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Samsung launches bigger SSDs to challenge Intel

Samsung plans to ship 100 GB solid-state drives (SSDs), claiming nearly twice the random write IOPS Intel does for its X-25 E SSD.

Samsung Electronics is taking on Intel Inc. in the enterprise solid-state drive (SSD) market with a 100 GB drive scheduled to ship by April.

Samsung's 100 GB Enterprise SSD is a higher capacity drive than the Intel X-25 E drives that began shipping late last year in 32 GB and 64 GB capacities.

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Samsung's specs on the drive differ with the X-25 E drives in several ways, indicating faster write speeds for Samsung while Intel has the advantage in read speeds. Samsung claims 6,000 random write IOPS, whereas Intel's claim for the X-25 E is 3,300 random write IOPS. However, Samsung's new drives have been clocked at 25,000 random read IOPS vs. Intel's claim of 35,000. Samsung claims to read data sequentially at 230 MBps and write sequentially at 180 MBps vs. Intel's sustained reads of 250 MBps and writes of 170 MBps.

Like the Intel X-25 E drives, Samsung's new SSD uses single-level cell (SLC) Flash memory for faster writes and parallel channels to increase overall performance.

Because the products are so new, it remains unclear what kind of performance users will actually see from each of the drives in the field. Steve Weinger, Samsung's senior marketing manager for NAND, says the amount of write load a user plans to place on a solid-state drive should dictate what type of SSD they deploy.

Meanwhile, as enterprise Flash products grow more sophisticated, it remains unclear what kind of market will be there to greet them when they ship. A recent market research report by DRAMeXchange forecasts a steep decline in demand for NAND Flash used in consumer products this year; however, it didn't include the newer enterprise Flash market in that forecast.

Market research firm IDC last month projected healthier growth for the enterprise over the coming four years, forecasting SSD revenue of more than $800 million by 2012.

Weinger says he expects to see more adoption of enterprise SSDs this year with a big jump coming next year. "I don't expect it to ramp up in a huge way this year," he says. "Enterprise qualification cycles are much longer, and it takes time to reconfigure environments and understand the technology for users. I would expect the really big ramp [up] to come in 2010."

Weinger says power concerns among users "short-stroking" disks (deliberately underutilizing the capacity on large numbers of spinning disks to achieve the highest performance) in the largest enterprises will prompt enterprise customers to looks at SSDs differently than consumers.

However, Forrester Research senior analyst Andrew Reichman says the current global economic turmoil could dampen SSD growth. "In a down economy, enterprise Flash will only see substantial growth if vendors can position it as an alternative to something else, and therefore a favorable economic decision," he writes in an email to "If buyers can reduce the amount of array cache, or use low cost SATA instead of high cost FC drives because they are buying SSD, then there will be a positive economic impact."

Storage users, who tend to be conservative, have told they plan to wait out the early SSD adoption cycles until they can be sure the technology is reliable and costs come down.

Samsung plans to offer the 100 GB Enterprise drives through OEM sales channels. It also has NAND chips it claims can increase the endurance of SSDs from 100,000 write cycles to 500,000 write cycles. Samsung plans to sell the high-endurance components to integrators who want to build their own SSDs. Sun Microsystems Inc. announced a partnership of this nature with Samsung last July.


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