Although Seagate has a line of Pulsar solid-state drives designed for enterprise markets and a small collection of hybrids for notebooks, it’s thus far shied away from producing consumer-grade SSDs. Looks like that’s about to change. The hard drive maker has announced a "strategic agreement" to develop both consumer and enterprise SSDs with a company called DensBits.
What does DensBits bring to the table? Controller technology—a so-called Memory Modem that purportedly improves the performance and reliability of NAND built on smaller fabrication nodes. DensBits refers to its tech as a modem designed for flash memory. Through a combination of signal processing, NAND management, and ECC, DensBits claims (PDF) its solution improves the endurance of MLC flash by more than 20 times. The technology can also be applied to TLC memory, giving it double the endurance of MLC NAND. Impressively, there doesn’t seem to be any SandForce-style write compression involved.
The press release suggests Seagate is focusing on TLC memory for consumer drives and MLC for enterprise fare. There’s no indication of when the first drives will be available, though. DensBits does have a controller currently listed on its site, but the DB3610’s specifications leave much to be desired. The chip has only two memory channels and sequential transfer rates that top out at a mere 95MB/s. Seagate’s "undisclosed equity investment" in DensBits will likely fund the development of a new controller with more channels and better performance.
As SSD prices continue to fall, I suspect more users will ditch mechanical storage in their notebooks and run dual-drive configurations in their desktops. Seagate obviously wants a piece of the action, and it will be interesting to see if it enters the market before Western Digital.