Intel outlines plans for solid-state drives

IDF San Francisco — Today, Intel revealed the outlines of its plans to enter the market for flash-based solid-state drives by announcing a trio of new products and their basic specs.

Two models, the X18-M and X25-M, will be available in 1.8" and 2.5" form factors, respectively, and will be targeted at consumer laptops and desktops. These drives are based on multi-level cell (or MLC) flash technology, and Intel plans to ship them in 80GB and 160GB flavors. The firm quotes read speeds of up to 250MB/s and write speeds up to 70MB/s, with read latencies at only 85 microseconds (or 0.085 milliseconds, in standard hard drive units). Active power use is rated at 150 mW, with 0.06 W typical draw at idle. The 80GB variants are in the sampling stage now and should be in production in the next month, with the 160GB version coming in early 2009.

Meanwhile, the X25-E Extreme (woo hoo!) SSD will be the higher performance 2.5" option, intended for servers and workstations, based on single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash. This drive will also read at up to 250MB/s, but it will write at as much as 170MB/s with a 75 microsecond read latency. Power use is a little higher than the MLC drives, but still low at 2.4W (active) and 0.06W (idle). These drives will come first in a 32GB capacity, due to enter production within 90 days, with a 64GB variant slated for the fourth quarter of 2009. Intel hopes to supplant 15K-RPM mechanical drives in servers with this product.

All of the Intel SSDs will have SATA 3Gb/s interfaces, and Intel has infused them with substantial special sauce, including 10 NAND flash channels, SMART monitoring, and support for Native Command Queuing at up to 32 concurrent operations. In fact, the firm quotes throughput numbers of up to 35,000 IOPS for 4KB reads and up to 3,3000 IOPS for 4KB writes for the SLC drive. (I believe these are IOMeter numbers.) It also claims big gains in battery life and real-world performance (from 40-140%) versus a 5,400-RPM mobile hard drive.

No word yet on pricing, but don't expect 'em to be priced like USB flash sticks.

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