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5 Most Influential Enterprise Flash Storage Companies

5 Most Influential Enterprise Flash Storage Companies

All flash is not created equal. Enterprise-grade flash is more durable, reliable, and has higher read/write speeds. Here are the top 5 enterprise flash storage companies that are revolutionizing the storage industry.

It's no secret that flash-based storage is hot -- hot that is, from a popularity standpoint. Since there's no spinning platters or sweeping actuator arms in flash-based SSDs, there's almost no heat generated from devices that use flash storage. And that's good news for those who pay the electric bills to keep uncomfortably cool data centers uncomfortably cool. Flash-based drives, having no moving parts, also generate no noise, so you can imagine how their widespread use will affect not only data center temperatures but also the noise level.

More important to enterprises than just raw speed, is reliability and durability of storage. It's a well-known fact that flash storage enjoys an initial speed burst but then settles in on a steady state speed benchmark. Enterprises look closely at this steady state speed rating as well as the long-term durability of a drive. Companies have to be sure that the extra money they spend on SSDs gives them the return in years of continued use.

Enterprises use flash storage in a variety of ways from direct-attached storage arrays to hybrid storage solutions. Flash storage for database instances is also very popular in enterprises because of the improved performance. For databases, however, the key numbers to look at are the random write IOPS and the sequential write MB/s.  Consumer flash products, unless they're considered professional grade, perform at much lower rates than enterprise-grade flash.

SSDs are well known in the IT industry as the single best upgrade to boost performance, to reduce noise, to reduce power consumption, and to reduce heat generation.  Here's how one flash-based SSD stands up to a comparable HDD.

Comparison: Toshiba 15K HDD vs. Flash-based SSD

15K SAS HDD SAS 2.0 6GB/s SSD SAS 3.0
600MB/s transfer
500MB/s sequential read / 250MB/s sequential write
200 4K read/400 write IOPS*90,000 4K read/17,000 write IOPS
1.6 million hours MTBF2.0 million hours MTBF
8.7 Watts  
6.5 Watts
5 yr warranty5 yr warranty

   * IOPS estimated from various technical reviews.

As I mentioned, all flash memory is not created equal. You'll see SLC (single-level cell) and MLC (multi-level cell) in both consumer and enterprise disks. Enterprise quality is much higher than consumer.  So SLC and MLC consumer grade flash isn't directly comparable to enterprise-grade SLC and MLC flash. Typically, MLC flash products are less expensive than equivalent capacity SLC products.

Finding The Best Flash Storage

Today we review the five most influential flash storage companies revolutionizing the data center by bringing the fastest and most reliable storage yet to the enterprise. They are in alphabetical order and are all primary manufacturers of flash storage and flash-based SSDs, which means that these companies not only manufacture the raw flash material but they also manufacture the completed SSD products. They also sell flash memory to other SSD and flash array manufacturers.

The SSD products listed in this article are enterprise-level flash disks suitable for enterprise-class servers as primary directly attached storage (DAS) or as part of a tiered SAN array. Additionally, the SATA disks can be used in workstations and laptops as well. The price points for SATA architected drives are very affordable -- even in the consumer market.All of these companies have research and development flash laboratories where storage scientists and designers work on memory technologies that are two revisions (or more) ahead of what's currently on the market.


Why It’s Influential: Intel always leads the innovation pack in memory and in computing power for both consumers and for enterprises. Intel produces some of the most durable and reliable Flash products on the market and does so at a comfortable price point.

Intel is the company that has brought you the best in microcomputer technology for the past 45 years in the form of microprocessors, memory, and now, solid state drives (SSDs*). It brought affordable SSDs to the netbook ultra-portable computer and to desktop PCs with its X25-M multi-level cell (MLC) drives in 2009. Intel was the first company to bring 34nm NAND flash memory lithography to the market (2008) with the same or better performance as the standard 50nm flash memory-based drives and at a price point up to 60 percent less than current drives. The 34nm flash memory is drop-in compatible with 50nm drives.

The new 34nm flash-based Intel SSDs offered improved latency of up to 25 percent and increased random write performance twofold.

In 2011, Intel announced the first 20nm MLC NAND flash memory for use in SSDs. This innovation brought another 20% to 30% drop in SSD prices over 25nm flash-based drives.

Consider the following example of an Intel S3500 Series 2.5-Inch 240GB SATA SSD for capacity, speed, reliability, and price:

  • 240GB
  • SATA 6.0 Gb/s Interface
  • MTBF: 1,200,000 hours
  • 2.5” SATA and 1.8” SATA
  • 20nm MLC NAND Flash
  • 500 MB/s Sequential Read/260MB/s Sequential Write
  • 75,000/7,500 Random 4KB Read/Write Max IOPS
  • $334.00

Intel offers multiple form factors for its SSDs: 2.5” SATA, mSATA, and PCI Express.

*Intel and Micron Technology formed a new company in 2006, IM Flash Technologies, which manufactures NAND Flash for both companies.

Micron Technology

Why It’s Influential: Micron's joint venture with Intel (IM Flash Technologies) produces affordable leading edge technology drives.

Micron is no newcomer to the memory game. For more than 30 years, it has developed leading edge memory technology. This long tradition of memory innovation has placed Micron among the NAND Flash elite. It produces high-performance NAND Flash products for every application from mobile, to embedded, to enterprise storage.

In fact, Micron offers four different NAND Flash types, each with its own specific application and list of features: SLC, MLC, TLC, and Serial NAND.

Single-level cell (SLC) is what Micron calls “NAND Flash at its simplest and best.” Use SLC NAND Flash for high-performance, high-endurance applications.  SLC is perfect for those mission-critical environments. SLC stores 1 bit of data per memory cell, which provides fast read and fast write capabilities. It also means excellent endurance, relatively simple ECC algorithms, and speeds up to 4.5 times faster than equivalent MLC Flash. SLC gives you the fastest throughput of any NAND product.

Micron’s multi-level cell (MLC) NAND Flash products give you a good mix of price and performance for mainstream storage applications. Its 20nm NAND provides 2 bits per cell efficiency and the best balance of endurance, ECC complexity, and performance.

Triple-level cell (TLC) NAND Flash is a high-density consumer-oriented flash solution that provides lower endurance and performance than the enterprise but at an attractive price point for consumer devices.

Micron supplies Serial NAND for embedded devices that run the gamut of consumer and enterprise applications. Serial NAND is perfect for rugged environments and for intensive program and erase operation scenarios.

Note: Micron sells its consumer products under the name Crucial Technology but its enterprise products under its own name.

The following data represents a Crucial Technology offering (M500) that compares favorably with others in this class:

  • 240GB
  • SATA 6.0 Gb/s Interface
  • MTBF: 1,200,000 hours
  • 2.5” SATA
  • 20nm NAND Flash
  • 500 MB/s Sequential Read/250MB/s Sequential Write
  • 72,000/60,000 Random 4KB Read/Write Max IOPS
  • $186.00

The Micron Enterprise-class drive, the P400m, for comparison:

  • 200GB
  • SATA 6.0 GB/s Interface
  • MTBF: 2,000,000 hours
  • 2.5” SATA
  • 25nm NAND Flash
  • 380 MB/s Sequential Read/310 MB/s Sequential Write
  • 54,000/26,000 Random 4KB Read/Write Max IOPS
  • $565.00

If you need more proof of Micron’s innovative leadership position in the NAND Flash market, it has developed 16nm MLC NAND that sets the stage for almost 6TB of storage to be produced on a single 300mm wafer.


Why It’s Influential: Samsung is the #1 memory manufacturer and caters to the high-end prosumer and enterprise desktop markets. It is the largest supplier of SSDs to the preinstalled PC business. Samsung has also entered the SSD enterprise server market, with a line-up of read-centric SSDs, such as the SM843 and SM843T drives.

Samsung features a very high performance write-intensive SSD: the SM1625. Perfect for those high-volume database systems, the SM1625 provides sequential read speeds up to 900MB/s and sequential writes of up to 740MB/s under active-active operation.

Samsung also offers “green” enterprise SSDs. The SM1625 drive is part of the green line along with the PM830. The PM830 runs 14 times faster than the 15K RPM convention hard disk drive (HDD) does. It also runs at ten percent of the power of that standard HDD at a power-stingy one Watt.

Samsung is a major supplier of Flash memory to other storage solution builders. One notable customer is Pure Storage, which is a leading manufacturer of Flash-based enterprise storage arrays.

Here’s an example of the new Samsung SM843T SSD:

  • 240GB
  • SATA 6.0 GB/s Interface
  • MTBF: 2,000,000 hours
  • 2.5” SATA
  • 19nm NAND Flash
  • 500 MB/s Sequential Read/370 MB/s Sequential Write
  • 98,000/15,000 Random 4KB Read/Write Max IOPS
  • $271.00

Samsung has managed to perfect TLC NAND Flash so that it delivers high performance and high durability at a very low price point.

Samsung’s enterprise server options are equally impressive. The SM843T delivers extreme performance numbers for sequential reads/writes at 98,000/20,000 for the 960GB model. Samsung is ready for big data and other read-intensive environments. Samsung offers a TCO calculator for businesses and for personal use to measure your savings by switching to SSDs.


Why It’s Influential: SanDisk is smart by offering enterprise SSDs in multiple formats: Mixed-use, Write-intensive, and Read-intensive. SanDisk offers excellent performance and price competitive solutions at every level of computing.

SanDisk’s 2011 purchase of enterprise SSD manufacture, Pliant, thrust the company headlong into the high-end SSD marketplace. Now, SanDisk creates high-performance SLC, MLC, and PCIe-based solutions for enterprises at a very competitive cost-per-performance model.

SanDisk might be the one surprise guest at this enterprise Flash party. When you think SanDisk, you think USB Flash drives but its enterprise offerings are no less impressive than its extensive line-up of consumer-rated Flash products.

It has oriented its SSDs toward the media and entertainment industries and big data applications with its use-specific offerings, its larger capacities (200GB to 1.6TB), and very high (up to 118,000 IOPS) speeds.

SanDisk’s markets for its SSDs focus on such high-demand areas such as data warehousing, email, online transaction processing (OLTP), and video on demand (VOD). It has an SSD solution for every enterprise need.

The following is an overview of the SanDisk LB 206M Mixed use SSD:

  • 200GB
  • SAS 6GB/s Interface
  • MTBF: 2,000,000 hours
  • 2.5” SAS
  • 34 nm SLC NAND Flash
  • 385 MB/s Sequential Read/NA MB/s Sequential Write
  • 22,000/22,000 Random 4KB Read/Write Max IOPS
  • $1,857.99


Why It’s Influential: Toshiba is a leading innovator in areas other than just storage. It produces many different products (computers, tablets, toys, electronics, copiers, medical equipment) and most of it can benefit from its NAND Flash research and development.

Toshiba is one of those companies that does almost everything well. In its almost 75 years as Toshiba, the company has inundated the electronics market with thousands of top-quality products including laptop computers and storage products. Its foray into the enterprise SSD market holds true to its charter: to produce high quality electronics at affordable prices.

Toshiba offers two major lines of enterprise SSDs: The MKx0001GRZB line of server DAS and NAS drives in 100, 200, and 400GB capacities and its newer extreme performance PX02SM line that offers 200, 400, 800, and 1600GB capacity drives.

The following is Toshiba’s MK2001GRZB SSD specifications:

  • 200GB
  • SAS 6GB/s Interface
  • MTBF: 2,000,000 hours
  • 2.5” SAS
  • 32 nm SLC NAND Flash
  • 500 MB/s Sequential Read/250 MB/s Sequential Write
  • 90,000/17,000 Random 4KB Read/Write Max IOPS
  • $2,587.00


Enterprise SSD storage has evolved from a slow and questionable past to the absolute leading edge of performance-enhanced, best available technology. Flash storage is now the sought after norm for enterprises that want to boost power efficiency, cooling, speed performance, and storage durability.

Several companies now purchase Flash from this list of manufacturers to create Flash storage arrays and a variety of Flash-based products from embedded storage to portable data centers. Energy efficient, long lasting, inexpensive and extreme performance give Flash-based storage a long future ahead in the data center.

Flash-based storage arrays are the next major step in Flash storage. Some manufacturers use SSDs, while others use Flash modules to create the arrays. Flash-based arrays are becoming price competitive with high-end conventional arrays but can’t compare to the performance of Flash. As Flash research continues and prices fall into the spinning disk range, enterprises will convert their storage en masse to the newer, more energy efficient, and better performing Flash alternatives.