SSD prices continue to plunge

The cost-per-gigabyte of flash memory is down more than 300 percent in three years

Since 2010, SSD (solid state drive) prices have plummeted 300 percent since 2010, this year reaching what researchers call the magic price point of $1-per-gigabyte of capacity.

After dropping 20 percent in the second quarter of 2012 alone, SSD prices fell another 10 percent in the second half of the year, according to data from IHS iSupply.

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The better deals for SSDs are now around 80- to 90-cents-per-gigabyte of capacity, though some sale prices have been even lower, according to Ryan Chien, an IHS SSD and storage analyst.

Oversupply of NAND flash memory is primarily behind the price drops over the past couple of years, but manufacturing is now more in line with demand and prices have begun to stabilize, Chien said.

Last year, SSD prices dropped 23 percent, according to commerce tracking site Dynamite Data.

Dynamite Data said it has monitored the price, rebate and stock status of more than 600 individual SSDs at hundreds of e-commerce merchants over the past three years. In August, it noted in a blog post that SSDs had finally broken the "magic" $1-per-gigabyte price point, proclaiming it "the new normal."

The average commodity SSD price was $3 per gigabyte in 2010, when capacities were rarely above 128GB.

"We first saw low-budget SSDs hit the $1 mark in April, with heavy mail-in rebates," Kristopher Kubicki, chief architect at Dynamite Data, wrote in the blog post. "However, the industry has been very consistent and extremely fast in its direction. The bigger and newer players pushed the bottom quartile [price] from $1.5/GB to $1/GB in just four months!

"We're currently experiencing the fastest decline in SSD prices in three years," he added. "If history has anything to say, we will now see prices per drive stabilize and the size of the drives substantially grow over the next few years."

Storage and memory tracking site DRAMeXchange reported similar SSD price drops. As of November, it said SSD prices were down 24 percent from the beginning of 2012. At the same time, hard disk drive prices have remained "inflated" -- about 47 percent higher than they were prior to the 2011 Thai floods.

"Despite hard drive prices remaining high -- coupled with the continual decline of SSD prices -- the per-GB price of the largest capacity SSDs (300-600GB) are currently nine times more expensive than 500GB notebook hard disk drives," said DRAMeXchange analyst Jessica Chang.

SSDs today are far more reliable, have greater endurance and perform better (in some cases, two to three times better) than in 2009.

There are also new SSD categories. For example, hybrid drives combine NAND flash cache memory with a spinning disk in a hard-drive form factor. In addition, in adherence to Intel's new ultrabook computer specifications (PDF), manufacturers are beginning to produce laptops with two drive slots, one for a hard drive and the other for a low-capacity cache SSD that works with hard drives to speed up boot and application load times.

Even with the dramatic price drops, SSDs as aftermarket PC upgrades are still seen as niche purchases. "Though HDDs and DRAM are not sexy, they do far more aftermarket business than SSDs," IHS' Chien said.

When it comes to companies making and shipping consumer-grade SSDs through channel partners, Intel and Samsung continue to lead the market in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. They are followed by OCZ, Micron (Crucial), and Kingston, according to Chien.

As for those shipping SSDs to system manufacturers of PCs, laptops and arrays, the top players are Samsung, Toshiba, Intel, Micron, and Sandisk. Shipments to equipment manufacturers will remain the dominant market for SSDs, Chien said.

"Samsung hadn't really been a big aftermarket SSD player until its 830 SSD came out; a combination of aggressive pricing and improved drive performance has catapulted it near the top fairly quickly," Chien said. "Intel drives are dependable, but not as fast; OCZ products have always struggled with reliability and the recent shakeups have not helped."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Read more about ssd in Computerworld's SSD Topic Center.

This story, "SSD prices continue to plunge" was originally published by Computerworld .

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