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Intel DC P3608 Enterprise NVMe SSD Review

Intel DC P3608 Enterprise NVMe SSD Review

Intel's DC P3608 melds two DC P3600 SSDs into one slim HHHL package that features up to 4TB of capacity and 5,000 MB/s of throughput.

The NVMe revolution is upon us, but it did not happen by accident. Intel led the charge to provide a refined interface for non-volatile memories to increase storage performance and efficiency while reducing latency. The Intel-founded NVMe industry consortium created a standardized interface that provides a stable foundation for SSDs from all manufacturers (though Intel actually had its eyes on providing a fast interface for its future 3D XPoint products). The consortium consists of over 90 companies that developed and fostered broad acceptance of the memory-agnostic protocol, which works very well with NAND.

Intel actually was not the first to market with an NVMe device; Samsung holds that distinction with its XS1715 SSD. However, Intel's NVMe-powered DC Series SSDs met with tremendous success upon launch. The DC P (PCIe) Series brought Intel's focus on performance consistency (a path the company blazed with its 2.5" SSDs) to the PCIe slot in tandem with the inherent advantages of NVMe.

The DC P Series, like most SSD families, features several products with varying endurance characteristics. The flagship DC P3700 features a robust 17 DWPD (Drive Writes Per Day) rating, the DC P3600 follows with 3 DWPD and the DC P3500 offers a mere 0.3 DWPD rating. The key to the DC P family's success is its focus on providing excellent performance consistency in a low power package that features excellent performance consistency -- but not necessarily chart-topping performance.

The three DC P Series models satisfy the needs of nearly every workload, but there will always be a user segment that requests the utmost speed and capacity, regardless of potential drawbacks (such as power or cost). Intel's DC P3608 caters to this crowd with class-leading performance specifications in an exceptionally dense package.

Intel combined two of its DC P3600 SSDs into one small HHHL (Half-Height, Half-Length) low profile AIC (Add In Card). The PCIe 3.0 x8 card provides up to 5,000/3,000MB/s of sequential read/write throughput and an impressive 850,000/150,000 4K random read/write IOPS. The DC P3608 offers class-leading density with 1.6, 3.2 and 4TB capacities available sporting Intel's 20nm HET MLC NAND.

The DC P3608 consists of two separate DC P3600 SSDs on the same physical device, but it exposes itself to the host as two distinct storage devices. Administrators can utilize the SSDs separately or in RAID 1, or combine the two devices into one large RAID 0 volume for the utmost performance. Intel's performance specifications are measured in the RAID 0 configuration, so RAID 1 and performance with separate volumes will vary.

There are several methods to combine the drives into the RAID configurations, including any type of software RAID, Storage Spaces and Intel's new NVMe RSTe 4.3 (and higher) driver, which for the first time enables RSTe RAID for NVMe devices. RSTe is built into Linux operating systems and installs into Windows environments as well. We cover the software on the following pages.


DC P3608's impressive performance specifications are accompanied by up to 21.9 PB of endurance (3 DWPD). In comparison, a single DC P3600 offers a 3 DWPD endurance rating, so Intel is likely being conservative. We do know that Intel is the only SSD manufacturer with a shipping product that utilizes LDPC error correction, which extends endurance with minimal operational overhead. In either case, 3 DWPD is emerging as the middle ground that addresses the majority of workloads.

The DC P3608's multiple controller architecture and the addition of an internal switch increases power consumption to a maximum of 40W during operation and an 11.5W idle power draw for the 4TB model. The DC P3608 operates within three user-configurable power envelopes of 25, 35, and 40W. This allows administrators to adjust the power and thermal characteristics to unique environments.

Most servers provide more than enough PCIe lanes, especially in four processor systems, but packing the most performance and capacity into one slot is still essential. Many deployments in the DC P3608's high-performance target market employ multiple PCIe adapters per chassis, with additives such as networking infrastructure, Intel Xeon PHI co-processors or GPUs that compete for the limited number of slots. The increased storage density is important for applications with limited PCIe slot real estate, and the step up from the PCIe 3.0 x4 interface employed with DC P3600 models to the x8 interface is important to maximize performance density.

Intel backs its newest fire-breathing monster with a five-year warranty, but like any high-performance SSD it comes with a few caveats, which we cover on the following pages. Today we will compare the DC P3608 to the Mangstor MX6300 NVMe SSD and its 100-core processor. The MX6300 is the current king-of-the-NVMe-hill, so let's get them on the bench.

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