Toshiba is planning to ship 512GB solid state drives by 2009 when it expects these storage devices to claim one-fourth of the market, according to Japan-based reports.
Toshiba is currently getting set to ship 128GB solid state drives (SSDs), which it plans to offer by June in its Dynabook SS RX1 and Portege notebooks. SSDs are based on NAND flash memory, a market that Samsung and Intel also compete in.
The market for SSDs used in notebook PCs will surge on average 313 percent per year through 2011, according to a report from Nikkei Business Publications. The report referred to a speech given by Toshiba Semiconductor Company's President Shozo Saito at an International Disk Drive Equipment and Materials Association (IDEMA) function in Japan on the 18th.
By 2010, SSD-based notebooks will be about 10 percent of the market, then jumping to 25 percent in 2011, Saito said.
The increase in capacity will be accompanied by sharp reductions in cost per bit, the biggest barrier to SSD adoption this year. An oft-cited example is the Apple MacBook Air. The Air model with a 64GB SSD is about $1,200 more than the model with a larger capacity 80GB hard disk drive. The price difference is largely attributed to the premium a buyer must pay for an SSD.
If the price for NAND flash memory is reduced by 50 percent per year, the price gap will shrink (by 2011) to 1.4 and 3.2 times the price of 1.8- and 2.5-inch hard disk drives, respectively, Saito said.
Currently, NAND flash memory is being made, for the most part, on 56-nanometer (nm) process technology. This year, Toshiba started to shift to 43nm technology that will enable 256GB SSDs. In 2009, when process technologies get below 40nm (as small as 30nm), this will allow production of SSDs with capacities up to 512GB, he said.
SSDs have no moving parts. Hard-disk drives, in contrast, use read-write heads that hover over spinning platters to access and record data. With no moving parts, SSDs avoid both the risk of mechanical failure and the mechanical delays of HDDs. Therefore, SSDs are generally faster and in some respects more reliable.
Newer SSDs will use Multi-Level Cell or MLC technology. This is more sophisticated than current Single-Level Cell. The advantage is larger capacity because MLC uses multiple levels per cell to allow more bits to be stored. The disadvantage is more complexity which can result in lower performance and less reliability.
The Nikkei report quoted Saito as saying that "the maximum number of rewrites allowed for MLC SSD products, about 10,000, is generally cited as the key challenge that SSD is facing for greater use in PCs." Saito continued: "If data is efficiently concentrated and stored in caches in an effort to reduce the frequency of rewrites, rewrites on SSDs can be reduced to a number far below 10,000 times in five years, even for heavy PC users."
Toshiba states on its SSD Web page that "new SSDs integrate an intelligent MLC controller that supports fast read-write speed, parallel data transfer, and wear-leveling, and achieves performance levels comparable to those of single-level cell NAND-based SSDs."