It’s always great fun to see a company hit one out of the ballpark with a new product and that’s exactly what Intel has done with its new 910 PCIe SSD, if you believe this recent article by Paul Alcorn in SSD Review. In fact, the SSD Review article clearly states:
“If you have any doubt that the Intel 910 Series PCIe SSD is anything less than a game changer, we are certain this will fade throughout reading of this report.”
I discussed the introduction of this Intel SSD product last month in a previous Denali Memory Report blog: “Intel jumps on the PCIe SSD bandwagon with the fast, new 910 Series.” Now, SSD Review has been kind enough to thoroughly document a technical evaluation of the offering and the article’s author is clearly impressed.
Before jumping into the review, I think you should consider the importance of a PCIe-based SSD. One of the chief advantages that SSDs have over HDDs is read speed, thanks to solid-state storage. Forcing SSDs to communicate with host CPUs using a drive interface that’s evolved over decades in service to HDDs adds unneeded latency, as noted in the SSD Review article:
“The PCIe SSD is by far physically one of the easiest ways to integrate flash storage into the server. The form factor is key, with no cabling or connections to other components involved, and the NAND is as close to the CPU as possible. By applying the benefits of the PCIe interface, virtually a ‘straight shot’ to the CPU with current generation chipsets, latencies can be kept as close to DRAM levels as possible.”
In my previous blog, I was able to provide a generic block diagram of the Intel 910 PCIe SSD:
Thanks to the SSD Review article, we now know that the PCIe-to-SAS bridge chip is an LSISAS2008 PCI Express to 8-port SAS/SATA controller and that the four “SAS/NAND ASICs” are EW29AA31AA1 SSD controllers jointly developed by Intel and Hitachi. The SSD controller chips can also be found in Hitachi’s Ultrastar Enterprise SAS SSDs. The 400Gbyte version of the Intel 910 PCIe SSD uses two of these SAS SSD controllers and the 800Gbyte version uses four controllers.
Combining this controller technology with high-endurance MLC NAND results in outstanding performance and endurance specifications: 1-2 Gbytes/sec reads, 0.75-1 Gbytes/sec writes, and ten full drive writes per day for five years (a 30x improvement over standard Intel MLC offerings). The MSRP for the 400Gbyte version of the Intel 910 PCIe SSD is $1929 and the 800Gbyte version is $3859. That’s less than $5/Gbyte and is extremely aggressive for an enterprise-class SSD.
The SSD Review article is very thorough and you might well want to spend considerable time with it because it provides an unusual amount of insight into the design of the Intel 910 PCIe SSD. After studying this article, you might well be convinced that PCIe SSDs and the soon-to-be-seen NVMe SSDs that will follow may well be the shape of things to come.