Samsung launches site to spark solid-state drive demand

Web site to tout the benefits of solid-state drives

Samsung Electronics has launched a micro educational Web site as part of an effort to jump-start the stagnant solid-state drive business.

Samsung officials described the microsite as an "educational resource" to help visitors better understand and stay abreast of developments surrounding the technology, which has yet to be accepted in most corporate IT shops. The site features research and other solid-state-related materials, including white papers, news articles and information on where the technology is available.

The site directly takes on the argument that the technology is too expensive by letting users "do the math" and analyze the potential return, Samsung said. The analysis section enables end users to compare pricing and other features of solid-state technology and the more popular hard disk drive alternatives.

Joseph Unsworth, principal analyst at Gartner, said Samsung faces a difficult chore because solid-state technology is still "prohibitively expensive" and end-user understanding of such systems is "prohibitively low." He said the Samsung effort is shrewd, but to succeed, the effort must be expanded to include non-solid-state suppliers like Microsoft and PC manufacturers.

"While the solid-state drive market has been in existence since the early 1990s, mainstream adoption has been nonexistent until now ... because massive investments have driven down prices at a staggering rate, thereby enabling new opportunities for flash," Unsworth said.

According to Unsworth, solid-state storage manufacturers must cut prices further and provide a "clear [and] concise" message about the true benefits of flash before users will widely accept the technology.

Unsworth suggested that the industry could benefit from forming of a "solid-state drive association" to promote and market standard specifications. He said a standard interface -- probably Serial ATA -- is crucial and must emerge to simplify adoption and speed up the time frames for delivery to end users.

Despite a somewhat chilly reception for solid-state drive offerings from buyers, suppliers are rapidly ramping up -- or, in some cases, debuting -- their solid-state portfolios. For example, Toshiba Monday announced that it would produce solid-state drives ranging in capacity from 32GB to 128GB for notebook PCs by May 2008.

Last month, Micron Technology introduced RealSSD, its first family of solid-state offerings. The drives will be offered in 32GB and 64GB capacities and will be mass-produced early next year, said Micron officials.

Samsung currently offers a 32GB parallel ATA solid-state drive that was introduced in 2006, and a 64GB version (featuring a SATA I interface) of the device that debuted earlier this year. The company plans to release a 128GB version of the product next year.

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Brian Fonseca

Computerworld

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