Mum's the word on what controller Hitachi has attached to its new enterprise-class Ultrastar SSD400S.B family of solid state and whether it skipped Intel's chipset in favor of something from SandForce, just like the Santa Clara chip maker recently did, but we at least know the new SSDs are rocking Intel-produced 25nm single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash memory chips, a fact both companies are quick to boast.
Market research firm iSuppli expects declining NAND flash memory prices to fall to $1 per gigabyte at the end of 2010. This is significant as the $1 per gigabyte level is deemed critical to the success of SSDs. Interestingly, the last time the price was below the $1 threshold the year on the Gregorian calendar was 2008; MLC pricing averaged 90 cents per gigabyte in the fourth quarter of 2008.
iSuppli anticipates 3-bit per cell (TLC) NAND flash memory to average $1.20 per gigabyte during the fourth quarter of 2010 before ending the year at around $1.00. The research firm feels this would be a “precipitous drop from the first quarter of 2010, when pricing for TLC averaged $1.80 per gigabyte and 2-bit per cell (MLC) flash was at $2.05.”
Even though plummeting prices are expected to breathe new life into the SSD market, NAND flash memory prices will have to decline even further for SSD adoption to reach critical mass. According to Michael Yang, senior analyst for memory and storage at iSuppli, NAND flash memory prices will have to plummet to 40 cents by 2012 to pose a threat to HDDs.
“With NAND pricing having returned to per-gigabyte pricing levels not seen in two years, there’s likely to be a lot of new buzz created for the solid state storage market at the end of 2010,” Yang said. “However, traditional HDDs gained a lot of additional ground during the past few years in terms of rising capacity and falling prices. In fact, HDDs have gained so much ground that SSDs now are in danger of never regaining their competitive footing.”
Israeli startup Anobit has announced its debut product – the Genesis range of solid-state drives (SSD). It has managed to draw our attention to its SSDs because of some very lofty claims. Genesis SSDs are essentially multilevel cell (MLC) SSDs with uncharacteristically high endurance levels. According to the company's press release, Anobit's Memory Signal Processing (MSP) technology is what extends MLC endurance levels to those usually associated with SLC-based SSDs.
It is said to improve endurance levels from around 3K read/write cycles to 50K cycles, representing an improvement by a factor of 20: “This guarantees drive write endurance of ten full disk writes per day, for five years, or 7,300 TBs for a 400 GB drive, with fully random data (worst-case conditions).”
Anobit promises this mammoth leap in reliability and performance at the usual price of MLC flash.“For too long, the high prices of SLC SSDs and concerns about MLC SSD endurance have slowed the adoption of flash memory storage in the enterprise. Anobit Genesis SSDs effectively neutralize both of these concerns,” said Prof. Ehud Weinstein, Anobit CEO. “By delivering true enterprise-class SSD reliability at affordable MLC SSD prices, Anobit Genesis SSDs unlock the full promise of solid-state enterprise storage.”
The SSDs are available in 200GB and 400GB capacities, and boast sustained read rates up to 220 MB/s and sustained write rates up to 180 MB/s.
Western Digital's been quite the busy body today in the SSD sector. In addition to the just-announced MLC-based SiliconEdge Blue line, the storage vendor also just unveiled its WD SiliconDrive N1x 2.5-inch SSD family. Built around a single-level cell architecture (SLC), Western Digital says these provide a cost effective alternative without giving up a ton of performance.
"The WD SiliconDrive N1x SSDs are the newest addition to our SiliconDrive product family, which has shipped several million units since the first products were introduced. SiliconDrive SSDs have consistently met critical OEM application requirements for high reliability, high performance and long product deployment cycles," said Michael Hajeck, senior vice president and general manager of WD's solid state storage business unit. "Satisfying the challenging storage demands for a wide variety of OEM applications, WD has designed the WD SiliconDrive N1x and WD SiliconEdge Blue product families to facilitate SSD technology adoption in a multitude of existing and expanding new markets that can benefit from advanced storage solutions."
Like the SiliconEdge Blue line, the SiliconDrive N1x family also features a native SATA 3Gbps interface. Read and write speeds are a little more modest at 240MB/s and 140MB/s, respectively, compared to 250MB/s and 170MB/s on the SiliconEdge.
TRIM and NCQ support also come as part of the package, as does a five year warranty.
It’s been a long time since we tested a single-level cell (SLC) SSD, as the market has moved almost entirely over to multi-level cell (MLC) designs. MLC is favored because it’s cheaper to produce and each cell can store two bits of data, rather than one, so you can cram more storage into each flash unit. On the other hand, SLC is faster and is rated for 100,000 read/write cycles, as opposed to 10,000 for MLC. Naturally, SLC is preferred for enterprise solutions, while MLC has captured the consumer market. But with the introduction of the (relatively) affordable Agility EX series, OCZ is hoping to win back some of the consumer market for SLC.
The 60GB Agility EX pairs the popular Indilinx Barefoot controller—responsible for this generation’s blazing-fast, stutter-free SSDs—with 64GB of onboard SLC NAND. It’s worth noting that this is the same capacity as a standard 64GB SSD; OCZ just uses a binary naming convention. In our tests, the Agility EX’s sustained read speeds topped off at around 197MB/s, or approximately six percent slower than the second-gen Intel X-25M. Sustained write speeds, at 175MB/s, were the same as with the Patriot Torqx, an MLC drive using the same Indilinx controller. But the Agility really shone in application tests, with a five percent faster Premiere Pro encoding time and a 13 percent higher PCMark Vantage HDD score than the Torqx.
Toshiba this week announced what it claims is the "industry's largest density SLC NAND chip at 16Gb." The claim comes from the company's new lineup of 43nm Single-Level Cell (SLC) NAND flash memory products available in densities ranging from 512Mbits on up to 64Gbits.
"The new ranges includes three products, 16Gb, 32Gb, and 64Gb, which integrate monolithic 16Gb chips, the highest density SLC NAND chips available," Toshiba said in a press release.
Up until this point, Toshiba's production of SLC chips has been confined to 56nm and 70nm process technologies. Taking the density down to 43nm, Toshiba is touting both the read and write performance of the new parts, as well as the reliability in terms of write and erase cycles.
Devices using the new chips, including mobile phones, office automation equipment, and servers will start showing up in the market in 2009.