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Monday, April 21st, 2014

Disk drives

LSI reveals 6 Gbps NAND Flash PCIe card

LSI Corp. today launched a NAND Flash  PCI Express (PCIe) card with a 6 Gbps SAS interface as well as 6 Gbps SAS switches that connect servers to direct-attached storage (DAS). The solid-state Flash card and switches are shipping to OEM partners, and LSI plans to sell the Flash card direct later this year.

The LSI SSS6200, which plugs into the PCIe port on industry-standard servers, will compete with PCIe Flash card maker Fusion-io Inc. Unlike Fusion-io's PCIe cards, LSI uses a SAS controller as an interface between the server and the card's Flash modules. Seagate Technology supplies the SSD modules for the LSI PCIe card.

"The advantage of using a SAS interface is that it's a very robust standards-based interface, which covers virtually all operating systems and applications," most of which understand SCSI commands, said J.B. Baker, LSI's product manager.

Jeff Janukowicz, research manager, hard disk drive components and solid-state disk drives at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said some solid-state storage vendors have used field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) where LSI places its controller ASIC  with the SSS6200. "A lot of this comes down to cost — an ASIC vs. a higher cost FPGA could lower the overall cost [of the product], which is the key barrier to SSD [solid-state drive] adoption so far," he said.

Fusion-io founder and chief marketing officer Rick White defended his company's approach, saying it delivers greater application acceleration than LSI's architecture.

"Today all data ultimately goes through the PCIe system bus," White wrote in an email to "A SAS storage bus approach to connecting NAND Flash to a system, while it may show well under storage benchmarks, will not achieve the same level of application acceleration that Fusion-io's memory controller approach is capable of achieving,"

The cards will ship with up to 300 GB NAND capacity on board. LSI claims the card will deliver up to 200,000 sequential IOPS with a 4 K block size and up to 150,000 4 K random IOPS. According to an LSI data sheet, the drive "is available with complete management infrastructure for extensive monitoring including health, error rate, [and] failure monitoring."