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Sep 29 2015

Intel Introduces New Server SSDs


Intel has launched a new series of high-performance, PCIe SSDs targeted at enterprise customers running HPC data applications and workflows. Available in 1.6TB, 3.2TB and 4TB capacities, the SSD DC P3608 models deliver read speeds of up to 5 GB/s and 850,000 IOPS to "enable highly efficient scalability, (...) eliminate bottlenecks in HPC workflows, accelerate databases, and gain business insights through real time analytics," Intel promises.

Providing particularly high transfer rates and low latencies, the SSD DC P3608 sports a Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) dual controller to evenly distribute I/O across eight PCIe 3.0 lanes. Intel apparently chose this architecture because it wanted to compete with the likes of SanDisk, whose high-end SSDs are optimize for data- and/or read-intensive workloads such as virtualization, business intelligence, real-time financial transactions, 3D Animation, and CAD/CAM. And according to the official data sheet and initial test results, the P3608 is a strong contender in the field:

  • Available in three sizes of 1.6, 3.2 and 4 TB, the series delivers read speeds of up to 5 GB/s (sequential) and 850,000 IOPS (4 KB random reads) – between 75 and over 400% faster than SanDisk's Fusion ioMemory SX350 and SX600 models. An unofficial test by SSD Review shows the 1.6 TB model may even surpass the official specification and turn in 5.3 GB/s during sequential and 865,000 IOPS during random reads.
  • Sequential write speeds aren't quite as impressive, but still great at 2.0/2.6/3.0 GB/s.
  • During its 5-year warranty period, each member of the P3608 family will digest three drive writes per day; as a result, the maximum amount of data processed at the end of a drive's lifetime clocks in between 8.76 PB for the smallest and 21.9 PB for the biggest model. At 11.5 W, power consumption is comparatively low for all capacities in idle mode, but will increase to 18/20 W in read and 30, 35 or 40 W in write mode, depending on the model you pick.
  • By contrast, regular 4 KB random writes seem to be the drives' Achilles heel; here, they only score 150k, 80k and 50k IOPS – between 13 and 45% of their SanDisk rivals. "Mixed" 4 KB scenarios with a 70/30 read/write balance top out between 150,000 and 300,000 IOPS; for many use cases, this will be fairly sufficient.

For companies looking to speed up their servers and demanding read-intensive applications, the Intel SSD DC P3608 is a solid option so long as they can cope with random write rates matching those of standard SAS or SATA SSDs. With regard to capacity, the new drives beat most other models except for SanDisk's largest Fusion-io types. At the time of writing, the P3608 was shipping in volumes to OEMs, but not available yet from retailers. However, several sources claim they got wind of retail prices in advance, saying those will amount to $3,509 for the small, $7,009 for the medium-sized and $8,759 for the big model (€3,700/7,300/9,100 respectively) – which is pretty tame considering that slower SanDisk SSDs start in the $5,000/€6,000 range. For more details, please see the Intel blog or the analyses from HotHardware and LegitReviews.


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