Solid-State Drives Will Not Replace Hard Disk Drives – Apple Co-Founder

SSD Developer Fusion-io Admits: HDDs Have Long Lifespan Ahead

by Anton Shilov
10/13/2009 | 11:29 PM

Steve Wozniak, the chief scientist of Fusion-io and a co-founder of Apple, said in an interview that although solid-state drives (SSDs) do offer a number of advantages over conventional hard disk drives (HDDs), they would not replace traditional storage based on the spinning media completely. In addition, Mr. Wozniak said that SSDs for PCI Express offered great benefits compared to SATA devices and thus would gain popularity.


“I don't see [SSD] kicking all spinning disks out. In computers we have so many tiers of storage for cost efficiency. Even when you have a hard disk drive it has its own cache built into it. Then we have caching systems in operating systems. Then we have different speeds of memory from your RAM to your L1, L2, L3 caches. […] It cost more money per bit to create NAND flash,”
said Steve Wozniak in an interview with Computerworld.

The low cost-per-gigabyte argument is usually repeated by high-ranking executives of hard drive companies, who naturally recall the main advantage of HDDs over NAND-based storage. However, as the cost of NAND gets lower, whereas the cost of platters and mechanics inside hard drives does not, SSDs and HDDs reach crossover point, where the prices of different types of devices with similar storage capacities become equal. Once the crossover point is reached, SSDs win, claims Mr. Wozniak.

“But in a lot of places [SSDs] kick out spinning storage. I can see certainly: in a netbook you don't want spinning storage. If you are talking 64GB or less, it's less expensive to have flash solid-state drive now,” said the chief scientist of Fusion-io.

It is interesting to note that the co-founder of Apple sees SSDs in enterprise as a form of cache, not as primary storage option.

“In a big enterprise-class data center there are huge amounts of data that aren’t accessed very often. It's just mathematics. You take stuff that's not accessed very often, it can be accessed slowly. Then you bring it into a faster form of storage when it is being used a lot. I can see solid state storage in the enterprise as a type of cache, without the same programming and design structure as cache, but serving that same purpose,” said Mr. Wozniak.

Fusion-io company specializes on ultra-fast SSDs that are plugged directly into PCI Express slots of personal computers, thus, eliminating bottlenecks of Serial ATA bus. Even though at this point PCIe-based storage devices are rather exotic and expensive, they have a number of advantages, e.g., the lack of cables, and this is why Steve Wozniak believes that eventually they are set to become more popular.

“I look at [PCIe] as a more efficient, more direct connection to the high-speed bus. That's where you want it. The processors are so fast now, you've got so many cores, that they're no longer the bottleneck. It's always been the disk channel [that's been the bottleneck]. Sure, you can come close in bandwidth if you plug a Fibre Channel board into the same slot. But why do you want to transfer all your data into the Fibre Channel mode and then transfer it back. Why do you want to go through extra boards to cables to more boards and cables and then transfer it back? Skip all that middle-man stuff. That's the same way I thought when I was designing computers, storage and disks. Re-visualize the entire problem,” said Mr. Wozniak.