January 5th, 2011 by Brian Beeler
Alternate Form Factors the Future for SSDs [Storage Visions 2011]
The trend in computing generally seems to gravitate toward "smaller is better." That's certainly true when it comes to client-side computing and the related storage devices. Hard drives are coming out in single-platter 7mm height and SSDs are seeing more adoption of form factors in sizes other than 2.5". Intel's new 310 SSD is a good case study, but they're not alone. At Storage Visions, we visited with SanDisk, Micron and others who are all working toward smaller SSD form factors.
Intel took time to walk us through the details around the 310 SSD platform, along with their roadmap for the first half of 2011 (there's good stuff coming). As noted in our initial coverage, Intel and systems builders like Lenovo are pretty excited about using the mSATA interface for tiny SSDs. The 310 comes in 40GB and 80GB capacities, which translates very well for system drive duties. Users still get the benefit of the internal drive bay for whatever they like; whether it be a large hard drive for programs and files, or even another SSD. We should see ThinkPads this year, with the SSD 310 as an option, possibly for as low as $100 for the 40GB capacity.
A machine can also run solely on the mSATS SSD, with no additional storage. DRS Technologies is showing off their rugged tablet that uses only the Intel SSD 310. The unit is peppy and destined for super duty tasks all over the world with the military, or as Intel told us, closer to home in garbage trucks - apparently there's a significant market in on-board waste management computing.
The SSD 310 is an interesting platform, we're expecting a review unit in the next month or two, we'll be sure to report back on performance and design.
SanDisk was also showing off not only their mSATA SSDs for OEMs, but their entire line of alternative form factors including the oh so tiny iSSD. The 64GB iSSD is smaller than most stamps but still delivers solid performance for ultraportable devices.
There's no doubt that smaller SSDs will be a big trend for 2011-2012. Sure, 2.5" SSDs will continue to be the mainstream, even if they are simply 1.8" SSDs dressed up in a 2.5" enclosure. But as we're seeing with Intel, SanDisk, Micron, OWC, Viking Modular and others, users and system builders are going to continue to get interesting storage choices to build around.