Intel's fast flash drive: 250MB/s and 0.085ms

In Tuesday's IT Blogwatch, we gaze in awe and wonder at Intel's new, super-speedy Flash drive. Not to mention warm patches ...

Bill O'Brien has a new toy:

Intel X25 SSD
Solid-state drives are finally coming into their own -- they're faster, more durable and use less power than traditional mechanical hard drives. However, the strongest indicator that this may be the storage technology of the future is Intel's release of its X18 and X25 SSDs.

In our tests, the X25, released this week , is twice as fast as the next fastest SSD we've tested and beats the fastest hard disk drive in reads and ties it in writes ... Intel turbo-charges this drive by interleaving NAND flash chips and using 10 parallel channels and optimized firmware.

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Both the X18-M and X25-M SSD models are aimed at the mainstream market of laptop and netbook computers; they come, respectively in 1.8-in. and 2.5-in. form factors (as their names suggest).
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Joel "DpuTiger" Hruska pontificates:

As of today, Intel's new X25-M (80GB) solid state disk (SSD) is officially launched, some six months after the company first announced its intention to enter the SSD market ... The company's focus, at least with this first mainstream generation of products, is on boosting the performance and reliability of multi level cell (MLC) drives rather than lowering their cost—don't expect any sudden drops in SSD prices as a result of this introduction.

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Intel claims the X25-M offers a number of significant improvements over other SSDs currently on the market, including vastly improved wear-leveling efficiency, better power efficiency, and higher number of IOPS (Input/Output operations per second) then its competitors. We now know that these 80GB drives will cost $595 in 1,000 unit quantities ... significantly more expensive than its MLC competitors.

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For buyers at the high end of the market, Intel's new SSD may ultimately be a more attractive option than competing solutions, and this launch, taken as a whole, is a definite success.
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John Mahoney's verdict? Suitably spendy:

While that's a considerably higher price-per-gigabyte ratio than what can be found on more generic SSDs, Intel will hopefully bring the performance standards so badly needed in the SSD world, where actual real-world performance can vary greatly from what's stated (take everyone upset about the MacBook Air's SSD, for instance). Intel's SATA drive is rated for 250MB/s reads and 70MB/s writes, with 85-microsecond latency.
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Rupert Goodwins finds it all rather mysterious:

There's no doubt that the controller chips are clever ... Pictures of the chips are now available and the controllers are clearly stamped as made in Taiwan. Intel has no manufacturing in Taiwan - no fab plants and no packaging facilities. Although the chips do have the Intel 'i' logo on them, they can't have been made by Intel itself.

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Of course, SSDs are and will be for some time high margin devices selling in relatively low numbers, which is normally good enough reason to have someone else make a chip for you; you can pay a bit more and they can worry about keeping their fabs fully occupied. The thing may even be an FPGA, a massively reconfigurable system on a chip ... FPGAs are not uncommon in high end storage and networking devices: but then, most people who make high end storage and networking devices don't have a worldwide machine that makes chips by the gazillion.
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Dave Altavilla lives up high: [You're fired -Ed.]

Intel's flash memory controller offers dynamic workload adaptation such that the drive will actually adjust on the fly to specific workload conditions. For example, install this drive into a laptop and over time it will adjust and optimize to the OS and standard application workload and access pattern requirements for the most active file sizes and read/write operations you run. If you then re-purpose the drive into another type of installation or dramatically change your traditional storage workload, the drive will have to re-adapt to your new usage model and in the interim, performance will be degraded temporarily (we actually witnessed this in a benchmark run).

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Intel is tipping their hand today with respect to future SSD products ... Intel's SLC-based (Single-Level Cell) drives will be branded as their "Extreme" performance product offerings. Specifically, the X25-E series of SLC-based drives will offer the same 250MB/sec Sustained Read performance as the X25-M product but Sustained Write performance, which is definitely the most significant bottleneck with any SSD, will be ramped to 170MB/sec, which equates over 2X the available bandwidth.
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Paul Miller refers to HP's 24 hour battery life claim:

If you'll notice, HP isn't using just any SSD drive to hit 24 hours of insanity with the EliteBook 6930p -- it's all about that Intel 80GB SSD, which has new optimizations to boost speed and apparently energy usage over current flash drives.

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We want.
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This Anonymous Coward is a little more circumspect:

A step in the right direction, but at $600 [in quantaties of] 1000 I am gonna wait a bit longer before jumping on the SSD bandwagon.
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But Kirk Strauser makes the numbers work:

I'd place an order for one this instant if I could. My company uses a relatively small database, on the order of 40GB of online data. It's running on 4 SCSI-320 Cheetah 32GB, 15K RPM drives in RAID 0. By all accounts, this single SSD would out-seek the Cheetahs, meaning that our website can serve more customers and more quickly. This is a total no-brainer for a lot of applications, even at the current price.
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And finally...

Buffer overflow:

Other Computerworld bloggers:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 22 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

 
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