Hitachi GST Intros Enterprise-Class SSDs

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies on Tuesday unveiled new enterprise-class SAS and Fibre Channel solid state drives in conjunction with technology partner Intel, and expects them to be available to storage OEMs and custom system builders starting late this year.

Hitachi GST's new Ultrastar SSD400S family of SSDs are the world's first enterprise-class SSDs to come from a major hard drive maker, said Brendon Collins, vice president of production for the storage vendor.

Collins said the key to that claim is the fact that Hitachi GST is the only vendor to use many of the same key components found in enterprise-class hard drives when building Fibre Channel and SAS SSDs.

"Our SSDs integrate seamlessly into storage systems," he said. "Storage array vendors spent 30 years developing their arrays and RAID systems. They are used to our ASICs and other technologies. Our SSDs fit right in."

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Other SSD vendors also offer Fibre Channel and SAS drives, but typically don't have the hard drive technology, Collins said.

"We have experience around the SCSI protocol totally in sync with OEM requirements," he said. "That's important, because if you are a storage system OEM, you have a couple of criteria. You want to work with a major supplier that is going to be around a long time and has global support. We have more cost-effective ASICs and firmware from our hard drive business we can use in our SSDs. And our SSDs are plug-compatible with our Fibre Channel, SAS, and high-capacity SATA drives."

Hitachi GST's new Ultrastar SSD400S SSDs come in 3.5-inch, 4-Gbps Fibre Channel and 2.5-inch, 6-Gb SAS form factors, and are available in 400-GB, 200-GB, and 100-GB capacity points.

The new SSDs feature SLC NAND technology. SLC, or single-level cell memory, is technology in which one bit of data occupies one cell of the flash memory, making it optimized for performance and data reliability.

Hitachi GST partnered with Intel on the Flash technology used in the SSDs.

The Ultrastar SSD400S SSDs offer write throughput of up to 530 MBps, which Collins said is the industry's fastest. They can also endure 35 petabytes of random writes over five years of use, and are rated at 2 million hours MTBF (mean time between failures). Both of these metrics are common requirements of storage OEMs for enterprise-class drives, he said.

Next: Performance For Traditional And New Business Models

The new SSDs are aimed at customers requiring the most performance from their storage systems, Collins said.

Until recently, that type of customer was mainly in the financial market where extra nanoseconds of response is important when completing transactions. However, he said, newer types of businesses, including social networking, online video, and cloud computing companies, all need high-performance storage, and are candidates for the new SSDs.

Hitachi GST will initially target large OEMs with its new SSDs, as well as tier-two and tier-three OEMs looking for high-performance storage, Collins said.

The company also plans to target system builders and other solution providers directly and through distribution, he said.

The SSDs are already in qualification trials with a number of storage vendors. Initial production will start before year-end, with full production expected to ramp up in the first half of 2011, Collins said.