Preface to Pulsar: Why Seagate Needs This

To say that the SSD revolution caught the HDD makers off guard would be an understatement. With the exception of Samsung, none of the players in the HDD business have an even remotely competitive SSD.

Sitting this one out isn’t an option. In the enterprise market, a handful of SSDs can easily outperform dozens of 15,000 RPM hard drives. And when I say outperform, I mean by an order of magnitude.

It’s not just about performance, there’s a tremendous power advantage as well. The best SSDs use less than 3W per drive under full load. The fastest 15K RPM SAS drives gobble up a good 7W per drive. In a datacenter with thousands of servers, the power savings alone are enough to make the switch.

I use servers as my first example because the cost isn’t as touchy of a subject there, but the advantages in desktop and notebook PCs are more than tangible. Again, the key words are order of magnitude: SSDs are worth their weight in gold if performance matters to you.


The Fresh Test, Why You Absolutely Need an SSD - The SSD Relapse

Two years ago the argument was that the technology wasn’t mature enough. Intel changed all of that with the X25-M and X25-E. Even today companies like OCZ are using Indilinx’s Barefoot controller to compete everywhere from mainstream PCs to high end servers.

PCIe cards based on SSD controllers with tons of NAND flash are the next frontier for the technology. Why deal with the current SATA bottlenecks when you can push close to a Gigabyte per second of data over some PCIe lanes?

Performance and power data aside, Gartner expects SSD sales to hit $1 billion in 2010. Like I said, sitting this one out isn’t an option.

Earlier this year Western Digital acquired SiliconSystems for $65 million and rebranded their drives. Western Digital’s true attempt at a competitive SSD won’t come until sometime next year as even the latest WD Silicon Power III isn't very competitive.

Seagate has been the quiet one, until today that is. Today Seagate is announcing that it is shipping its first SSD to OEMs. The drive is called Pulsar and this is a render of what it looks like (if it appeared in front of a star apparently):

Seagate Goes Light on the Details
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  • juzz86 - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    I just picked up on something the author said which I've never seen before but often wondered. If I were to format my 80GB X25-M G2 with a 70GB partition, would I see better performance having that extra 4.5GB set aside as spare area? Is this just a relatively simple way of getting even better speeds? Or am I barking up the wrong tree? Reply
  • GullLars - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    If you have TRIM firmware and use the standard W7 drivers so the command actually hits the drive, you will see no difference as long as the ammount of used area is the same. With trim any free area is effectivly spare area. If you however run a RAID or use controllers or drivers that don't forward trim, you will see better _sustained_ write numbers with a smaller partition. In order for the drive to make use of this unpartitioned space, you either have to partition the drive when brand new, or directly after a Secure Erase.


    In reply to the article. It seems to me from the performance numbers that Segate might have fused its own IP with Intels and made it's own 8-channel controller. It would make perfect sense, and explain why the performance numbers of x25-E 64GB and Pulsar 50GB are so simelar.

    It makes me a bit sad that Samsung didn't go for a 16-channel design on the higher capasity drives that will use 16 NAND chips or more, since this basically limits the random read IOPS and peak write IOPS. These 8-channel drives will have to go head to head with SandForce's SF1500, wich are 16-channel SLC drives targeting the same market.

    BTW, i think all new high-performance SSD released in 2010 should start using SATA or SAS 6Gbps as standard to help accelerate adoption rates and remove an unnecessary botleneck (seq read).
    Reply
  • jimhsu - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    The distinction between peak and sustained performance is highly interesting. Performance profiles for today's SSDs (post JMicron) are highly complex, and depend on free space, recent writes, TRIM/GC availability, and any concurrent operations. For example, a recurring issue seems to be IO stalling when a large sequential write operation is taking place (i.e. copying a huge file to the SSD while trying to use the drive normally).

    Might Seagate have found a workaround to this? All things considered though, I would much rather see a max IO latency figure.
    Reply
  • Proteusza - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    Avoid the Streissand Effect (and its related effects) at all costs. Whenever a company withholds information or seems like it is withholding information, it makes them look bad.

    I'm not saying Seagate has anything to hide, but if it were more upfront with its technology and what forms part of the Pulsar, it would be in a stronger marketing position. Hiding information just doesnt do it for me, but I suppose I've been spoilt by Intel and AMD lately, which generally reveal almost everything about their new hardware.
    Reply
  • Jovec - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    This site is big enough now to demand a minimum set of specs and information if the product company wants to be reviewed. Reply
  • chen4119 - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    What about STEC Mach8 SSD drive? They've qualified for EMC, IBM, and SUN enterprise storage systems and they did really well this year. How do they compare to Intel SSD drives or Indinix controller drives? Just wondering how come there are no mentions of STEC in this blog. Reply
  • mckirkus - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    They're super high end enterprise drives. It's the same reason you don't see RAMSANs in WD Raptor reviews. Reply
  • yuhong - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    Yea, back when Bill Watkins was CEO of Seagate, he promised that Seagate would sue SSD makers, and later indeed Seagate tried to sue STEC. That lawsuit was dropped in Feb 2009. Reply
  • gfody - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    +1, I found out about STEC while evaluating an EMC SAN. Apparently they have their own controller and use MLC. Where's Anand with the scoop? Reply
  • pcfxer - Tuesday, December 08, 2009 - link

    ugh EMC. A company that brags about firmware updates that don't require rebooting then release a CRITICAL firmware update that requires some....REBOOTING. As it turned out, that firmware (applied days before christmas) decided to choke and puke on MY CHRISTMAS DAY! EMC, never again.

    Let me save you the pain my friend, look else where. Thecus...iron storage, ixSystems, ANYONE but EMC.
    Reply

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