IDF 2010: SandForce Using Intel 25nm MLC Flash On SSDs

SandForce SSDs Highlighted At IDF 2010

Intel 25nm MLC TSOP NAND Flash

While walking around the IDF 2010 technology showcase we stopped by the SandForce booth to see what new SSD (Solid State Drive) technology that they were showing off.  SandForce didn’t disapoint us as we quickly saw several very cool SSD products sitting around the booth.  The first thing that caught our attention was the SSD pictured above.  This is the first public demo of an SSD that we have seen in person that uses the latest Intel 25nm MLC TSOP NAND Flash!

Intel 25nm MLC TSOP NAND Flash

The drive was using a SandForce SF-1222 controller on a prototype PCB (notice the green wire soldered on this engineering sample) that used Intel 25nm MLC NAND flash with part number 29F16B08CAMEI. Both Intel and SandForce confirmed that Intel 25nm Flash is due to be released in Q4 2010 and should bring improvements in both density and performance. This is great news as in recent months Intel’s own controller and flash chips has become uncompetitive sequential write speeds. Intel confirmed that they will be releasing 600GB, 300GB and 160GB configurations of 25nm MLC Flash SSDs. The SandForce demo drive seen in the photos here was said to be 256GB in size, so the capacity of the drive will depend on the controller being used and of course the density and numbers of chips used.

OCZ Revo X2

Also at the booth was the OCZ RevoDrive X2, which is a PCI Express-based SSD that features four Sandforce controllers on-board for some 4-way RAID performance. This PCI Express SSD leverages a PCIe x4 interface for high data throughput that avoids the bottleneck of the traditional SATA interfaces. The RevoDrive X2 features four SandForce SSD Processors enabling up to nearly 1 Terabyte of storage capacity. SandForce said that the RevoDrive X2 is basically an existing RevoDrive that we have already reviewed with the additional expansion card added to it from day one. By adding two additional controllers and more storage space the drive performance improves. SandForce had one on display at the booth that was hitting peak sequential read speeds in the 740MB/s range with writes approaching an equally impressive 730MB/s. SandForce said that 4K random writes are rated at up to 120,000 IOPS and showed us a live demo and the test system that was being hammered on all night hit 105,000 IOPS.

SandForce Industrial Drives

They also had some enterprise and OEM solutions that shouldn’t make it to the retail market and one was rather interesting that we have to show you. They have a SATADIMM, which is what looks like a memory module, but is really an SSD. SandForce informed us that if you are out of space to install drives in a server, but have open memory slots a device like their SATADIMM can be used for additional storage space.  The memory module device uses power from the memory slot to power the controller and NAND Flash and then a SATA connector is plugged into your motherboard for the data transfer just like a traditional HDD or SSD.

SandForce Industrial Drives

Taking a look at the back side of the SATADIMM you can see the SATA connector that is used for SATA II 3.0Gbps data transfer.

SandForce Industrial Drives

SandForce informed us that they have 50GB, 100GB, 200GB SATADIMM modules available today with a 400GB SATADIMM becoming available next quarter. SandForce also said that they have MLC & SLC configurations available depending on the customer needs. The SATADIMM has Enterprise Class performance and speeds of 30k IOPS is easily possible. The SATADIMM also has Supercap for power fail protection and will be validated across mainstream server motherboards.

This is a very cool little device and who knows if something like this will ever catch on in the industry.


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