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Micron beefs up solid-state drive line

Posted: 08 Aug 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solid-state drive? SSD? hard drive? NAND flash?

Expanding its offering in the solid-state drive (SSD) market, Micron Technology Inc. has introduced a pair of products based on its 50nm NAND flash technology.

The company is also developing SSD drives, based on its recently-announced, 34nm NAND process technology.

Micron recently entered the SSD market, by introducing a product for the client or notebook PC sector. The newer products, dubbed the RealSSD line, are geared for both the enterprise computing and notebook applications, said Justin Sykes, director of marketing for SSD products at Micron.

With limited success with its previous SSDs, Micron now appears to have found the right formula. "Micron has finally delivered a competitive product for both the notebook and server markets based on the performance cited. These next-generation SSD solutions are aimed at notebook and server markets, but realistically both markets won't begin to have a meaningful impact until 2010 and beyond," said Joseph Unsworth, an analyst with Gartner Inc.

SSD challenge
Indeed, SSDs are not expected to take off for some time, due to cost and related issues. In addition to the marketing front, Micron faces some other challenges in the arena. "The key will be its ability to continue to innovate on the controller and flash management component of the SSD and whether they can build the infrastructure necessary to deliver these solutions," the analyst said.

Micron is one of a plethora of companies that is competing in the SSD market. Most of the NAND flash suppliers have entered the SSD fray, including Micron's NAND partner: Intel Corp. Micron and Intel are involved in a NAND manufacturing venture, dubbed IM Flash Technologies LLC.

Samsung, Toshiba and others are also competing in the emerging SSD market. SSDs promise to replace traditional HDDs in select applications. But SSDs are still more expensive and reportedly less reliable than hard drives.

Avian Securities recently found the rate of returns on SSD-based notebooks from one major manufacturer ranges from 20 to 30 percent. Dell confirmed that it was the manufacturer named in the report.

Dell has reportedly backpeddled from those claims. Micron's Sykes characterized the report from Avian as inaccurate, saying that the claims are unfounded.

Besides touting the reliability of SSDs, Sykes also said that the cost "delta will narrow" between SSDs and hard drives.

50nm NAND tech
Micron claims to have the right SSD products at the right time. The new drives from the company include the enterprise-class RealSSD P200 and the client-focused RealSSD C200. Geared for notebook PCs and related products, the C200 is based on 50nm multi-level cell NAND technology.

"As for Micron's SSD, there's something they didn't highlight. The PC version (the P200) has an internal DRAM just like an Enterprise SSD does. It's just a smaller DRAM, so the drive can be cheaper. This is key to making an SSD that performs well in the PC," said Jim Handy, an analyst with Objective Analysis.

Meanwhile, aimed for the enterprise and server market, the P200 is more than 10x faster at accessing transactional data when compared to a typical enterprise hard drive, according to Micron. It achieves sub-millisecond latency while a typical enterprise hard drive has an average latency of approximately 8ms, according to the company.

The P200 offerings range in density from 16Gbyte to 128Gbyte and are available in a standard 2.5-inch form factor. Based on 50nm single-level cell NAND technology, the P200 provides 3Gbit/s SATA-based sequential read and write speed of up to a maximum of 250MBps.

The P200 consumes about one-tenth the power of a typical data center hard drive, operating at 2.5W in active mode and under at 0.3W in idle. In contrast, data center hard drives typically consume anywhere between 8- to 28W.

Additionally, with its low-wattage and high temperature range, the P200 operates at a temperature range of zero to 70C, where a hard drive operates at 5C to 55C. The P200 offers a mean time between failure (MTBF) rate of approximately two million hours compared to 300,000 to 500,000 MTBF of an hard drive.

- Mark LaPedus
EE Times





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