SanDisk, OCZ push size, speed limits with new SSDs

OCZ claims read speeds of up to 540MB/sec, more than double earlier SSD speeds

At the Computex 2010 show on Tuesday, SanDisk Corp. and OCZ Technology Inc. both introduced their latest solid-state drives (SSDs), setting new performance and size records for the companies.

The SanDisk SSD G4 serves as a drop-in replacement for hard disk drives (HDD) in notebooks. The SSD P4 is the successor to SanDisk's pSSD modular drive and is aimed at allowing hardware manufacturers to design thinner netbooks and tablets.

For its part, OCZ showcased its latest enterprise and consumer SSDs, which are aimed at servers, laptops and tablets. OCZ said its new drives, which feature PCI-Express connectivity, have read speeds of up to 540MB/sec, a new record for the company.

The SanDisk drives

SanDisk's new SSD P4 and SanDisk SSD G4 offer up to 128GB and 256GB of storage, respectively -- twice the capacity of their predecessors.

From left: SanDisks new P4 and G4 SSDs
From left: SanDisk's new P4 and G4 SSDs

The G4 SSD is aimed at high-performance laptops and gaming PCs, with capacities ranging from 64GB to 256GB and sequential read/write speeds of up to 220MB/sec and 160MB/sec, respectively. SanDisk claims the G4 has sufficient write-erase cycles to deliver a 10-year average lifespan. It uses what SanDisk calls the Extreme FFS wear-leveling algorithm to evenly distribute writes across the drive to boost performance and extend the drive's endurance.

"Solid state drives like the SanDisk SSD G4 that optimize around actual usage scenarios and device endurance, as opposed to sufficing solely on device level metrics, should provide a better indication of real-world performance," Jeff Janukowicz, research manager for solid state drives at IDC, said in a statement.

SanDisk SSD P4 is aimed at tablets and hand-held devices and comes in capacities from 8GB to 128GB. The drive is available in various form factors, including a new ultra-small variant of the mSATA [mobile SATA] module -- mSATA mini -- which is a little larger than a nickel. Its dimensions are 1.05-in x 1.18-in x .13-in -- SanDisk's tiniest Serial ATA module form factor.

The SanDisk SSD P4 uses nCache acceleration technology, which, instead of DRAM, uses nonvolatile NAND flash memory as a cache to store writes more efficiently before laying them down on the drive. SanDisk said its nCache can boost burst random write performance to shorten boot times, help prevent "stalling" and "hiccups," and increase system responsiveness. The SanDisk SSD P4 offers burst random 4KB performance of up to 600 IOPS.

nCache better than DRAM

Don Barnetson, senior director of marketing for SanDisk's SSD division, said nCache is superior to DRAM because it won't lose data when a drive is powered down and won't be forced by operating systems to flush its memory to the drive.

The SanDisk SSD P4 is aimed at manufacturers of netbooks, smartbooks, tablet computers and ultra-thin notebooks, in addition to point-of-sale terminals, set-top boxes, printers and other devices that use embedded flash.

Both SSDs use SanDisk's 32-nanometer multi-level cell (MLC) NAND process technology.

"We designed our new SSDs with long-term consumer usage in mind," Doron Myersdorf, senior director of SanDisks' SSD marketing, said in a statement. "Our drives offer faster boot times and improved system responsiveness."

SanDisk is currently shipping evaluation units of its SSD G4 and SanDisk SSD P4 products to hardware manufacturers. High-volume production of the drives is expected in the third quarter. SanDisk would not disclose a manufacturer's suggested retail price for the drives, saying pricing will depend on the quantity ordered.

The OCZ drives

OCZ said it also unveiled its latest Deneva SSDs for servers and demonstrated its RevoDrive, a PCI-Express SSD for high performance gaming PCs and workstations. The RevoDrive, a replacement the Z-series enterprise-class drive, offers read speeds of up to 540MB/sec and write speeds of up to 530MB/sec and can achieve up a maximum of 75,000 input-outputs per second, OCZ said.

An OCZ spokesman said the drive achieves its high performance through the use of a PCIe bus instead of serial ATA connection, and makes use of two Sandforce controllers in a RAID configuration. "This is how we are able to achieve such a high IOPS number," he said.

The company also displayed a new 1.8-inch Vertex 2 and Onyx SATA II SSDs. Previously, both drive models were only available in 2.5-in form factors.

The new 1.8-inch versions are being marketed for use in small form factor devices like ultra-thin notebooks, netbooks and tablets.

OCZ's SSDs feature TRIM support for Windows 7 systems, which allows the operating system to tell the drive which data blocks are no longer in use so that it will not waste time attempting to access them.

The RevoDrive will be shipping within 4-6 weeks. OCZ said the suggested retail price for the RevoDrive is still being determined but expects it will be from 15% to 20% higher than its current 2.5-in drives, "making it the most aggressively priced high performance PCI-based drive on the market." For example, OCZ's 2.5-in Agility consumer drive with 120GB capacity sells for $329 on online retail sites such as Newegg.com

The 1.8-in drives will be shipping in 3-4 weeks. The retail price for the 1.8-in drives is just slightly above standard 2.5-in versions, OCZ said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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