Recent Opinion on SSD Failure Rates Fails to Include the Facts

Direct2Dell

The Official Dell Corporate Blog

Recent Opinion on SSD Failure Rates Fails to Include the Facts

Sometimes we have to react to information that has no basis in reality. That's what we're dealing with here.

A recent analyst document from Avian Securities incorrectly stated that Dell is seeing high return rates (20 - 30%) due to performance issues and failures on solid state disk drives (SSDs). It has been the basis of conversations in the blogosphere like Crave, Gizmodo, Techcrunch and BloggingStocks.

Here's the real story: the 20 - 30% failure and return rates cited by Avian Securities don't even vaguely resemble what's happening in our business. It's also true that Avian did not contact us while doing their research. Said another way, it's just not true.

Our global reliability data shows that SSD drives are equal to or better than traditional hard disk drives we've shipped. Beyond that, return rates for SSDs are in line with our expectations for new technology and an order of magnitude better than rates reported in the press.

The vast majority of our customers who purchased these drives appreciate the benefits that SSD drives offer: increased durability, fast start up, better reliability and improved access times.

In her earlier blog post, Sarah Williams from our product group mentioned that first-generation SSD drives performed on par with 5400RPM laptop hard drives overall. She also said that we're now offering second-generation Samsung's SATA II drives (we call them Dell Flash Ultra Performance SSD) that outperform existing laptop (and even some fast desktop) hard drives. 

Whether we're talking about a new technology or an established one, Dell is extremely strict on quality variations. Hard drive quality in particular is closely monitored by virtue of its job: to store customer data. Computers can be easily replaced—customer data cannot.

We remain committed to SSD technology and see it as a key technology that will advance mobile computing overall. Because of this, we will continue our efforts to offer them across a variety of consumer and business laptops and mobile workstations.

Update: EqualLogic blogger Marc Farley weighed in on the topic here. Very soon, he will be joining the Direct2Dell family to contribute to a new group blog we'll be launching soon called Inside IT. More details coming.

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  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Glad to hear it was not correct as I've been excited about SSD and looking forward to eventually getting one.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Are the SATA II drives actually available?  I've been checking weekly since the "coming soon" post 5 weeks ago, and have not seen anything like Ultra Performance mentioned.

     

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    SSD is a fantastic technology, and the ways in which it will contribute to performance, reliability, power savings, noise reduction, and heat reduction are going to become more evident as prices come down and the technology replaces spinning media in more and more applications.  For now the notebook computer is a focal point, but the applications for servers and in data centers are only just being explored.  I'm proud to see Dell in the vanguard of technology companies helping to mature this technology and bring it to the masses.

    Unfortunately, the highly competitive nature of media outlets, rushing to be first with the big story, has made that industry somewhat prone to publish inaccuracies introduced through a lack of proper due diligence.  The problem appears to be worse when reporting on companies like Dell, which are already being "piled on" in the media.  It's "news." It sells.  And the proliferation of media outlets in the online doesn't help.  In this paticular case, where public acceptance of a new technology can lead to very real savings and environmental improvements, to release a story which could negatively impact its adoption, while having no basis in fact, is beyond negligent.

     

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I'll repeat my comments from May 2007 when SDD drives were first announced by Dell: 

    I am very curious about the suggested lifespan of these drives. All flash drives have a limited number of writes. I wonder what kind of specs these ScanDisk drives have.

    The hybrid approach (HD + flash RAM) could use the flash as a cache. If the flash fails then you may at least have the bulk of your data on HD.

    For example, running any current Windows OS and a development environment, you would be doing thousands of writes per day. This technology could speed up compiles, but how long will it last?

    And when it fails, there is probably no method of data retrieval. Unlike HD technology, there is no hard record to access. And it will likely fail without warning.

    Perhaps a RAID system is indicated?

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    A technical question about SSD's.

    Ignoring, for a moment, that Windows does some amount of defragmenting in the background, does an SSD ever need to be defrag'ed?  Would there be any performance benefits to be realized, or are you just wasting read / write cycles...?

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I have five of the SSD laptops in 1330 XPS trim. They are used 10-12 hrs a day. No problems for the last four months guess I should have gotten at least one bad one. Maybe someone needs to do thier homework before engaging thier mouth.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Curious that there are no REAL numbers in this comment. In fact I have had experience with SSD's over the last 14 years. The technology is always described in glowing terms like those of Craig above. And in fact the advantages Craig parrots are mostly true. Whereas there are some significant issues that are rarely mentioned.

    1) Flash erasing is NOT that fast. This is a surprise to many - they figure that if it is non-mechanical it will be nearly instant. Nope. The access time is incredible compared to moving a head and platter. But the flash cells are not quite so fast at reading, writing and especially erasing. This is where they have to do some tricks (eg. block erase) to make up for this shortness.

    2) Cell lifetime is limited. They do another trick called wear leveling to minimize this issue. While it may seem like not that big of a deal to have 100k cycles the way windows treats the swap file may make that object nearer than you expect.

    3) Bit parity. Like in most media there is some chance of bits getting lost. So there is some built in error detection and correction. However, since Flash is (as admitted by all) MUCH more expensive than HDD they are not as willing to devote quite so many bits in this effort. So historically corruption has been an issue - especially for those companies early in their shipping phase (like Samsung).

    4) When you put these together and it's evident that your data is not locked in a single location on the drive. In fact each time you make a change to a file it will MOST likely end up in an entirely differnt part of the drive. The drive controller has to keep track of a very complicated map of where that file is - a map which may start out logical but certainly doesn't stay that way. Oh yes, and the map will be locaed in different areas  too!!  Now when that data gets moved it is subject to corruption. Worse, when the map get moved it to is subject to corrption. But when IT gets corrupted you can very quickly make a very expensive solid state brick.

    It seems each company ends up learning these lessons on it's own. Someday Samsung flash will be great. But I am not at all suprised that there is more fallout than expected. I am a little suspicious that there are no actual numbers in this rebuttal. And so while 10, 20 or 30 is probably a high number I think that the real number is probably much higher than Dell or its customers would have expected too.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I had to return my laptop after the SSD failed after 3 weeks of use. I had to call Dell four times, 3 weeks later it was resolved. A note to Dell,your technical support email support is terrible. I emailed support several times and never had a reply back. This experience has certainly made me think twice about ordering from Dell again.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I'm glad to hear tha,t too. But what is more interesting than hoaxes:

    When will the "Dell Flash Ultra Performance SSD" be available in Europe?

    "...We'll roll this drive out in the coming weeks..."(Sarah) is a bit vague.

    Looking forward

    Andreas

  • teas1040:  Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

    We currently offer the new SATA II drive as options on the M1730 gaming laptop and M6300 mobile workstation, and we'll offer the XPS 1330 and the XPS 1530 in the coming weeks. I'll update this blog post when that happens.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Since the new drives are Sata II instead of Sata I, will Dell use a different motherboard in the 1330 or is the existing mobo Sata II compatible?

    Also, is there any update on the release of these?  The M6300 has had the Ultra speed drives for 3 weeks now.  The Thinkpad X300 has had them for more than 7 weeks.  I was trying to hold out for the 1330 but I am about to give up and grab the X300.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Oh no!  I just ordered my XPS 1330 system and it's in production.  Now I learn that I spent over $600 for a drive that is on par with a 5400 rpm HDD.  This is NOT exceptional!

     

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Well I just got a XPS 1330 with the new Samsung Sata II 64GB SSD (Ultra-High Performance).  This thing is crazy fast!!  It reads twice as fast as the Sata I SSD drive.  It can boot up Vista in 24 seconds!!

    Here is a comparison between Sata I and Sata II on the same 1330 notebook.

    PCMark05 Startup: 52MB/s vs. 24MB/s


    HDTach: 125MB/s vs. 48MB/s


    PCMark05 Score: 7,619 vs. 6,309


  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    My Dell (Sandisk) 32GB SSD failed after 8 months (in a Dell D630).  I was able to recover some of the files.  The bad sectors were primarily in the OS files.  In the morning, I had an operating computer.  In the afternoon, Vista was stuck infinitely loading.  Diagnostics threw an error code, which was apparently a dead drive code.  I guess I am part of the unlucky few....

    Now I am nervous about the replacement because it is refurbished.  How exactly do they refurbish an SSD?  How much were the cells used by the prior user?  No way for me to know.  I don't want to spend the money on a new drive but I cannot afford another 50+ hours running diagnostics and re-doing the OS, files and programs. :-(

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    What of these new SSDs for a Dell D630?

  • Glad to hear it was not correct as I've been excited about SSD and looking forward to eventually getting one.

  • Are the SATA II drives actually available?  I've been checking weekly since the "coming soon" post 5 weeks ago, and have not seen anything like Ultra Performance mentioned.

     

  • SSD is a fantastic technology, and the ways in which it will contribute to performance, reliability, power savings, noise reduction, and heat reduction are going to become more evident as prices come down and the technology replaces spinning media in more and more applications.  For now the notebook computer is a focal point, but the applications for servers and in data centers are only just being explored.  I'm proud to see Dell in the vanguard of technology companies helping to mature this technology and bring it to the masses.

    Unfortunately, the highly competitive nature of media outlets, rushing to be first with the big story, has made that industry somewhat prone to publish inaccuracies introduced through a lack of proper due diligence.  The problem appears to be worse when reporting on companies like Dell, which are already being "piled on" in the media.  It's "news." It sells.  And the proliferation of media outlets in the online doesn't help.  In this paticular case, where public acceptance of a new technology can lead to very real savings and environmental improvements, to release a story which could negatively impact its adoption, while having no basis in fact, is beyond negligent.

     

  • I'll repeat my comments from May 2007 when SDD drives were first announced by Dell: 

    I am very curious about the suggested lifespan of these drives. All flash drives have a limited number of writes. I wonder what kind of specs these ScanDisk drives have.

    The hybrid approach (HD + flash RAM) could use the flash as a cache. If the flash fails then you may at least have the bulk of your data on HD.

    For example, running any current Windows OS and a development environment, you would be doing thousands of writes per day. This technology could speed up compiles, but how long will it last?

    And when it fails, there is probably no method of data retrieval. Unlike HD technology, there is no hard record to access. And it will likely fail without warning.

    Perhaps a RAID system is indicated?

  • A technical question about SSD's.

    Ignoring, for a moment, that Windows does some amount of defragmenting in the background, does an SSD ever need to be defrag'ed?  Would there be any performance benefits to be realized, or are you just wasting read / write cycles...?

  • I have five of the SSD laptops in 1330 XPS trim. They are used 10-12 hrs a day. No problems for the last four months guess I should have gotten at least one bad one. Maybe someone needs to do thier homework before engaging thier mouth.

  • Curious that there are no REAL numbers in this comment. In fact I have had experience with SSD's over the last 14 years. The technology is always described in glowing terms like those of Craig above. And in fact the advantages Craig parrots are mostly true. Whereas there are some significant issues that are rarely mentioned.

    1) Flash erasing is NOT that fast. This is a surprise to many - they figure that if it is non-mechanical it will be nearly instant. Nope. The access time is incredible compared to moving a head and platter. But the flash cells are not quite so fast at reading, writing and especially erasing. This is where they have to do some tricks (eg. block erase) to make up for this shortness.

    2) Cell lifetime is limited. They do another trick called wear leveling to minimize this issue. While it may seem like not that big of a deal to have 100k cycles the way windows treats the swap file may make that object nearer than you expect.

    3) Bit parity. Like in most media there is some chance of bits getting lost. So there is some built in error detection and correction. However, since Flash is (as admitted by all) MUCH more expensive than HDD they are not as willing to devote quite so many bits in this effort. So historically corruption has been an issue - especially for those companies early in their shipping phase (like Samsung).

    4) When you put these together and it's evident that your data is not locked in a single location on the drive. In fact each time you make a change to a file it will MOST likely end up in an entirely differnt part of the drive. The drive controller has to keep track of a very complicated map of where that file is - a map which may start out logical but certainly doesn't stay that way. Oh yes, and the map will be locaed in different areas  too!!  Now when that data gets moved it is subject to corruption. Worse, when the map get moved it to is subject to corrption. But when IT gets corrupted you can very quickly make a very expensive solid state brick.

    It seems each company ends up learning these lessons on it's own. Someday Samsung flash will be great. But I am not at all suprised that there is more fallout than expected. I am a little suspicious that there are no actual numbers in this rebuttal. And so while 10, 20 or 30 is probably a high number I think that the real number is probably much higher than Dell or its customers would have expected too.

  • I had to return my laptop after the SSD failed after 3 weeks of use. I had to call Dell four times, 3 weeks later it was resolved. A note to Dell,your technical support email support is terrible. I emailed support several times and never had a reply back. This experience has certainly made me think twice about ordering from Dell again.

  • I'm glad to hear tha,t too. But what is more interesting than hoaxes:

    When will the "Dell Flash Ultra Performance SSD" be available in Europe?

    "...We'll roll this drive out in the coming weeks..."(Sarah) is a bit vague.

    Looking forward

    Andreas

  • teas1040:  Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

    We currently offer the new SATA II drive as options on the M1730 gaming laptop and M6300 mobile workstation, and we'll offer the XPS 1330 and the XPS 1530 in the coming weeks. I'll update this blog post when that happens.

  • Since the new drives are Sata II instead of Sata I, will Dell use a different motherboard in the 1330 or is the existing mobo Sata II compatible?

    Also, is there any update on the release of these?  The M6300 has had the Ultra speed drives for 3 weeks now.  The Thinkpad X300 has had them for more than 7 weeks.  I was trying to hold out for the 1330 but I am about to give up and grab the X300.

  • Oh no!  I just ordered my XPS 1330 system and it's in production.  Now I learn that I spent over $600 for a drive that is on par with a 5400 rpm HDD.  This is NOT exceptional!

     

  • Well I just got a XPS 1330 with the new Samsung Sata II 64GB SSD (Ultra-High Performance).  This thing is crazy fast!!  It reads twice as fast as the Sata I SSD drive.  It can boot up Vista in 24 seconds!!

    Here is a comparison between Sata I and Sata II on the same 1330 notebook.

    PCMark05 Startup: 52MB/s vs. 24MB/s


    HDTach: 125MB/s vs. 48MB/s


    PCMark05 Score: 7,619 vs. 6,309


  • My Dell (Sandisk) 32GB SSD failed after 8 months (in a Dell D630).  I was able to recover some of the files.  The bad sectors were primarily in the OS files.  In the morning, I had an operating computer.  In the afternoon, Vista was stuck infinitely loading.  Diagnostics threw an error code, which was apparently a dead drive code.  I guess I am part of the unlucky few....

    Now I am nervous about the replacement because it is refurbished.  How exactly do they refurbish an SSD?  How much were the cells used by the prior user?  No way for me to know.  I don't want to spend the money on a new drive but I cannot afford another 50+ hours running diagnostics and re-doing the OS, files and programs. :-(

  • What of these new SSDs for a Dell D630?