Faster SSDs matter to companies because they sell things

June 28, 2015

The computer hardware industry has a problem: systems mostly aren't getting (much) better any more, especially desktop PCs. The most famous example is that CPU performance has been changing only incrementally for years, especially for single threaded performance. This is a problem because a lot of hardware sales are upgrades and when there's no particular performance improvement you can trumpet people don't bother to upgrade. They do replace old machines eventually, but that's slower and less lucrative (and runs the risk of people leaking out to, eg, tablets and smartphones).

This is where a faster SSD interconnect matters to companies; it's a clear performance improvement they can point to. Whether or not it makes a difference in practice for most people, companies can trumpet 'much faster disk read and write speeds' as well as 'take full advantage of SSDs' and thereby move (more) hardware. No matter what it does in practice, it sounds good.

My general impression is that Intel and the motherboard companies are pretty desperate for things that will move new hardware, and really I can't blame them. So I wouldn't be surprised to see U.2 NVMe support appear in motherboards and systems quite fast, and I honestly hope it works to prop up their fortunes.

(As someone who is well out on the small tail end in terms of my PC hardware, I have a vested interest in a vibrant motherboard market that caters to even relatively weird interests like mine.)

Sidebar: the 'pushing technology' view

On a longer and larger scale view, drastically increased 'disk' access speeds that are essentially specific to SSDs also increase the chances that people will start building filesystems and other things that are specifically designed and tuned for SSDs, or just generally for things that look more like memory than rotating magnetic medium. It's been very useful to be able to pretend SSDs are hard drives, but they aren't really and we may find that systems are quite different and better when we can stop pretending.

(This too is likely to sell new hardware over the long term.)

Written on 28 June 2015.
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Last modified: Sun Jun 28 02:30:29 2015
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