lehpron
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Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 4:15 pm

I see it quite coincidental that when I had my incident with my HD that I began to just article in various mag regarding data recovery and HD's.

Those other things, the little USB drives, first of all why can't anyone come up with a standard name? I got a 128-meg Jumpdrive, I've heard of flash dirve, pen drive, thumb drive, portable mass storage device, DELL calls them 'memory keys', etc...

Anyway, these things have no moving parts yet they function like a hard drive. Hard disk drives have moving parts, failures are imminent (sooner than other computer parts) and they have limited warrenties and cost a bunch.

This fall supposidly there will be the 4-gig version of the USB mini-storage device (another name  Yeah sure). These things are durable and for now, smaller. I would figure that eventually they will be big enough to put them into a mainstream computer or PDA and replace the HD, extending the life of the storage.

What do you think? Do you have what I'm talking about:

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L-188
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 4:23 pm

Don't think so.

I do think they will end up replacing burnable CD rom's, ZIP disks and derivities thereoff.
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Kay
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 4:47 pm

Flash drives will never take the place of hard disks because of their speed of access. They're slow. In your computer, originally, the only part that uses the same technology is the flash rom memory, the BIOS. It is slow, and is used only at boot. Same goes for all hardware, routers, switches etc.

RAM has the fastest access because of its construction and access logic (hash tables). The hard disk, because of its large capacity, is divided into clusters, most of its delay due to the head looking for the right cluster, but once it finds it, speed is blistering. Flash memory, finally, sucks big time whether it is large or small (doesn't matter) simply because of the hardware.


things always change though, but this info has been the same for the last 25 years.


kay
 
lehpron
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 5:15 pm

I agree with access speed, but have you ever opened up those flash drives? They are made with RAM. How else can sizes as big as a gig fit onto a space of 0.5 x 1.5 inch?!
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unattendedbag
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 7:57 pm

I don't think they will replace cd-r or dvd-r for a long time. The cost for a single cd-r disk is under a dollar. For the equivalent storage on a microdrive, the cost would be upwards of $75.
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Klaus
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 8:23 pm

Kay: Flash drives will never take the place of hard disks because of their speed of access. They're slow. In your computer, originally, the only part that uses the same technology is the flash rom memory, the BIOS. It is slow, and is used only at boot. Same goes for all hardware, routers, switches etc.

Mostly wrong. Reading from flash memory is a lot faster than from a harddisk (not via USB, obviously, but the chips themselves). Flash chips have not reached quite the same speeds as RAM at this time, but that´s mainly a matter of cost; Copying them to RAM can just be cheaper than using faster flash chips.

Writing to flash memory is not as fast as reading, but still pretty decent.


Kay: RAM has the fastest access because of its construction and access logic (hash tables).

Nonsense. Hash tables are a software mechanism to speed up key/value lookup. They are not used in any memory technology (not even in caches) and would not even make sense with RAM. RAM and flash are both directly addressed by each cell´s address with direct matrix decoding.


Kay: The hard disk, because of its large capacity, is divided into clusters, most of its delay due to the head looking for the right cluster, but once it finds it, speed is blistering. Flash memory, finally, sucks big time whether it is large or small (doesn't matter) simply because of the hardware.

Nonsense. Flash is a lot faster than a harddisk (typically a few nanoseconds per access as compared to many microseconds and even milliseconds).

The real reasons why flash can´t currently compete with harddisks:

- Cost: Flash memory costs a lot more per megabyte than harddisks.

- Capacity: Flash memory chips don´t economically reach into the multi-gigabyte capacity range yet.

- Rewritability: Flash memory has a limited rewrite capacity; It´s memory cells "wear out" over time. One of the chips I´ve used, for instance, has "only" 1 million erase/rewrite cycles guaranteed. That´s not really a lot when looking at how harddisks are being used.

- Practicability: Rewriting flash can be a little cumbersome, depending on the respective chip´s architecture (sector erase / write).


Lehpron: I agree with access speed, but have you ever opened up those flash drives? They are made with RAM. How else can sizes as big as a gig fit onto a space of 0.5 x 1.5 inch?!

No, flash chips are just packaged into the same kinds of housings as RAM chips are. They are often only distinguishable by their type specification label. Flash chips are even manufactured with different processes than RAM chips in order to build their unique cell structure.

There actually are bigger flash "harddisks" used in special systems (as far as I know, "black boxes" in airplanes use them for better protection against shock and vibration); But due to cost and practicability concerns, they are mostly restricted to floppy replacement duty. And for those amounts of data, USB is usually fast enough.
 
unattendedbag
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 8:30 pm

Hey Klaus,

Was my statement correct and factual?
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L-188
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 8:39 pm

Klaus, costs are going to decrease over time.

But I still don't see transportable flash drives replacing hard drives.

Now I can see increased on board ROM and RAM possible, but Microsoft isn't exactly known for making svelte operating systems. They take up some space.

I just don't at this time see chips taking the place of harddrives yet.
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Klaus
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Unattendedbag

Sat May 15, 2004 8:42 pm

Unattendedbag: Was my statement correct and factual?

I haven´t looked at the actual consumer prices recently... But it seems to be in the ballpark.

Another point is that CD-R and DVD-R at least potentially have a longer data retention time than flash memory would. Again referring to the example at hand, data retention is specified at about 20 years for the flash chip. Data is "decaying" over time unless it is refreshed (read and re-written).

Thats actually very similar to the dynamic RAM chips we all have in our computers; Only that dynamic RAM needs to be refreshed in a matter of milliseconds rather than decades...  Wink/being sarcastic
(RAM refresh is done transparently by the RAM controller chip sets.)
 
Klaus
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L-188

Sat May 15, 2004 8:47 pm

L-188: Klaus, costs are going to decrease over time.

Absolutely. The "problem" is just that the price per megabyte is falling even faster for harddisks than it is for flash memory...  Wink/being sarcastic

L-188: Now I can see increased on board ROM and RAM possible, but Microsoft isn't exactly known for making svelte operating systems. They take up some space.

Yep.  Wink/being sarcastic But even in my Mac, the flash memory only holds the Open Firmware bootstrap code (only remotely comparable to a PC BIOS); MacOS X is then still loaded from the harddisk as usual.
 
L-188
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 8:48 pm

Can you just see somebody getting ticked off because they can't find the thumbdrive with the OS on it Big grin
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Klaus
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L-188

Sat May 15, 2004 8:52 pm

That would be ... most unfortunateBig grin
 
jwenting
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 9:01 pm

read times are short (high speed), but access time is long (slow).
That makes them good for longterm storage of large files, which is not what harddisks are designed for.

Flashdrives are also quite expensive.
A 256MB flashdrive costs about €100, for that money you can get a 100GB harddisk.
That cost will likely go down over time as the market gets larger, but it will not reach the cost level of conventional drives in a long time and remember that those conventional drives will get faster and cheaper in the interval.

I think the flashdrives will in the end replace the rewritable CD and floppy, in fact that seems to be happening already.
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Klaus
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Jwenting

Sat May 15, 2004 9:12 pm

Jwenting: read times are short (high speed), but access time is long (slow).
That makes them good for longterm storage of large files, which is not what harddisks are designed for.


No, wrong again.

Typical access time for my example flash chip is 45 nanoseconds, which is comparable to the RAM chips in its class (there are faster ones of both kinds available). Since flash chips don´t generally operate in burst mode, their read speed is directly dependent on the access time (which is part of the total read cycle time). They are very much faster than harddisks in read and especially in access time. Using USB for connecting it will eat up much of the advantage, of course.

And for the reason stated earlier, I would not recommend using flash memory for archiving. Sure, you don´t need to fear mechanical decay as much, but a safely stored CD or DVD of good quality will probably serve you better for that. (Cheap CD-R or DVD-R may not last as long; And exposing them to sunlight or heat will certainly shorten their lifespan.)
 
srbmod
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sat May 15, 2004 11:32 pm

If these drives are the wave of the future, why would hard drive manufacturers keep developing HDs with even greater and greater storage capacity? Eventually, hard drives will become smaller because of some of the new technologies being developed. One day down the road, high capacity hard drives could be as small as a matchbook, or even smaller. These keychain devices are alright to transfer files between one computer to another, but unless the technology makes a major leap in the next 10 years, it will be really nothing more than the computer equivalent of the memory cards video game consoles use.
 
Klaus
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Srbmod

Sun May 16, 2004 1:21 am

Yes, it would take a major leap forward to have solid state storage finally replacing rotating storage for good... At this time, such a leap is not visible in the near future. But who knows...
 
CPDC10-30
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sun May 16, 2004 2:25 am

I have used pen drive devices to replace a majority of CD-R needs and all ZIP disks and floppies. Way more conveinent and faster access times. I used to waste stacks of CD-Rs for only 50 meg files but no more. Personally, I can't wait for the demise of hard drives or "rotating storage" as Klaus calls it. They are an old technology that is getting stretched to the limit with faster RPMs - anyone else notice that most manufacturers only offer a 1-year warranty now as opposed to the previous 3-year warranty?
 
Marcus
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sun May 16, 2004 2:44 am

Here at the office we have joined the USB flash memory craze, everyone was happy with these things untill we noticed they seem to have higher fail rate than those of regular hard drives.
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Klaus
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CPDC10-30

Sun May 16, 2004 2:48 am

CPDC10-30: Personally, I can't wait for the demise of hard drives or "rotating storage" as Klaus calls it. They are an old technology that is getting stretched to the limit with faster RPMs

Yeah, indeed. I´m absolutely amazed how much they´re still managing to squeeze out of this ancient technology...  Big thumbs up

CPDC10-30: anyone else notice that most manufacturers only offer a 1-year warranty now as opposed to the previous 3-year warranty?

That´s more a function of the ongoing price wars. You can still get longer warranty, but only on the (much!) pricier server harddisks. Those are not well-suited for desktop use, but they´re quite a bit faster (and louder!) and significantly sturdier (they just don´t withstand frequent start/stop cycles as well as desktop disks do).

The broad market just doesn´t support higher quality any more, unfortunately...  Sad
Most people look almost exclusively at the price and know or care nothing about quality. (They wouldn´t buy those presumably cheap Windows PCs otherwise...  Wink/being sarcastic)
 
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juanchito
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Sun May 16, 2004 12:31 pm

I would rather by an external USB Hard Drive than a USB Memory Stick, maybe the hard drive is more expensive but you could have 40 - 60 - 80 or even more GB and a Memory Stick at this moment only 1 GB. Both product have advantages the memory stick is easy to carry on.


Juanchito
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lehpron
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Tue May 18, 2004 2:55 am

Perhaps I should have included the implication that this thread question was not a "would you think now" rather a "would you think later on". Currently, I think these things will easily overtake, if not replace, floppies.

Obviously the USB pendrives available are not anywhere closer to the size of external/internal drives (DUH), I meant that soon there will be larger sizes. Like this fall the 4gig will hit the store shelves, and these things only came out last summer with the 1gig stick. Serious acceleration here folks, plus they are maintaining their size.

Now what do you think?

>> "If these drives are the wave of the future, why would hard drive manufacturers keep developing HDs with even greater and greater storage capacity?" <<

Nothing in technology takes off right from the start, it has to get introduced, especially in a market dominated by companies with the biggest foot in the door. But yeah, I heard that we should be seeing 400gig drives pretty soon.
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Klaus
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Lehpron

Tue May 18, 2004 3:15 am

As I said: They´ll certainly replace floppies in the medium term. With harddisks, it´s more difficult (not just because of cost) and not foreseeable at this time.
 
IndianFlyboy
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RE: Will The USB Flash Drive Replace Hard Disk Drives?

Wed May 19, 2004 1:35 pm

Costs of any product are directly attributed to the volume sales . While hard disks sell in large volumes USB devices and Flash cards are no where near the HDD sales. I was recently at an IBM seminar for storage devices and they are predicting the end of the hard disks in the next 10-15 years a very long time when it comes to the Information Technology arena. As far as speed goes a HDD is nowhere near flash cards.However as some of you stated there is a major limitation using HDD's. They still use a mechanical arm and magnetic media. You can get out performance out of these two only to a certain extent. The major problems which are faced with HDD's and further improvement are as follows:
1. The basic structure of the hard disk itself. The media is stacked one on top of the other with the heads in between. There is only a limit you can go to compressing the size of the physical media or reducing the size of the read write heads.

2. The number of tracks per media is also directly dependant on the circumference of the media , again you cannot keep increasing the circumference of the media. This will lead to 2 things , too big a circumference and the R/W access will be slow and too small a circumference and the number of tracks which can be written will be low.

At the current technology the media is as thin as it can get and the heads are as small as they can get. There are a whole bunch of devices which are being designed out of which the flash card looks the most promising.
You can visit the IBM website for a lot of information on storage, some wonderful stuff put up there.

Klaus , wonderful explanations up there btw  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

Regards

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