Hard disk drives are clearly and eventually on their way out. The future of data storage is blindingly fast transfer speeds in a slim form factor and some such devices have already started to make their way into the market. They are the opposite of cheap :) but it's early days yet and prices should drop.
Here are two mouthwatering devices featured on Engadget
1) The OCZ Enyo USB 3.0 portable SSD
A solid state drive housed in aluminium casing and running on SuperSpeed USB 3.0, this one is a beauty cruising at top-speed. Imagine being able to take a 256 GB backup in 12 minutes, or transfer 16 GB in 53 seconds (transfer times claimed on the site).
It comes in 64/128/256 GB sizes priced at USD 300, 400 and 800 respectively
2) The Supertalent SuperCrypt USB 3.0 USB drive
Reviewed favorably and in detail on PC Perspective last month, this small USB key apparently delivered average read and write speeds of 185MB / sec and 50MB / sec respectively as reported on engadget. It also costs more than a SSD (Solid state drive) coming in at $119 for 16 GB and upwards.
Incidentally, both these devices run on USB 3.0,(SuperSpeed USB) which is the next major revision of the USB interface. The revision promises enhanced read/write (data transfer) speeds upto 4.8 Gbps (wow!) on high speed Gigabit ports of new devices.
If you are interested in knowing more about USB 3.0, read this extensive FAQ on EverythingUSB. To summarise just some of the points in this FAQ:
1. USB 3.0 will not replace USB 2.0 (the current interface) for a long time to come and will be fully backward compatible with USB 2.0 ports
2. Microsoft has announced that Windows 7 will support USB 3.0, through future updates, and possibly Vista will as well. Linux will also definitely support it.
3. The technology will be applied for external hard drives (including RAID), flash drives and Solid State Drives, storage docks, Blu-ray optical drives, high-end notebooks, and PCI Express/ExpressCard. Video applications will also take advantage of high speed USB.
4. Currently there are still a few wrinkles to iron out (and I am quoting from the everythingusb post):
To paint an accurate picture, not everything in USB 3.0 is a clear improvement. Cable length, for one, is expected to have a significant limitation when used in applications demanding the highest possible throughput. Although maximum cable length is not specified in the USB 3.0 specification, the electrical properties of the cable and signal quality limitations may limit the practical length to around 3 metres when multi-gigabit transfer rates are desired. This length, of course, can be extended through the use of hubs or signal extenders. Additionally, some SuperSpeed USB hardware, such as hubs, may always be more expensive than their USB 2.0 counterparts. This is because by definition, a SuperSpeed hub contains 2 hubs: one that enumerates as a SuperSpeed hub, and a second one that enumerates as a regular high-speed hub. Until the USB hub silicon becomes an integrated SuperSpeed USB + Hi-Speed USB part, there may always be a significant price difference.
Despite the prohibitive pricing today, I am pretty gung-ho about this new technology and the implications it has for data storage in the future.