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Microsoft & Samsung speed up SSDs on Vista

Partners optimise Windows for solid-state disks

Samsung is working with software makers to boost solid-state disk (SSD) performance on operating systems, and has revealed it's in talks with Microsoft to improve the performance of the technology on Windows.

The speed and way in which SSDs fetch and cache data are different than hard drives, said Michael Wang, flash marketing manager at Sun. Samsung hopes to work with Microsoft to boost SSD performance on Windows by discovering optimal packet sizes for data transfers and the best ways to read and write files, for example.

"We have been so used to hard drives for so many years, Windows is optimised for that obviously," Wang said.

Windows is designed to fetch and cache data using rotating media, but by working with Microsoft, Samsung wants to distinguish SSDs from hard drives on the Windows OS, Wang said.

Wang declined to provide further information on the discussions with Microsoft.

It is generally thought that SSDs could replace hard drives, but both differ in data sizes and how Windows should treat both, said Gregory Wong, an analyst with Forward Insights.


Analysis: SSDs versus traditional hard disks

There is a mismatch in the way Windows Vista handles data sizes on hard drive and SSDs, Wong said. Vista has been optimised to handle hard-drive data in smaller chunks. In contrast, the sector size - also known as page size - of SSDs are larger than hard drive sector sizes. That results in inefficient SSD performance when slotted into a disk drive bay, Wong said.

"My guess is that [Samsung and Microsoft] are maybe working on the OS recognising an SSD with a 4Kb sector size instead of a hard disk drive with a 512b sector size," Wong said.

Sun is already working with Samsung to bulk up SSD support on the ZFS (Zettabyte File System), which is included in the Solaris OS, and will also be supported in Apple's upcoming Mac OS X 10.6, codenamed Snow Leopard. Sun is adding capabilities to boost the durability and performance of SSDs on ZFS-based operating systems. For example, Sun may add defragmentation capabilities for SSDs, which organises data in a particular order to enable quicker data access.

SSDs were not considered ideal for defragmentation because of limited read-and-write capabilities, Wong said. However, Samsung and Sun in July jointly announced an 8GB SSD that bumped up durability from 100,000 read-and-write cycles to 500,000. That brings defragmentation in SSDs closer to reality, which could improve its caching and provide quicker access to data. Sun plans to put SSDs into storage products later this year.


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