Although MLC flash is fine for most uses, the corporate enterprise
market demands the faster speeds and higher reliability of
Single-Level Cell NAND. SLC flash is capable of much faster
write/erase speeds and cycle reliability than MLC flash, but costs
more for the same amount of storage. This has limited its adoption to
IT departments that require the highest long-term reliability
and lowest down time possible, or tiered storage uses in small and
medium businesses. The extremely low latency and fast access speeds
have made incorporating SSDs a high priority for IT departments eager
to improve performance at a low cost. SSDs are much more cost
effective than traditional 15k RPM hard disk drives, especially in a
tiered storage environment.
OCZ has been having a lot of
success with its Vertex series of SSDs using the Barefoot flash
controller. Made by Korean upstart Indilinx, the controller provides
random read and write performance that surpasses most of the rest of
the market. The Vertex
EX series pairs the Barefoot controller with SLC flash to compete
against Intel's X25-E in the enterprise market. Recently, OCZ
began using MLC flash from second tier manufacturers along with the
Barefoot controller to introduce slightly slower SSDs
in its Agility series at a much lower price.
The company is now looking to extend the same concept to SLC SSDs.
Instead of sourcing SLC NAND flash from market leader Samsung, OCZ is
partnering with other firms to bring the price of enterprise level
SSDs down. The current price of most 64GB SLC SSDs is $600 and up;
the new Agility EX 60GB drive will be introduced at a MSRP of $399.
At a price that is only two-thirds of the rest of the market, this is
a drive that many Fortune 1000 firms will be sure to consider.
“Though SLC has traditionally been more expensive than MLC flash
there are both performance and lifespan advantages to SLC based solid
state drives. It is for consumers that require the
extended reliability of single level cell flash that we are now
introducing the Agility EX series of SSDs,” stated Eugene
Chang, VP of Product Management at the OCZ technology Group.
“The Agility EX offers consumers the most cost effective SLC
solid state storage solution on the market, and when customers take
all the benefits of SLC into consideration the total cost of
ownership of these drives truly shines through.”
The 60GB Agility EX offers speeds of up to 255MB/s read and
195MB/s write, 64MB of onboard cache, and unique
performance optimized firmware to keep the drives at peak
performance. It will come with OCZ's
new 3-year standard warranty. Higher capacity models will be
introduced by OCZ later this year.
Intel has already announced that it will extend its 34nm
technology to SLC NAND flash chips at a later date. The second
generation X25-E drives are expected to launch at a lower price point
using Intel's proprietary flash controller. A 128GB X25-E model is
also expected to be introduced alongside its 32GB and 64GB
offerings. Intel is currently capacity constrained by IMFT and
has had trouble meeting market demand for its new generation of SSDs.
A 320GB X25-M model will be introduced once production ramps up