Intel X25-E Extreme SATA Solid-State Drive

Quantum DXi7500

Disk and disk subsystems

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Intel X25-E Extreme SATA Solid-State Drive

Intel Corp. planted its flag in the enterprise solid-state drive (SSD) market with the X25-E (for Extreme) device.

Intel's newest SSDs plug into 2.5-inch SATA drive sockets, and deliver up to 250 MBps sustained read, 170 MBps sustained write, 35,000 IOPS read and 3,300 IOPS write performance. The X25-E is available in 32 GB and 64 GB models. The 32 GB X25-E is capable of writing up to 4 PB (petabytes) of data over a three-year period (3.7 TB/day), and the 64 GB version can write up to 8 PB over that period.

What sets the X25-E apart from other early enterprise SSDs is the way it speeds the write process. Intel uses single-level cell (SLC) flash memory for its extreme drives, storing one bit per memory cell vs. two bits with the more common multi-level cell (MLC) flash memory. MLC drives have greater capacity, but SLC drives perform much faster writes. In the case of Intel's SSDs, its MLC versions write at up to 70 MBps vs. 170 MBps for the SLC drives. SLC SSDs are more expensive, as SSDs remain a premium play.

Verari Systems Inc. is shipping Intel X25-E SSDs in its HyDrive enterprise storage blade and BladeRack 2 X-Series blade servers. Sun Microsystems Inc. has also pledged support for the drives.

"Intel shook things up with this product," says one of our judges, a storage manager. He calls Intel "the first major player in the flash drive market that can really push the performance ceiling."

Flash will need strong performance to make a market impact; X25-E pricing begins at $695 for 32 GB.

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