The very first taste of the future of storage

We have the world’s first SATA 6G (6.0 Gb/s) SSD in house in prototype form for benchmarking! Though our testing options were somewhat limited due to the prototype being a read-only piece of hardware, it has proven to us that SSDs are going to be separating themselves from standard hard drives even further in 2010.

SATA 6G gets a chance at redemption

We got our first hands on with SATA 6G (or SATA 6.0 Gb/s or SATA III depending on the one writing) technology back in October when the ASUS P7P55D-E Premium motherboard first reached our test bench along with an early sample of the Seagate XT 2.0TB – the first SATA 6G ready hard drive.  Unfortunately, with that configuration, the SATA 6G results did not impress us: the speeds of the Seagate XT hard drive didn’t outperform current existing SATA 3.0 Gb/s hard drives to any noticeable degree. 

First SATA 6G SSD Arrives: Marvell controller prototype tested! - Storage 10
Data from our FIRST look at SATA 6G was unimpressive

You can see in this graph that the SATA 3.0 Gb/s SSD from Intel was easily faster in both average read speeds and in burst speeds than the SATA 6G HDD!  It wasn’t really a surprise but it definitely put a damper on the excitement over the upcoming move to the higher speed standard. 

*Queue “Short Circuit” Music*

I need a hero
I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night
He’s gotta be strong
And he’s gotta be fast
And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

The Marvell Controller Prototype SSD

This time around an interesting little device found its way into our offices – a very early engineering prototype of an SSD using a SATA 6G-ready controller from Marvell. 

First SATA 6G SSD Arrives: Marvell controller prototype tested! - Storage 11

While it looks like any other SSD, this Marvell-branded casing hides the first-of-its-kind performance of an SSD optimized for SATA 6G speeds.  There are some important caveats to mention with this drive.
  • Marvell is NOT going to be making SSDs, only controllers for SSDs, but this is their prototyping solution.  Don’t expect to see this for sale.
  • This is a read-only disk – it was built using ROM memory instead of NAND flash simply because of cost and the drive is still in its infancy.  That means we will not be able to do any kind of write tests or benchmarks that require a file system because the unit cannot be initialized. 

First SATA 6G SSD Arrives: Marvell controller prototype tested! - Storage 12

In truth, this is nothing but an exercise to see how early SATA 6G implementations can actually show notable improvement over current generation SATA 3.0 Gb/s drives. 

First SATA 6G SSD Arrives: Marvell controller prototype tested! - Storage 13

Our testing will be done on the ASUS P7P55D-E Premium solution that combines the Marvell 9123 storage controller and a PLX PCI Express bridge to keep as much bandwidth as possible available for the storage channels.  Very soon you will be able to buy this exact same solution in the form of a PCIe x4 add-on card from ASUS for as low as $30 that will give you two SATA 6G ports and two USB 3.0 ports – eagerly awaiting it!  


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