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SSD Prices Headed Up Amid Cryptocurrency Demand, Supply Constraints

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The NAND manufacturer Phison has warned that SSD prices are likely to rise in the near future, thanks to the newly-launched, storage-focused cryptocurrency, Chia. The good news is that the impact isn’t expected to be huge — at least not yet.

Phison reported Q1 2021 profits of $60.6 million, setting a record for the best first quarter ever, DigiTimes writes. The company expects Q2 to be an equally strong quarter — silicon manufacturers are doing very well right now — but believes NAND quotes could rise by 10 percent in Q3 as Chia has more of an impact on storage sales. Additionally, SSD shipments will likely be constrained by a shortage of controllers.

The SSD controller shortage isn’t new and it’s not going away any time soon. Phison has said it expects controller supply to fall short of demand through at least 2022 – 2023. SSD prices have been relatively quiet lately and a quick check of some popular drives revealed no significant price changes in the past few months. Hard drives, however, are a different story. We checked drives from Seagate and Western Digital. 16TB drive prices have doubled. Some 18TB drive prices have nearly tripled.

Hard drive prices are headed for the moon.

We aren’t seeing any impact from Chia yet in the solid-state market, but it’s clearly sent hard drive prices soaring into the stratosphere. There are reports that Chia can chew through SSDs very fast, with claims that 512GB drives may last as little as 40 days.

There are two steps to creating Chia blocks — plotting and harvesting. Plotting is write-intensive and the final plots created are much smaller than the amount of storage required to create them. Chia’s documentation states that 356GB of temporary space is required to create a 100GB plot. This is exactly the opposite of best practices when writing data to an SSD. Data writes to NAND are destructive over time and drives are only rated for a limited number of writes.

Side note: It’d be interesting if Chia plotting worked well on Optane. Optane’s endurance ratings are far better than NAND flash, but the price might put it out of most miner’s reach.

The NAND flash market remains one of the few places not hit by recent price increases. Chia could still turn out to have a larger impact than anticipated, but there’s no sign of a surge in SSD prices.

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