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Will SSD Life Change in 2017?

November 09, 2017

Will SSD Life Change in 2017?

SSD life in terms of longevity in the consumer market is essentially a moot point, because few users will ever reach the end of write life before upgrading their devices. That has not necessarily quelled the desire to reach unlimited life or something beyond the limits in intensive read/write environments on the enterprise level.

In earlier blog posts, we discussed where SSD technology is going in 2016 based on a number of then-emerging and soon-to-emerge technologies. New technology is increasing wear life on SSDs by large factors (as much as 100 times), which will lead to denser and cheaper SSDs in a year or so. SSD manufacturers are already promising and theoretically delivering up to 10 years, even on an MLC drive.

Current SSDs utilize a wear leveling technique called “static wear leveling,” whereby data that do not change are periodically moved. That enables the lower-usage cells of the flash memory to be used, thereby maximizing the SSD life.

In addition, controller developments have reduced the number of writes that a flash drive has to endure, called “lower write amplification.” Provisioning also provides a buffer of spare blocks to call into play when existing blocks are worn out.

Nearly all consumer SSDs use a memory technology called NAND flash memory. The write endurance limit is due to the way flash memory works. 3D NAND, which stacks NAND cells one on top of another, can achieve higher storage density without having to shrink the cells so much, which enables higher write endurance.

Essentially, failures with SSDs happen due to factors such as age, quality, and abuse or, more commonly, sector errors due to lots of read/write. All media are prone to sector errors, but SSD read/write cycle issues can be helped with having a larger capacity drive, which essentially spreads the read/write cycles over its larger capacity. As drives become larger and larger (like 100GB to 1,000GB), erase cycles become less of an issue, even though they can sustain fewer writes.

In 2017, we will surely see more of the next-gen 3D NAND, called “BiCS3,” which stacks memory cells vertically in 64 layers, which will likely translate into ultra-high-capacity SSDs at low prices in the first half of 2017. A recently announced 60TB SSD scheduled to ship in 2017 would have close to four times the capacity of the largest SSD available currently. While the drive is generally aimed at servers and flash arrays, it is by no means an exclusive province.

Ultimately, when choosing storage, there are many factors to consider that now go beyond just SSD life. As price becomes a non-factor for consumer, client, and enterprise sectors, value-added resellers will have to be able to clearly understand the priorities of the user and discern their needs. That will be the defining aspect of opening new sales avenues in 2017. That being said, it is the larger picture in technology advances that will have more of an impact on SSD sales than just SSD life or even capacity.