In 2010, Other World Computing was one of the first to start shipping SSDs with a SandForce controller. Like those first SF drives, OWC’s new Enterprise Pro 6Gbps uses a SF processor and 28% over-provisioning. After that, the similarities end.
The Enterprise Pro SSD utilizes eMLC, as is becoming popular in enterprise-style drives. Unlike many other eMLC drives, the Enterprise Pro is 6Gbps and is capable of speeds up to 550MBs read and 525MBs write. Using the SandForce 2500 series controller, the Pro has more robust features to handle the rigors of enterprise usage.
eMLC is NAND flash which has ‘closer-to-SLC’ reliability at ‘closer-to-MLC prices’. Drives featuring eMLC, and enterprise grade controllers, are becoming much more popular as they help bridge reliability with low cost. The “e” in eMLC stands for enhanced or enterprise, and while similar to regular multi level cell flash, it’s rated for significantly more program and erase cycles. In the case of the E Pro’s Toshiba Toggle eMLC, that number is conservatively estimated to be 10,000 PE cycles.
Available in capacities of 50GB, 100GB, 200GB, and 400GB, prices start at $629 for the 50GB and end at $2199 for the 400GB. Compared to single level cell flash, which can still cost over $10/GB, eMLC is much less costly to deploy, however due to over-provisioning, each drive actually has 28% more flash on board than it’s capacity would indicate. For example, the 200GB actually has 256GB of flash.
Much of E Pro’s advantages, over it’s regular mlc brethren, are achieved through over-provisioning. Over-provisioning drives can help speed, increase endurance, and reduce write amplification. Consumer drives are exposed to far less stress and require lower prices per GB, so over-provisioning makes less sense in the more price-sensitive consumer market.
OWC is currently taking orders for the Enterprise Pro 6Gbps on their website with drives shipping before the end of the first quarter. OWC is one of the few companies which assemble SSDs domestically.