LSI/SandForce has a new metal layer spin of their 2100 and 2200 controllers, optimized to save power. The current versions are not bad by any means, but the new spin should be both transparent to and better for the end user.
Most SemiAccurate readers want to know what changed, and the short story is, if you are a user, not much. If you are designing systems, you will see your controllers change from B01 step to B02, a comprehensive metal later rework. The firmware is also upgraded to handle the new changes, but the new code will work perfectly on the older ASICs. So far, no pain points.
The idea is to make the power distribution more granular to allow more and smaller things to be turned off, put in to lower power modes, or only partially kept awake. This last bit is important, SandForce can now keep less of the drive awake while staying connected to the host, something that is necessary for Auto-Idle1 and Auto-Idle2 modes.
If you can keep the I/O side of the drive awake, you can shut the rest of the system down very aggressively, and have the system itself be totally oblivious to any change in the drive. As far as the PC is concerned, the drive is there and fully active, but may see ~1ms or <100ms latency for Auto-Idle 1 and 2 respectively when it asks for data. Considering the average human reaction time is ~500ms, this shouldn’t be a problem. To make matters better for SandForce, these changes are aimed at Ultrabooks, and those buyers, by definition, are slower than average, so they really won’t notice any of the above. Change the trim shade on the accompanying reassuringly expensive matched carrying case by one Pantone shade though, and they will have a panic attack.
In the end, the changes should be completely transparent to the user, and completely transparent to the drive buyer too. The new B02 chips are said to be priced the same as their predecessors too. Both are built on the same TSMC 65nm process, and the B02 will be available along with the B01 step chips for as long as anyone wants the older version. Other than long lifetime embedded and industrial users, there is really no reason to request the B01s, B02 is all upside. Other than that, the new parts are the same SF-2000 based devices you know and love.
Speaking of know and love, that usually, but not always, means ‘sells in large volumes’. Luckily for SandForce and their new owners LSI, that seems to be the case, the company is now announcing they have sold more than 10 million of their controllers to date. Given how popular SSDs are now versus when SandForce first hit the market, things are looking good for them.S|A
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