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Fusion-io touts high-performance, lower-cost SSD for businesses

Fusion Multisystems Inc. said it will offer a new solid-state disk drive product for businesses that will have the performance of higher-end SLC NAND flash memory but with a cost closer to that of lower-end MLC memory.

Fusion-io is calling its technology single mode level cell (SMLC) memory. It will be available in products starting this quarter. The SMLC technology features bandwidth equal to SLC's, with comparable endurance and write performance levels, at a cost that is substantially lower than traditional SLC flash memory products', according to Fusion-io.

Among the factors differentiating NAND memory quality is whether it is SLC or MLC memory. SLC stores one bit of data per memory cell, while MLC stores two or more bits of data per cell, affording it greater density but slower data-transfer speeds, higher power consumption and shorter life span. In general, SLC costs far more than MLC to manufacture and is sold for about twice as much as MLC memory. SLC also has an average 100,000 write cycles, compared with about 10,000 for MLC.

Fusion-io would not say what the read/write speeds of the new SSD technology are, but a spokesman said they are comparable to today's SLC flash drive products, which average about 200MB/sec. to 250MB/sec. He also said that while the number of write cycles is not “quite at 100,000,” it is “comparable” to SLC's.

Fusion-io's ioDrive Duo is one SSD that will incorporate single mode level cell technology “A viable MLC solution for enterprise organizations has been limited by technical barriers associated with the medium's write performance, endurance and reliability,” Fusion-io CTO David Flynn said in a press release. “Our SMLC solution overcomes these roadblocks and provides organizations with another avenue for migrating to solid-state performance and reliability, while helping mitigate concerns over cost to deploy.”

SMLC will be available in both the ioDrive and ioDrive Duo enterprise-class SSD lines, supporting 160GB and 320GB capacities, respectively. Other SMLC-based products will follow and will be priced somewhere between SLC and MLC cost per gigabyte, a Fusion-io spokeswoman said.

The SMLC products have a PCI Express-based form factor and chip-level redundancy, as well as RAID protection, wear leveling and error-correction firmware.

“Whatever the underlying logic, the fact remains that the straightforward cost of solid-state storage is the No. 1 impediment to its faster adoption,” said Mark Peters, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. “This new SMLC solution from Fusion-io is aimed at attacking that impediment while leaving the many other benefits of solid state untouched, and it extends the company's out-of-the-box, innovative approach to building a next generation of storage.”

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