BitMicro has announced a flash memory-based solid state drive (SSD) with capacities ranging from 16GB to 1.6TB.

It is in 3.5-inch format and supports 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel connectivity, meaning that it could take on a core element of the hard disk drive market.

SSDs access data in microseconds, instead of the millliseconds needed by hard drives. The BitMicro E-Disk Altima 4GB FC delivers more than 55,000 IOPS and has a sustained data transfer rate over 230MB/sec. A fast hard drive for example will run at around 300 IOPS.

BitMicro says its storage capacity can be up to 1.6TB. The company website says it can reach the maximum capacity of 640GB in 1-inch. Therefore, two and a half such 1-inch units would be needed to achieve a 1.6TB capacity; in other words three 3.5-inch form factor drives joined together.

The company has developed two ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) to boost SSD performance. The Enhanced Datamover and Storage Accelerator (EDSA) flash I/O controller supports large blocks of flash enabling capacities to rise to the terabyte level.

EDSA works with the Logical Unifier of Extensive Transfer Arrays (LUNETA) ASIC, an interface controller designed to orchestrate massively parallel and multi-block I/O operations on large arrays of flash devices.

Competing products include TMS' RamSan 500, a flash SSD with a DRAM cache. It achieves up to 400,000 IOPS. Attorn's HyperDrive 4 is a DRAM-based SSD that runs at 44,000 IOPS. Theoretically DRAM should be faster than flash, but BitMicro's ASICS have made flash faster.

Jeff Janukowicz, SSD research manager at IDC, said: "Some segments of the enterprise storage market require very high performance and reliability. Increasingly, datacentres will look to SSDs to satisfy these requirements. IDC expects worldwide enterprise SSD revenues to grow by 76 percent annually from 2006 to 2011."

Sampling for the Altima 4GB FC SSD is expected to begin in Q1 2008 with volumes shipping in Q2 2008. No pricing information was released.

It is suggested by some industry sources, such as FSC's chief technology officer, Joseph Reger, that products such as this could cause significant datacentre adoption of SSDs by 2010.