Intel Solid State Disks Break Cover

IDF Fall 2008 - Intel reveals full details of its solid state drives for both enterprise and mainstream sectors.

As Gordon correctly reported yesterday, Intel has finally seen fit to reveal almost everything we wanted to know about its forthcoming solid state hard disks. Due to hit the streets in less than a month, Intel’s new Extreme and Mainstream drives will attack both the server market, and the desktop/notebook markets.

Intel had taped an envelope to the base of every attendee’s chair, inside of which was an 80GB X18-M Mainstream SSD. There was much excitement in the room, until we turned the disks over and saw the “non-working sample” stickers. Now that’s just nasty – it’s like giving your child a beautifully wrapped present on Christmas morning, only for them to find the box empty!

Pat Gelsinger said that “Intel SSDs will be transformational to the data centre”, and I can see his point. What’s interesting is that Gelsinger was singing this same tune a couple of years ago, during the rollout of the Core architecture. The massive reduction in power draw and heat generation that the Core architecture brought to the table, meant that running costs of data centres could be reduced dramatically. Now, the same is potentially true when it comes to enterprise storage, with Intel’s Extreme solid state disks drawing a fraction of the power of traditional high spindle speed hard disks.

Of course, despite the fact that the power draw and heat generation from Intel’s Extreme SSDs are far lower than a traditional Winchester drive, there are only 32 and 64GB versions on offer. This means that you’ll need to have far more drives in your rack, and the cost per drive is likely to be far higher, despite the lower capacity. Unfortunately Intel wasn’t willing to reveal pricing for either type of drive, but it’s a fair assumption that a move to solid state storage in your servers won’t come cheap.

The Mainstream drives differ from the Extreme units on many levels. The most obvious difference is that the Mainstream drives will be available in 80GB and 160GB capacities, making them attractive to anyone who’s been put of solid state storage due to the limited capacity. However, although the sustained sequential read speed of 250MB/s is identical to the Extreme units, the sustained write speed is considerably slower at 70MB/s compared to 170MB/sec. The Mainstream drives also sport a less generous MTBF at 1.2 million hours, as opposed to two million hours.

Both Lenovo and HP were on hand to confirm that Intel’s new drives will be seen in new notebook models soon. Not only will the new drives increase overall system performance, but battery life should improve too. And with the new drives shipping in both 2.5in and 1.8in form factors, we’ll probably be seeing them in everything from mobile gaming rigs to ultra-portable notebooks to UMPCs.

I should be getting my paws on an Intel Mainstream SSD very soon, so check back for a full review.

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