New SSD processors from SandForce to provide better performance (SF-1000)

Sandforce unveiled SF-1000 SSD, which employ Sandforce’s new processor that is going to provide consumers cheap and reliable way of storing data on their computers. Thanks to its new  Duraclass technology, the company is confident that it will blur away all the doubts that some people have developed about the MLC SSDs regarding their endurance, reliability and data retention issues.

They claim that their controller technology will allow the MLC (Multi Layer Cell) to be used in place of SLC (Single Layer Cell). This would reduce the cost nearly 4 times as compared to what the SLC used to cost. The company also claims its controller can improve MLC sequential read/writes to 250MB/sec. or 30,000 I/Os per second using 4k random writes.

If you do not know the difference between the SLC and MLC. Do not panic. Basically, SLC is superior to MLC as they promise better performance and more write cycles. MLC, on the other hand cost less than the SLC and generally come with higher storage capacity.

[Sandforce product page]

Here is the actual press release:

Breakthrough DuraClass Technology Sets New Standards for SSD Reliability, Performance and Energy Efficiency

SARATOGA, CA. – April 13, 2009 – SandForce™ Inc., the pioneer of SSD (Solid State Drive) Processors that enable commodity NAND flash deployment in enterprise and mobile computing applications, today emerged from stealth mode and unveiled its first product, the SF-1000 SSD Processor family. These highly-integrated silicon devices address the inherent endurance, reliability, and data retention issues associated with NAND flash memory, making it possible to build SSDs that deliver unprecedented performance over the life of the drive with orders-of-magnitude higher reliability than enterprise-class HDDs (Hard Disk Drives).

The SandForce patent-pending DuraClass™ technology promises to accelerate mass-market SSD adoption. Leading OEMs are expected to release both SLC (single level cell) and MLC (multi-level cell) flash-based SSDs using SandForce single-chip SSD Processors later this year. IDC expects worldwide shipments of SSD’s in the Enterprise and PC markets will exceed 40 million units in 2012, representing a CAGR of 171% from 2007-2012. (IDC, Worldwide Solid State Drive 2009-2012 Forecast Update, Doc # 216054, January 2009)

“The SF-1000 SSD Processor Family promises to address key NAND flash issues allowing MLC flash technologies to be reliably used in broad based, mission critical storage environments,” said Mike Desens, Vice President for System Design, IBM. “These innovations can be truly disruptive and will accelerate the adoption of Solid State technologies across the data center.”
DuraClass is the Difference

DuraClass technology represents a set of flash management features that work in tandem to deliver world-class SSD reliability, performance, and power efficiency that differentiate SandForce SSD Processors from standard flash controllers. These features include:

* DuraWrite™, which optimizes the number of program cycles to the flash effectively extending flash rated endurance by 80x or more when compared to standard controllers.
* Powerful flash media error correction (ECC) and RAISE™ (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements), which deliver an orders-of-magnitude improvement in drive reliability versus today’s SSDs and enterprise HDDs. The result is single-drive RAID-like protection and recovery from a potentially catastrophic single flash block or die failure – all while avoiding the inefficiencies of traditional RAID.
* Wear Leveling and Monitoring, which provides monitoring of flash block operational metrics to optimize wear leveling algorithms, further extending flash endurance.
* Advanced Read/Program Disturb Management, which safeguards against errant re-programming of cells during read and program cycles and unexpected power loss.
* Recycler, which intelligently performs garbage collection with the least impact on flash endurance.

With smaller silicon geometries and the trend toward packing more bits per cell in flash devices, there has been a dramatic reduction in the cost-per-gigabyte for NAND flash-based SSDs. However, these changes have also reduced the reliability characteristics of flash devices, i.e., lower endurance, worse data integrity, and shorter data retention. DuraClass features are architected to scale and compensate for these flash shortcomings for generations to come.

“Products like the SF-1000 Family can be major catalysts for increasing SSD adoption in the enterprise,” said Jeff Janukowicz, Research Manager, Hard Disk Drive Components and Solid State Disk Drives at IDC. “These products should have a highly positive impact on efficiency and total-cost-of-ownership when used in IT applications such as virtualization, transactional databases, and automated financial trading – applications which can immediately benefit from the dramatic increase in performance and performance-per-watt that SSDs provide over HDDs.”
Enabling SSD Mass Market Adoption

The SF-1000 Family features a standard 3 gigabit-per-second SATA host interface connecting up to 512 gigabytes of commodity NAND flash memory, and delivers 30K IOPS (random 4K read or write transfers), and 250MB/s performance (sequential 128KB read or write transfers) with 100 micro-second latency. SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) connectivity is easily achieved via a third-party SAS-SATA bridge available from multiple sources. Even more impressive, SF-1000-based SSDs can sustain peak performance for 5-year enterprise lifecycles without artificial daily usage restrictions or costly over-provisioning techniques. SandForce provides software, firmware, reference designs, and complete design kits to enable OEMs to bring SSDs to market quickly.

“In spite of a deluge of offerings, SSD growth has been hindered due to confusion and concerns regarding endurance, reliability, performance and prices”, said Joseph Unsworth, Research Director at Gartner, Inc. “Products that can alleviate these quality concerns through superior flash management will play a vital role in the enterprise-grade and PC-grade SSD categories.”
Green Computing

SSDs based on the SF-1000 Family are amongst the most eco-friendly storage drives in the world as they deliver an unprecedented 5K IOPS-per-watt for both reads and writes compared to enterprise HDDs, which deliver a mere 20 IOPS-per-watt.

“With a deep understanding of both system- and silicon-level issues, we’ve integrated the right balance of reliability, performance, power, cost, and time-to-market in our SSD Processors while supporting multiple flash vendors’ technology,” said Alex Naqvi, President and CEO of SandForce. “Our products combine key processing elements with hardware automation to efficiently address the traditional shortcomings of flash memory. This allows OEMs to provide enterprise-class SSDs to the mass-market using both SLC and lower-cost MLC flash devices while delivering peak read and write performance throughout the drive’s lifecycle.”
Product Information

SF-1000 Enterprise and Mobile Computing SSD Processors will be available in prototype quantities later in the second calendar quarter of 2009. SF-1000 Evaluation SSDs and reference designs in standard 2.5” drive form factors will also be available using multiple manufacturers’ NAND flash memory. Please contact SandForce for availability, pricing and product information.
Transforming Data Storage

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