Intel shows off solid-state drive road map

At IDF, chip maker says it plans production of 160GB drive for laptops in early 2009.

Intel Tuesday outlined the roadmap for its upcoming line of solid-state drives that will use flash-based solid-state memory to store data - and replace hard drives in some computers.

Dubbed the Intel High-Performance SATA Solid-State Drive product line, the data storage devices are aimed at mobile and desktop clients, as well as enterprise server, storage and workstation applications. The first products in the new line are slated to be available by mid-September.

The announcement was made Tuesday at the company's Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

"This is a good move for Intel, and it's good for customers that Intel is making the move," said Dan Olds, principal analyst for the Gabriel Consulting Group. "It will speed development of solid-state drive (SSD) technology and drop the cost. Smaller PC manufacturers will be able to buy pre-integrated SSD drives that will seamlessly slide right into current laptop and desktop designs, which means no additional redesign or development cost."

Olds added that SSDs definitely have an advantage over traditional hard drives, but there are disadvantages as well.

"On the plus side, they are faster, smaller, and can take less power. They aren't mechanical and are thus more reliable than regular hard drives," he noted. "The downside is that currently they are more expensive. Over time, the price of SSDs will come down, but I believe most users will eventually have systems that utilize both SSDs and traditional hard drives. A decent sized SSD will give a speed boost, while the regular hard drive will store the bulk of the data."

The Intel X18-M and X25-M Mainstream SATA Solid-State Drives are geared for laptops and desktops. According to the company, the new drives, which are based on Intel's multi-level cell flash memory, save up to 30 minutes in battery life. They also are designed to improve the input/output bottleneck to the CPU.

The X18-M and the X25-M drives are expected to be available in 80GB and 160GB models. The 80GB drive is currently sampling with production slated within the next 30 days, according to Intel. The 160GB drive is expected to sample in the fourth quarter with production in the first quarter of 2009.

On the enterprise server, storage and workstation side, the Intel X25-E Extreme SATA is based on Intel's single-level cell NAND flash memory and is designed to maximize the input/output operations per second.

Intel X25-E Extreme drive is sampling in 32GB capacity with production expected in the next 90 days. Intel noted that the 64GB is expected to sample in the fourth quarter with production estimated for the first quarter of 2009.

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