SandForce intros next-gen SF-2000 series SSD controllers


— 8:30 AM on February 24, 2011

SandForce has quickly become one of the premiere controller providers in the solid-state storage market. Today, the company takes the wraps off of its next-gen SF-2000 series controllers destined for client (rather than enterprise) SSDs. Like the existing SF-1000 series, the new family is infused with a black box of encryption and compression technologies dubbed DuraWrite. This unique approach yields a low write amplification factor that should make more efficient use of the limited number of write-erase cycles offered by flash memory.

Speaking of flash, the new controllers work with MLC and SLC chips built using 2x-nm and 3x-nm fabrication technology. They also support the latest flash technologies: asynchronous Toggle DDR NAND and synchronous flash from the second-generation ONFI camp. The controllers can access this flash at up to 166 MT/s.

The move to finer flash fabrication tech is said to produce higher error rates and lower the write-erase endurance of individual memory cells. When we discussed this issue with SandForce at CES earlier this year, the company was quick to point out DuraWrite's low amplification factor. It also touted RAISE, which has been around since the SF-1000 series and is best thought of as a RAID-like array of flash dies. According to SandForce, RAISE is well equipped to handle higher error rates at the flash level.

There are two members of the SF-2000 family. The SF-2200 is the big daddy, offering a 6Gbps SATA interface and eight memory channels, each of which has two data lanes. Users can expect sustained read speeds to hit 550MB/s, while writes to top out at an even 500MB/s. The SF-2200 is being targeted at enthusiasts, alongside an SF-2100 meant for the mainstream and entry-level markets. Although the SF-2100 offers the same features, expect less performance. The SF-2100 is limited to a 3Gbps SATA interface and only four memory channels (you still get two data lanes per channel). Interestingly, the SF-2100's performance with 4KB random reads and writes appears to be on par with the SF-2200: 60k IOps with reads and 20k IOps with writes. Those are sustained rates; the controllers are purportedly capable of hitting 60k random write IOps in short bursts.

Stronger security is on the menu for these new controllers, which now offer 256-bit AES encrpytion. The presentation slides also tease an "extensive silicon roadmap" that includes products built for SAS, PCI Express, and USB 3.0 interfaces. Stay tuned for a preview of the SF-2200's performance.

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