FLASH: Why Haven't We Seen This Sooner?

I saw an announcement of the Gordon supercomputer in an online Wired article. What made the new installation at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) noteworthy wasn't the size of the machine or that the machine debuted at #48 on the TOP500 list.

No, it was the fact that Gordon is the world's first supercomputer that uses flash memory instead of disk drives. This is the world’s largest thumb drive (300 Terabytes across 1024 Intel 710 series drives), as Allan Snavely, SDSC Associate Director, noted. There are quite a few advantages for using flash memory drives in place of spinning disks including lower power consumption, lower latency to access data, and fewer moving parts that can have mechanical failure. This just seems so logical that I'm surprised it hadn't happened sooner.

On a coincidental note, I saw a report earlier today that stated Intel was lowering Q4 revenue projections due to a drop in microprocessor demand from PC manufacturers. This is a direct result of not having enough disk drives available, which was caused by flooding in Thailand earlier this year.

I would think that the expected hard drive shortage will open the doors for wider adoption of SSD drives in the PC market and provide a hefty revenue stream for companies that can supply those drives. Big-scale projects like SCSD's Gordon computer just reinforce the efficacy of SSDs in desktops and laptops and even smaller form factors.

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