back to article Why is solid-state storage so flimsy?

No matter how much storage space you get, and no matter how much you free up later on, it always gets stuffed to the gills. I am, of course, talking about my attic... and the garage, and indeed the garden shed. Many reasons for this have been mooted, including the need to do something with my kids' childish belongings as they …

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Gold badge

Current flash memory is cack, that's why.

When memristor tech appears it will make flash SSDs seem like floppy drives.

http://www.dailytech.com/HP+to+Deploy+Memristor+Powered+SSD+Replacement+Within+18+Months/article22963.htm

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Anonymous Coward

Downvoters

Help yourself to an up vote. Presumably your down voters didn't actually go off and read that article, or if they did they're too dumb to understand the consequences of it. Or maybe they're just cross that they've spent a lot of money on something that's going to be very obsolete pretty soon! Me? I plumped for Seagate's hybrid drives for the cheap 'n' happy tradeoff as an interim measure for memristor rolls into town.

Memristor is coming and it is going to make almost all current storage technology obsolete big time, including DDR<n> RAM.

Time to buy HP shares? Quite possibly!

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Re: Downvoters

The problem there is that these new technologies are showing up all the time, and inevitably there are always a bunch of new caveats that come with them. Only once we have our hands on early devices and get to play with them will we be able to say MRAM is replacing anything... and that assumes that they can ever get it commercialized and QA passable (many techs get early hype and then never appear because the cost didn't make sense or it couldn't be mass produce right, etc).

So far none of the new NVRAMs similar to MRAM have lit the world on fire. I believe TI's chips using FRAM (similar in end result to memristor RAM) are flaky and often under-perform in both their power envelope and performance specs.

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Re: Myself

Sorry, memristors got RRAM, not MRAM. My mistake.

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Dear Alistair

You should have bought either a Gigabyte U2442N or a Sony S13A.

Both of these weigh about 1.6 Kg and can be equipped with an SSD as well as an HDD. So, like most people, you can put your software on the SSD and store your data on the HDD. I think you can get 1.5 TB drives with less than 7.5 mm height now.

Then you clone the SSD, after you installed and updated Windoze, and all your software. SSD's do break, so its much easier to have a clone to restore onto the replacement, if it becomes necessary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Downvoters

@Arthur 1, good point, but in this case there are a number of indicators that are interesting.

1) Of all HPs research efforts this is about the only blue skies thing they kept. I know HP aren't what they once were, but they believe in it enough to keep going despite it having nothing to do with their existing core product line.

2) HP have reportedly done a deal with Hynix, and the word is that the hold up is now business restructuring not technological. Understandable, something like this really is a massive game changer and you don't want to be investing in a FLASH plant at the same time. I've not heard in recent times of Hynix bigging up a new FLASH product or design.

3) Even if HP has to back off from their published performance by a factor of 10 it's still a game changer (alright, maybe DRAM is safe, but nothing else is). Passing QA with that margin in hand sounds quite plausible to me.

4) HP have been doing this for years now. About time they got something out of it!

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Facepalm

Re: Dear Alistair

Upvote for not sounding utterly like a Anti-Apple fan while providing a decent and useful tip :)

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kb
Stop

Re: Downvoters

Or maybe they are just old greybeards who have been hearing about PRAM and holo-drives for years yet they never seem to end up on the shelves?

As far as SSD? The problem is everyone assume it can always take the place of HDD and that's wrong, like any tool it has its uses and its downsides. Here is what I tell my customers if they ask about SSDs: If it is going in a mobile device that the data is NOT mission critical, or if you keep a rigorous religiously adhered to backup schedule? it makes sense there, lower power but unless you drop the device often the head parking on the new HDDs mean it'll be for the speed and lower power more than for protection. if its just gonna have the OS and again backups made often? Makes sense here, slap a 64gb or 128Gb and keep your data on the HDD. if it is something mission critical, where it going down is really gonna hurt? it does NOT make sense there, because i've seen too many SSDs die without warning and even if you have a drive waiting to take over there is still the time required to place the image on the new drive and to swap them out.

So it all comes down to what you are using it for, but buying anything over 128Gb right now is frankly nuts because watching the forums as well as my customers it seems like you are only gonna get about 3 years no matter what you buy, and its not the cells, its the controller. Just FYI but OCZ seems to be the worst, Intel and Samsung the best, but in any case about 3 years tops before the controller fails.

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Bronze badge

SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

"if a hard disk starts going glitchy, I can usually back stuff off it before it's too late."

Usually isn't good enough (I've had HDs fail completely). That's why you have to have a regul;ar backup strategy, and that's equally applicable to SSD and SSD. It's also untrue that SSD's necessarily fail all in one go just as it's untrue that hard drives always fail softly.

Get that backup stgrategy sorted out, and get into the habit of running it daily. Incremental changes don't usually take too long to apply. Even if you run mirrored drives (as I do), it doesn't invalidate the need for a reliable backup as there it's always possible for catastrophic software, user or hardware errors to wreck your data.

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Silver badge

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

No one is saying it's a backup strategy, but yes it's true that HDs tend (granted, not always) to signal their failure (SMART indicators for a start, physical signs of death like clicking) allowing you to get most data off it if you haven't already and total failure of disks still generally allows for some element of recovery at specialist labs (again, not cheap, but possible).

SSDs on the other hand tend *not* to signal their failure in advance and the options for recovery once they do are a lot more limited.

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Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

I upvoted this because it doesn't really matter what you use for storage it can and will go wrong at some stage, usually a critical moment. I suffered a HDD crash and got zilch data back from the disc, even the pro's couldn't retrieve anything.

Having a backup strategy and using it is the only sensible course of action, anything else is just foolish and asking for trouble..

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Silver badge

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

Ive never had a decent SMART warning. Ive only seen SMART warnings once ive already found a drive fault or the RAID array has emailed me about an uncorrectable error THEN I get a SMART warning. I too have had HDDs that have merely had a failed head or bunch of bad sectors - spinrite has gotten the disk back to a "get photos from dads drive". In the workplace I dont even try, pull drive out put new in and leave it as the new hot spare.

Data that isnt backed up is data you do not want.

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Silver badge

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

This article is timely, my iMac's internal hard drive is currently wheezing and clicking as I try to get everything off it.

Yes, I have a Time Machine backup. It's from 3 weeks ago and I've done a bit since then. There are a handful of excluded directories including the Download directory which somehow I've managed to start using as a temporary area for a fair few important files.

I've just got a NAS box with RAID and was going to get around to put everything on it this weekend.

You see, whatever you do, you're screwed.

By the way, six years for a hard drive isn't much, is it? I've still got a 10 year old laptop which works. I considered SSD hoping perhaps they'd be more resistant to the iMac's toasty warm innards but they're still fecking expensive.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Both SSDs and HDDs can fail in two ways (slowly with errors, or all at once)

SSDs can brick or run out of write endurance. Of the two bricking - at least historically - seemed to be the more common real issue, although write endurance was - and remains - a major concern. That said, the concern about write endurance is, on average, overblown and misunderstood.

In current gen SSDs, there is excess capacity (i.e. you don't see it but that drive probably has ~15% or so more capacity in it than is on the sticker) to spread those writes around. Wear leveling (i.e. moving write-heavy data around to spots of flash that have been written to less) is effective, especially when paired with that extra hidden capacity, in getting a useful lifespan out of a drive. TRIM, and garbage collection at the firmware level makes the degrading performance concern mostly a non-issue. End result: as long as you're not doing something ridiculous like back-ending a 24x7 transaction heavy server with a consumer grade SSD, your SSD should last for at least its warranty period from a write endurance standpoint.

Also, with a write endurance failure of an SSD data can still be read, you just can't write anymore.

The main concern in the article seems to be that SSDs catastrophically fail (brick) more often than HDDs. I would be interested in seeing any data to that effect *with current gen drives*. That certainly seemed - anecdotally - to be the case a few years ago... but I'm not sure if that is still the case. Rummaging around the NewEgg reviews, shopping for storage, the situation seems to have improved greatly versus prior generations. That's not a proper judgement of the situation of course, but in lieu of better information... the assertion that current gen SSDs regularly blow up and are less reliable than HDDs doesn't seem to be as valid, at least, as it once was.

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Unhappy

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

OK, I'm starting to get that "cold sweat" feeling here...

We have a Synology NAS box (a 1-bay model, in case you wondered), which we bought back in 2010. About a week ago the 2TB drive in it started making occasional "click" noises - it's a Samsung "green" disk, which is supposed to power down when it's not in use, but I haven't heard it do this in some time (should check the Synology OS settings).

I try my best to keep important files mirrored elsewhere, but if those "clicks" are a sign that the drive could be failing, I'd better start making sure that nothing I want to lose is only stored on the NAS...

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Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

No, toasty warm is actually pretty deadly to NAND. When you're storing 200 electrons per cell in a 125 C environment you're lucky to keep good data for a month or so in the latest NAND technologies. There's a reason we've got strong ECC schemes to make flash more reliable, and the next step up will be LDPC codes, which are coming soon.

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Windows

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

That's exactly one thing on an HDD that can give you a warning, the noise.

I've shut down and mirrored two HDD's because of 'oddness', that you can hear (cclicking, rpm winding up and down when it shouldn't really), and, wouldn't you know.. a few weeks later, a loud scrrrrech, and a sudden BSOD later, the HDD refused to spin up after a reboot.

One tip, if you DO hear that sort of noise, DON'T DO A WINDOWS DISKCHECK.. all that will do is bounce your heads all over the good bits of the platter; Take the disk out, put it in as a slave on another machine, and just mirror it to another HDD.. then you can do your fault check.. which will probably destroy everything anyany.

Luckily, these (it happened twice over 10 years), were home PC's, with nothing but banal crap, re-installable games, personal e-mails containing nothing that I couldn't recover from the imap, and personal docs and pics that were always backed up..

So, in a sense, HDD's can and do give more warning of a problem, but you can't rely on it, and you have to be physicaly present to hear said telltales.. HD drives, in their death throes, failing in a server room, with no one present, would need to be striped across multiple discs to prevent data loss.. oh wait.. that's exactly what happens..

SSD will never replace HDD RAIDS for secure ('secure' in this case meaning nonvolatile) storage.

And if you're at home, infront of your PC, you WILL have a better chance of physicaly hearing a problem before it becomes terminal / expensive.

But still, back yo' shit up. Ain't nobody needs that sort of data loss round these here parts..

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Silver badge
Linux

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

The problem about SMART is that it is a series of numbers. It's not just a single yes/no value. It's much like nutritional information. You actually have to read and understand the whole thing. You can't just depend a single NuVal or some tool that tries to approximate this sort of thing.

I have never lost data to drive failures. This even includes a notorious batch of Seagate 1.5TB drives. However, I diligently pay attention to my SMART numbers and I'm aggressive about replacing drives when they start to show signs of trouble.

One day my SSD boot drive will just suddenly fail. THAT will be my first and only "warning".

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Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

Didn't Google publish a study of HDD reliability (based on the results from their data centers), which came to the conclusion that SMART indicators were mostly worthless for predicting failures?

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Bronze badge

Re: Both SSDs and HDDs can fail in two ways (slowly with errors, or all at once)

It seems to me attitudes to SSDs fall into roughly two camps - the big iron or high reliability folks who avoid them with a bargepole and the enthusiasts with little to lose who insist they must be better regardless of the question, and cite manufacturers claims as if they were solid incontrovertible evidence.

4½ years ago I installed 12 32GB SSDs into regular desktop machines. Looking back at my posting history I see I cited those here back in January, when nine of them were dead. Now that figure has reached 100%. With mechanical hard drives you would have been unlucky to lose two in that time. The manufacturers were making just the same reliability claims back when those were installed as they are today. Another smaller experiment started around two years ago isn't looking much better at this point.

Like it or not there is 50 years experience of HDDs in the industry and for those whose data matters experimentation based on technology that is at best unproven and at worst highly dubious simply isn't an option. Bare in mind that even one strong advocate of SSDs has to admit to their piss-poor reliability. Personally I'm with the first respondent - in the long term memristor based storage is probably the better bet. Whatever replaces ultimately replaces HDDs as the default storage option it won't be flash - in twenty year's time flash will be akin to the Zip drive today - a stopgap product for some subset of users that ultimately led nowhere.

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Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

"Didn't Google publish a study of HDD reliability (based on the results from their data centers), which came to the conclusion that SMART indicators were mostly worthless for predicting failures?"

Yes.

The results of analysis of a bogglingly large number of drives were pretty much "SMART can tell you that a drive has failed, but it's pretty much rubbish at telling you that a drive is going to fail."

http://research.google.com/archive/disk_failures.pdf

The same report concluded that development of even a single bad sector is a pretty good sign that the drive is getting ready to check out.

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Alien

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

"The same report concluded that development of even a single bad sector is a pretty good sign that the drive is getting ready to check out."

There's a reason for that. SSDs copied the HDD redundancy scheme. In both cases manufacturers keep a fair bit of "spare space": for SSDs that's unused pages and for HDDs it's spare tracks. When you hit a problem reading a sector where you have to try and read it more than once you map it to a spare sector and mark the old one as bad. At no point does the user know you've done that, it's all done under the covers seamlessly.

Now that you understand that you can see the "why" behind Google's result: by the time a user sees a sector failing the drive has run out of spares, which means that a pretty fair fraction of the drive area has failed for some reason. Those reasons are usually cascade failures (heat related wear in an SSD, TA contamination for HDDs, etc). It's your hint to go out and replace the drive folks.

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Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

You have the SMART value "reallocated sector count" which tells you the number of remaps performed so far. You also have the self-tests which you should run regularly via smartd or whatever.

Google says this:

"Our results confirm the findings of previous smaller population studies that suggest that some of the SMART parameters are well-correlated with higher failure probabilities. We find, for example, that after their first scan error, drives are 39 times more likely to fail within 60 days than drives with no such errors. First errors in reallocations, offline reallocations, and probational counts are also strongly correlated to higher failure probabilities. Despite those strong correlations, we find that failure prediction models based on SMART parameters alone are likely to be severely limited in their prediction accuracy, given that a large fraction of our failed drives have shown no SMART error signals whatsoever."

So it's pretty useful.

Ceterum censeo, not being able to get SMART data from USB-attached disks, varying/obscure/properietary interpretation and differences in commands and reporting between ATA and SCSI is frankly retarded. Disk industry is controlled by lazy jerks who can't into usable software and who should be visited by Vlad Tepes for some attitude adjustment.

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WTF?

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

That's why Time Machine runs every hour automatically you dolt! To stop complete morons like you losing data.

If you don't connect your backup drive it can't do the backup, and excluding a directory that you are now knowingly using for storage is reaching deep into Darwin territory.

I bet you think RAID is backup as well, don't you?

If you were my employee you wouldn't be for long. YOU are a walking disaster area and should not be allowed near a computer!

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Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

Flash doesn't like heat. Take this from someone random on the internet, but its true ;)

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Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

Why do you feel the need to be so rude? Would you talk like that if you met face to face or does it make you feel safe because no-one can physically harm you, so you can let your true nature show?

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Devil

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

Once every hour is too much to fill a disk with a bunch of hardlinks and one or two changed files. Can I configure Time Machine run to once every day or some other frequency that better suits my needs? No, because Saint Jobs didn't want to. Hence I ran it manually when I remembered. Lesson: Dumbing backup software down to a big switch is not a good design decision.

Yes, using the Download folder was silly, however I got the new files off there, interestingly enough using the UNIX command line as letting Finder near it sent it into fits. I could do this because I picked up on the warning signs that the HD was on its way out.

No, I don't think RAID is backup storage, I do know what the initials stand for.

I'm a walking disaster area that's managed to keep personal files for about 25 years, converting formats from one to another as I go so the data is still readable. OTOH if I were your employee I'd be looking for another job anyway because a) I wouldn't be happy if this is how you motivate your employees and b) you're probably running your precious little company or profit centre into the ground while blaming everyone else underneath you anyway.

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Re: Both SSDs and HDDs can fail in two ways (slowly with errors, or all at once)

Re SSD Camps: The two you mention are just the two most vocal - there are huge amounts of enterprises customers using SSDs just fine, they're simply not telling you (probably because they're working as expected, and there's nothing to tell.)

SSDs 4.5 years ago were crap - they were using flash and controllers originally designed for USB flash drives, which were designed with very different use patterns and lifetimes than a desktop drive. Things have come a long way since then - I've got hundreds of consumer-grade SSDs with 30k hours of runtime on high-write ratio workloads, and while some have failed, the AFR is significantly lower than my enterprise-grade hard drives (which mostly sit idle) over the same time span. And those SSDs are many generations old - every generation the drives become significantly more durable, to the point where I haven't seen a single failure in the latest generation drives over a cumulative 600 years runtime.

You just have to know what brand (and model) to buy, which usually means ignoring the benchmark screamers.

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Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

At work where I monitor over 100 hard drives 24/7 for at least the last 5 years I nearly always know when a drive will fail long enough to replace it. Although this is not SMART PASS / FAIL. Of the 75 or so drives we have RMA'd ( I test them thoroughly before an RMA - 4 passes of badblocks minimum) only 1 single drive had indicated a SMART FAIL status. Even drives where large portions of the drive were unreadable. Instead of the full drive SMART PASS / FAIL I look at specific SMART parameters like Reallocated sectors, Current_Pending_Sector, Offline_Uncorrectable ...

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Bronze badge
Boffin

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

Off site or well isolated, too. Ooh, look at that lightni..............................

So simple even I can understand it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: SSDs and HDDs both require backup...

If I were your employee I'd focus on important things; like whether the customer wanted fries with that - or which toy to put with the happy meal.

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I’m worried that I under-specified the hard drive in my new notebook. At half a gig, it's not much

Yep, a 500MB HDD is way underspecified, unless you've been sitting on this article since 1992.

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Bronze badge

At half a gig, it's not much

I must have been half asleep while writing that!

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Re: I’m worried that I under-specified the hard drive in my new notebook...

Rubbish. I have a 256GB SSD in mine - and it's only half full. Keep your big files and archived material on a Nas, not on your notebook.

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Gold badge
Trollface

@ Toxteth O'Gravy

So you're saying that the drive you bought is 512 times bigger than the one in the article, and only half full? So you've filled 256 times the size of his drive, but he should be OK?

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Joke

@Toxteth O'Gravy

Why don't you just go back to stuffing marshmallows up your nose :)

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Silver badge
Linux

Re: I’m worried that I under-specified the hard drive in my new notebook...

> Rubbish. I have a 256GB SSD in mine - and it's only half full. Keep your big files and archived material on a Nas, not on your notebook.

That kind of destroys any pretense of portability or mobility.

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Silver badge
Alert

Re: I’m worried that I under-specified the hard drive. At half a gig, it's not much

Though larger drives than 500G seem less reliable

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Pint

Re: I’m worried that I under-specified the hard drive in my new notebook...

Or was was it half empty, of course that makes you an optimist with a SSD!

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Silver badge

Brings back memories

Was actually just discussing this sort of thing with a colleague the other day.

I can recall the first 1GB hard drive coming into the uni labs where I was working at the time (~15 years ago, and OK, for a student definition of working). And now I have 16x that hanging off my keyring, let alone what's in all the other kit around the office.

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Gold badge

Re: Brings back memories

My first hard disk was about 80MB. I remember putting a 1GB SCSI drive in my Amiga A3000 and it seemed huge. But these days video files are huge too.

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Silver badge

Re: Brings back memories

20mb "winchester drive". The first drive I purchased was a £200 400mb maxtor 3.5" drive for my modded amiga

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Re: Brings back memories

I still have an original IBM PC 5MB full height drive sitting in my desk drawer. I can't remember what it cost but it was likely in excess of $1000. My biggest machine at home right now has over 12tb of internal+external storage. If I haven't messed up some 0's somewhere then that amount of of storage using these old 5MB drive would have cost in excess of $2 billion, and probably nearly as much just to house and power them up :)

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Re: Brings back memories

My first one was a 60mb gvp impact 2 scsi drive that slotted into the side of my Amiga 500. I seem to recall that it had extra memory slots and cost more than the Amiga itself. It still worked when I dug it out a few years ago, which isnt bad considering its about 20 years old and I used to hammer it for hours back in the day.

I also have a few old laptops from the mid 90`s that still boot fine with their origional hd`s.

On the other hand, the ssd in my Acer Aspire One is dying rapidly after about 3 years. It always had awful write performance, but now it seems to randomly loose data and I fear its not long for this earth.

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Devil

Re: Brings back memories

The full height 5.25" 5Mbyte HDD on the Apple II seemed like a lot compared to the Wimpy Apple floppies. Last Apple product I bought. I was too young to spot hype. It did need a separate PSU

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Re: Brings back memories

I get that Apple nowadays is a hype machine, and it's a pretty sad state. But, be fair to Apple II, the hype was largely deserved and it was the best machine of its vintage as far as consumer targeted stuff went. Choice of monitors, massive expansion slots, colour "graphics". The engineering and thought on that machine was truly high art, and Woz kept Jobs in check so it was a function first machine (contrast Apple III).

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