STEC recently announced a design win with IBM for its ZeusIOPS solid-state disk (SSD) drives based on multi-level cell (MLC) technology. (STEC already supplies IBM, and other disk array vendors, with SSDs based on the more expensive single-level cell, or SLC, technology.)

Until recently, MLC SSDs were considered to be too unreliable (in terms of endurance) to be used in enterprise-class arrays and applications.

All SSD vendors have developed techniques to improve the reliability of MLC SSDs. In the case of STEC, those techniques include CellCare and Secure Array of Flash Element (S.A.F.E.) technologies, which were introduced in August.

CellCare uses techniques such as adaptive flash access, signal processing, data management algorithms and error-correcting codes (ECC) to boost the endurance of MLC SSDs. (STEC claims that the MLC SSDs can handle write-intensive workloads over more than five years.) And S.A.F.E. eliminates virtually all failures associated with MLC flash, which improves reliability, according to Scott Shadley, STEC’s senior manager of SSD technical marketing.

IBM is the first OEM for STEC’s MLC-based ZeusIOPS SSDs, which come in capacities of up to 800GB, but STEC is expected to announce other OEM deals in the near future.

IBM is using both 6Gbps SAS and 4Gbps Fibre Channel versions of STEC’s ZeusIOPS drives, and will integrate the MLC-based SSDs into its high-end DS8800 and DS8700, as well as the recently introduced mid-range Storwize V7000 array.

Related article: MLC vs. SLC Flash for Enterprise SSDs (InfoStor)

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