New SSDs: Faster, Cheaper

Arthur Cole

Development news surrounding solid-state disks for the enterprise generally follows the big guys. Will EMC or won't it? (It finally did.) What will Seagate come up with next?


But with SSD revenues about to jump through the roof, there is a vibrant community of systems developers out there, some of whom have some rather innovative ideas of their own.


A case in point is SMART Modular Technologies, which this week introduced a new line of XceedIOPS SATA devices that the company says break new ground with "enterprise-grade" multi-level cell (MLC) technology. The company reports that its drive can achieve 30,000 random read/write IOPS and 250 MBps sustained read/write for up to 400 GB, which is roughly in line with existing drives. Where the E-MLC technology shines is endurance, which the company rates at 20,000 program/erase cycles, compared to maybe 5,000 for other NAND systems. That gives the drive a good five years of usable life working in an average demand environment.


Also on the move is OCZ, which recently unveiled a new series of Vertex 2 drives. They also use MLC technology that can bump read/write rates up to 280/270 MBps. And from InnoDisk, we're seeing a new line of PCIe devices in the company's Matador line, which claim read/write speeds of 800/600 MBps with capacities up to 2 TB.


At the moment, it's rather difficult to make side-by-side comparisons of drives since performance numbers are open to a fair amount of speculation. But that could change soon now that the Storage Networking Industry Association is working up some new specs designed to bring some sense of order to the industry.


Elsewhere, drive manufacturers aren't necessarily going for top performance as much as specialized applications. ioSafe, for one, is looking at extreme conditions for its Solo SSD, claiming it can handle virtually any amount of shock, heat or moisture. The device features an outer steel shell that can protect the inner components from a two-story collapse, up to 1550 degrees F or a full 30 days in salt water. The drive is available in capacities up to 256 GB and includes USB 2.0 and eSATA interfaces.


Extreme devices aside, the success or failure of many of these drives will most likely come down to price. System integrators will have an easier time selling a Seagate or EMC device unless the smaller firms can help buyers come in way under budget.


But given that enterprise-class SSDs represent an entirely new, largely untapped market, there's a good bet that deployments will be plentiful for everyone over the next few years.



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