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Solid-State Drives: Gradually Gaining Market Share

Solid state drives (SSDs) have indisputably gained market acceptance in the most recent twelve months. However, they will still remain to be a niche products in 2010, albeit, dramatically more popular than back in 2009.

The main problem of SSDs – the cost per gigabyte – will, without doubts, migrate to 2010 from 2009. At present, high-end WD VelociRaptor hard drive with 10 000rpm spindle speed and 300GB capacity costs around $200 in the U.S., meanwhile, premium 256GB solid-state drives from companies like Corsair Memory or OCZ Technology Group cost around $800 or more. Although they do provide excellent performance, the amount of money is still too large for upgrade market, at the end, a graphics sub-system for that price will offer a much more tangible benefit. So, we foresee premium SSDs to gain market share slightly in 2010 as a result of recovering economy, but not because they will be getting tangibly more affordable. Obviously, manufacturers will make existing ones cheaper since they are going to introduce new models, but the demands of end-users will get higher too in 2010.

Solid-state drives by Toshiba Corp.

Lower-cost SSDs that are based on multi-level cell (MLC) flash, come in 2.5” form-factor and do not feature too advanced technologies will still get more popular than they are today. The price of a mainstream or entry-level 120GB – 250GB solid-state drive should get lower in 2010 thanks to mass production of 3-bit-per-cell and 4-bit-per-cell flash chips by various manufacturers. So, traditional suppliers of flash-based products will try to push entry-level SSDs more aggressively. Some desktop makers may even install such drives into their machines in order to make them quieter and greener.

It should be noted that performance is not the only benefit of SSDs. Low power consumption is important for mobile computers and servers, so, the demand for solid-state drives from manufacturers of enterprise-class systems and well as mobile computers will probably be very high this year. The price premium of SSD will not be noticeable in higher-end notebooks, hence, expect expensive mobile computers to transit to SSDs this year. In fact, a number of mainstream systems will also start using SSDs, we believe.

From the volume perspective, enterprise-class systems seem to be well positioned to become the largest market for solid-state drives due to their natural advantages of performance, low power consumption and reduction of storage systems’ complexity. Considering that Seagate, Western Digital and Hitachi GST are gearing up to start volume shipments of enterprise SSDs, we would expect the overall SSD market to grow significantly.

To sum it up, while the absolute majority of gigabytes of information will continue to be stored on traditional hard drives, the share of SSDs will increase. It will not grow to become any threat to HDDs, but solid-state drives will get more noticeable in 2010.

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