The Anatomy of an SSD

Let’s meet Mr. N-channel MOSFET again:

Say Hello

This is the building block of NAND-flash; one transistor is required per cell. A single NAND-flash cell can either store one or two bits of data. If it stores one, then it’s called a Single Level Cell (SLC) flash and if it stores two then it’s a Multi Level Cell (MLC) flash. Both are physically made the same way; in fact there’s nothing that separates MLC from SLC flash, it’s just a matter of how the data is stored in and read from the cell.


SLC flash (left) vs. MLC flash (right)

Flash is read from and written to in a guess-and-test fashion. You apply a voltage to the cell and check to see how it responds. You keep increasing the voltage until you get a result.

  SLC NAND flash MLC NAND flash
Random Read 25 µs 50 µs
Erase 2ms per block 2ms per block
Programming 250 µs 900 µs

 

With four voltage levels to check, MLC flash takes around 3x longer to write to as SLC. On the flip side you get twice the capacity at the same cost. Because of this distinction, and the fact that even MLC flash is more than fast enough for a SSD, you’ll only see MLC used for desktop SSDs while SLC is used for enterprise level server SSDs.


Cells are strung together in arrays as depicted in the image to the right

So a single cell stores either one or two bits of data, but where do we go from there? Groups of cells are organized into pages, the smallest structure that’s readable/writable in a SSD. Today 4KB pages are standard on SSDs.

Pages are grouped together into blocks; today it’s common to have 128 pages in a block (512KB in a block). A block is the smallest structure that can be erased in a NAND-flash device. So while you can read from and write to a page, you can only erase a block (128 pages at a time). This is where many of the SSD’s problems stem from, I’ll repeat this again later because it’s one of the most important parts of understanding SSDs.


Arrays of cells are grouped into a page, arrays of pages are grouped into blocks

Blocks are then grouped into planes, and you’ll find multiple planes on a single NAND-flash die.

The combining doesn’t stop there; you can usually find either one, two or four die per package. While you’ll see a single NAND-flash IC, there may actually be two or four die in that package. You can also stack multiple ICs on top of each other to minimize board real estate usage.

Hey, There’s an Elephant in the Room Strength in Numbers, What makes SSDs Fast
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  • matrixireland - Thursday, December 24, 2009 - link

    hi would like to know what you pros think of the;
    Golden Leopard ASAX-ZIF1.8-SSD? what would you add to it?
    And how would you rate it against other ssd?

    Specifications:

    product description

    ASAX-ZIF1.8-SSD is a high-performance design solid state drive based on the high-end micro-control IC with flash memory storage medium integrated advantaged of high speed,convenient ,aseismatic,energy-saving etc.


    specification

    Model

    Size

    Interface

    Material
    ASAX-ZIF1.8-SSD

    1.8inch 70×54×6mm

    ZIF
    Aluminum-magnesium alloy appearance ,drawbench and colorful oxidation surface,elegant temperament


    performance
    read speed:80- 96Mbytes/second write speed:50- 60Mbytes/second
    support ATA-7 V3 PIO/multi word/ultra DMA MODES
    Low power TFBGA,4 channel of flash controller,masked ROM and data SRAM
    SAMSUNG flash keeps the data faster on reliability and endurance
    Dynamic and static wear-leveling prolong NAND FLASH and SSD for longer life
    8/16 bit BCH ECC data error correction ability effectively guarantee the data read security.

    Design consideration

    Capacity

    16G/32G/64G/128G/256G
    Average access time

    <0.25MS
    operating temperature

    0-85°
    power consumption

    DC Input Voltage(3.3V or 5 V ± 10%)Read and write:135mA/194Ma wait:70mA
    shock

    1500G


    Application
    the Laptop, pc, server,workstation,portable media player,digital collection apparatus and any computer equipment which need consecutive read and write speed and high reliability storage.
    Reply
  • jay401 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    yeah, he wants "more expensive than" or "too expensive for". Reply
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Second page as well:

    missing charts before and after this paragraph:

    "The chart above shows how much faster these affordable MLC SSDs were than the fastest 3.5” hard drive in sequential transfers. But now look at random write performance:"
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    chart 1 on page 2 now shows sequential read but the paragraph is changed to mention random read ;)

    page 21: As far as I know, this is THE one of THE only reviews

    Some very surprising benchmark results for the ocz vertex, I thought the new firmware tanked sequential read speeds (to 80-90) based on the explanation beforehand, but not according to the actual graphs.
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    third page, first table, first column: SSD and HDD entries are switched Reply
  • mikaela - Tuesday, March 16, 2010 - link

    yeah great info. also great resource Reply
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    page 19: I’d never reviewed it
    'd & -ed?
    Reply
  • HolyFire - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    "I'd never reviewed it" is correct. "I'd" here means "I had", it's Past Perfect tense. Reply
  • FishTankX - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    That should have bolded "too" Reply

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