Hitachi Global Storage Technology, well known for their high performance storage solutions, has unveiled the very first SAS 12 Gbps SSD which is capable of a total available interface bandwidth of 4.8GB/s per drive.
The SAS 12Gbps interface represents the highest performance interconnect seen on SSDs thus far, aside from PCIe of course. The new drives will be on display at the Hyatt Hotel in Santa Clara, California for the SCSI Trade Association Technology Showcase set for May 9th.
Seeing as the 6Gbps cap has been squelching SSD performance for quite a while now, this news really couldn’t have come at a better time. The main issue, which is centered on available SSD interfaces, relates to options, or a lack thereof. Anyone doubting this fact only needs to spend a small amount of time at online shops in order to see the current situation in its entirety. Specifically, without a shadow of a doubt, SATA is the preeminent interface in today’s consumer SSD product market, with PCIe taking up only a small portion of the remaining solid state storage pie. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but the stifling throughput of conventional state of the art interfaces has done little in the way of catering to the constantly increasing performance of flash memory, with transfer rates of recent devices being at least several times higher.
Also of interest is the fact that certain high end motherboards are now being equipped with SAS ports, giving individuals intent on acquiring a new drive even more choices when it comes to making product decisions. Seeing as those interested in such expensive hardware will, in many cases, have no problems purchasing pricier enterprise grade SSDs, it seems that SAS may be set to make a splash in the consumer segment. The only question at this point seems to be how long it will take the speedier standard to take off in non-enterprise applications. With hardcore enthusiasts always pining for the latest new thing, it might not be unreasonable to expect new implementations any day now. At the very least, this new SAS variant should serve to spur interface development in other sections of the industry as well, due to the simple fact that a fresh status quo has been established. I’m sure we’ll see if this scenario pans out relatively soon.
One additional avenue to examine is PCIe, which is considered by many to be the quintessential SSD interface. Indeed, it really is kind of hard to argue with six figure IOPS rates, not to mention read/write speeds approaching 2GB/s. It stands to reason that the only thing that has been holding this breed back up to this point has been the lack of a stable standard to serve as a starting point for smaller firms that hope to get into the PCIe SSD fray. Luckily, the NVMe specification looks set to serve the needs of less established entries who, in all likelihood, don’t have much in the way of extra R&D resources needed to implement an effective host bus based design. However, with recent news of more influential entities attempting to flush out their less imposing opposition, it may be that the more modest manufacturers have missed their opportunity to make their presence known in what is still a relatively niche market.
Overall, it seems that we could be in the middle of a shakeup in the solid state storage segment, the likes of which we haven’t seen since SSDs were first introduced. With talk of fierce price wars being par for the course into the foreseeable future, and now a new baseline transfer rate entering the equation, it appears that we are witnessing a renaissance of sorts. With any luck, this will be confirmed in June at this years Computex, with patrons being presented with more than just actors in odd clothing. I can’t wait to see how the industry ‘faire’s!
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