Embodied Carbon: The Dirty Secret of SSDs (8x More Than HDD)

The Dirty Secret of SSDs: Embodied Carbon.
Scalable Solid-State Drives (SSDs) have revolutionized the way we store and
access our data across datacenters and handheld devices. Unfortunately, scaling
technology can have a significant environmental impact. Across the globe, most
semiconductor manufacturing use electricity that is generated from coal and
natural gas. For instance, manufacturing a Gigabyte of Flash emits 0.16 Kg
CO$_2$ and is a significant fraction of the total carbon emission in the
system. We estimate that manufacturing storage devices has resulted in 20
million metric tonnes of CO$_2$ emissions in 2021 alone. To better understand
this concern, this paper compares the sustainability trade-offs between Hard
Disk Drives (HDDs) and SSDs and recommends methodologies to estimate the
embodied carbon costs of the storage system. In this paper, we outline four
possible strategies to make storage systems sustainable. First, this paper
recommends directions that help select the right medium of storage (SSD vs
HDD). Second, this paper proposes lifetime extension techniques for SSDs.
Third, this paper advocates for effective and efficient recycling and reuse of
high-density multi-level cell-based SSDs. Fourth, specifically for hand-held
devices, this paper recommends leveraging elasticity in cloud storage.

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