Building Support for Solid-state Drives

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Changing the Way You Purchase Storage

Ensure that IT has the flexibility to build and efficiently run a shared infrastructure.

Enterprise-class solid-state drives are getting bigger, faster and cheaper, which presents both an opportunity and a challenge to remake storage infrastructure to handle the distributed, dynamic data environments coming your way.

Hitachi kicked things up a notch recently with the release of the Ultrastar SSD400M, a multi-level cell (MLC) device based on Intel 25 nm NAND flash. The drive clocks in at 495 Mbps read and 385 Mbps write, which the company says is suitable for Web-based and cloud storage applications as well as tier 0 server and storage environments. An added bonus is improved write endurance to overcome MLC's traditional weakness in that area. The drive is rated at 7.38 PB over a full lifecycle, enough to handle 10 full writes per day for five years.

At the same time, Smart Modular Technologies has rolled out the new Optimus drive, which kicks capacity up to 1.6 TB and delivers a whopping 1 GBps read/500 Gbps write throughput over a wide-port 6 Gbps SAS interface. The 2.5-inch drive is aimed at enterprise settings with a number of reliability features such as FlashGuard, DriveGuard and EverGuard, providing upwards of 10 full writes per day over a five-year warranty.

Faster drive technology is only useful if the wider enterprise environment can accommodate them. So it's no surprise that the network interface industry is honing on next-generation standards. One of them is the Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe) standard, which has the backing of Cisco, Dell, Intel and others. According to IDT's Kam Eshghi, the aim is to prepare for the day when ICs can support SSDs directly on the host processor, a development that makes it easier for multicore systems to access a common storage subsystem. NVMe builds on the PCIe interface to provide a scalable solution for multicore, multi-threaded application environments.

Meanwhile, the SATA International Organization (SATA-IO) recently announced plans for a new PCIe-based specification designed to boost SSD throughput from the current 6 Gbps rate to 8 and eventually 16 Gbps. Described as a SATA/PCIe hybrid, the spec is designed to present itself as a standard SATA interface to the host system, although physical connectivity takes place on the PCIe layer. A final standard is expected by the end of the year.

High-profile technologies are notorious for grabbing headlines with promises of a bright new future. But the fact is that no single device can improve overall data handling without the cooperation of a cast of supporting players.

SSDs will play a key role in the development of Web-facing and cloud-ready environments, but only as components in a broader data center upgrade.

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