Solid-state drives have been primarily used in desktops as fast boot drives, with large traditional hard disks used for the mass data storage and some apps. Most of the advancements in SSD media has been more around wear leveling and durability rather than raising capacity.
Well, now that they are getting the durability squared away, some are going for capacity. Several have released 1TB drives. Samsung just one-upped them all with a PCIe-based drive that holds 3.2TB.
The drive is based on Samsung's 3D V-NAND, or vertical NAND, flash memory technology, which uses 3D stacking of the cells. In traditional memory architectures, 2D structures were the norm, which meant that the more memory packed into a chip, the denser the memory became, causing interference between cells. So instead of building out, Samsung built up, as it were.
Samsung's choice of PCIe was not an accident or catering to the high end crowd. SATA III, the current top-of-the-line bus for hard drives and SSDs, is maxed out and the drives are faster than the interface. The result has been a plateauing of performance by SATA-based SSD drives. The SM1715 is a four-lane PCIe card, which offers 1.6GB of bandwidth. SATA III has just 600MB of bandwidth.
Samsung claims the SM1715 provides a sequential read speed of 3,000 megabytes per second (MB/s) and writes sequentially at up to 2,200MB/s. By contrast, the best SATA III drives are maxing out at 500MB/s reads and 400MB/s writes. The card also randomly reads at up to 750,000 IOPS (input output operations per second) and writes randomly at up to 130,000 IOPS. A top-level SATA SSD might hit 100k read IOPS and write IOPS of 90k.
Samsung is promising reliability levels of 10 DWPDs (drive writes per day) for five years. What that means is you can write enough data to fill/rewrite the entire drive up to 10 times in a day. DWPD is the measure for SSD reliability. Since overwriting data is considered part of the wear on it, the more you write to it, the faster the drive will wear out and memory cells start to expire.
So Samsung is basically saying you can write 1.6TB or 3.2TB of data to the drive 10 times a day every day for five years before it starts to wear out, which would be intense and probably unlikely usage.
So are we seeing the end of the hard drive? I'll answer that when Samsung names its price. 3TB hard drives are around $120 or so. No SSD can come close, although there are 1TB SSDs on NewEgg.com for $500. That's progress. I bought a 500GB SSD for $600 last year, but these drives don't have the advanced 3D memory and PCIe interface of the Samsung card. If it's under $1,000, then you will see hobbyists lining up to buy this thing and the price will come down even further, bringing it to wider acceptance.