After the recent CES show more and more pundits and analysts are predicting that 2008 will be a big year for solid state of flash drives.
And it’s hard to argue with these predictions. Just look at some of the biggest products announced or released in the last few months. Both the OLPC’s XO laptop and Asus’ Eee PC laptop forgo traditional hard-disk technologies for much faster solid state drives. And of course it goes without saying that nearly all of the advancements in Mp3 players, cameras and smart phones rely heavily on the continued growth and advancement of flash-drive technology. Adding to this hype are the continuing rumors that Apple will announce a new laptop that uses solid state drives.
So what is driving all this growth and excitement about flash drives? Well, there’s the constant increases in the size of solid state drives, with many predicting that we’ll have flash drives in the hundreds of gigabytes by the end of the year. And as typically happens in most technology markets, as the sizes and prices increase on the high end, the lower end and smaller flash technologies become more affordable (anyone who has recently bought new 2 gigabyte flash cards for their phone or camera can attest to this).
But what will be the effect of all of these solid state drives on the systems and devices that we use to drive our businesses?
Well, for one, this whole new category of super cheap, small and fast notebooks is being made possible by the advancements in solid state drives. By using relatively small 4 to 8 gigabyte drives, these systems are able to control costs, provide greater speed and have higher disk reliability than a traditional magnetic hard disk.
But I think we are just beginning to scratch the surface of how these newer solid state drives will affect future systems and devices.
For one, expect to start seeing much larger solid state drives pop up in higher end and more expensive laptops and systems. And, just as handheld devices have leveraged flash drives, expect to see them also start to appear in more of the appliances used in the server room, making these systems potentially more robust and feature rich.
One area that I’m looking forward to is systems that use a hybrid approach to disk storage. I can easily see a system that uses a three-tier approach to system storage and memory to provide the highest levels of performance, reliability and storage capacity.
So, for example, the system would use standard system memory in the traditional mode, then have a large solid state drive where the operating system and the applications are installed. And then the system could have a very large magnetic disk that deals with file and media storage.
Even this just barely scratches the surface for the potential uses that we’ll see for solid state drives in the next year. There are whole other areas, such as enterprise storage infrastructures, that could see big changes as this technology continues to evolve.
For now we’ll just have to wait and see what the vendors come up with. But maybe in the near future when you say your laptop is flashy, it will mean a lot more than just the bright red paintjob.