Intel Intros Fast Datacenter SATA SSD

IOPS Over Time - Competing SSD vs. Intel DC S3700Today Intel announced a new SATA III SSD, the DC S3700 Series.  The new product is fast, supporting 75,000 random 4K read IOPS and 36,000 random 4K write IOPS.  Average read latency is 45microseconds (µs) with writes averaging 65µs.  Sustained sequential reads are 500 megabytes/sec with sustained sequential writes at 460.  The read performance of this SSD, although a SATA device, is twice that of Intel’s 710 PCIe SSD announced in April, and writes are a full 15 times faster.  Intel calls this performance: “Scary fast!”

Intel says this device is its best solution for High Performance Computing (HPC), virtualization, and big data.

Using MLC to reduce the suggested retail price by 40%, Intel continues with its efforts to increase SSD adoption in the data center through aggressive pricing.  MLC or not, though, the SSD can withstand ten full-drive writes per day.

The company is changing to a new numbering system for its SSDs: The DC in this product’s name stands for Data Center, which, with Professional and Consumer form the three target markets that future Intel SSDs will be named after.  The “S” stands for the SATA interface.  (We don’t have to worry about SAS, since Intel and Hitachi agreed that only Hitachi would serve that market using its spin on the Intel controller architecture.)  The digit “3” tells that this is the third generation, after the X25E and the 710, and the 700 is a way to indicate that this product is built using the 710’s architecture, which has been reduced to an ASIC.  The original 710 is a 2-hop PCIe SSD, using a standard RAID controller to manage four SAS SSDs designed around the Hitachi SSD controller.

Another role that Hitachi plays in this story is that it brought end-to-end data protection to Intel’s SSDs, and Intel says that the DC S3700 uses not only that, but also has end-to-end protection on the non-data paths (things like metadata and indexes.)

A key focus for this SSD is consistent performance.  This is an area that Virident has been focusing upon for years, and users are just now starting to catch on.  The graphic for this post is made up of two charts that Intel used to make this point.  Click on it to see a larger image.  The top chart shows the IOPS performance over time of a competing SSD.  Note that every once in a while this SSD’s IOPS drop to a significantly lower level.  Some of these lower points even appear to rest on the zero line at the bottom.  The lower chart, representing the same test performed on the DC S3700, shows significantly more consistent performance – Intel tells us that this SSD’s maximum latencies will be lower than 500µs 99.9% of the time.  The SSD Guy guesses that this is a conservative number.

These dropouts don’t look as important in the chart as they really are.  Because of the very long delay that occurs when there is such a hold-up the impact of a very infrequent delay can be to cut the average latency in half.  This kind of reminds me of the keynote to the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in which Conan O’Brien introduced Bill Gates by saying that when he walked into the room the average net worth of everyone in the room would be one hundred and twenty eight million dollars.

One place where performance consistency is very important is in RAID.  The speed of a RAID system is limited by its lowest common denominator, so if four SSDs take turns having performance dropouts, the dropouts will appear to occur four times as frequently.

Intel has taken a very unusual approach by providing not only 2.5″ versions of this drive, but 1.8″ renditions as well.  The company said that a lot of microservers and blade servers use this form factor.  I asked noted HDD analyst Tom Coughlin to verify this and he replied that this was the case about 5 years ago, but newer servers use 2.5″ drives almost exclusively.  What this implies is that Intel will be using a similar approach to marketing the DC S 3700 as Kingston used to market SSDs to enterprise PCs: Show IT managers that they can postpone purchasing a new computer by using an SSD to extend the useful life of existing 3-year-old equipment.

Capacities on this self-encrypted drive range from 100GB to 800GB.  Production is slated to begin at the end of this year.

Readers may be interested to know that Objective Analysis has published a report covering high-end SSDs: The Enterprise SSD – Technologies & Markets that can be purchased for immediate download from our website.

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