The Trouble With Solid State Drives: Failure, Fatigue and the Data Center
You remember it as if it was yesterday- the day you first learned of the existence of Solid State Drives (SSD). The promise of dramatically improved storage space in a device with no moving parts is alluring, to say the least.
But, unfortunately, this new technology is not turning up all roses.
Early SSD generations had lifespan issues owing to some of the physical characteristics of semiconductors. The tech industry forged ahead, however. Costs were driven down, as they usually are, and so were failure rates.
Failure rates (as in Uncorrectable read Errors (URE)) have fallen low enough that the average user may not even notice them. Organizations like Facebook, with large data center operations will notice them, however. What does that mean for the individual user? What it likely means is that malfunctions out there lurking and may be difficult to prevent.
As reported in February of this year, in a survey by Knoll Ontrack, a considerable number of SSD drive users who responded to the survey indicated that they experienced a malfunction. According to the press release, 1/3 of roughly 2000 respondents said their SSD drives suffered glitches resulting in data loss. And out of that number only 20% say they were able to recover their data.
Knoll Ontrack says these numbers reflect what is known about the difficulty of recovering SSD data. While the benefits of SSD over rotational disk drive storage are obvious; dramatically improved performance, significantly greater storage, silent running, and lower energy use- the way these kinds of systems store data makes recovery inherently more difficult.
Paul LeMessurier, of Kroll Ontrack said,
…data resides in a more scattered format on the drive as compared to traditional hard drive media where data is stored more linearly, adding complexity to SSD data recovery scenarios.
He also stated that data layout and organization on these devices are not yet standardized. This complicates any attempt to create a solution that will work for consumers.
Other issues with the new drives include greater vulnerability to heat-related problems. The latest generations use aggressive throttling and under-clocking to cope with the SSD susceptibility to heat. But the trouble with data layout will likely have to be dealt with by savvy individuals in the best way they know how- by Googling DIY (do-it-yourself), answers on the fly.