Next-gen NAND demoed in SandForce SSDs

Computex — Solid-state drives with next-generation NAND are on the way, and some of them will undoubtedly feature SandForce's SF-2000 controllers. While visiting SandForce's suite at Computex, we caught our first glimpse of SSDs equipped with the latest flash memory from Intel, Micron, and Toshiba.

SandForce, which is now a separate business unit within parent company LSI, showed us two demo systems. The first was hooked up to an SSD packed with 19-nm Toggle DDR NAND from Toshiba, while the second was running a drive laden with 20-nm ONFI NAND from Intel. We also saw a drive sporting 20-nm Micron flash. Because Micron and Intel pull their 20-nm NAND off the same production line (the two companies have a joint flash venture called IM Technologies), this third SSD wasn't attached to its own demo machine.

According to the helpful placards next to each system, the prototype drives deliver 500MB/s in 128KB sequential reads and writes. They also push 60,000 IOps with 4KB random writes. The benchmark results we saw were pretty close to those numbers, which happen to match SandForce's performance ratings for its latest consumer-oriented controller.

The biggest benefit of this next-generation NAND should be lower prices. The smaller the dies, the more can be squeezed onto a single wafer. With SSDs already slipping below the dollar-per-gigabyte threshold, we could be in for some real bargains later this year. According to SandForce, the 19- and 20-nm NAND will enter mass production in a "very short amount of time." Drives shouldn't be too far behind.

While we had SandForce cornered, we asked about its future plans. New products are coming, and they'll stick with Serial ATA until 2013. PCI Express is the future, though, and we should see SandForce controllers break away from SATA next year.

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