updated 11:40 am EDT, Wed July 9, 2008
Fujitsu Downplays SSDs
Fujitsu has no near-term plans to create solid-state hard drives (SSDs) of its own as the technology still isn't as fast it should be compared to hard drives, the company's business development VP Joel Hagberg says. He acknowledges that many notebook manufacturers are opting for the flash-based medium but argues that its performance advantage isn't as broad as other storage makers would claim. Many SSDs are very fast at random access for reading data but quickly falls apart when writing data or reading large amounts of data in a row, he says.
"We've talked to a lot of major end users as well as a lot of major manufacturers of notebooks," Hagberg explains. "And the statement is that while these drives promise a lot, they don't deliver a lot outside of benchmarks in real world performance."
He also cautions that the claimed extra battery life of SSDs is also exaggerated. As most rotating hard drives often park and enter a low-power mode in low activity, the actual gain by using solid-state technology is never more than about five percent, according to Fujitsu estimates. Reliability is also an issue, as some flash drives are often limited to roughly 10,000 writes per storage cell before the area becomes unwriteable, leaving drives near the end of their lifespans without the ability to record data.
Hagberg nonetheless predicts that SSDs will be part of the mainstream but that it may take a long time for this to happen; in the interim, flash is seen by the executive as ideal only for iPods and other portable devices where raw speed and long lifetimes aren't certain.
Fujitsu's stance reflects a similar pattern among companies that have staked their storage businesses on conventional hard drives. Seagate will ship SSDs next year but is attempting to limit expectations and has sued SSD makers in a bid to prevent them from overtaking traditional storage.