SSDs Pushing to New Endurance Levels

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Five SSD Predictions for 2012

The real impact of solid-state drives will be felt the second half of this year.

Solid-state storage has already won many converts by virtue of its speed, low operating cost and steadily increasing capacities. Now, it looks like the last chink in the armor is about to get hammered out as new generations start to focus on endurance.

Higher endurance is what has kept single-level cell (SCL) technology at the forefront of enterprise-class solid-state deployments. When it comes to overall value, a lifecycle that is perhaps 200 times longer than an average multi-level cell (MLC) device is a major advantage in high-load data center environments.

And even though MLC is making gains in endurance as well, new SLC products like Hitachi's new 25-nm Ultrastar SSD400S.B keep pushing the goal posts farther. The device comes in 100, 200 and 400 GB models with a 2.5-inch 6 Gb SAS interface. Most importantly, it provides up to 35 PB of random lifetime writes - that's an impressive 19.2 TB per day for five years. It also sports data integrity and power loss management for added reliability.

Demanding data environments are tough enough. But sometimes a drive has to endure a physical beating as well. ATP Electronics has built its latest SATA III SLC drive with enhanced shock and vibration protection for industrial applications. The drive is available in 30, 60 and 120 GB capacities, with accompanying rewrite capacities of 1, 4 and 8 PB. They are also rated for temperatures ranging from -40 to 85 degrees Celsius (-40 to 185 F) and offer AES 128/256 encryption.

This isn't to say MLC drives don't have a role to play in enterprise settings. Indeed, IDC predicts MLC will make up more than half of SSD's enterprise revenue in 2012, up from barely a quarter in 2010. While little can be done to the actual MLC NAND cell to improve endurance, many of the latest drives are incorporating wear-leveling and data management techniques that prevent individual cells from burning out too quickly.

A case in point is Intel's new Cherryville 520 MLC, which also is built on a 25 nm process and features a 6 Gb SATA interface. The device features high-endurance NAND chips from IMFT as well as custom firmware and the Sandforce SF-2281 controller that uses sophisticated compression algorithms to reduce write amplification to preserve cell integrity. Note, however, this setup requires a certain amount of drive capacity for maintenance and other functions.

It always seems that the newest technology is also the most fragile. But after a certain time, as manufacturing processes improve and the technology itself evolves, they bulk up and become more comfortable with challenging environments.

SSDs are going through this process now. And as each generation demonstrates new and improved capabilities over the last, the trust factor in critical settings rises as well.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 9, 2012 4:12 PM RGStuff RGStuff  says:

That "19.2 TB per day" sounds really good. I'm happy to hear about the progress. Not quite there yet with the total capacity per drive but probably one more year will be enough.

Feb 9, 2012 8:53 PM Brian Russell Brian Russell  says:

The performance of SSD is sublime, no doubt. But when it comes to big mounds of data, it's hard to beat cheap and redundant. On a side note, there's a great post at Ars Technica on how Web giants handle their data: "The Great Disk Drive in the Sky: How Web giants store big-and we mean big-data." For those with an interest, it's fascinating.


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