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SSD drives could triple in speed thanks to firmware

Defrag scheme boosts speed 300 percent
Tue May 27 2014, 16:39
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SOLID-STATE DISK (SSD) drives could be about to get a lot faster, thanks to firmware.

A Japanese team led by Ken Takeuchi, professor at the Department of Electrical, Electronic and Communication Engineering at Chuo University, has found a way to triple the speed of a standard SSD by removing the bottlenecks in its architecture.

By swapping the existing middleware of the device with its own, the team was able to achieve staggeringly quick results by letting the drive do what SSD owners are told never to do themselves.

SSDs are not capable of overwriting, instead the sector of memory has to be deleted first and if this hasn't been done - for example, if the recycle bin isn't empty - the drive soon becomes fragmented. The conventional wisdom is never to defragment an SSD drive, as the repeated rewrites can significantly shorten its lifespan.

However, the Japanese middleware incudes a layer known as a Logical Block Address scrambler. This overrides the SSD default to put every data block in the first available spot, and by placing it elsewhere, unfragmenting the drive and reducing the number of packets of "garbage collection" the file system requires later, while speeding up access time.

Whereas conventional defragmentation creates hundreds of damaging rewrites, this managed method actually reduces rewrites by 55 percent, and power consumption by 60 percent, both of which extend the life of the drive.

Researchers have also confirmed that because the NAND flash storage is the same as it always was, existing SSD drives can take advantage of this new technology with just a firmware upgrade.

It's too early to say whether any existing SSD makers will look to adopt this new technique, but we've contacted a couple of them to see what they think of it.

SSD architecture has developed rapidly in recent months, with Sandisk recently revealing its first 4TB NAND flash drive, while Toshiba and Sandisk revealed that they have begun rolling out equipment to fab NAND cells at 15nm. µ


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