It would seem that solid-state drive (SSD) technology is finally making its predicted inroads, writes Vassen Naicker, Western Digital product specialist at Drive Control Corporation (DCC). According to research group, Gartner, the storage technology is expected to grow to 5.1 million units by 2013 which is a significant jump from the estimated 59 000 units sold in 2008.

Key to this growth is the commitment by storage vendors to make SSD part of their product offerings.  Companies such as Western Digital have gone as far as acquiring SSD specialist companies to strengthen their value proposition and subsequent solution offering in this potentially lucrative marketplace.
In South Africa, SSDs are at the beginning of the adoption curve; however, as the technology becomes more commoditised it will undoubtedly enjoy some significant success in the near future.
But why SSDs and more particularly what does the SA consumer have to gain from it? The growth of the mobile generation directly impacts the success of SSDs. The proliferation of Netbooks – smaller, less resource hungry machines – offers significant opportunities to SSD players in the market as these devices still require storage irrespective of their form factor.
In turn, consumers benefit from a lightweight, extremely reliable storage solution – SSDs have no mechanical parts – that offers an impressive amount of storage capacity despite its size.  Indeed, it is expected that by 2011 SSDs will offer up to 350GB of storage which is significant as it could effectively replace the hard drives in mobile devices making them even more lightweight and portable.
The above also underscores what SSDs have been designed to do: work in a similar way as a USB or memory card but as a standalone hard drive.
Furthermore, and this is a major benefit, SSDs are swappable which means you can simply remove it from your notebook or Netbook, insert it into your SSD slot on your PC and retrieve all the necessary information.
On top of the swappable nature of SSDs, it also offer impressive read and write speeds of up to 654MB/s write and 712MB/s read. Also, SSDs are not limited to express cards or large enterprise storage infrastructures but can also function in a USB format.
Indeed, the technology is not restricted by physical barriers and can be adapted to play the same role as our current flash storage options.
On the topic of flash, why not incorporate both flash and SSD in one device? Just imagine the storage capacity; a small Netbook that features hundreds of gigabytes of storage without compromising its size and usability.
So, when evaluating SSDs, here are some additional benefits to consider:
* Faster access – unlike a traditional hard drive, SSDs do not have to start spinning at certain speed to work. Furthermore, it does not need the head (the device used to write and read information) to move to the exact physical location on the disk where the relevant data is stored.
* Reliable and resilient- as mentioned, SSDs have no moving parts and as result are stronger and can cope with wider extremes in temperature or knocks and bumps.
* Quiet operations – SSDs, unlike hard drives, are completely silent. The only noise you are likely to hear is the cooling fans of the PC or notebook.
* Fewer fragmentation problems – traditional hard drives often suffer from defragmentation (where files are physically scattered across the disk, making them slower to access).  With an SSD it makes no difference where the files are located.
Again, the above benefits directly impact the notebook and netbook markets. Currently, there are already a number of high-end notebooks that incorporate SSD technology but as the cost of the technology stabilises and it becomes more commonplace it will definitely become a mobile device storage technology to be reckoned with.