Fast New Intel SSD: The 520

Intel's 520 Press PictureIntel has announced a new SSD for the Enthusiast/Gamer market.  Intel’s fastest drive to date, this SSD, formerly known as “Cherryville” but now called the 520, is the first Intel SSD to use a SandForce/LSI controller and is made using Intel’s own 25nm flash.

Intel worked with SandForce for  a year and a half to produce an SSD that met Intel’s rigorous standards, and made hundreds of changes to SandForce’s firmware.  Users of SandForce controllers can differentiate their SSDs through the addition of features in the SSD controller’s firmware.  Intel did this by tapping into its expertise in end-to-end data protection (something the company learned when working with Hitachi to introduce that company’s Intel-based enterprise SSDs) while harnessing Intel’s deep understanding of its own NAND flash and of the I/O needs of the PC.

End-to-end data protection is not a trivial feature: Continue reading “Fast New Intel SSD: The 520”

Standards for SSD Endurance

The Grand Canyon - An Extreme Example of WearSSD endurance is an important concern that stands in the way of SSD adoption in a number of data centers.  Since flash is new to the enterprise (and computing systems are a new market for flash) important issues including wear specifications still need to be hammered out.

Until flash SSDs started experiencing adoption in standard computing environments, nobody really anticipated the difficulties that would arise from flash’s inherent wear-out mechanism.  Most flash manufacturers erroneously believed that Continue reading “Standards for SSD Endurance”

SandForce: The Cloud needs Different SSDs

SandForceOn Monday December 13 SandForce introduced SSD controllers designed specifically for cloud computing applications.

You might wonder what is so different about cloud applications that they need an SSD controller of their own.  SandForce makes some interesting points:

  1. Cloud applications need low latency
  2. Cloud computing centers, like client SSDs, need a lot of capacity at a very low price Continue reading “SandForce: The Cloud needs Different SSDs”

SSD Fast Erase

All the NAND chips in an SSD can be erased simultaneouslyAn interesting feature that exists in many SSDs is the ability to quickly erase all the data on the device.  The military is especially interested in this feature because it helps prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

For example, let’s say your helicopter crashed when on a mission to assassinate the leader of a major terrorist organization.  If the HDD or SSD inside the cockpit was recovered by that organization the data might be extracted to help undermine future missions. Continue reading “SSD Fast Erase”

What Happens when SSDs Fail?

What happens at the end of an SSD's life?There’s a lot of “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt” – FUD – circulating about SSDs and their penchant for failure.  NAND flash wears out after a set number of erase/write cycles, a specification known as the flash’s endurance.

While some caution is warranted, a good understanding of how SSDs really behave will help to allay a lot of this concern. Continue reading “What Happens when SSDs Fail?”

LSI Acquires SandForce

On October 26 LSI announced its acquisition of leading SSD controller maker SandForce.  The privately-held firm has made significant strides in the development of high-performance controllers that have gained great popularity through a string of impressive benchmark results in the online reviewer community. Continue reading “LSI Acquires SandForce”