What's better – flash memory or hard drives?

Intel will tell us.

The chipmaking giant has conducted its own internal tests on how solid state drives, made up of flash memory, can be incorporated into a corporate computing environment. Intel makes flash drives, so there is clearly a vested interest here, but the tests were conducted by its own IT group.

The results? Hard drives fail around 5 percent of the time. Flash drives will fail around 0.5 percent of the time, according to Dave Buchholz, the IT technology evangelist at Intel who oversaw the tests. Batteries can also last longer in flash-based notebook and give notebook owners 15 percent better battery life.

Hard drives also run about 40 degrees hotter.

As a result, Intel is starting to get flash-based notebooks for its employees. Eighty percent of Intel employees work on laptops so this will become one of the earliest, largest experiments with flash notebooks. Flash may get incorporated into desktops and servers, but likely won't get used as primary storage vehicles. A lot of the desktops are owned by design engineers and they need the cumbersome space (1 terabyte or so) that standard hard drives can provide. Flash, though, may be used to store the operating system for faster boot-up.

As the flash notebooks proliferate through Intel, the world hopefully will get more data to see what sort of difference solid state storage can make.

Buchholz, by the way, will speak at the Flash Memory Summit in San Jose next week. (Disclosure: So will I.)