The company is currently shipping its 2.5-inch, Serial Attached SCSI, MLC-based Lightning LB 200M (200 GB) and Lightning LB 400M (400 GB) enterprise solid-state drives (SSD) to OEMs for evaluation purposes. General availability is scheduled for October 2010. Pliant figures that energy-conscious IT shops will jump at low-power storage that offers 10,ooo input/output per second (IOPs) of “sustained” performance for the LB 400M and over 8,000 for the LB 200M. Performance-wise, the company’s own SLC-based drives smokes the newer MLC variants despite performing roughly twice as fast as Pliant’s official, yet conservative, specs. Pricing, though not disclosed, will undoubtedly be cheaper than SLC-based drives.
MLC, or multi-level cell, NAND flash technology is less expensive than single-level cell — the current standard-bearer for enterprise-class drives — because it stores four states (2 bits) per cell versus SLC’s single bit approach. The trade-off is that MLC is more error prone, so it’s been largely relegated to consumer-level applications. But flash storage providers like Intel and Anobit have been making strides in improving error-correction, and thus, they can now offer MLC drives suitable for servers and storage arrays.
Now, if they find a way to close — or at least significantly narrow — the MLC-SLC performance gap, data center storage admins will really jump for joy.