Rapid declines in the price of solid state drives (SSDs) are finally allowing them to begin competing directly with hard disc drives (HDDs) across a wide range of computing applications. In the two years from the end of 2010 to the end of 2012 SSD average price per Gigabyte declined from around $3 to approximately $0.80. Although this is still higher than HDDs, the difference in price has continued to shrink since then; as HDD prices remain relatively static.
SSDs have long been used in industrial PCs as a more rugged alternative to hard drives for products designed for extremely harsh environments. Until recently their use had been limited to environments where HDDs just weren’t rugged enough. However, now that SSD prices have declined they are rapidly becoming a viable alternative for a wider range of industrial uses.
In many ways the industrial PC (IPC) market lags behind the consumer and commercial computing markets. A combination of long development cycles and a conservative customer base means that IPC technology can be a decade behind their commercial cousins.
However in one area industrial computing is far ahead; SSDs. Nearly half of IPCs sold already use solid state, rather than HDDs. However, use of solid state is still mainly limited to applications where hard disks are unusable. The additional cost of a solid state drive, coupled with smaller storage capacities and some initial worries about their long term data storage abilities has led many to stick with the tried and tested hard disk.
Traditionally IPC buyers are wary of new technologies; however this is less of an issue for solid state devices than many other new technologies. While it is true that many IPC buyers still have their doubts, the wide prevalence of solid state, in both more rugged IPCs, and consumer devices such as tablets, helps to mitigate this worry. Solid state storage is proving itself in the only way any new technology can prove itself; through continued widespread reliable performances.
SSDs have many advantages over traditional hard drives. IPC users will be most familiar with the additional ruggedness that has made them popular in certain sectors. Additionally SSDs are quicker, lighter, more reliable and more energy efficient than traditional hard disks. These attributes are very attractive to the IPC market, and will drive rapid growth in their use in IPCs across all applications now that pricing is less of an issue.
An additional effect of declines in SSD prices will be that IPCs used in applications where SSDs are already widespread will be able to be sold with larger storage capacities. Until recently the majority of SSDs used in IPCs had very limited storage capacity, to prevent the overall cost of the IPC rising. However now that prices have fallen this is less of an issue. This will allow users greater flexibility in what they use their IPCs for beyond simply controlling a machine or production line. Running additional larger programs, and storing more comprehensive data from a wider connected factory will both be easier as SSD storage capacity becomes less of an issue.
If solid state storage continues to fall in price at the current rate, HDDs could soon become a thing of the past, in all but a few specialist applications, and for once industrial computing can honestly say that it is leading the way over the consumer PC market.