Get email delivery of the Cadence blog featured here
SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak can
envision the end of hard disk drives, replaced by solid-state memories.
"I'm a purist, I'd love to see hard disks go away,"
he said during a "fireside chat" here Wednesday (Aug. 6), during the annual Flash
Memory Summit at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
Responding to colleague and interviewer Lee Caswell, vice
president of storage appliances at Fusion I/O, Wozniak said he was "kind of
joking" because he's an electrical engineer and hard drives are primarily
the work of mechanical engineers.
"Moving those tiny almost weightless electrons around
those tiny little wires is so much simpler," he said of solid-state
solutions. But he acknowledged that hard disks probably won't disappear
entirely because they will always be most cost effective than, say, flash
memory for certain applications and/or densities. Wozniak is chief scientist at
enterprise flash memory provider Fusion I/O,
which SanDisk acquired
earlier this year.
Future of Memories
Wozniak also sounded a note of caution for solid-state
is convincing me we might be getting to the end of Moore's Law. Storing a 1 and
a 0 with 8 electrons, you get to the point where you have to add more
error-correction bits than you'll save in the dimension shrinkages."
He mentioned alternative memories, such as phase-change and
magneto-resistive, but said "people say 'oh, they're going to be cheaper
and faster and denser, but you have to get the density factor down. It's the
economies of scale: so many NAND chips are made for so many products now,
it's the cheapest memory going. And it's so far along the curve you can make a
chip that has upteen gigabytes. You have to equal that with other technology before
they'll take over."
The man who worked as an HP calculator engineer before designing
the original Apple Computer went on to say he couldn't think of types of
servers that don't deserve to deploy flash.
if it's just used to speed up hard disks or external solid-state disk arrays,
it probably makes a lot of sense. I think servers will eventually be built with
the server and flash on the same motherboard."
He said he hopes to see the day soon when software
application writers start to rethink their relationship with memory:
we need to write software with variables in memory and records in storage? Why
not skip the storage? What if the operating system had no storage commands and
the programming language had no storage commands and you kept your arrays as big
bee trees in the NAND flash memory?"
As Wozniak took the audience on his usual humorous,
insightful tech tour, he diverged slightly when addressing the rise of cloud
"We know the benefits of the cloud and how cheap
storage is, but I still think you own things and they're in your possession. I
don't get a lot of choice about that anymore. I don't own anything I've agreed
to. It's on the cloud. I made all these agreements. I hope we change that some
day in the future."
--Flash Memory Summit: Steve Wozniak's Early Encounters With Memory
--Flash Memory Summit: What’s Driving 3D NAND Flash, What Challenges Remain