Samsung Intros Enterprise Solid-State Drives

The new drive, unveiled at the Storage Visions Conference in Las Vegas, offers 100-GB capacity and about ten times the performance of standard 15,000-rpm drives, the company said.

Samsung grows an ever-longer list of storage vendors hoping to make solid-state drive technology ubiquitous this year.

The new SS805 2.5-inch form factor drive reads data sequentially at 230 MB per second and writes sequentially at 180 MB per second. It features an 8-channel controller, improved NAND flash and new drive firmware, all of which were developed by Samsung. The drive also includes technology to allow all data in the process of being stored within the SSD to be preserved in the event of a power outage.

The new drive uses 1.9 watts of power in active mode and 0.6 watts in idle mode, compared to between 8 watts and 15 watts in the active mode and 1 to 2 watts in idle mode for traditional 15,000-rpm drives, Samsung said.

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The SS805 drive features 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. Some drives in the market feature multilevel cell (MLC) technology, in which four bits of data occupy one cell of the flash memory for greater capacity.

Solid-state drives have been around for years, but steadily falling prices should soon make the technology more attractive to customers, said Dave Cerniglia, president of Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and Hitachi Data Systems partner.

Certain customers with multiple high-end storage arrays from vendors such as EMC and HDS may have already started using solid-state drives, but for most accounts, the drives have been too pricey, Cerniglia said.

"As we see it pushed to market by more vendors, we will see more customers use them," he said. "But for now, though, they're too expensive."

They are also still not available for many solution providers, Cerniglia said. For instance, his main storage vendor, HDS, is expected to start offering solid-state drives this month. "You can't really push something not yet in your bag of tricks," he said.

The other big question with the technology is whether customers are ready or not, Cerniglia said.

"There are new technologies, and there are people who can push them," he said. "But you also have to have a need for it. Today, a lot of customers out there are satisfied with 2-Gbit-per-second Fibre Channel, but everyone is pushing 8-Gbit-per-second. But do most customers need it? No."

The new 100-GB solid-state drives are expected to ship this quarter, Samsung said.

There has been a flurry of activity in the past year as storage vendors start looking seriously at the potential of solid-state drives in the enterprise market.

Hitachi GST and Intel said in December that they have agreed to jointly develop enterprise-class solid-state hard drives. They are collaborating to develop drives featuring SAS and Fibre Channel interfaces aimed at the enterprise data center market, and plan to have drives in OEM qualifications early next year.

Intel in October introduced a line of solid-state drives based on the SATA interface for the server, workstation and storage system market. Those 32-GB drives followed the introduction earlier last year of solid-state drives for the PC and notebook market.

Other vendors, including Seagate, Samsung, Toshiba and SanDisk, are also offering solid-state hard drives.

On the OEM side, Sun Microsystems late last year said it would begin to offer solid-state drives in its new Storage 7000 Unified Storage Systems, part of Sun's Open Storage platform under which it aims to help customers build high-performance storage products using commodity components.

Sun follows EMC, which early last year introduced solid-state drives as part of its Symmetrix array line.