Monday, June 20, 2011

Intel's 720-series SSDs

Intel's new 720-series SSDs are extremely fast, equally expensive, not yet available, and you can't stick one in a laptop. Stop reading now before it gets worse.

A prototype PCIe SSD Intel demoed in 2009
(The product will only slightly resemble the photo on the right that depicts a prototype Intel demoed in 2009.)

Speed.  Intel 720 Series "Ramsdale" SSDs are rumored to have 2.2GB/s read and 1.8GB/s write speeds. That's Gigabytes, not Gigabits - and represents about a 500% to 1000% speed improvement over current SSDs, not to mention being about 15 times faster than regular spinning disks. The device will easily play or record several uncompressed 4K video streams simultaneously and do many other things that previously required a humongous and energy hungry storage array.

Why do I need one.  The kicker isn't the raw speed or extremely low latencies - it's the compactness of it, and the relatively low buy-in.  Before this and similar devices became available, the only way to achieve such performance was a storage box with at least 24 mechanical hard drives or 8+ SSDs with a RAID controller, connected to the host computer via super-fast multi-link SAS or Fibre Channel connections.  The buy-in is usually north of $10K, often $20K for an enterprise-class solution.  Granted, you get a lot more Terabytes with those - however if it's portability and speed you are after vs. raw capacity - this device will likely be calling your name.

Where do I put it?  As there isn't yet a cable connection fast enough to accommodate such speeds - not even Thunderbolt (aka LighPeak) - the only connection offered is 8-lane PCI Express.  Thus, it won't fit inside a laptop, other than externally via a PCIe expander from Magma or JMR.

Prices.  If current SLC SSD prices of over $10 per gigabyte are any indication, a 200GB version should start at over $2000. It may however boot your PC in a scant few seconds undoubtedly motivating some gamers to spring for their wallets.

Real-world applications: ultra-hi-res (like, uncompressed 4K), multi-stream and ultra high speed field video acquisition and monitoring, enterprise data caching and yes, definitely probably some gamers.

Exciting times we live in.

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