SanDisk flashes first 4 TB SSD, promises 8 TB soon

SanDisk delivers first 4 TB SSD, pledges 8 TB SSDs by end of 2014. But, is there a market for $8,000 SSDs?

Most solid-state drive launches focus on performance, but the interesting thing about SanDisk's Optimus Max SSD is size. The 2.5-inch SAS drive, unveiled this week, is the first 4 TB SSD, offering twice the capacity of any other SSD on the market.

The 4 TB Optimus Max is part of a refresh of SanDisk's entire SAS solid-state drive (SSD) family, which now uses 19 nm eMLC NAND to pack more memory in a denser form factor.

And higher capacity drives are on the way soon.

"The first one is for 4 TB, which is double the capacity of the largest in the market now," said Manuel Martull, SanDisk's director of marketing for enterprise storage solutions. "By the end of the year, you will see up to 8 TB."

The 4 TB SSDs raise the immediate question, how much will they cost?

SanDisk would not release pricing on the new SSDs because they will be sold mainly by partners. However, an October 2013 Gartner report placed the dollar per gigabyte cost for storage SSDs at around $2 per GB. That would put the 4 TB drive at $8,000.

James Bagley, senior analyst at Storage Strategies Now, said he expects other SSD manufacturers, such as Samsung and Micron, to follow SanDisk's lead, although the market for such high-capacity SSDs is narrow because the pricing of SSDs remains significantly higher than for spinning disk.

"This is more about, 'We did this to show that we can.' [But] basically, I would expect a number of drives in this capacity before the end of the year," Bagley said.

"There [is] still a substantial cost difference between SSDs and hard disk drives. You can get a 4 TB hard disk drive for a couple hundred bucks. But I'm sure there are some use cases and OEMs that want to max out the capacity of SSDs."

The Optimus Max has a 6 Gbps SAS interface and handles 75,000 random read IOPS and 15,000 random writes, while handling up to 400 MBps sequential reads and writes. It can do one to three full-drive writes per day on random workloads. Martull said the company also standardized its Optimus SSD product line on SanDisk's 19 nm NAND.

"Before, we used Toshiba's NAND memory," he said. "Now, we standardized on our own. It will help us in the long term to be more competitive because it will help improve cost due to economies of scale."

The refreshed Optimus family includes the Extreme and Ultra models for write-intensive applications, the Ascend for mixed-use workloads with high-speed data transfer rates, and the Eco for mixed-use and read-intensive application workloads.

SanDisk also upgraded its Lightning Gen. II SSD family to 12 Gbps SAS. Bagley said the market for 12 Gb SAS SSDs has picked up.

"They are now shipping in substantial volume," he said. "A year ago, it would not have mattered that much."

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