Although Intel is no longer directly in the SSD market these days, their SSD team and related technologies continue to live on under the SK hynix umbrella as Solidigm. Since their initial formation at the very end of 2021, Solidigm has been in the process of reestablishing their footing, continuing to sell and support Intel’s previous SSD portfolio while continuing development of their next generation of SSDs. On the enterprise side of matters this recently culminated in the launch of their new D7 SSDs. Meanwhile on the consumer side of matters, today at Flash Memory Summit the company is announcing their first post-Intel consumer SSD, the Solidigm P41 Plus
The P41 Plus is, at a high level, the successor to Intel’s 670p SSD, the company’s second-generation QLC-based SSD. And based on that description alone, a third generation QLC drive from Solidigm is something that few AnandTech readers would find remarkable. QLC makes for cheap high(ish) capacity SSDs, which OEMs love, while computing enthusiasts are decidedly less enthusiastic about them.
But then the P41 Plus isn’t just a traditional QLC drive.
One of the more interesting ventures out of Intel’s time as a client SSD manufacturer was the company’s forays into cache tiering. Whether it was using flash memory as a hard drive cache, using 3D XPoint as a hard drive cache, or even using 3D XPoint as a flash memory cache, Intel tried several ways to speed up the performance of slower storage devices in a cost-effective manner. And while Intel’s specific solutions never really caught on, Intel’s core belief that some kind of caching is necessary proved correct, as all modern TLC and QLC SSDs come with pseudo-SLC caches for improved burst write performance.
While they are divorced from Intel these days, Solidigm is picking up right where Intel left off, continuing to experiment with cache tiering. Coming from the same group that developed Intel’s mixed 3D XPoint/QLC drives such as the Optane Memory H20, Solidigm no longer has access to Intel’s 3D XPoint memory (and soon, neither will Intel). But they do have access to flash memory. So for their first solo consumer drive as a stand-alone subsidiary, Solidigm is taking a fresh stab at cache tiering, expanding the role of the pSLC cache to serve as both a write cache and a read cache.