Marvell Announces Low-Power PCI-E 4.0 SSD Controllers
Marvell’s latest low-power SSD controller supports PCI-E 4.0
Marvell has begun sampling a new series of SSD controllers supporting PCI-E 4.0 and NVMe 1.3c that are aimed at the data center market with lower power and lower cost than the higher performance controller from Phison (and others next year) with more cache and number of flash channels. The new Marvell 88SS1320-series controllers include the 88SS1321 that can be paired with a DRAM cache and the DRAM-less 88SS1322 and 88SS1323.
All three of the PCI-E 4.0 SSD controllers use a triple-core ARM Cortex R5-based processor and support up to four channels at 1200 MT/s. Marvell supports Host Memory Buffer (HMB), NANDEdge LDPC error correction, hardware RAID, end-to-end data protection, OTP drive setup, and hardware AES drive encryption across the lineup. The slightly larger 88SS1321 controller can be paired with up to 8GB of DDR4, LPDDR3, or LPDDR4X memory over a 32-bit data bus for caching. According to Marvell, the new low power 12nm controllers are aimed at a variety of form factors including 2.5″ SATA, U.2, and M.2 2230, 2280, and 22110 drives with the two DRAM-less controllers able to be mounted alongside a single NAND package on a small single sided M.2 2230 drive or used in tablets where the space savings can result in slightly more battery capacity.
On the performance front, the 88SS1321 and DRAM-less 88SS1322 are rated at up to 3.9 GB/s while the 88SS1323 is rated at up to 3.5 GB/s. At first glace these controllers do not seem to offer much advantages over existing PCI-E 3.0 controllers, but Marvell is not going for blistering performance (rather efficiency and lowering TCO which enterprise customers care about optimizing), and these cheaper lower power controllers are able to achieve these speeds using only 4 channels. The new controllers are compatible with ONFI and Toggle NAND and are ready for 3D NAND in TLC/QLC as well the upcoming Intel Optane competition such as Toshiba’s XL-Flash and Western Digital’s Low Latency Flash NAND (as far as I know Samsung is keeping Z-NAND to/for itself).
If you have a need for speed and no space or power constraints, 2020 and beyond is likely your year but these new controllers from Marvell should give SSD manufacturers more options and the increased competition should help to keep prices for budget/mainstream drives on their downward trend in the $/GB wars as PCI-E 4.0 adoption marches onward. More information can be found in the press release (a quote from Marvell is included below).
“Marvell’s latest family of storage controllers has been architected to optimally address edge computing and data center pain points of power-performance and capacity-performance,” said Nigel Alvares, vice president of marketing for the Flash Business Unit at Marvell Semiconductor, Inc. “With today’s launch, we’re once again demonstrating Marvell’s leadership in storage, delivering the industry’s first 4-Channel PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSD controllers with the industry’s lowest power consumption that will help revolutionize SSD solutions for the data economy.”