Solid state drives gain popularity

October 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
First came the hybrid car, now comes the hybrid computer. This week, MySpace became the first big Web company to use the new technology to replace hard disk drives. "Solid State Drives" also promise faster downloads for Web users.

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In big data centers, the big deals are energy and speed. In row after row at San Francisco's United Layer data center there are 10,000 of the solid state disk drives. In modern data center like that, there can be as many as 2 million hard drives. That means if you can save even a little bit of energy or increase speed just a tiny bit, it's a big deal.

But, here's the rock and the hard place: Random Access Memory chips take the least time to access data, but cost more money. Disk drives cost less, but they are slower than chip memory. For the first time, there is a third option: Solid State Storage.

"It's NAND Flash," explains David Flynn, President and Cofounder of Fusion-io. "The same stuff that you use in thumb drives. And, it's now the media for digital cameras and everything. What's different about it is that we make a massive array of it."

"It's not going to replace disk drives, and it's not going to replace RAM. What it will do, is it will allow both of those to do what they do best."

David Flynn's company Fusion-io of Utah and Redwood City is the big player in this new space. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was so impressed he joined the company as Chief Science Officer. Apple is one of a few companies offering solid state storage in personal computers. But, the technology is still very expensive.

Ed Buck's company, United Layers, hosts many of the biggest companies on the Web. He says, "In the next 3 to 5 years, you'll see prices come down and you'll see a lot more use of solid state drives. And actually, a lot of our customers have already begun using a lot of solid state drives in their servers."

Elsewhere, MySpace estimates that this solid state technology saves it $10,000 a month in electricity and has cut its carbon footprint in half. What this means for consumers is more and faster video for example, and much less power consumption.

That sounds like a solid state of affairs.

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