Dell denies report of solid-state drive failures

Refutes analyst's claim that almost a third of notebooks with solid-state drives are returned

Dell Inc. has waded into the blogosphere to shoot down a brokerage firm's report claiming that dissatisfied customers are returning 20% to 30% of Dell notebook computers due to problems with solid-state disk drives.

Lionel Menchaca, digital media manager for Dell's corporate blog, said in a post yesterday that a research note from an analyst at Avian Securities LLC identifying problems with the solid-state drive are inaccurate.

In the Avian report, Avi Cohen contended that the laptops are being returned because of performance problems and failures associated with the flash drive technology. Cohen said that Dell's solid-state drives are "clearly challenged," particularly in read/write capabilities. "On the performance side, many users are finding little or no improvement from [solid-state drives] as sequential writes slowness negates the random reads advantage," the report said.

Menchaca responded in the Direct2Dell corporate blog that "the 20% to 30% failure and return rates cited by Avian Securities don't even vaguely resemble what's happening in our business. It's just not true." Menchaca also said that Avian did not contact Dell prior to releasing the report.

Dell declined to comment further on Cohen's report when contacted by Computerworld.

In his post, Menchaca contended that internal Dell tests show its solid-state drive performance is "equal to or better" than the company's hard disk drives. Without disclosing details, he also remarked that Dell's solid-state drive return rates are "in line" with its expectations for new technology.

Because such drives contain no moving parts, the flash-based storage devices are starting to gain the attention of customers seeking faster start-up, quieter operation, less power consumption and quicker read and write times over traditional spinning hard disk drives.

In fact, analysts expect that corporate interest in solid-state technology will begin to pick up steam in 2008 because of its ability to support Web-based applications and fast transaction-response times.

Last week, chip maker Intel Corp. joined a growing stable of vendors pushing solid-state drive technology by confirming that it will soon launch a new line of 160GB solid-state drives for laptop and notebook PCs, while Samsung, Seagate and Toshiba have all announced plans to roll out solid-state drives in the coming months.

Despite a crowding field of solid-state disk drive makers, Cohen predicted that shipments of flash technology for notebooks and PCs will stall until prices drop, reliability can be proven and areal density reaches at least 200GB. He said he doesn't expect to see "meaningful" solid-state units to be delivered until at least 2009.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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