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6Gbit/s SATA interface

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Micron has entered the enterprise SSD space with the RealSSD P300, a SATA-based drive it claims is the fastest on the market.

It's a 6Gbit/s SATA interface product delivering up to 44,000 read I/Os per second. There is the usual read/write performance skew, producing only 16,000 write IOPS, but Micron points out this is up to 16 times faster than other SATA interface SSDs. The read throughput speed is up to 360MB/sec while the write speed is up to 275MB/sec.

The write speed is pretty close to the 355MB/sec of the Micron consumer RealSSD C300 6gig SATA product sold under the Crucial brand. That product's write speed tops out at 215MB/sec so the enterprise product is appreciably better. The P300 is the enterprise version of this drive. Micron's Dean Klein, Memory System Development VP, says the write performance is great even with the write cache disabled.

This is said to be good because data in the write cache could be lost if power to the drive is cut. Klein says that is an "enterprise no-no". He asserts: "Our performance with the write cache disabled beats just about any other drive."

It is a single-level cell (SLC) product with 34nm process geometry and Micron says its endurance is terrific: 3.5 petabytes can be written to the drive in total before it wears out, equivalent to writing 1.9TB/day continuously for five years.

Eden Kim, the CEO of benchmarking firm Calypso Systems, said: "By taking advantage of the SATA 6Gb/s, the P300 showed impressive small block 4K Random Write IOPs that were as much as 2.5 to 16 times faster than competing drives it was tested against."

The Calypso testing found the sequential 1MB block read performance was 478MB/sec while Intel's X25E delivered 221MB/sec and the Samsung SS895 235MB/sec. The respective write numbers were 318MB/sec, 193MB/sec, and 171MB/sec. Other tests results on this blog generally show a P300 advantage over the other two products.

Micron fab partner Intel is working with Hitachi GST to develop an enterprise SSD with both SAS and Fibre Channel interfaces. Micron is avoiding both of these. No doubt it is reasoning that Fibre Channel as a drive interface is on the way out. The absence of SAS is due to thinking that SATA 6gig is fast and good enough and because, Klein says, SATA "is a very predominant interface in the enterprise".

Seagate has its Pulsar enterprise SSD and yesterday partnered with Samsung to develop enterprise SSDs. With the RealSSD P300 we have another fab-driven enterprise SSD coming to market. Klein says: "This is really changing real-time right now. There is a lot of coalescing in NAND supply around the manufacturers … It is the NAND manufacturers who understand the technology roadmap and what it's going to take to control and manage that NAND in an enterprise application … [and] secondly it is the assurance of supply."

This reiterates the point made yesterday that enterprise SSD suppliers lacking a fab partnership, who buy flash chips on the general market, may be at a disadvantage, meaning industry leader STEC, newer suppliers like Virident, and also Western Digital.

The RealSSD P300 comes in a 2.5-inch form factor and in 50GB, 100GB and 200GB capacity points, and is targeted at servers, high-end workstations and storage arrays. The product is being sampled with customers now and mass production should start in October. ®

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