When size matters most
Bigger may be better when it comes to the size of your television, your bank account and your pizza, but the same can’t be said for the drives in your electronic devices. When it comes to electronics, devices just keep getting smaller and better with every generation of device that’s produced. One of the biggest changes on the tech scene in the coming years will be the move from hard disk drives to flash drives. Among the benefits of flash are its speed, its durability and, of course, its size.
The speed of flash memory can be up to a thousand times faster than hard disk drives. Currently, Apple is making their MacBook Air with flash storage, which has helped give the computer a huge boost in performance due to not having moving parts. This also helps it to be more shock resistant and less likely to have mechanical failure like hard drives often have. Another advantage is that there’s nothing to get broken with a flash drive. There’s no disk, no moving tracker arm and no motion sensor. Users of devices with flash don’t have to put up with downtime because of broken or malfunctioning parts. Due to having no moving parts, flash drives are also very quiet. This is a huge advantage over your big, old desk top that makes enough noise to wake up a sleeping baby.
Of course, there are some concerns about having an all-flash world. Namely that it’s more expensive than hard disk drives and that there’s a finite number of times that you can use a flash drive (though the large number means this isn’t a problem for consumers). But both are changing. The technology is getting cheaper with every generation of device created. As for flash performance after repeated wear and tear, that’s becoming less of a problem as flash technology evolves. In tests done by Mac World, it was found that the performance of the flash memory is sustainable through repeated use.
They put three Macs to the test—an iMac, a 2010 MacBook Air and a 2008 MacBook Air—the first two having flash and the later had a hard disk drive. The two with flash storage performed similarly on AJA System tests of reading and writing; DiskTester fill volume of reading and writing; and in duplicating a 1GB file. The early model MacBook didn’t fare so well. Its speed was less than half on all tests. After the initial testing, data was erased and reinstalled, written, erased and tested again. More data was erased and reinstalled and a final test was done. In the end, the computer’s performance was identical to what it was before the computers were put through their paces.
While the combination of speed and lower costs makes flash memory an advantage to use for storage centers, many aren’t using it yet due to the difficultly in storage management software. Once that obstacle is overcome, you can bet it will take over as the array of choice.
Pure Storage released a 100 percent flash storage array earlier this year and hopes to have started a trend toward all-flash arrays in the storage industry. It works with a variety of operating systems and is able to compress data, deduplicate it, remove the patterns and thin provision it, thereby reducing the amount of data that’s being stored. This unique way of storing data also allows the cost per GB to be brought down to a reasonable price.
As price goes down, flash will become widely used in commercial settings as well. Computer World reports that in tests, an all-flash array was able to get a 40 percent performance improvement over the hard disk drives and it also reduced latency by a factor of 50. And in a study of IT professionals, more than half stated that they were already or planning to use flash memory in their work.
As engineers perfect the use of flash technology, and the prices continues to drop, you can expect to find flash a standard feature on both desk and laptop computers in the near future. This won’t happen overnight, but the trend has started and it’s not likely to stop anytime soon.
This is a guest post by Lindsey Harper Mac who is a professional writer living in the Indianapolis area. She specializes in writing about business and technology. Currently, Lindsey is completing work on her master’s degree. You can follow her on Twitter @HarperMac11.