2012 is shaping up to be the year of the SSD. Intel expects somewhere between 13 and 18 million SSDs to be shipped this calendar year, and a big part of the reason is reliability.
With mechanical hard drives the least reliable component found in today’s PCs, many large companies are realising that the high initial cost of SSD ownership is nothing compared to the total cost of ownership of a crash-tastic mechanical drive. According to Troy Winslow, Director of Product Marketing at Intel’s SSD division, “Today’s mechanical drives are the number one failing component in today’s PCs, up to ten times more often than an SSD. It’s a big reason for many companies to switch over, and is also why hybrid drives won’t be so popular – they don’t fix that problem.”
To capitalise on these soaring demands, Intel is going into mass production of new 20nm NAND flash modules with Micron. A single fingertip-sized package can store a massive 1 terabit of data, and will lead to much more affordable SSD storage. Many technology forecasters expect SSD memory to hit $1 per gigabyte this year, a saving of around 40% when compared to 2011’s most affordable SSDs. As seen in the new Intel 510 drives, according to Winslow Intel will also continue to mix up its use of controllers, stating, “I’m not telling you which controllers we’re using in 2012, but we will be using Intel as well as the best controllers on the market.” Expect to see SandForce retaining its sizeable lead over the SSD controller market given its huge dominance in 2011.
The shrinking NAND size will also lead to much higher SSD capacities. OCZ’s Technical Marketing Specialist Johnny Preston revealed that, “The 1TB 2.5in form factor will actually come out in 2012 at retail shops.” Don’t expect it to be anywhere near as affordable as mechanical storage; given the $1 per gigabyte estimate this will be a thousand dollar drive, if not more.
SATA 3 is here to stay, at least for the next couple of years. According to Kingston, “Kingston will focus on the SATA 3 interface SSD more in 2012”, a sentiment that was echoed by the folks at both Intel and OCZ. They also confirmed that synchronous memory should start to reach the mainstream segment as prices continue to drop, opening up faster SSD performance to a wider audience.
Meanwhile, in the land of mechanical drives we can expect to see capacity continue to grow at a staggering rate. Hitachi only recently shipped the world’s first 4TB hard drive, but it’s still based on the 1TB platters seen on today’s 3TB drives, adding another platter to increase capacity. With the Thailand floods' impact on mechanical drive shortages through 2011, it’s going to take quite some time for the industry to recover. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, the CEO of Seagate Technology, Stephen Luczo, stated that it will "take a lot longer than people are assuming, until the end of 2012 at least.” With mechanical drives already under pressure from the SSD world, the floods could well be one of the biggest factors that pushes 2012’s storage customers to finally go solid state.