and a random read rate of 7,000 IOPS (inputs/outputs per second) for a 512-byte transfer—more than 100 times faster than most hard disk drives, the spokesperson said.
Taking advantage of this performance, a laptop PC equipped with SanDisk SSD can boot Microsoft Windows Vista Enterprise in as little as 35 seconds, the spokesperson said. It also can achieve an average file access rate of 0.12 milliseconds, compared with 55 seconds and 19 milliseconds, respectively, for a laptop PC with a hard disk drive, the spokesperson said.
The new SSD features a low power consumption rate compared to the hard disk drive: 0.4 watt during active operation versus 1.0 watt.
"There has been a huge increase in demand for NAND flash memory over the past few years from consumer devices such as digital cameras, MP3 players and mobile phones," said Robert Gray, analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass.
"There are dramatically higher bit capacities and lower prices, so the technology is now well positioned to be the foundation for new generations of potentially disruptive solid state drives. Enterprise mobile PC users will find the high performance and low power consumption especially attractive," he added.
The new SSD is now available for OEMs. It is the first in a range of products that SanDisk will be offering to bring flash to the mainstream mobile PC market, the spokesperson said.