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Uses new flash controller, available next year

Solid State Drives have been held back by the 300 MB/s limit of the SATA II interface for much of the last year. This led many SSD makers to produce SSDs using the PCIe interfaceMotherboards supporting the new 6Gbps SATA interface hit the market last month, and enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting SSDs that would support the new speeds.

Micron might not be the first name you think of when you consider SSDs, but the company is announcing its new RealSSD C300. It is the first to use a native 6Gbps SATA interface and also first to use ONFI 2.1 high-speed synchronous NAND, making it the fastest SATA-based SSD for notebook and desktop personal computers.

“The C300 SSD not only delivers on all the inherent advantages of SSDs – improved reliability and lower power use – but also leverages a finely tuned architecture and high-speed ONFI 2.1 NAND to provide a whole new level of performance,” said Dean Klein, Vice President of Memory System Development for Micron.

The new drive is capable of read speeds of up to 355 MB/s and write speeds of up to 215MB/s. No random read/write performance figures are available yet. The C300 SSD turns in a score of 45,000 from PC Mark Vantage's HDD Suite. A competitive performance benchmark video is available at micronblogs.com.

“Hard drives gain little performance advantage when using SATA 6Gb/s because of mechanical limitations,” said Klein. “As a developer of leading-edge NAND technology, along with our sophisticated controller and firmware innovations, Micron is well positioned to tune our drives to take full advantage of the faster speeds achieved using the SATA 6Gb/s interface. The combination of these technology advancements has enabled the RealSSD C300 drive to far outshine the competition.”

The C300 is built using 34nm MLC NAND flash from IM Flash Tech, Micron's joint venture with Intel. It uses a new proprietary NAND flash controller and firmware that was designed in partnership with the Marvell Technology Group.

The new drive is backwards compatible with SATA II motherboards, and will be available in
128GB and 256GB capacities, as well as 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch form factors. Micron is currently sampling the C300 SSD in limited quantities and expects to enter mass production in the first quarter of next year. First availability of the drive will likely be through subsidiary Crucial.com, which sells SSD and memory products made by Micron to consumers.

The C300 is expected to be just the first of many new SSDs in the new year. New NAND flash controller chips from Samsung, SandForce, and Indilinx are expected to provide 6Gbps SATA support, while new high speed DDR NAND flash chips will test their limits.

Update: Micron has confirmed that the C300 uses a new proprietary controller and firmware that was designed in partnership with the Marvell Technology Group. It also uses 2Gb of DDR3 DRAM as cache.



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Sata needs to play catch up
By tastyratz on 12/2/2009 4:21:34 PM , Rating: 2
If sata 3Gbps translates to 250MB in real world with overhead, one could estimate double for sata 6Gbps... meaning 500MB/s. If this drive is 355MB/s now and sata 6Gbps is not even out in full force... we will likely have drives that saturate the sata 6Gbps bus before its readily widely adopted and rolled out.

Sata 12Gbps needs to get here faster than mechanical would have ever needed it to. Time to revisit and accelerate the roadmap.




RE: Sata needs to play catch up
By jRaskell on 12/2/2009 5:24:18 PM , Rating: 2
Not really. While the bandwidth may actually double, the perceptive difference in regular PC usage isn't going to be that noticable.

When 3Gbps is capable of boot times of 7-10 seconds, 6Gbps is going to reduce that by only a few seconds, and 12Gbps is going to reduce it even less than that. (a portion of the boot up time is a result of PC activity, it's not 100% loading from storage device, so it isn't going to be a linear decrease in boot times)

Unless you are regularly working with extremely large file sizes of multiple gb, there just won't be much perceivable increase in perform going from 6Gbps to 12Gbps (considering most activities are already near instant on 3Gbps), not to mention you're likely going to be saving those large files onto a regular hard drive until they start ramping up SSD capacities as well.


RE: Sata needs to play catch up
By Shining Arcanine on 12/2/2009 5:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
The improvements will be even smaller when you consider the fact that random operations on small file sizes (e.g. 4KB) are not bottlenecked by the SATA I interface, much less the SATA II interface.

There could very well be no performance increase from these drives. While there could be one, I am skeptical because they failed to test the drive at 4KB random read/write operations.


RE: Sata needs to play catch up
By tastyratz on 12/3/2009 8:43:15 AM , Rating: 2
What yours and the reply before it is expressing is opinion and confusing your needs in its relation to performance progression. The point is it is possible to create faster drives that quickly will outpace the interface standard, and at the rate of current expansion it will likely not take them very long to do so.

This time last year drive reads were 120-150mb peak... 1 year and it's now DOUBLED in consumer available drives.
a 30gb crucial ssd last September was quoted at a $533 street price. What will $533 get you for a drive now?

Where is Moore when he needs another law?

While you personally or the average person may not be able to always take advantage of the additional speed with their current methods of computing, there are others who may be able to... and their buy in will drive down prices.

As speeds progress and ssd adoption becomes more commonplace a rethink of the current paging system design and programming methodology is neccesary. With the premise of winfs as well (relational database file system) we could quite possibly find ways to take advantage of the enormous increases in speed.

If Good enough was good enough we would all still be on pentium 3's.


RE: Sata needs to play catch up
By Anoxanmore on 12/3/2009 2:45:49 PM , Rating: 2
*cough*

Pentium II's... I miss mine. *tear*


RE: Sata needs to play catch up
By Belard on 12/2/2009 5:54:57 PM , Rating: 2
SATA 2 has been out for a long time (3 years), HDs don't run much faster on SATA2(3Gbs) over SATA1(1.5GBs) - but with SSDs, they really needed SATA2 and quickly hit the limits. Not all SSDs are about to hit 250+mb/s.

So its understandable that the very first SATA3 drives won't come close to hitting the top speed. PCIe drives are still needed for that ($2500~5000).

Thus, the makers work out the kinks and make improvements to SATA3 controllers and drives... and have a reason for their customers to BUY newer drives in a year or so with more advanced features. So in 2012, expect SSDs to easily hit 450~500MB/s for the TOP end models... while lower end will be cheaper, of course.


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