SSDs and Market Challenges
X-bit labs: What do you think are the primary challenges for the SSD industry in general? Aren't the vast majority of early problems (which occurred in 2008 - 2010 timeframe) solved and consumers can safely install solid-state drives instead of hard disk drives into their PCs?
Joel Hagberg: The primary challenge for the SSD industry is to balance the cost per GB and IOPS vs. traditional HDD storage costs. SSDs are a reliable storage technology that consumers and enterprises can, and do, rely on for their storage needs every day. They provide the ultimate performance for those applications with a higher budget for storage and less need for capacity. The cost of SSDs has come down significantly, but HDDs are the best fit for higher capacity, lower cost storage applications.
X-bit labs: Will there be any breakthroughs in terms of SSD affordability this year? Perhaps, in terms of capacities?
Joel Hagberg: SSDs will continue to advance to higher density in smaller lithographies – essentially providing more capacity in the same package size generation over generation. The technology process offers this benefit, but the affordability is also dependent on the application’s needs as well as the supply and demand process; for this reason it is difficult to predict. However, it is clear that an increasing number of applications see the value and there will be consistent, healthy growth in SSDs.
X-bit labs: Some believe that SSDs and NAND flash are complementary storage technologies, not primary. If this is so, do we need breakthroughs at all?
Joel Hagberg: SSDs and NAND flash are both used as primary storage methods today. SSDs are the primary storage in Ultrabook/ultrathin laptops and enterprise tiered storage systems. NAND is the primary storage medium in smart phones and MP3 music players. SSDs are complementary to HDDs: they can augment responsiveness and performance characteristics of larger capacity storage devices, they can serve as small capacity, standalone storage in devices that connect to other storage entities such as the cloud, and they can be combined into a single entity that offers both massive storage capacity as well as ultra-fast responsiveness. With the demand for faster data delivery on websites and servers, there is always a need to advance technology to meet such needs. Toshiba sees opportunity in the storage as it stands today, as well as in emerging, innovative solutions; we don’t see any slowdown in the long history of innovation that has characterized the storage industry.
X-bit labs: Do you expect ultrabooks to give SSDs an opportunity to become mainstream in mobile computers? Some expect share of ultrabooks to increase to 43% of all laptops in 2015, pretty sweet piece of the market, isn't?
Joel Hagberg: New processors, new operating systems, new industrial designs and a greater range of storage options are all adding value and a renewed experience for PC users in the consumer and commercial markets. Thin and light notebooks are popular because users are always on the go and need the flexibility of such mobile devices; they are a premium product and will continue to gain acceptance in the market with consumers who value sleek and slim devices. SSDs will be a high-performance option that will be a good fit in the higher storage budget systems, but there will be significant volume of Ultrabook/ultrathin systems that ship with a thin HDD for lower overall systems cost. Many Ultrabooks will also ship with a dual drive configuration combining a hard drive with a low capacity SSD module.
X-bit labs: What, in your opinion, will help to drive SSDs into desktops?
Joel Hagberg: The current environment is ripe for innovation and innovative approaches. Toshiba’s value is to deliver the storage technologies that can transform those concepts into reality. Depending on the system design, SSDs can be used to boost responsiveness and performance attributes. Desktop systems have traditionally focused on cost reduction, which has not been conducive for adoption of SSDs. Recent innovation in all-in-one flat screen systems and the potential for instant response with new operating systems may enable increase penetration of SSDs into desktop systems.