Marvell and Crucial
In 2010 we couldn't really talk about Marvell without talking about Micron / Crucial, but things are about to change. Marvell is now preparing a team of SSD manufacturers, but the model remains a little cloudy at this time. On one side Micron / Crucial are preparing the RealSSD C400 (Micron) and the C4 (Crucial). I won't even get into that naming snafu today, since it's out of my control, but the naming isn't really that big of a story.
At Computex we tested a next generation drive from ADATA, the S501. Once we got home with the drive we took a closer look and found that LiteOn had their hands in the drive. It appears that LiteOn, the company we all know from optical storage products, is developing their own Marvell based SSD. It looks like LiteOn will be the OEM for the builder, and several companies soon to be called 'Team Marvell' will sell the drive. So far we know of Plextor and ADATA, but with Corsair and possibly Patriot releasing Marvell controlled SSDs, Team Marvell appears to be growing. Of course, no one will share who their OEM is, but LiteOn will be a big player in 2011 even if they are behind the scenes and even if they are just in place for a development role.
We expect our first next generation Marvell controller sample to come from Crucial and we could see it any day now. Crucial will deliver the first next generation consumer SSD in 2011, the C4. This is going to play out well for Crucial since Team SandForce will trail in the consumer space by at least two to three months; maybe even longer. Things aren't perfect, though, for Crucial / Team Marvell. The rumor is that the new Marvell controller will only work with 25nm flash and it could be expensive.
The ADATA unit we tested at Computex used the same flash as the RealSSD C300, but it was also just an updated variant of the same C300 controller. The new models should be a new controller all together, but until we start seeing these drives in house there is no telling what company is going to go with what controller. Our heads are spinning just trying to figure this one out, but we know for certain that Crucial will be running the real deal next generation controller and not a slightly modified 2010 controller.
Every company we visited with a Marvell controller stressed that the new SATA 6G offering will bring "aggressive garbage collection". It's one thing to hear it from one company, but when everyone talks about it then something is a foot. As most of you know, TRIM commands are not passed along through RAID arrays and over time arrays get beaten up from data being deleted from the drives. For the last couple of years arrays needed to be broken and the individual drives cleansed. If the Team Marvell manufacturers manage to make do with what they are promising, the yearly cleaning cycle may be broken and Marvell controllers might be the way to go for high speed RAID arrays.