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Flash Drives Replacing HDD

By rschmid ·
Has anyone implemented and or tested Industrial grade Flash drives? A company called Simpletech makes them. reportedly having 1 million hours 10 years capability with no moving parts?

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by davemori In reply to Flash Drives Replacing HD ...

We have been looking at them. SimpleTech came out of the old Newer Technology Corporation which used to sell RAM and other enhancements for PCs, Macs, etc. This is a good vendor in general, with competitive proices and their people know memory technolgy very well.

Flash Drives and Flash Memory (non-volatile RAM or solid state memory) in general are something that we have been watching for a long time.

Originally developed mostly for aerospace use in the 1970s, Flash RAM was designed as a technology so navigation systems and critical flight and weapons systems could reboot from an EMP or solar flare protected source.

Memory is stored literally like a battery and there is no need for a continuous electrical current from a battery or AC adapter required to maintain the data.

Until very recently, the big issue has been price-performance. This is an issue which is still not completely solved.

Rotating drives (hard disks, etc) have been still cheaper per Gigabyte and have faster memory access/read/write rates than most flash or solid state memory.

What solid state memory really has going for it when used as a storage device is:

1. "zero" or extremely low electrical requirements.

The whole drive can be passive and be powered only when accessed through a USB or Firewire or other data interface.

2. No moving parts.

Electrical motors are required to spin drives, and a spindle will only spin "just so" fast.

Read/Write heads of drives are also both a potential source of failure and a potential bottleneck.

3. Low weight, Low heat and Low profile because of the previous two points.

Superb application for a small laptop, if they can ever get the speeds faster (and they eventually will).

To date, we still have not seen solid state drive technology that we think is worth deploying across the enterprise.

A 500 GB drive retails for $225.00 (cheaper if you just buy a bare drive), working out to about a $2.22/GB with an average seek of 8.9 ms and throughput limited by USB, FireWire, ATA or SATA

Solid state tends to have faster READ times but slower WRITE times and higher prices per GB.

The best retail on a 1 GB flash USB drive is about $16.00/GB. Best throughput is about 60 MB/Sec.

Price per GB is 8X higher, but performance is certainly not 8x better than traditional drives.

The Zeus solid state drives sold by SImpleTech are limited to up to 160GB but support throughput of up to 200 MB/Sec over
Fibre Channel, PATA/IDE and SATA Interfaces.

These are certainly not cheap.

RAM SAN, Solid Data, DSI and others make some terrific solid state drive arrays for networking and enterprise applications, but they are not cheap.

On the other hand, an EMC Clariion or Symmetrix is not cheap storage, either.

1 Million Power On Hours and 10 Years is not an unreasonable failure rate for solid state. It really is more reliable and it will probably hold date even during an EMP from a nuke explosion -- but if people are popping nukes around populated areas in the USA, your data center is going to be one of the last things you are worried about.

The other thing to remember is that technology (even solid state memory technology) is apt to change dramatically over the next 5-10 years. How many power-on hours of reliability do you realistically need?

Is a 1 million hour device really better than a cheaper drive which has a mean time between failure of 50,000 power on hours?
(43,830 hours is five years of constant power on).

Servers in a Data Center as well as individual PCs are generally upgraded long before 5 years.

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good points all

by rschmid In reply to Yes

I work in a manufacturing environment. Machine failures read HDD failures are a large part of my job. Im talking DOS operating systems win 98 systems in Million dollar machines. The less down time in Hdd failures the better. My energies can be used trying to better the other systems and keep production going.

there are "speciality" machines that at least twice a year I have to rebuild. If they die due to HDD failure the line stops completely and it takes approx an hour and a half to rebuild. major impact is to the employess that get sent home for the day (loss wages) and the lost revenue in production and customers not getting thier order on time. (bonus metric)

I'm working on a feasibility/ cost comparison to test a few drives on critical machines to maximize up times.

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My sympathies

by davemori In reply to good points all

We have similar issues in some of the remote call center operations of our company. There are some call center apps that are not even certified with WIndows 2000, much less Windows XP.

Manufacturing environments, as I am sure that you know, always introduce a lot of wrinkles. I had one manufacturing site with some high power electric and electromagnetic equipment. Used to create havoc with degaussing monitors, slamming the UTP wiring in the network and erasing sectors on drives.

We had to move to fibre networking, environmental enclosures, diskless PC thin clients, and servers hitting a Storage Attached Network (SAN) which the PCs booted to and stored all data to.

Preconfigured, pre-imaged, removable drives also were a good emergency fix and were useful in troubleshooting whether or not the problem was on the drive or elsewhere.

If we removed the disk drive and restarted the machine and it did not immediately solve the problem, we knew that either the machine was bad or there was a network issue. Fibre does not have the same downtime issues and vulnerabilities as unshielded twisted pair wiring does, although fibre will opaque if the EMP is huge (a nearby nuke going off or one of those new conventional EMP bombs).

But, if something of that magnitude goes off, you will have a lot more to worry about than just the business.

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