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PCIe cards from vendors such as LSI are also starting to become available for configuring inside servers to offer high-speed local storage and application performance, and a consortium of major storage and server vendors are developing a standard specification for PCIe-based SSDs.
SSDs are also increasingly available for use in laptop PCs not only because of their performance, but also because they use considerably less power and can boot a system up more quickly than spinning hard drives. Apple's new Macbook Air, introduced in the fall of 2010, can only be purchased with an SSD, and not with a hard drive. Toshiba, the manufacturer of the Macbook Air SSD, is also making that drive available to other portable PC OEMs.
But not all SSDs are created equal.
There are two types of SSDs, depending on the technology of the Flash memory on which it is built. Some SSDs feature single-level cell (SLC) memory technology, in which one bit of data occupies one cell of the flash memory, making it optimized for performance and data reliability. SSDs offered as "enterprise-class" use SLC technology. Other SSDs feature multilevel cell (MLC) technology, in which four bits of data occupy one cell of the Flash memory for greater capacity.
There are also multiple vendors coming to market attempting to make MLC technology useful in enterprise-class applications by adding algorithms to their controllers to control the read, write, and refresh cycles of the SSDs to increase reliability while keeping the cost closer to that of MLC drives.
Solution providers have been using SSDs for years, sometimes even 20 or more years when the technology was used to boost mainframe performance.
However, they said, despite falling prices and increasing performance and reliability, the market is still a bit slow.
Joe Kadlec, vice president and senior partner at Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider, said his company offers SSDs with the arrays it sells from Hitachi Data Systems.
There is still a lot of salesmanship that goes into helping customers decide to add SSDs to their arrays, Kadlec said.
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