Solid State Drives Increasingly Popular But Remain Expensive

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As NAND flash capacities continue to get higher, notebooks with solid-state drives become increasingly useful for both business and personal purposes

Industry analysts and vendors are predicting that solid-state disks for computing and storage are the wave of the future for laptop computers, and for a lot of reasons.

As NAND flash capacities continue to get higher—Toshiba has a 512GB laptop available, and 1TB units are only months away—they become more and more useful for both business and personal purposes.

They’re also pricey. The Toshiba Portege R600-ST4203 notebook, which became available in June, features a second-generation 512GB eSATA solid-state drive. Its price in the US: $3,500 (£2177).

Samsung, Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lenovo are among the manufacturers now marketing SSD laptops with less storage that go for an average of about $2,200. Still, they’re way out of the price neighborhood of basic, business-class hard disk laptops, which have dropped way down into the $300 to $700 range in the last 12 months.

As enterprises look at their 2010 budgets for supplying employees with new laptops, the question they’re considering is this: Should they purchase SSD-powered business-class notebooks, despite the higher cost?

An advantage of SSD notebooks is that because they have few moving parts, they also have lower failure rates. They offer much faster I/O performance and better battery life. But the initial cost has been a sticking point since Samsung debuted the first 32GB SSD laptop for $3,500 back in March 2006.

Perhaps research released on 9 July will help managers make that decision. The report by J.Gold Associates claims that enterprises can save significant money in the long term—especially in high volumes—despite an increased initial investment.

Here are some of the findings:

—The research company’s life-cycle cost model reveals that despite the higher purchase price, SSDs save a company $214 over a three-year period—$493 if the machine is kept in service for five years.

—An SSD notebook expenditure has an ROI of 107 percent for a three-year life cycle and 247 percent for a five-year life cycle.

—The cost to repair a failed notebook under warranty with an HDD is $970, compared with $715 for an SSD.

—The average failure rate of a notebook is reduced by a full one-third due to the higher reliability of SSDs.

“Our intent was to identify the true costs associated with equipping notebook computers deployed in the enterprise with SSDs,” said Jack Gold, principal analyst of J.Gold Associates. “Further, we wanted to determine whether extending the life of a notebook for an additional two years, as many companies are now considering, made more economic sense if the machine were SSD-equipped.

“We discovered that the savings associated with SSDs were very significant for a standard three-year life cycle and grew if companies plan to retain a machine for an extended life cycle of four or five years, although other factors like performance and reliability may dissuade them from doing so.”

The research model provides a comprehensive analysis of the true costs associated with business notebook failures that reflect upon the actual usage of the deployed devices, including variations in failure rates over the life cycle, costs of repairs both in and out of warranty, IT tasks and labor rates, and end-user effects.

From this data, J.Gold Associates calculated a per-device cost associated with machine failures in each year of service through year five, and determined a total cost per device. These costs were then compared for both HDD- and SSD-enabled business-class notebooks to discover if there were indeed savings to be had despite the additional spending on SSDs.

The complete report and its cost model are available for purchase from the researcher. For more information, contact this e-mail address.

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