SSDs: Ready for a Breakout?

There are lots of advantages to solid state drives for notebook computers. Find out what they are, and if the benefits outweigh the cost for your clients. By James E. Gaskin

The next big advance for laptops? Solid state drives (SSDs) replacing old-fashioned spinning platter drives. Advantages include more speed, less weight, higher reliability, and longer battery life. The single disadvantage today is cost. Education on SSD benefits will determine whether your customers move to the future of storage sooner or later.

Vendors haven't done nearly enough to educate reseller customers about SSDs, leaving that job to the resellers themselves. But taking on that task is worth it, since matching your customer needs to SSD strengths correctly means more margin for you and better laptops for your clients.

"SSDs are about 50 times faster than ... hard disks used in netbooks and low-end laptops," says Jim Bagley, senior analyst with Storage Strategies Now. "They deliver a huge boost in speed for first-time writes and all read functions." The second time an SSD data block is written is slower, because the existing data must be erased first. But Bagley says that's not a problem: "A mobile device will use the whole drive before rewriting any areas."

[[Check out our SSD reviews here]]

Speed is one reason enterprises pay more to use SSDs in servers. MySpace, for example, recently made news by replacing all spinning hard disks in its servers with SSDs. Less well known is that the social networking site eliminated multiple RAM-cache servers used to improve database lookups, because the SSDs are so fast the RAM cache was no longer necessary. And, "SSDs use 80 percent less power, extending battery life," says Bagley, which is another reason enterprises have switched to SSDs in servers.

Mobile executives know ounces matter, and SSDs reduce laptop weight as well. "Most SSD-based laptops [are] bought by small businesses now because the owners or executives are traveling and want light weight rather than larger capacity and lower cost," says Anurag Agrawal, CEO and vice president of research at Techaisle. "Otherwise, it's not that small businesses don't want SSDs; it's just not their priority." Techaisle recently predicted 1.55 million small businesses worldwide will buy laptops with SSDs in the second half of 2009.

About the Author