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Solid State Drives: Enabling MLC Technology in the Enterprise

Report No. FI-NFL-SSD-1109, November 2009


The unparalleled cost effectiveness of multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash technology has enabled it to pervade a wide range of applications despite having much slower performance and one-tenth the endurance of single-level cell technology (SLC). This year, MLC along with its lower cost cousin, 3-bit per cell technology will account for over 90% of the gigabytes shipped in 2009.

Due to demanding performance workloads, SLC technology has been the technology of choice for SSDs in enterprise computing environment. Therefore, it came as a surprise when in August of this year, STEC, the leading enterprise SSD vendor announced that it will offer MLC-based enterprise SSDs. However, STEC is not the first vendor to move to MLC technology in the enterprise. That distinction goes to Fusion IO which released a 320GB PCIe MLC ioDrive in April 2008. Fusion IO went a step further when it announced SLMLC, a technology based on MLC technology which combines the endurance and performance of SLC at a significantly lower $/GB than SLC.

Are these products aimed at niche applications or do they suggest the beginnings of broader adoption of MLC technology in SSDs in the enterprise space? Solid State Drives: Enabling MLC Technology in the Enterprise provides a thoughtful analysis of SSD usage models and what applications could conceivably be addressed by MLC technology.

In addition, a detailed examination of SSD adoption in notebook, low cost mobile and desktop PCs is provided.

An excel spreadsheet of all the data in the report along with a the report in .pdf format is provided.

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