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Self-assembling block copolymers could lead to storage capacity five times larger than current options
Thought your current single 3TB HDD was big enough? Well, if researchers out of the University of Texas have anything to do with it, you could see a huge spike in storage capacity of HDDs with a new technique they're working on.
The research is being led by C. Grant Willson, professor of chemistry, biochemistry and engineering at UT, where the team have found a way to use self-organizing substances called block copolymers to help isolate a disk's magnetic dots, allowing them to be closer together without becoming unstable. Current drives write ones and zeroes as magnetic dots across a metal disk.
The closer these dots are together, the more data that can be crammed into the same area. But, with current production methods, these dots can't get much denser than around a terabit of information per square inch, or else their magnetic fields interfere with each other, and would lead them to randomly flip states. The new technique involving block copolymers, a UT post reads:
At room temperature, coated on a disk surface, they don't look like much. But if they're designed in the right way, and given the right prod, they'll self-assemble into highly regular patterns of dots or lines. If the surface onto which they're coated already has some guideposts etched into it, the dots or lines will form into precisely the patterns needed for a hard disk drive.
Everspin Technologies, an Arizona-based company, has become the first in the world to supply MRAM, shipping their own ST-MRAM (Spin-Torque Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory) chips to select customers. This non-volatile storage claims to be up to 500x faster than current SSDs, but comes with a similar price tag - up to 50x more expensive.
Let's talk specs - we're looking at 1.6 billion IOPS, and "up to" 3.2GB/sec of bandwidth with latency measured in mere nanoseconds. To compare, most decent SSDs are the mid 100k IOPS with just under 600MB/sec in throughput, with latency measured in microseconds, rather than nanoseconds.
Although the speed is there, drawbacks are, too. Everspin aren't looking to replace SSDs, but they're aiming to supplement them. This is most likely because of the huge price, with ComputerWorld stating that ST-MRAM is around 50x more expensive than current flash-based offerings. But, all technology starts out like that, just like SSDs. SSDs once cost thousands of dollars, and can now be had for under $100 for an 120GB drive.
Samsung have just announced that their new, next-generation 840 family of SSDs are available, including the 840 Pro SSD and 840 Series SSD. The new drives are available for purchase right now from Amazon and NewEgg, and as a bonus for a limited time only, they include a downloadable version of Assassin's Creed III.
Samsung teamed up with Ubisoft for the bonus game, which is available when you purchase the 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB SSD from Samsung. Samsung's new 840 Pro SSD is geared for professionals and tech enthusiasts who want the best performance, with the 840 SSD for the mainstream user who would like an affordable, yet fast upgrade for their PC. The higher-end 840 Pro SSD sits on the SATA 6Gbps interface, featuring 400 megabits-per-second (Mbps) Toggle DDR2 flash memory, AES256-bit encryption, and new triple-core MDX controller, while using triple-level cell (TLC) Toggle DDR2 flash memory.
The new 840 Pro SSD and 840 SSD sport Samsung's proprietary controllers and firmware, all while spinning in its leading NAND flash memory technology. Samsung, unlike most SSD makers, engineers all of their components in-house. This gives Samsung a one-up on the competition, allowing them to perfect their hardware and software for extreme performance, as well as great reliability.
Intel don't sleep, and today brings an announcement of a new SSD series from the chipmaker, the SSD DC S3700 Series. Intel's new SSD is built to offer next-generation performance to meet the needs of the growing HPC and cloud-computing apps market.
The DC S3700 Series offers some extreme IOPS performance, mixed up with some very low maximum latencies. We're talking about 4KB random read performance of up to 75,000 IOPS and 4KB write performance of up to 36,000 IOPS. Typical sequential write latency of 65 microseconds and high Quality of Service (QoS) of less than 500 microseconds 99.9% of the time.
Intel's new SSD also sports the company's High Endurance Technology (HET) which provides single-level cell SSD-like endurance in a much more cost-effective multi-level cell (MLC) technology. Thanks to this mix of technology, it provides the DC S3700 Series the ability of achieving 10 full drive writes per day over the drives 5-year life. This is equal to more than 186 years of recording HD video over the life of the drive in its highest capacity, 800GB.
If you've picked up a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and weren't happy with the included storage space inside of it, you might be thinking of upgrading. Or, before you've purchased it, you've balked at the price of the 512GB SSD option through Apple, which is $800.
OWC is here to save the day offering up their 480GB Mercury Aura Pro SSD for just $580. Sure, $580 for an SSD is expensive, but it is over $200 cheaper than Apple's option. OWC's latest SSD is certified for use with Apple's latest Retina-sporting MBP.
OWC have also stated that additional capacity sizes will be announced in November, so you could also hold out if 480GB was too much, or too expensive. I'm loving the fact that SSD prices are coming down like a sack of bricks, it's glorious.
Intel have begun shipping their latest SSD, which the chipmaker describes as the most efficient multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash currently available. Intel's 335 Series SSD are also the first to use 20nm NAND flash which was built in a joint effort between Intel, Micron and IM Flash Technologies.
Intel's 335 Series SSD use the now-standard SATA 6Gbps interface, sports a SandForce SF-2281 controller running custom Intel firmware. The only drive available at the moment is a 240GB model, which comes with 500MB/sec read, 450MB/sec writes and ramps up to 42,000 read / 52,000 write IOPS using 4KB data.
The 20nm IMFT NAND uses a new cell structure that is said to enable more aggressive cell scaling than conventional architectures. Hi-K/metal gate planar cell technology is used to get around problems that come with this advanced process tech, enabling performance and reliability that we enjoyed with the 25nm process.
Storage giant Seagate have introduced a USB 3.0-powered Backup Plus for Mac which is available through Amazon right now, and will be made available through the Apple Stores in November.
Both the Backup Plus Portable for Mac, and Backup Plus Desktop for Mac both sport the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 connectivity, which is of course backwards compatible. Seagate provides their Backup Plus devices with a software feature that lets them backup content from social networks like Facebook and Flickr.
Seagate Backup Plus Portable drivers will ship in 500GB and 1TB sizes for a MSRP of $109.99 and $129.99, respectively. The Backup Plus Desktop drives will be made available in 2TB and 3TB for $129.99 and $179.99, respectively.
Intel's 330 series of SSDs are looking to be a bit old now that the Santa Clara-based company has begun shipping out their 335 Series drives, in Japan at least.
The very first Intel 335 Series drive has been codenamed SSDSC2CT240A4K5 and has hit a Japanese retailer shelf. The drive looks to come in a 240GB size, the usual 2.5-inch form factor at 9.5mm thickness, SATA 6.0 Gbps interface, rocks a SandForce SF-2281 controller, and uses 20nm MLC NAND Flash memory.
The Intel 335 Series SSD sports read/write speeds of up to 500/450MB/sec, holds 3-year warranty and costs around $214. We should also expect smaller variants like 80 and 180GB in Q1 2013.
SanDisk hasn't released the details or even mentioned the new firmware on their website yet but if you run the SanDisk SSD Toolkit your Extreme SSD can be updated to firmware version R211, a TRIM fixing release.
We're in the middle of testing the Extreme SSD 480GB now and plan to finally test our 120GB soon. After that we have some RAID testing with RAID 0 working on a pair of Extreme SSD 240GB drives.
You can download SanDisk's SSD Toolkit at this link. Have an empty thumb drive handy so it can flash your drive without looking for an empty optical disk.
A new start-up has produced viable optical disks that can hold 1TB or 2TB of data, an incredible feat considering Blu-ray disks usually hold 25GB, or 50GB in a dual layer version. Magnetic spinning disc drives have just recently topped the 2TB barrier with 3TB and even 4TB drives finally being available on the market.
However, an optical disk will be much cheaper to purchase for data back-up, though it can only be written to once. But for back-up, this really doesn't pose any sort of problems. And, since it is a disc, data can be located upon the surface in mere seconds instead of the minutes it can take to wind through magnetic tape, the current standard for backing up data.
"A disc will be on the capacity scale of magnetic tapes used for archival data storage," said Kenneth D. Singer, the Ambrose Swasey professor of physics, and co-founder of Folio Photonics. "But, they'll be substantially cheaper and have one advantage: you can access data faster. You just pop the disc in your computer and you can find the data in seconds. Tapes can take minutes to wind through to locate particular data."
The technology uses something I had previously read about. The new start-up has layered 64 data layers of optical film onto a standard DVD plastic base. Slight modifications to a standard disc drive allow the laser to read the different layers without any interference from the layers above or below the current layer being read.