We’re nearly half way through 2010 (I know, scary, isn’t it?), and it is time to review where technology is heading in the storage arena. Of course, the general trends that are always there continue: storage capacity on hard drives keeps growing, and prices keep falling. It is now possible to buy a 750GB hard drive for your notebook. Wow! Also, 2TB hard drives are slowly but surely approaching the $100 mark, another milestone!

But we also have some new and updated technologies coming our way that affects data storage. Let’s start with USB 3.0. Backwards compatible with USB 2.0, USB 3.0 will allow for much faster data transfer rates than have been possible before, up to 5gps, or 10 times the speed of USB 2.0. For more information, like what the connectors look like and more about the specs, have a look here.

So USB 3.0 will speed up your external hard disks? What about a speed increase inside your computer? That is happening right now as well, courtesy SATA III. SATA is the protocol and interface that is used to talk to your hard drives inside your desktop or laptop, typically the second generation, or SATA II. That protocol can reach up to 3Gbps. Now with the third generation, conveniently named SATA III, those speeds can be doubled to a theoretical limit of 6Gbps.

Note that basically no hard drive on the market today is fast enough to saturate SATA II (with a few minor exceptions), let alone SATA III. However, where we are going to see these kinds of speeds is Solid State Drives, or SSDs. These devices consist internally of flash memory chips and don’t contain any moving parts, unlike traditional hard drives, which spin their platters typically with speeds of 5,200 to 10,000 rpm. Because of the much faster access speeds, SSDs have much better access times, and fragmentation isn’t a problem as it is with regular hard drives either. However, it’s a young technology and as such prices are still very high and with a few teething troubles, but as with all things high tech, they will come down in price, sooner rather than later.

So if you’re looking for a new computer or planning to build one yourself, and have a need to do a lot of data transfers, internally or externally, it would probably be a good idea to look out for USB 3.0 functionality, built-in or as an add-on, and keep an eye out for SATA III storage controllers and drives. Whatever solution you’re looking at, though, make sure that it fully supports the speeds you’re looking to get. Just because a board or system advertises USB 3.0 ,doesn’t mean you’ll get the full speed out of it, so buyer beware!

And finally, a little bit of science fiction: Intel is working on optical interconnect technology called Light Peak that will start with a bandwidth of 10Gbps and only go up from there!