Reference Deigns and DuraWrite
The SF3700 reference designs are fully functional designs that manufacturers can use as a template. These are actually production quality designs, but many manufacturers opt to add or remove certain features of the reference design.
LSI SandForce SSDs do not require the use of DRAM, and that continues with the new generation of SSDs. This allows the use of the controller in dense packages due to reduced component requirements. Removing the DRAM chip, and associated components and capacitors, reduces complexity and cost.
The DRAM-less design also helps to shield LSI SandForce SSDs from losing data in the event of a power loss. By keeping the LBA mapping data on the NAND, instead of in volatile DRAM, the SandForce controllers are 1000x less susceptible to data loss from power 'events'.
The SF3700 also improves DuraWrite functionality, which is really the linchpin of the entire SandForce SSD controller design. The enhanced version has higher compression capability and improved block-picking and garbage collection that provides numerous advantages for typical data.
The number of SSD manufacturers is gradually shrinking. The entrance of the NAND fabricators into the competition is reducing the number of players quickly. It is very hard for third-party manufacturers to compete with foundries that create their own NAND and DRAM. The NAND fabricators are also either already fielding their own controllers, or actively purchasing companies that already have their own design.
The role that LSI SandForce plays in the market is clear; they allow the smaller guys to play ball in the big leagues. Without the need to actually design the controller and program the firmware, the smaller players can manufacture SSDs with a lower initial investment.
LSI SandForce plans to continue to sell controllers under the same model as before, and we foresee them gaining deeper penetration into the OEM market with their new SF3700 controller. One NAND fabricator (Intel) is already using LSI SandForce controllers, and it would not be surprising to see others jump on the bandwagon. We also expect to see the new SandForce chips utilized in LSI's own WarpDrive PCIe SSDs.
General availability of the SF3700 controllers is slated for the first half of 2014. The first working version of the SF3700 will be on display at the Supercomputing 2013 conference, and the TweakTown team is flying out to California this week to LSI's annual AIS (Accelerating Innovation Summit) to get more details - stay tuned for more news as we get it!