SMART Storage releases SSD with consumer flash, enterprise endurance

New Optimus Ultra SSD offers up to 1GBps throughput

SMART Storage Systems Wednesday unveiled its latest serial-attached SCSI solid-state drive (SSD).

While the drive is the second in SMART Storage's SAS SSD lineup, which is made with consumer-grade flash, it is its first to have endurance and performance approaching that of top tier enterprise products made with the highest quality flash.

SMART also announced today that it has officially been spun off from SMART Worldwide Holdings.

SMART Storage had been spun-off from another division, SMART Modular, after the entire group was taken private by Silver Lake Partners in August 2011. SMART Modular focused primarily on producing DRAM memory modules.

The new SMART Storage Systems Optimus Ultra SSD is based on multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash that natively delivers only about 3,000 program-erase (P/E) cycles, a decidedly low-tier NAND. The company claims its proprietary Guardian Platform software increases the endurance of its latest SSD to 100,000 P/E cycles, which surpasses enterprise-class MLC (eMLC) and achieves high-end single-level cell (SLC) NAND longevity.

That endurance level allows 25 full random drive writes per day for a period of five years, according to the company.

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SMART Storage's Optimus Ultra SAS SSD

The company's first enterprise-class SSD, the Optimus, was released last year and boasted the ability to complete some 40,000 P/E cycles during its lifetime. The Optimus comes in capacities ranging from 200GB to 1.6TB.

The Optimus Ultra SSD line includes models with capacities ranging from 150GB to 1.2TB.

Because the drives use low-grade NAND flash, SMART Storage can sell them to OEMs for about half the cost of traditional drives on a per-gigabyte basis, said John Scaramuzzo, president of SMART Storage Systems.

"Optimus Ultra can replace SLC SSD drives," Scaramuzzo said. "And, that's at less than half the cost of other products to be able to deliver this kind of reliability in this market."

SMART Storage achieves its NAND flash endurance through a combination of aggregated flash management and signal processing techniques. Aggregated flash management combines writes to reduce wear and signal processing increases the signal-to-noise ratio, making it possible to continue reading data even as electrical interference rises as electrons leak between flash cells.

Israeli company Anobit Technology was the first to commercialize the technique of turning MLC NAND flash technology into enterprise-class devices. Anobit was recently acquired by Apple.

Scaramuzzo said SLC NAND flash drives cost from $10 to $14 per gigabyte today while the Optimus Ultra will initially retail for $6 per gigabyte and eventually move closer to $4 per gigabyte by the end of the year. By comparison, the Optimus SSD costs $4 per gigabyte and is expected to drop to $3 per gigabyte by the end of 2012, Scaramuzzo said.

The new Optimus Ultra also offers read/write performance of 100,000/60,000 IOPS and a sustained data transfer rate of 1GBps in wide port operation.

"Enterprise organizations see the value in SSD technology; however, drive endurance outweighs the performance gains for many companies evaluating SSD solutions," said Joseph Unsworth, a research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

"A product that achieves the performance, capacity, reliability and endurance balance required by enterprise organizations would fundamentally alter the storage landscape and spur significant enterprise adoption," he added.

As with their last enterprise-class SSD, the Optimus Ultra comes with DataGuard and EverGuard data protection software technology, which protects against loss of data at the page and block levels using a type of RAID scheme at the memory chip level.

EverGuard is a backup power circuit that protects against loss of user data in the event of unexpected power interruptions, offering enough power to ensure any data in flight is saved prior to powering down.

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

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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