London - BitMicro introduced its new 3.5" Ultra320 SCSI solid-state drive using Flash memory. The ruggedized 155 GByte drive called the E-Disk made its debut at a military expo in London and can read/write data much more quickly than a traditional magnetic drive. Currently available to large corporations and governments, the new drive will not find its way to consumer hands anytime soon (unless you have truckloads of extra cash).
The drive is a drop-in replacement for a traditional hard-drive. Using the Ultra320 SCSI interface it can perform 12,500 operations per second at a 42 microsecond access time. In addition the drive uses approximately 10 to 20 times less electricity than a traditional hard-drive. Meantime between failure (MTBF) is an estimated 2,000,000 hours.
Solid-state drives with no moving parts have other obvious advantages over their traditional harddrive cousins. Without a spinning magnetic platter, flash drives can withstand extreme shock and temperature variations. This makes them great for fighter jets and reconnaissance planes, where pilots must execute 9G turns flying at 50,000+ feet above sea level. BitMicro's e new drive is rated for 1500 Gs of shock, -60 to +95 degrees Celsius and can operate at up to 120,000 feet Altitude.
While data can be read almost forever from flash memory, the same cannot be said for writing and erasing data. Currently, flash memory is good for 100,000 to 1,000,000 write/erase cycles. While this sounds scary, almost all flash-drives (including digital camera memory cards) employ some type of 'wear leveling' firmware. The firmware spreads out the writes across the whole drive, thereby increasing the life of the drive. In addition, most BitMicro drives employ a DRAM-cache that uses DRAM chips to buffer all the reads/writes, further limiting the write cycles to the flash.
While hard-drives must reliably store data, military users sometimes have to do exactly the opposite - destroy the data. While this may seem easy, doing so in a secure and reliable way is the tricky part. Solid-state harddrives appear to be superior to magnetic drives and an initial format and rewrite can be done almost instantly. If that doesn't work, the traditional axe or hammer can be used as well.
We were not able to get a specific price for the 155 GByte E-Disk, but expect it to be very expensive. Previous BitMicro drives were priced between .50 cents to $1.50 per MByte, which would approach an estimated price of at least $77,500 for the new drive.