Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Intel PCIe SSD uses NVMe to smoke the competition!
Intel has a nasty habit of releasing disruptive technology, especially in the area of computer storage. Among the first of those releases was the X25-M, which was groundbreaking to say the least. At a time where most other SATA SSDs were just stopgap attempts to graft flash memory to a different interface, Intel's SATA SSD was really the first true performer.
With performance in the bag, Intel shifted their attention to reducing the cost of their products. The next few generations of the Intel line was coupled with leadership in die shrinks. This all came together in the form of SSD releases of increasingly reduced cost. Sure the enterprise parts retained a premium, but the consumer parts generally remained competitive.
Now Intel appears to have once again shifted their attention to performance, and we know it has been in the works for a while now. With the SATA bottleneck becoming increasingly apparent, big changes needed to me made. First, SATA, while fine for relatively high latency HDD's, was just never meant for SSD speeds. As SSD performance increased, the latencies involved with the interface overhead (translating memory-based addresses into ATA style commands) becomes more and more of a burden.
The solution is to not only transition to PCIe, but to do so using a completely new software and driver interface, called NVM Express. NVMe has been in the works for a while, and offers some incredible benefits in that it essentially brings the flash memory closer to the CPU. The protocol was engineered for the purpose of accessing flash memory as storage, and doing so as fast and with the least latency as possible. We hadn't seen any true NVMe products hit the market, until today, that is:
Behold the Intel SSD DC P3700!
Straight from Intel:
Note the segmentation going on here. 3 products ranging from P3700 to P3500, the lowest of which has the lowest grade ('Std') flash, and is therefore rated at a lower write speed and endurance. End to end data protection is no joke, and that process is detailed in my last editorial on the matter (certainly worth reading if you want to know how Intel does its validation testing). Along with the drop in flash grades comes a very welcome drop in cost, with the low end down to ~$1.50/GB. Not too shabby for a product that can handle 2.5GB/sec and 450k random read IOPS!
Not much to say here, as these are enterprise samples, which we get in a simple static bag. Besides, I don't think those huge specs above are going to really sink in until you see actual benches, so lets get to it!