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an iconic product from SSD history - as it looked on

Editor:- September 2, 2014 - Seagate today announced it has completed its previously announced acquisition of the assets of LSI's Accelerated Solutions Division and Flash Components Division from Avago Technologies.

SSD controllers

LSI SandForce SSD processors - click for more info
the awards winning silicon
accelerating world's leading SSDs
from Seagate
... Seagate logo - click for  more info ... SandForce controller image
Surviving SSD sudden power loss
11 Key Symmetries in SSD design
Data Integrity Challenges in flash SSD Design
Why size matters in SSD controller architecture
Efficiency - making the same SSD - with less flash
flash wars in the enterprise - SLC vs eMLC vs MLC vs TLC
Adaptive flash care management & DSP IP for use inside SSDs
flash SSD capacity - the iceberg syndrome (inside over-provisioning)
SandForce driven logo - click to learn more about this branding program
finding out more about SandForce SSD controllers
Editor:- SandForce SSD controllers have been used in more industries and applications and by more leading SSD manufacturers than any other SSD controller architecture.

More than 30 SSD manufacturers and systems vendors worldwide (now including Intel and EMC) rely on Seagate's SandForce SSD processors to supply - what is in effect - a new industry standard for high performance and reliability in a small form factor - enabled by the company's DuraClass and other related technologies.

The historic roots of this successful ecosystem started with a company called SandForce - which from the moment of unveiling its first product in April 2009 - changed the way that the SSD market viewed the IP inside the SSD - from being an arcane subject - of interest to only a small select group of designers and marketers - to becoming almost a cult fascination for those users who wanted to know what the future would bring.

The SandForce product marketers leveraged that acclaim in its SandForce Driven branding programs - designed to help it and its partners sell more SSDs - which I wrote about in 2010 from a marketing angle in an article called - Imprinting the brain of the SSD

From my early conversations with the company's management what shone through is that they started from knowing the silicon and worked backwards from that to create an SSD architecture which rigorously manages all the key aspects of unreliable raw flash (including MLC) and crafts from that raw material new solid state storage drives which provide industry leading IOPS and performance - with the data integrity and reliability needed for the new SSD accelerated server age. All this - without using external RAM caches too. The thinking behind this was impressive. But there was more to it than that.

Multi-generation roadmaps were a key reason that oems liked the SandForce way of doing things. For example the very 1st generation SandForce flash controller supported 4 flash generations from 5Xnm down to 2Xnm.

When the 3rd generation of SandForce controller - the SF-3700 - was launched in November 2013 - I said "the SF3700 (now sampling) is the most ambitious design of a single chip SSD controller in SSD market history."

The ownership of SandForce controller technology has changed 3 times.

It was acquired by LSI in January 2012 - and then a few years later - in September 2014 - LSI's flash business (including the controller and PCIe SSD product lines) was acquired by Seagate.

I speculated what business advantages Seagate might get from owning the SandForce SSD architecture when the agreement was announced in May 2014.

From the perspective of today you can see what I've written in a new analysis article - who's who in SSD? - Seagate (September 2014) - which concludes with "No SSD company is perfect and no SSD company has everything needed by the different needs of the SSD market. But I now feel confident in saying that the new SandForce driven Seagate has the potential to remain a long term resident within the Top 10 SSD Companies List (companies which you absolutely have to look at if you've got any new projects involving SSDs)."

If you want to find out more about the SSD processors the links here - on the right - provide an overview of publicly available documents about these key SSD processor product families. To learn more take a look at the SandForce flash controllers overview page.
overview of SandForce SSD processors
  • SF-3700 - launched in November 2013 - this 3rd generation SSD controller spans applications from notebooks to enterprise arrays - with a jumper selectable native 6Gbs SATA or gen 2 PCIe interface. Supports from 3 to 129 flash memory devices via upto 9 channels. Preliminary spec is upto 150K / 80K R/W IOPS, upto 1.8GB/s R/W throughput when configured in PCIe SSD mode. Includes adaptive DSP technology and RAISE enhancements.
  • SF-2400 SSD Processors - aimed at cloud computing - and launched in December 2011 - this range enables the highest performance levels with 2xnm/2ynm MLC flash and adds new tools for health management and over provisioning
  • SF-2300 Industrial SSD Processors - supports 19nm, 20nm-class, and 30 nm-class SLC and MLC flash memory - in industrial temperature operation - upto 512GB in a 1.8" drive - up to 500 MB/s, 20 K IOPS - secure erase and encryption
Architectural overview of SandForce SSD controllers

From an SSD architectural standpoint - and using's terminology - SandForce SSD controllers can be summarized as follows:-

1st and 2nd generation products
  • leveraged internal dedupe and compression to increase efficiency
  • classical meta market flash controller model for R/W timing and ECC
  • simple power management and performance options (2nd generation)
3rd generation products (SF-3700 onwards)
  • leveraged internal dedupe and compression to increase efficiency
  • very sophisticated power management and performance tradeoff options
LSI's new 3rd generation, 14 core, SandForce SSD controller is the most ambitious chip design in SSD market history - (editor's tweet on product launch)

Editor:- November 18, 2013 - LSI today launched its 3rd generation SandForce SSD controller family - the SF3700 which - based around a single chip design - spans a wide spectrum of SSD market applications (from consumer to enterprise) - includes native jumper-selectable SATA or gen 2 PCIe interfaces - and incorporates adaptive R/W DSP ECC management. briefing document on the LSI SandForce SF3700 (pdf)

Editor:- August 13, 2013 - LSI explained why it thinks that reserving the use of LDPC to deal mostly with read error retries (and also later in the operating life of flash cells) can be a pragmatic design choice - in a presentation - the Nibbles and Bits of SSD Data Integrity (pdf) - today at the Flash Memory Summit.
... briefing doc on new SF controller

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