Stakeholders Talk Future of SSDs at VLAB Roundtable

The argument about hard disk drives versus solid-state drives has been going on for a long time and will continue for years to come. There are those who are convinced that SSDs will indeed outnumber hard drives in the IT business at some point in our lifetimes. Data storage experts consider the question at a Stanford roundtable.

STANFORD, Calif.-If you ask some of the most knowledgeable people in the solid-state drive business, you'll find out that SSDs-though becoming increasingly popular-aren't in a position take over from hard drives any time soon.
Of course, this argument has been going on for a long time and will continue for years to come. Many people, however, are convinced that SSDs will indeed outnumber hard drives in the IT business at some point in our lifetimes.
"Five years from now? No. Ten years from now? I'd say, 'Not really.' Thirty years from now-well, things may be quite different by then," venture capitalist Mike Speiser of Sutter Hill Ventures told a capacity audience during a roundtable discussion Nov. 17 at Stanford University.
The event, which attracted several hundred people to a lecture hall in the Graduate School of Business, was sponsored by the MIT/Stanford VLAB (Venture Lab), the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum.
Moderated by industry analyst Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates, the panel included Speiser, former Seagate CEO Bill Watkins, Fusion-io CTO and founder David Flynn, Pliant Technology CEO Mike Chenery, and Yahoo CTO Sam Pullara.
Most of the panelists agreed with Speiser that the future appears to belong to SSDs, as long as prices continue to come down to a point that makes it feasible for enterprises to invest in them.
Panelists also generally agreed that the lack of mechanical parts, improved latency, lower power requirements and improvements in quality make it a given that SSDs will someday run the IT world as we know it.
Since most of the conversation involved conjecture about the future of SSDs versus hard drives, eWEEK simply collected some of the more memorable quotes from panelists.
Watkins: "I'm having a hard time believing that people are going to want to carry 500GB hard drives around with them five years from now. With cloud storage and better bandwidth coming, you're going to carry 100GB or 200GB in a [handheld] device and talk to home service storage, or to clouds, wherever that storage will be. But before we know it, 1TB notebooks will be coming out. Do we really need them?"
Coughlin: "I want a terabyte notebook."
Pullara: "Google kind of set the bar for online storage early on. They had 1GB, then 2GB ... then they said, 'Um, how about just unlimited? Can you beat that?' So we have at least two applications [Yahoo mail, Flickr] that offer consumers unlimited storage. And they are heavily, heavily dependent upon tiered storage."
Watkins: "Nobody gives a crap what's inside the computer. There's plenty of room for both hard drives and SSDs in the big world."
Chenery, who spent 12 years as vice president of HDD advanced engineering at Fujitsu Computer Products of America and tried to get the company to move into SSDs, on why he left "a perfectly good hard drive company" [Coughlin's words] to start Pliant: "Because nobody would listen to me. So I went home for a while, and it was the same thing there."
VLAB describes itself as a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the growth and success of high-tech entrepreneurial ventures by connecting ideas, technology and people.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...