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Intel Announces New 3D NAND And Dual-Port NVMe SSDs

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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Intel announced four new NVMe SSDs in tandem with its Xeon E5-2600 v4 Broadwell-EP launch, and its DC P3520 and DC P3320 both come packing Intel's new 32-layer 3D NAND. The industry is moving to 3D NAND due to the seemingly insurmountable economic challenges associated with scaling planar NAND below 10nm. Intel/Micron's (IMFT) co-developed 3D NAND is a hotly anticipated product because it offers more density, up to 256Gb per MLC die and 384Gb per TLC die, in comparison to Samsung's 3D V-NAND.

NAND die are stacked together into packages that support up to 16 die, and we can expect up to 512GB of storage for a single MLC NAND package and up to 768GB with TLC NAND. Samsung, and others, utilize Charge-Trap Flash (CTF) while IMFT NAND employs standard floating-gate (FG) technology. IMFT also placed most of the CMOS under the array to increase density.

Samsung was the first NAND fabricator to deliver 3D NAND to the market, but many of its competitors claim their solutions will offer better density and cost-efficiency. We are finally one step closer to finding out if those claims are true as Intel's first 3D NAND SSDs come to market.

DC P3520 and DC P3320 SSDs

Intel had its new DC P3320 on display at the Broadwell-EP press briefing. The DC P3320 features the same architectural design as its Intel DC P3700 predecessor, and offers the same PCIe 3.0 x4 connection and NVMe interface. Click To View Full SizeClick To View Full SizeThe Intel DC P3320 comes in capacities that range from 450GB to 2TB and is available either as an Add-In Card (AIC) or in the 2.5" form factor. The DC P3700 architecture constrains the DC P3320's capacity because Intel's 18-channel controller can only manage up to 2TB of addressable storage due to DRAM management limitations.

The DC P3520 offers up to 365,000 random read IOPS and 22,000 random write IOPS, which is similar to the Intel DC P3500. The DC P3520 suffers a slight performance reduction due to the loss of parallelism that stems from denser 3D NAND (fewer packages). Intel did not list dedicated specifications for each capacity point, but we expect normal performance scaling based upon capacity, which means that lower-capacity models will likely offer less performance. The DC P3520 also offers up to 1,600 MBps of sequential read throughput and 1,400 MBps of sequential write speed, and a 0.3 DWPD (Drive Writes Per Day) endurance rating.

Intel indicated that it also has higher-capacity 3D TLC NAND models under development with a new architecture, which should also help boost performance.

Intel also announced its DC P3520 SSDs, but did not share any performance data other than to note that it will be the performance-oriented model. We unearthed a document in August of last year that correctly predicted the announcement of Intel's DC P3608 series, and it also included information on the DC P3520. 

The slide is dated; it lists the product availability in Q4 of 2015. The other information in the document proved to be true, so we expect the data to serve as a rough guide to the DC P3520's performance specifications. The slide indicates a top random read/write speed of 450,000/44,000 IOPS and maximum sequential throughput of 2,800/1,840 MBps. 

Intel DC D3700 And DC D3600 Series SSDs

SAS SSDs remain unchallenged in many key market segments, such as all-flash arrays, due to the dual-port interface. Dual port provides important high-availability features, such as multipath and failover, which are key requirements in mission-critical environments.

The original NVMe specification did not include dual-port functionality, but the NVMe consortium added the feature as the specification progressed. The first products with dual-port NVMe functionality are finally filtering down to the market, such as OCZ's ZD6000, and Intel joins the ranks with its new DC D3700 and DC D3600 SSDs.

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Intel's dual-port NVMe SSDs connect via two PCIe 3.0 x2 connections. This provides the dual port connection, but also reduces performance from the top speed of 470,000/95,000 random read/write IOPS. The SSDs also provide up to 2,100/1,500 MBps of sequential read/write throughput in single port mode.

The DC D3700 and DC D3600 are only available in the 2.5" form factor and require compatible backplanes, so they are not compatible with most systems. The DC D37600 is available in capacities of 800GB and 1.6TB and it features 10 DWPD of endurance. The low-endurance DC D3600 provides a 2 DWPD endurance rating and comes in 1TB and 2TB capacities.

The new Intel SSDs also employ several key features found in the SAS segment, such as scatter/gather lists, multiple namespaces, reservations and in-controller memory buffers. Intel indicated that its multiple namespace engine is hardware driven, which provides more performance in comparison to the software driven approaches normally used with SAS.

Intel DC S3100 Series

Intel's 6 GBps SATA S3100 Series SSDs provide a value-centric path to SSDs by employing low-cost 16nm TLC NAND. The DC S3100 is designed specifically to serve as a low-cost HDD replacement, and many of the robust features found with the flagship-class Intel SSDs, such as power loss protection, are discarded in favor of a more palatable price point.

The DC S3100 Series also features lower write performance than other read-centric SSDs. The S3100 offers up to 535 MBps of sequential read performance, but a mere 118 MBps of sequential write throughput. The random performance is also somewhat unbalanced at 59,000/4,700 read/write IOPS, but this is within expectations for the read-centric SSD class. The SSDs come in the familiar 2.5" form factor in capacities of 120, 240, 480 GB and 1 TB.

The most surprising specification is the 0.1 DWPD endurance rating, which is the lowest in the market. The low endurance threshold requires the DC S3100 to be restricted to the most read-centric workloads possible, and unlike other Intel datacenter SSDs, the DC S3100 only carries a 3 year warranty. 

A low price structure will be the key to the DC S3100's success. Intel's positioning, and the use of 16nm TLC NAND, ensures that it will be a very cost-competitive entrant, but Intel did not provide specific pricing information or release dates.

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