The press releases are flying fast and furious for the latest FLASH NAND SSD developments.
- SandForce announced a SDK for developing FLASH SSD’s using Micron 34nm NAND with these claims (their words):
- 30K+ sustained, random 4K write IOPS to a single drive
- Ultra-fast Windows 7 booting and user experience
- 130K sustained, random 4K write IOPS through a PCIe card solution connected to four drives
- 15K sustained, random 4K write IOPS though Emulex’s next gen high-performance SAS-SATA embedded storage bridge technology
- Intel announced with Micron a 3bit NAND chip: “Designed and manufactured by IM Flash Technologies (IMFT), their NAND flash joint venture, the new 3bpc NAND technology produces the industry’s smallest and most cost-effective 32-gigabit (Gb) chip that is currently available on the market. The 32Gb 3bpc NAND chip is 126mm². Micron is currently sampling and will be in mass production in the fourth quarter 2009”
SandForce briefed me some months ago before they emerged from stealth mode. At the time they made similar “too-good-to-be-true” performance claims. I was skeptical. Still am. What magical incantation are they performing? After all, the good professors taught us that we all must follow the same laws of physics, don’t we? Perhaps SandForce is trading off wear (MLC FLASH NAND wears out after a few thousands of writes) for performance. Or they are exploiting an un-yet discovered performance lever or they are paralleling lots of chips. I’m taking the high road and presuming the SandForce designers are extremely clever.
The proof is in the products.
Speculation ON and OUT on a limb: Watch for a major disk vendor to deliver an SSD product line based on SandForce’s design. Clearly SandForce is not attracting investors without a solid customer. Seagate has been making noises for some time about delivering a “compelling” SSD lineup this year. This will surely give Intel and STEC some serious competition. And when Hitachi shows up with their SSD products, with SAS connectivity, the SSD primordial soup will get a lot more tasty.
Now Intel: Intel keeps driving the cost of capacity down – their recent price reduction to $225 on the 80GB X25-M MLC proves that. It use to take a champagne budget to purchase a SSD, now we are down to premium beer prices. With the introduction of 3bit NAND, pricing should continue towards generic beer pricing.
As long as the supply holds up.
NAND supply may become an issue. Apple continues to suck up supply and increasing SSDs sales constrains factories - even if the constraint is artificial. Long term, more capacity per chip can only drive pricing down per Gbit.
The evolution of SSDs continues, as I mused in a previous SSD blog: BAM! a new era is upon us but like evolution, you have to be patient as the new solid-state disk species evolves.
Posted by Gene Ruth