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the big shrink? - 3.5" Terabyte Solid State Disks with Gigabyte / Sec Performance

by Zsolt Kerekes editor - June 2007

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Editor's intro You can't buy 3.5" terabyte SSDs with 1,000MB/s sustained throughput yet.
But they'll be available a lot sooner than you might think.

This article discusses the genesis and future technology route of Terabyte
ultra fast small form factor SSDs
Z's Laws - Predicting Future Flash SSD Performance
A a reader asked me a very good question.

"Is there an industry roadmap for future flash SSD performance?"

That prompted other questions like...
  • How fast are flash SSDs going to be in 2009?, 2010? or 2012?
  • What are the technology factors which relate to flash SSD throughput and IOPS?
  • How close will flash SSDs get to RAM SSD performance?
There wasn't a simple answer I could give at the time. Clues lay scattered all across this web site and in my many one on one discussions with readers about the market...
But I agreed there should be a single place on the web where these answers could be found.

Forget Moore's Law. That gives you the wrong answer, and this article explains why. the article
Terabyte class solid state disks with multi gigabyte per second sustained throughput have been around since February 2003 as datacenter acceleration rackmounts. The best known example being the Tera-RamSan from Texas Memory Systems.

Despite the high price tag of such systems ($1 million in 2003 and still somewhat North of $100K) many enterprises have been delighted to discover that these products have offered enterprise wide application speedups across hundreds of servers - at a much lower cost than traditional disk based storage arrays - as published in numerous case studies.

It has been nice for the rest of us mere mortals (and that includes mouse mortals not just the human variety) to learn about such products, but just as most of us don't have our own personal jet, the ultra fast Terabyte SSD has not been a technology that has affected our everyday lives.

But that will change, a lot sooner than you may think.

2 recent news stories suggest that it won't be too many years we see such a product appearing as a single 3.5" flash SSD. It will initially cost over $10,000 - but will be on a steeply declining semiconductor cost curve - and may drop to as little as $1,000 by 2012.

This prediction is solidly based on extrapolating 2 separate announcements from STEC and MOSAID. In case you missed them, here's a summary.
  • In April 2007 - STEC, Inc announced a 512GB solid state drive aimed at video-on-demand services.

    "STEC believes that solid-state Flash drives with high-IOPS performance will address the growing needs of the enterprise-class drive market. With NAND Flash prices declining on a continued rapid pace, prices for FC, SAS and SATA based SSDs are expected to drop below $2 per GB by 2012 which implies 512GB of high-performance storage for less than $1,000. Based upon these capacity and pricing dynamics, STEC expects that the high-IOPS SSD will make up a significant percentage of the $5 billion high-performance hard-drive market. This will make the comparative performance gains of SSD over HDD even more compelling."
  • ...Later:- in November 2007 - the capacity part of the terabyte GB/s 3.5" SSD was met when BiTMICRO Networks announced plans to sample a terabyte class 3.5" flash SSD in Q108. BiTMICRO said - with 1.6TB capacity and a 4Gbps Fibre Channel interface - it will deliver sustained throughput more than 230MBps and upwards of 55,000 IOPS.
Squeak! - the Fastest Solid State Disks

Speed isn't everything, and it comes at a price.
But if you do need the speediest SSD then wading through the web sites of over 130 current SSD oems to find a suitable candidate slows you down.

And the SSD search problem will get even worse.
the Fastest Solid State Disks
I've done the research for you to save you time. And this page is updated daily from storage news and direct inputs from oems. the article,
The fastest 3.5" SSD available today sustains 190MB/S and has a Fibre-channel interface. Although this device (made by Curtis) is a RAM based SSD it points to the fact that even in the current state of the market the conventional hard disk interfaces such as SATA (which are not stretched by rotating magnetic film technology) will have to get a move on if they are to keep up with the bandwidth demands of high end SSDs.

Now's the time to start planning what you will do with the future generation of ultrafast flash SSDs. It's going to change what species live in the server farm.
Intel and Micron Unveil Fastest Flash Memory
SANTA CLARA, Calif - February 1, 2008 - Intel Corp and Micron Technology Inc. today unveiled a jointly developed new NAND flash technology that is 5x faster than before.

It can sustain speeds up to 200MB/s for reads and 100MB/s for writes.

"The computing market is embracing NAND-based solutions to accelerate system performance through the use of caching and solid-state drives" said Pete Hazen, director of marketing, Intel NAND Group. "At up to 5 times the performance over conventional NAND, the high speed NAND from Intel and Micron, based on the ONFi 2.0 industry standard, will enable new embedded solutions and removable solutions that take advantage of high–performance system interfaces, including PCIe and upcoming standards such as USB 3.0." ...Intel profile, ...Micron profile

Editor's comments:-
although you can already buy flash SSDs from STEC which deliver the same R/W throughput that Intel and Micron are claiming is the "fastest" flash throughput - it's a mistake to confuse chip performance with system performance.

A flash SSD is a complex sub-system which can deliver many times the intrinsic flash memory speed through its host interface using parallel architecture. What Intel and Micron are saying here is that you can soon expect a new generation of faster dumb flash storage using their new technology. It follows that SSD products which amplify raw flash chip performance will faster (and cheaper).

We have hundreds of SSD articles on
Here, below, are some examples.
  • SSD Market History - lists product and technology milestones in the 30 years of the SSD market upto the end of 2009.
  • RAM Cache Ratios in flash SSDs - it's important to know the underlying RAM cache architecture - even if you're happy with the R/W and IOPS performance.
  • 2010 - 1st Fizz in the SSD Bubble? - even the dogs in the street know this is going to be a multibillion dollar market. Greed will play as big a part as technology in shaping the SSD year ahead.
  • the pros and cons of using SSD ASAPs - auto tuning SSD appliances are a new category of SSD which entered the market in the 2nd half of 2009 to accelerate servers without needing human tune-ups. How can you tell if they are right for you? And how well do they work?
  • the Problem with Write IOPS - in flash SSDs - long established as a useful performance modeling metric - this article explains why some specs are exaggerated when applied to flash SSDs - or predict the wrong results for many common applications.

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