Intel has made a significant change in the way its chipsets handle SSDs and the result, according to analyst firm IHS iSuppli, will be a 100x increase in the annual number of drives sold in the PC space between now and 2015. The change Intel has made is to add a feature called Smart Response Technology (SRT) to the firmware for the company’s Z68, QM67, and HM67 chipsets. The firmware can cache both read and write data being retrieved from and sent to the PC’s hard using a relatively small SATA-connected SSD. According to Intel, SRT can automatically boost HDD boot and data-transfer performance substantially with just 20 to 40Gbytes of SSD.
Analysts at HIS iSuppli predict this fabric-level adoption of SSDs as HDD boosters will cause cache SSD sales to jump from less than one million in 2011 to approximately 121 million in 2015. “The majority of cache SSD units will find their way into devices known as ultrabooks” writes iSuppli in its press release for its latest Storage Space Market Brief.
Although SRT works with SATA-connected SSDs from all vendors, Intel has developed an SSD 311 Series of small SSDs that are purpose-built as HDD caching devices using SLC (single-level cell) NAND Flash devices. Intel’s published information states that it chose SLC NAND Flash for its caching SSD design because of better performance and better endurance compared to MLC (multi-level cell) NAND Flash devices. The Intel SSD 311 Series is available in both a conventional 2.5-inch HDD form factor and as an mSATA card designed to be plugged directly into a PC motherboard.