Intel puts muscle, money into flash memory

Chip giant announces it's a lead investor in a company that makes flash memory storage more suitable for large businesses, while Hitachi announces commercial flash products based on joint development with Intel.

Intel's deep commitment to flash memory technology was on display today with two announcements centered on large business customers.

Hitachi's Ultrastar SSD400S solid-state drive is based on Intel flash chips.
Hitachi's Ultrastar SSD400S solid-state drive is based on Intel flash chips. Hitachi

The world's largest chipmaker announced it was a lead investor in a company that makes flash storage more palatable to the enterprise, while Hitachi announced the fruits of joint flash development with Intel aimed at large businesses.

As part of 18 new investments by Intel Capital totaling $77 million, the world's largest chipmaker led a group that invested $32 million in Anobit. The Israel-based company has patented technology that increases the long-term reliability of lower-cost-per-bit flash memory, referred to as multilevel cell flash or MLC.

Flash memory is generally much faster than traditional hard disk drives at reading data but has long-term reliability issues in demanding corporate storage applications.

Anobit's Memory Signal Processing technology "combats the inherent physical limitations of NAND flash using advanced mathematical methods," according to Anobit. "In this way, Anobit eliminates the NAND [flash] endurance problem and the associated cost barriers."

Both Samsung and Hynix, which supply flash memory to Apple, have licensed the technology.

In a separate announcement, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies rolled out its new Ultrastar SSD400S solid state drive family--all based on Intel flash memory chips. The Hitachi drives come in 100GB, 200GB, and 400GB capacities, featuring both 2.5-inch 6 gigabit-per-second (Gb/s) Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and 3.5-inch 4Gb/s Fibre Channel (FC) interfaces.

The flash chips are made on Intel's advanced 34-nanometer manufacturing process and use single-level cell (SLC) flash, which currently offers better reliability than MLC flash (mentioned above).

Hitachi's Ultrastar SSD400S delivers 535 megabytes per second (MB/s) read and 500MB/s write throughput using SAS and 380MB/s read and 350MB/s write throughput with 4Gb/s FC. The drives offer up to 46,000 read and 13,000 sustained write IOPS, or input/output operations per second, "reaching speeds 100 times faster than traditional hard drives," Hitachi said.

Hitachi has already shipped and is currently qualifying Ultrastar SSD400S drives with select suppliers. Broader qualification samples are now available with product ramp scheduled in 2011, the company said.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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