State of the SSD, 1Q 2011

It’s no secret that I loves me some SSDs. And 2011 looks to be a good year for SSDs. Anandtech has a preview of what promises to be the fastest available drive on the market, once it’s released. It may not be at the very top of the heap for really long, but it represents the state of the art for now.

I’d rather not spoil the whole article, but there are two key takeaways from it.
I’ll take the more boring, but more practical topic first. That would be life expectancy. And here’s what you really need to know.

Drives with an Intel, Crucial/Micron, Marvell, or Sandforce controller utilize advanced techniques, beyond wear-leveling, that make life expectancy pretty much a non-issue. Writing about 7 GB per day, he observed that in 8 months, he used 1/300 of the lifespan of the drive.

If I’m doing the math right, the drive would last 225 years at that pace. The flash cells will lose their charge long, long before that. So the cells themselves aren’t going to wear out prematurely, if you’re using a top-shelf controller.

So remember those four names when you’re shopping for a drive. Consult the SSD Decoder Ring for help. Do that, and if your SSD fails in less than 10 years, it’s going to be due to a bug in the controller or the firmware, or a power surge. And conventional hard drives are prone to the same issues.

For what it’s worth, a typical workload is about 2 GB per day on the system my wife and I use. If 7 GB of writes per day seems high to you, that’s fine, because it seems high to me too.

Now, for the more exciting topic. Speed.

And I’m running out of superlatives for SSD speed. I think we’re well beyond crazy fast and stupid fast. The next-generation OCZ Vertex 3 drives look to top out, under ideal conditions, with read speeds in the neighborhood of half a gigabyte per second.

Half a gigabyte per second.

If you don’t want one, chances are you either don’t quite know what exactly that means, or you don’t have a pulse.

My first-gen OCZ Vertex drive looks like such old hat.

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