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【Performance Test】DRAMeXchange 2011 SSD Performance - SSD Cost Analysis

Published Jun.01 2011,15:16 PM (GMT+8)



SSD Cost Analysis

Unlike traditional hard disk industry, SSD industry requires enough capacity in disk, read write head and motor production. Small and medium makers can't afford that much. In recent years, M&A cases have often occurred among hard disk giants. Seagate purchased Samsung's hard disk business in 2Q 2011 after Maxtor takeover in 2005. Western Digital, another hard disk giant also bought Hitachi's hard disk drive business in 1Q 2011. Sandisk, the flash memory and SSD maker acquired enterprise SSD maker Pliant for USD 0.327 billion in May 2011. All above indicates the transition of the traditional hard disk drive industry to meet the definitely forthcoming SSD era. It also shows that the traditional hard disk industry has reached the situation of the big getting bigger in competition. Meanwhile, hard disk makers have begun to compete for storage capacity and against SSD makers.

From DRAMeXchange's viewpoints, both sides complement each other. Traditional hard disk makers will advance into the SSD market while emerging makers can have new opportunities in SSD market. Not only semiconductor manufacturers that produce flash chips, SSD control chipmakers but also small and medium SSD makers will have opportunities to become successful.

It is very similar to the transition from traditional automobile industry to future EV industry. Small manufacturers can create and assembly their own products for sale as long as they are able to master specific technologies and find the adequate parts suppliers of various fields.

SSD cases are priced approximately between USD 2 and USD 4, made of die casting metal or plastics and differ in the body strength. With better strength, metal case is a mature industry and easy to find suppliers, likely to be adopted by small and medium SSD makers. Plastic case is less strong but can reduce costs under certain large demand. As plastic mold charge is high, it is large makers who first reduce costs by using the plastic case then followed by small and medium makers. Compared with the traditional hard disk drive, SSD is less troubled with shock problems so it is feasible to lower costs from SSD case.

SSD controller chip prices range from USD 8 to 25 for the consumer type and from USD 80 to over 100 for the advanced enterprise product, accounting for about 10% to 25% of the total SSD cost. Besides, the controller chips differ in read/write performance, IOPS, supports for different Flash chips and fault tolerance.

SSD's Flash chip price takes up the most in the total SSD cost but also varies the most. For the same 64Gb MLC Flash, prices will fluctuate up to 2 to 3 times as the lowest price, entirely depending on the write endurance, nanometer manufacturing process, delay time (possible maximum read/write performance).

DRAMeXchange predicts that the average price of 60GB consumer SSD will come to USD 100 and 120GB consumer SSD to USD 180 by the end of 2011.

The concepts of Computer NAND Flash and Comsumer NAND Flash proposed by semiconductor giant Intel have become the mainstream thinking for market segmentation of Flash products in recent years. The reason is that Flash chip quality is too complicated to be standardized like DRAM while its speed difference is less remarkable than DRAM. Moreover, reliability and endurance (read/write) affect the lifespan of SSD products. All are attributed to Flash chip's innate structure.

When there was no segmentation between consumer and computer applications, lower NAND Flash chips was able to be applied into the USB, portable hard drive, T Flash card, Flash memory card and even SSD. However, consumers who had bought SSDs with such low level chips would doubt about its use life in addition to its slow execution performance. In this case, the SSD market would plunge into price confusion.

Meanwhile, how to distinguish midiem and advanced level Flash is also a big challenge concerning with pricing, cost and endurance. Therefore, Intel's proposal may well be a useful reference. According to the read/write endurance (three prices for 10,000, 5,000 and 1,000 times read/write per block), efficiency, delay time, channel support, semiconductor manufacturers will classify products before Flash chip shipment. With number and price differences, downstream products can be effectively segmented for better consumer acceptability.