I've noticed two topics generating a lot of buzz in the storage world lately.

  1. Hardware-Encrypted Disk Drives
  2. Solid State Disk Drives

I believe the first topic is a direct result of the disclosure of scores of high-profile data breaches resulting from stolen computers. The highest profile instance occurred in May of 2006 when a U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs laptop containing the names, social security numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, and addresses of 26.5 million American veterans was stolen. Unauthorized information disclosure has unfortunately become an all too common occurrence in today's world.

In response, vendors such as Seagate have introduced hardware-encrypted notebook hard drives to counter the unintended loss of sensitive information when a computer is stolen. The idea is that data stored on the hard drive is encrypted at all times, rendering the information practically useless to thieves. The encryption is done in specialized hardware to reduce the performance impact associated with the extra computation.

The second topic is the result of a continued increase in flash-based memory capacity to the point where it can now be considered as an alternative to traditional hard drives. Both Samsung and Sandisk have recently announced 64GB (Samsung) and 32GB (Sandisk) products targeted for laptop usage. Since there are no moving parts, flash-based memory consumes much less power than the spinning platters of a traditional hard disk, which is obviously a big benefit for laptop users. As a side benefit, these flash-based memory "drives" are rumored to be anywhere from 4-10x faster than a traditional hard drive, which brings me to the main point of this post.

How long will it be until we see solid-state "drives" such as the ones from Samsung and Sandisk coupled with dedicated hardware-based encryption as demonstrated on the new Seagate drive? A considerable downside to full-disk encryption of traditional drives is the performance impact. Since the new flash-based drives are several times faster, why not bake in full-drive encryption now when nobody will notice it. What you'd end up with are flash-based drives that provide full-disk encryption and still outperform traditional drives. Waiting to add full-disk encryption to later versions of flash-based drives will only introduce the performance debate that faces today's traditional drives, making the purchasing decision all that much more difficult. Why not avoid the confusion and help customers better secure their data in the process?