Micron exec: SSDs to reach portable devices in 2008

Memory maker champions solid-state drives as future replacements for hard drives, thanks to their efficiency, ruggedness, and size

Memory maker Micron Technology on Wednesday introduced a line of solid-state drives (SSDs) and said it would plug the technology into portable storage devices by mid- to end 2008.

Micron's new RealSSD hard drive, announced at an event in San Francisco, will come in sizes of 1.8 inches and 2.5 inches with storage capacities of 32GB and 64GB. Micron also announced embedded SSD modules for blade servers with storage capacities of 1GB to 8GB.

Purported by many to be the future replacement of hard drives, the growth of SSDs has been stymied by high pricing, longevity, and storage issues. However, the power-efficient and ruggedness of SSDs may attract users, said Dean Klein, vice president of memory system development at Micron.

RealSSD is 50 percent lighter than standard hard drives, and at under 2 watts of power consumption, the drives will be ideal for laptops, Klein said. The drives also support the SATA II interface, a standard typically used to connect hard drives to computer systems.

With no moving parts, RealSSD drives also have a rugged design and store data reliably. They handle vibrations and resist shock better than rotating media, Klein said.

Despite multiple advantages, SSDs may not replace hard drives as storage devices in the near future, he said. SSD technology is under development, and some markets are sensitive to price-per-gigabyte of SSDs, Klein said.

SSDs currently cost between $7 and $10 per gigabyte, making them much more expensive than hard drives, which cost $0.20 to $0.30 per gigabyte, according to data from research firm iSuppli.

Initial consumers for RealSSD could be OEMs or enterprises, which look for reliability and high data throughput, and laptop consumers, which require portability and power efficiency, Klein said.

RealSSD drives could reach consumers in the form of portable storage devices or ExpressCards by mid- to end 2008, depending on consumer demand, Mark Adams, Micron's vice president of digital media said in an interview. An ExpressCard fits in a laptop's PCMCIA slot.

Sending SSDs to consumers immediately is questionable as the emerging technology hasn't proven itself yet, Adams said. There is a risk in being first-to-market if the product doesn't sell, which will build up unnecessary inventory of SSDs. Instead, Micron will try to get feedback from OEMs that include SSDs in their products and develop devices accordingly, Adams said.

Micron sells portable consumer storage devices through Lexar Media, which it acquired last year.

There are already a few vendors that include SSDs in their hardware. Aurora, a gaming systems manufacturer, includes them in its Area-51 ALX and Aurora ALX desktop PCs, and Toshiba includes SSDs in its laptops.

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