Samsung just revealed the world's largest hard drive--the PM1633a, a 16 TB punch in a 2.5-inch SSD package. The drive relies on a new 32GB NAND flash die comprised of 48 layers of 3-bits-per-cell 3D V-NAND. 

PM1633a, courtesy of golem.de

The traditional hard drives have been due for their turn at obsolence, but Samsung's latest announcement is proof that the nail in traditional hard disk drives' coffin is nigh. There's something practical and comforting about HDDs though: we grew up with them and their spinning platters cheerfully storing our photos and concert videos and term papers...until, of course, they stopped. That's the difficulty with HDDs--because they have mechanical parts, they're inherently sensitive to environmental factors; they will inevitably fail.

Solid state drives--like Samsung's latest--contain no moving parts, but are significantly more expensive to produce. And they've traditionally been able to store much less than HDDs; however, last year Western Digital unveiled a helium-filled, 10TB hard drive that eliminated some of the instabilities of traditional hard disk drives by negating their exposure to air. Still, with the announcement of the new 16TB SDD, solid states are on their way to shouldering out their HDD counterparts for good. 

One of Samsung's current SSDs.

However, while the cost of the PM1633a would be fine for industrial purposes and businesses that don't flinch at the pricetag it demands, this kind of space doesn't make sense for the average consumer. That means Samsung is focusing on big data and industrial purposes--especially creating massive, powerful servers--and it means that the designer hoping to reach the average household should focus on making affordable SSD drives and learning how to fully take advantage of V-NAND. 

Sadly, the whirring hard drives of the past are long gone, but 3D NAND is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Its power and density make its potential too tempting to ignore.

 

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