Wong said while computers coming out this year will begin incorporating the SATA III, 6Gbit/sec interface, Intel appropriately targeted the vast majority of systems in place today that use the SATA II standard.
"The SSD's upgrades includes some enterprise features: The data loss protection, and the surplus array of NAND, which is like over provisioning to do wear leveling and such on the drive," he said. "They know it ll end up in the enterprsie as well as the consumer market."
Intel has been selling its X25-M SSD since 2008. Over the past three years, the X25-M has become the best selling SSD in retail space, according to iSuppli. Intel has sold "millions" of the drives and discovered a surprising trend: The X25-M outsold Intel's SLC-based enterprise -class SSD, the X25-E, by as much as 7:1 to 8:1 in the enterprise.
Troy Winslow, Intel's director of marketing for NAND silicon systems, said it's "fair to say" Intel's enterprise-class SLC-NAND flash SSD, the X25-E, "is going by the wayside"
"We believed SLC was required, but what we found ... through studies with Microsoft and even Seagate ... is these high-compute intensive applications really don't' write as much as they thought," Winslow said. "Ninety percent of data center applications can utilize this MLC drive."
Enterprise-class SSDs have historically been produced using single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash, which places only one bit of data per silicon cell. SLC NAND can natively ensure about 10 times the number of write-erase cycles as MLC -- about 100,000 writes vs. 10,000.
MLC flash allows two or three bits of data to be written per cell. However, over the past year or so, vendors have come to recognize that by using special software in the drive controllers, they're able to boost the reliability and resiliency of their consumer-class multi-level cell (MLC) SSDs to the point where enterprises have embraced them for high-performance data center servers and storage arrays. SSD vendors have begun using the term eMLC (enterprise MLC) NAND flash to describe those SSDs.
Intel's X25-M line has never been designated an eMLC drive. It just organically gained popularity in data centers, Winslow said.
Yang said most enterprises that had been purchasing SLC-based SSDs over the past few years, began switching over to MLC-based products in the third and fourth quarter of 2010, recognizing they could achieve the performance boost NAND flash offered over enterprise-class hard drives while also maintaining a high level of resiliency.
According to Intel, of the first 1 million or so X25-M SSDs it sold, users reported a total 1.4 percent failure rate. "We're not satisfied with that," Winslow said. "We expect the 320 series will have greater reliability than the X25-M, regardless of going down to the 25nm level."
Intel is putting its money where its mouth is. The company has already deployed 55,000 of its own SSDs in its data centers and in employee systems and expects that by the end of 2011, all employees will have SSDs in their computers, Winslow said.
An SSD 320 series drive installed in a laptop.
Later this year, Intel expects to release its first eMLC drive to replace the X25-E SSD line, he said. "That will provide the performance of an SLC drive and the endurance but in a more cost effective, higher capacity MLC product," Winslow said.