Background and Internals
We do a quick round of testing on Intel’s first contender in the PCIe SSD arena.
A little over two weeks back, Intel briefed me on their new SSD 910 Series PCIe SSD. Since that day I’ve been patiently awaiting its arrival, which happened just a few short hours ago. I’ve burned the midnight oil for the sake of getting some greater details out there. Before we get into the goods, here’s a quick recap of the specs for the 800 (or 400) GB model:
- PCIe 2.0 x8 LSI Falcon 2008 SAS HBA driving 4 (or 2) Hitachi Ultrastar SAS controllers, each in turn driving 200GB of IMFT 25nm High Endurance Technology flash memory, all on a triple stacked half-height PCB.
- 400GB model yields (r/w) 1GB/s / 750MB/s sequential and 90,000 / 38,000 4k IOPS.
- 800GB model yields (r/w) 2GB/s / 1GB/s sequential and 180,000 / 75,000 4k IOPS.
- 800GB ‘performance mode’ (r/w) 2GB/s / 1.5GB/s sequential and 180,000 / 75,000 4k IOPS.
"Performance Mode" is a feature that can be enabled through the Intel Data Center Tool Software. This feature is only possible on the 800GB model, but not for the reason you might think. The 400GB model is *always* in Performance Mode, since it can go full speed without drawing greater than the standard PCIe 25W power specification. The 800GB model has twice the components to drive yet it stays below the 25W limit so long as it is in its Default Mode. Switching the 800GB model to Performance Mode increases that draw to 38W (the initial press briefing stated 28W, which appears to have been a typo). Note that this increased draw is only seen during writes.
Ok, now into the goodies:
Behold the 800GB SSD 910!
The four capacitors pictured are Aluminum Electrolytic, "V" Type "FK" Series. Each is rated at 330uF and each appears to be routed to its respective power converter circuit, which in turn drives one of the four 200GB SAS SSD units.
A side profile of the 910, showing the stacked layout, which I could only look at for just long enough to take this photo before the screwdriver came out:
The top two PCBs contain nothing but flash, while the bottom PCB holds four SAS SSD controllers and the LSI SAS HBA (hidden under the heatsink, which I opted to not remove considering I hadn’t even fired up the 910 for the first time yet):
Each SAS controller gets a fair chunk of DDR RAM (bottom right), while the LSI HBA gets a little to itself as well (center left).
The beefy connectors mating each flash memory PCB to the main board are fairly stout:
And finally the backs of the three PCBs for your viewing pleasure. Power inverters and additional RAM for the controllers lines the bottom of the main board, while the large chip in the center holds the firmware for the LSI SAS HBA.