back to article SMART's new SSD wrings extra juice from MLC flash

SMART has introduced a solid state drive that can do 50 full drive writes a day for five years using consumer-grade MLC flash; that's 89,000 P/E cycles and a 50X jump up from the raw NAND rate. The new product is the Optimus Ultra Plus: a 2.5-inch, 6Gbit/s SAS SSD that has the same performance numbers – 500MB/sec dual-port read …

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WTF?

"can do 50 full drive writes a day for five years"

Says who apart from those selling it?

I presume this article is straight from the press release, and whilst I don't mind that, what exactly is the special

sauce that converts MLC lead into SLC-like gold?

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Re: "can do 50 full drive writes a day for five years"

There are ways you can minimize flash wear. For example you could first try writing/erasing a block using a tiny current to minimize the wear. Read it and check if the operation stuck. If it hasn't apply a tiny bit more, and check again. This reduces the amount of wear, at the expense of controller complexity.

It is also not clear what degree of overprovisioning this drive applies - it could be that it actually has 2x+ the amount of flash that it exposes to the user. This implicitly both reduces the write amplification (2x over-provisioning means write amplification rate of 1x should be achievable with some clever controller programming) and multiplies the total write endurance on top.

It also doesn't say what the test pattern is. It could be gaining a substantial amount of it's performance through methods such as compression and deduplication being carried out in the disk's formware. Some Sandforce controllers are rumoured to have been doing this for quite a while. The downside of this is that if your data is deduplicated and a block goes bad, you lose all instances of that block. Similarly for compression, losing one block of compressed data actually means losing a greater amount of data. All of this is manageable, but it will negatively affect the expected/rated error rate of the disk.

None of these technologies and approaches are new or revolutionary - it is just an evolution of what we have already had for a long time. But it does buy flash more time until a better, more permanent replacement of the technology is ramped up (e.g. phase change or memristor).

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Re: "can do 50 full drive writes a day for five years"

So, the big question should I buy this or a Kingston etc from http://forums.reghardware.com/forum/1/2012/06/09/review_ten_sata_3_ssds/ (search for the "HP SSDs" post).

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Coat

Re: "can do 50 full drive writes...@ Gordon

Flash Gordon, I presume (sorry-- hence the icon)

Anyway, thank you for the comments, but aren't this outfit claiming a fifty fold increase in the effective write endurance? I follow that there are benefits with compression (although that's already on offer as you note), I can understand how de-dupe can help, and the impact of over-provisioning and improved write amplification (likewise already on offer), and the reduced current writing is "obvious", but 50x ? Just seems to be a bit ambitious. A quick web browse suggests block level dedupe might save as much as 33% of your writes at best - good, but that'd take existing MLC to 1.3x full drive writes per day, which is a useful improvement, but doesn't look sufficient to be the cause of the game changer that is promised.

I'll be delighted if they can deliver (and this filters down to consumer devices), and with the move to 2xnm they're going to need to do something remarkable, but you'd have thought they'd have the IP fully protected, and therefore be able to explain what they are doing.

Maybe it is the reduced current writing that is the vast benefit of the improved life; as described that's going to be similar in concept to error correction on a write, I assume, and have a notable overhead to a normal write? Do the IOPS number quoted give us any clues?

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Re: "can do 50 full drive writes a day for five years"

Right. I've dug around their website a bit. Most of the stuff is very light on details, the best I can get is from a whitepaper (http://www.smartstoragesys.com/pdfs/WP003_Guardian_Technology.pdf), which, when you get past all the snazzy graphs going upwards, has a few important things in:

- It includes a "Redundant Array of Memory Elements", so yes, there is a lot of redundancy.

- They "treat each cell individually thereby maximizing the effects of stronger flash elements (i.e. those that exhibit higher performance capability) while minimizing the effects of weaker elements". How they know what is 'strong' and 'weak' though I have no idea.

- A job lot of statistical error correction on reads.

- Lots of cache to reduce writes, with some chunky capacitors for when the power fails.

Most importantly though is that they will (to a certain extent) put their money where their mouth is: they give a 5 year guarantee for up to 25 full drive capacity‐writes/day.

So interesting, but I would like more technical information on how they go about this.

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Unhappy

Re: "can do 50 full drive writes a day for five years"

Treat warranties from new companies with more than a pinch of salt. They have nothing to lose by lying, sorry, being over-confident.

If the product doesn't wear out prematurely they get to stay in business and their happy customers come back for more. If they get more warranty returns then they can afford three or five years hence, they file for bankrupcy. Either way everyone has had a living for two or three years (and the fat cats at the top might well retire for life, if their living was a seven-figure salary).

BTW isn't SLC good for a million cycles these days?

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Oh, FFS

If you're going to post press releases why not do a little bit of journalistic digging and find resellers plus pricing?

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Re: Oh, FFS

SMART generally doesn't sell to consumers; you get pricing by negotiating with an account manager / sales person, so there are no retail resellers, and there's no publicly-available list price.

They do make some pretty slick SSDs though, and, from what I've seen, they follow through on their advertised specifications. Not exactly what you'd call "cheap," but if you've got certain requirements, I can definitely see their kit being the best choice, cost included.

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load of ...

OCZ's controllers are already at 18k p/e cycles, uncompressed, current product.

By the Way, if you actually write a full disk 50 times a day, you may be interested in other technologies than flash -

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