Innovating Under-the-Hood to Reduce Carbon Emissions Around the World

By February 21, 2022 March 18th, 2022 No Comments

There’s a perception in the technology industry that hard-disk drives (HDDs) are being replaced by solid-state drives (SSD), largely because they are smaller in size and use less power. And this is partly true which can be proved by Fig 1.

Fig 1. Shipments of hard and solid-state disk (HDD/SSD) drives worldwide from 2015 to 2021 (in millions)

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Anyway, data on an HDD is read from and written to spinning disk platters, which must power up and power back down between data processing sessions while SSDs store data in integrated circuits, which are smaller in size and don’t utilize spinning disks. This matters because it impacts performance too.

Fig 2. Relative Comparison of SSD and HDD

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Without a spinning disk, SSDs can be as small as an index finger and can have varying storage capacities, both of which makes them more flexible for use in smaller devices. Likewise, because there are no disks to rotate for data access, SSDs don’t require as much energy – or time – to power up and process data. As such, they consume less power. This results in reducing heat dissipation and consequently, reduces bottlenecks when storing the data.

Fig 3. Comparison of SSD and HDD in size

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But they’re also more expensive – and that has some speculating that HDDs are still a cost-effective alternative for some devices. But, in the long run, costs may not be as big of a differentiator for enterprise SSD manufacturers. Based on pricing, the difference in data center total cost of ownership is small between the two. As of mid-2020, the HDD replacement rate is about 15 percent, with a price gap of about 9 times.

Fig 4. Comparison of Nearline HDD and Enterprise SSD in price / Penetration rate of Enterprise SSD

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That’s important to remember because, even the shift from HDDs to SSDs is nuanced. For example, it is widely known that SSD consumes less power than HDD. With SSDs consuming 60 percent less power than HDDs, if every data center in the world was to use SSDs exclusively then global carbon dioxide emissions would be decreased dramatically.

In his keynote speech at IEEE IRPS in March 2021, SK hynix CEO Lee Seok-Hee challenged the semiconductor industry to accelerate innovation and help resolve the world’s climate problem. In line with this commitment, SK hynix is actively developing and introducing eco-friendly process technology for the safe disposal of various chemicals used in semiconductor processes, and in doing so, has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by about 90 percent by incorporating an eco-friendly scrubber that removes process gases that cause greenhouse gases during the manufacturing of its semiconductors.

In line with its commitment to cutting carbon emissions, SK hynix released groundbreaking low-power semiconductors that help consumers reduce their energy consumption. The company presented its new high-capacity lineup boasting next-level energy efficiency including the 128-layer-based enterprise SSD ‘PE8110 E1.S’ and consumer-aligned SSD ‘GoldP 31’. Particularly, the latter improved its read and write speeds by up to 88% and 83%, respectively, compared to existing 96-layer NAND products. And it supports sequential read speeds of 3,500 MB/s and sequential writes of 3,200 MB/s.

Fig 5. SK hynix’s SSD for enterprise – PE8111 E1.L, PE8110 E1.S, PE8110 M.2, SATA SE5110

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Fig 5. SK hynix’s SSD for consumer – Gold P31

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That’s a big impact and many other technology companies are working on ways to reduce technology’s carbon footprint while simultaneously innovating to meet demands and pave the way for even greater breakthroughs. Already, the growth in data is prompting cloud service providers to think of data in different categories.

Some data needs to be easily and quickly referenced on a continuous basis. But other types of data are merely preserved for archival reasons. Some companies retain large amounts of data for extended periods of time but don’t need to access the data on a regular basis. Video production companies, finance companies, research institutes and others tend to store data for a long time, which makes tape storage – a vintage technology that’s seeing a resurgence – another potential option.

The positive impact that technology has on the environment may appear to be incremental – but because technology is found across a growing number of devices and services, not just computers and mobile phones, the amount of data that’s being created and processed on a minute-by-minute basis is growing exponentially.

Collectively, each of these efforts to reduce power consumption and carbon emissions at the component level can have a great impact. And as more connected products and more online services make their way into the mainstream, the need to better manage the energy being used to process data will become that much more important. Finally, SK hynix is always at the heart of turning the technological innovation into reducing its carbon footprints.