Sunday, February 12, 2023

Do SSDs become obsolete?

NAND flash storage is a type of non-volatile memory that can store data even when the power is turned off. It employs NAND flash memory, a type of memory cell that is organized in such a way that data can be stored and retrieved quickly. NAND flash storage is commonly used for data storage in solid-state drives (SSDs), memory cards, USB drives, and other digital devices. NAND flash storage will exist for at least the next 30 years. Even so, by 2050, we will have 1000X extra efficient atomic-level storage devices. Breakthroughs in nanoparticle products are happening all the time, but I suspect that this is only the beginning of the glacier in aspects of what will soon be feasible for molecular engineering. Every decade, we witness technological advancements that rival the achievements of the entire twentieth century. Take a look at the DVD. It was hailed as the greatest technological achievement since the invention of the wheel in 1996. In January 2000, you couldn't even rent a DVD from your local Blockbuster. If you live in a city that still has a video rental store, you are in the minority. Twenty years from complete scarcity to extinction.

For all practical purposes, NVMe was "born" in 2015 with the introduction of Skylake. NVM Express, Inc. was founded and incorporated in March 2014 and had 65 member companies by November 2014, led by Cisco, Dell, EMC, HGST, Intel, Micron, Microsoft, NetApp, Oracle, PMC, Samsung, SanDisk, and Seagate—forming its 13-member board of directors. In other words, the new NVMe technology was introduced in the 2015 product line, effectively replacing the poorly received mSATA devices of previous years.

NVMe has reached a tipping point in terms of speed, efficiency, cost, and scalability. Last week, I found my first 2TB NVMe drive for under $140. So, it's still not exactly "cheap," but the manufacturers are making a killing. Profits fuel innovation and infrastructure growth. As exquisitely simple as it is, a generic 2TB NVMe SSD should cost around $59 USD. However, companies that profit from sales can build larger and more efficient manufacturing plants, lowering future prices.

By next year, 2TB NVMe drives will be standard. 4TB and 8TB drives will be released in two-year increments. This puts the 8TB drive in 2027 and the 16TB drive in 2029. PCIe 5.0 is already "a thing," so we can expect NVMe 5.0 drives with read speeds of up to 14GB/s to hit the market next year. Heat will become an issue, so NVMe 5.0 controllers will most likely need to be manufactured at 5nm to avoid roasting the drives. Systems with multiple drives will largely become obsolete at 8TB and 16TB capacities. 20TB spinning drives will never be competitive in the long run. Manufacturing drives with motors, platters, bearings, and linear servos are extremely expensive when compared to a tiny drive with two silicon chips. A 4TB hard disc drive is still reasonably priced in 2022 ($53 for a 7200 RPM 4TB Seagate Constellation), so they have a future in the game and media storage. However, I believe they will be heavily phased out by 2027. A 20TB spinning drive has 10 platters, which is borderline ridiculous given its small form factor.

Flash drives will continue to grow in size (capacity), but there are concerns about cell wear, which occurs when storage cells degrade each time they are written. Memory cells of a certain size are required for this. Below 11nm, flesh memory becomes ineffective. As a result, there are size limitations for overall storage capacity on the popular 22x80 M.2 drive size (at least for the time being). You can't even buy an 8TB NVMe SSD on Newegg right now, but there are a few QLC drive options on Amazon ranging in price from $1200 to $1500 from Inland, Sabrent, and Corsair. We will undoubtedly find a solution to the flash degradation problem within a few years, paving the way for 5nm flash and 16TB NVMe drives.

In any case, this gives us a fairly predictable development trajectory through 2030. Will NVMe storage reach 32TB? Yes, I believe it will, but the incentives for the average PC user to use that much storage will be well into the curve of diminishing demand unless we start seeing single apps that require up to a terabyte of storage—like 8K movies with 12-bit HDR or something of the sort—and data transfer speeds that exceed the spinning drive's 150MB/s sequential capability. To compare, 10-bit 4K HDR streams at 11MB/s to 14MB/s at 60 frames per second.

In other words, hard drive technology has some life left in it, and SSD technology has a lot of life left in it. By 2040, we will have some very solid nanotechnology, which will almost certainly include data storage. Our current flash drive architecture may have ten years left by then. The Beelink GTR series, especially with the new Ryzen 7 6800U/6800H and Navi GPU. A tiny PC that fits in the palm of your hand and has the power of a GTX 1650 and a powerful 8-core CPU. I believe the GTR-7 can accommodate one NVMe drive of up to 2TB and one SATA SSD of up to 8 TB. So, you're looking at 10TB of flash storage in this tiny PC. This, along with eight fast Zen3+ CPU cores, is sufficient for some decent content creation in 2022. This PC requires improved cooling, but the devices I've seen so far this year are early engineering samples with power ratings of 30W or 45W.

Now that Navi graphics can match the performance of a dedicated GTX 1650, the rest of the future looks promising. ALL Ryzen 7000 processors will have Navi graphics built in! Tiny computers with a single NVMe drive will gain popularity. The NVMe/M.2 format, in my opinion, has enabled the "mini" revolution. By removing the DVD drive and hard drive from the equation, the entire system can be ten times smaller. As a result, the mini-PC or cell phone format is ideal for small flash storage solutions. In 25 years, with complete computer systems might volume of credit cards will be common. The battery will pick up the majority of that space. Microscopic storage solutions will be required to achieve this size.

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