The 10 Coolest SSDs Of 2011 (So Far)

Cool New Solid State Drives Even As The Industry Morphs

The solid state drive (SSD) market continues to grow as new models for use in systems ranging from embedded to blade servers to standard servers to storage arrays continue to hit the market.

However, unlike in the past where the SSD industry saw a continued increase in the number of vendors who looked at new ways to turn standard MLC and SLC NAND Flash memory into a storage device, there now appears to be a shakeout going on. For instance, SanDisk has acquired Pliant Technologies, Seagate is planning to acquire the Samsung HDD business, and Western Digital is planning to acquire all of HGST.

Following is a quick look at some of the new SSDs which recently hit the market.

Fusion-io: Maximizing Performance For Large Datasets

Fusion-io's ioDrive Octal is a PCIe SSD which features 1.2 million read and write IOPs, 6-Gbps bandwidth, and 5.12 TBs of capacity. The drive is based on MLC NAND Flash memory technology, and is targeted at users looking to consolidate data-intensive infrastructures. Fusion-io in June became the latest storage vendor to go public when it closed its IPO and netted nearly $223 million.

Hitachi GST: Last Call For SSDs

Hitachi GST, which is in the process of being acquired by Western Digital, this year released one of its last SSD families before the acquisition closes.

Hitachi GST's new Ultrastar SSD400S family comes in 100-GB, 200-GB, and 400-GB capacities, and is based on SLC NAND flash memory. The drives, which were developed with technology from a long-term Intel relationship, are available in either 2.5-inch, 6-Gbps SAS or 3.5-inch, 4-Gbps Fibre Channel models. The SAS models can reach up to 535 MBs per second read throughput and 500 MBs per second write throughput.

Intel: Bringing The Cost Down

Intel's new third-generation Intel SSD 320 Series of drives, based on the company's own 25-nanometer NAND flash memory, replaces its previous Intel X25-M SATA SSD family.

The new Intel SSD 320 Series comes in 40-GB, 80-GB, 120-GB, 160-GB, 300-GB, and 600-GB versions. They feature a 3-Gbps SATA, and offer up to 39,500 input/output operations per second (IOPS) random reads and 23,000 IOPS random writes on the highest-capacity models. Sequential write speeds were doubled from the previous generation to 220 MBs per second, while sequential reads are done at up to 270 MBs per second. Prices in 1,000-unit quantities range from $89 for the 40-GB model to $1,069 for the 600-GB model.

OCZ: New Workstation-Class SSDs

OCZ Technology Group, San Jose, Calif., recently introduced two new families of high-performance SSDs, the RevoDrive 3 and RevoDrive 3 X2. They feature the company's proprietary Virtualized Controller Architecture (VCA) technology designed for workloads in high performance computing and workstation environments.

Both drives feature MLC NAND Flash technology and a PCIe interface. The RevoDrive 3 X2 offers sequential read speeds of up to 1.5 GBs per second, and sequential write speeds of up to 1.25 GBs per second. The RevoDrive 3 offers sequential read speeds of up to 1.0 Gbps, and sequential write speeds of up to 925 MBs per second. Both come in 240 GB and 480 GB capacities, while the RevoDrive 3 X2 is also available in a 960-GB version.

Samsung: Bundling With Symantec

Samsung's 470 Series SSDs are now coming bundled with a full copy of Symantec's Norton Ghost 15.0 to ease the data migration, backup, and recovery processes, as well as all needed cables and new adjustable mounting brackets. By including Norton Ghost 15.0, the company estimates that the time to migrate to a new SSD can be cut by up to 75 percent, meaning a new drive can be up and running in under an hour vs. four hours.

SanDisk: "Lightning" Speed

Milpitas, Calif.-based SanDisk recently expanded its Lightning Enterprise Flash Drive family with six new 2.5-inch 6-Gbps SAS models, based on technology the company received with its recent acquisition of Pliant Technology.

The new drives include three SLC Flash-based models with capacities of 100 GBs, 200 GBs, and 400 GBs, as well as three MLC Flash-based models with capacities of 200 GBs, 400 GBs, and 800 GBs. The new drives, which are available in 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch form factors, have already been qualified by Hewlett-Packard for its ProLiant servers.

Seagate: Enterprise Performance

Seagate Technology introduced two new members of its Pulsar SSD family. The Pulsar.2 SSD MLC Flash-based SSDs come in capacities of up to 800 GBs, and include integrated intelligence which the company said makes them suited for enterprise applications. The Pulsar.2 supports both 6-Gbps SAS and 6-Gbps SATA interfaces.

The Pulsar XT.2 2.5-inch, SLC Flash-based SSDs feature 6-Gbps SAS connectivity and capacities of up to 400 GBs. They offer sequential read throughput of 360 MBs per second, and sequential writes at 300 MBs per second.

Both versions offer a mean time between failure (MTBF) rating of 2 million hours.

Smart Modular Technologies: 1.8-Inch SSDs

SMART Modular Technologies, Newark, Calif., is shipping its second generation of XceedIOPS SATA SSDs in both 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch form factors. The 1.8-inch versions are targeted at environments where space is tight such as blade servers.

The XceedIOPS SATA SSDs are based on MLC Flash technology, and are equipped with the SandForce SF-2000 series SSD processor and a 6-Gbps SATA interface, and are available in capacities ranging from 50 GBs to 400 GBs. They support AES-256 encryption and are Trusted Computing Group (TCG) enterprise compliant.

STEC: New Embedded SSDs

STEC's next-generation MACH2+ Compact Flash embedded SSDs are targeted at bringing high performance storage to the embedded systems market. The new are built around STEC’s proprietary controller technology, and feature capacities of up to 16 GBs. They are ATA-5 interface compatible, and feature read throughput of up to 37 MBs per second and write throughput of up to 22 MBs per second.

Texas Memory Systems: A Gorilla Of A SSD

Texas Memory Systems' new RamSan-70 ’Gorilla’ is a half-length PCIe card with 900 GB of usable SLC Flash capacity. It delivers up to 330,000 IOPS with a throughput of 2 GBs per second using the company's proprietary Flash Controller and an IBM PowerPC processor. It was designed as an in-server storage solution for data warehousing, ERP, data acquisition, scientific computing, and web content.