Intel has introduced the Intel DC S3700 SSD (DC denotes 'data center' and S 'SATA) into the enterprise with the intentions of revolutionizing the way that end-users evaluate storage performance. With a new proprietary controller at the helm and optimized firmware, Intel has promised to deliver an unrivaled level of performance consistency. The focus on the latency of the SSD, and not maximum speed, promises to provide more predictable and reliable performance over the long term.
Performance variability can rob applications of performance. Individual 'hangs' and lags from outlying I/O can significantly affect application performance simply because applications are forced into waiting for the next I/O to complete. High-end enterprise storage solutions have a reputation for delivering predictable performance, and Intel looks to extend this to the world of enterprise SSDs.
Intel has set forth in their specifications that a QD32 4K random write workload will result in 99.9% of write requests requiring less than 10ms. For a QD1 4k random write workload, Intel also claims that 99.9999% percent of commands will be at, or under, 0.5ms. While the QD1 statistic is not relevant in many enterprise applications, it speaks volumes to the emphasis that Intel placed on ensuring the most efficient data delivery. Intel also notes that IOPS will not vary by more than 10-15% during the life of the SSD.
Intel sacrifices some of the overall speed in order to deliver this consistency, yet still manages to double the read speed and deliver a 15x random write performance increase over the previous generation Intel 710. The 710 also featured the same 25nm HET (High-Endurance Technology) NAND as the DC S3700, so the enhancements in speed and consistency are provided by the new controller and firmware. This lack of significant performance variability makes this SSD uniquely well suited for RAID arrays, where the RAID controller is constrained to the speed of the slowest I/O.
HET-MLC is a key component in the architecture, delivering 10 DWPD (Drive Writes per Day) of endurance for five years. This doubling of endurance from the previous generation SSD equates to 14.6 Petabytes of endurance for the 800GB model and 7.3PB at the 400GB capacity point. This endurance is backed up by a five year warranty.
Dynamically adjusting the NAND over the course of its life and enhanced NAND management techniques help to reduce the wear on the SSD. The DC S3700's endurance rating of 10 DWPD is for worst-case scenarios that consist of full span random writes. In applications with only pseudo-random or sequential data writes, this number can be much higher. The increase in endurance is a critical improvement that will help low-cost SSDs gain wider acceptance among the enterprise crowd.
Prohibitive pricing of SSDs in the past has hampered their mass deployment into datacenters. With each successive SSD generation we have experienced cost reductions, and part of Intel's goal with the DC S3700 to bring the price of datacenter SSDs down to an acceptable price point. As a byproduct, SSDs are getting closer to a level playing field with high-performance HDDs.
The winning recipe for price reduction comes in the form of the IMFT (Intel/Micron Flash Technologies) joint venture with Micron. Leveraging the lower price points that come with physically creating the NAND allows Intel to undercut competitors that lack foundries on the price front. Intel took a similar path with the Intel 910, which helped to drastically alter the price structure of PCIe application accelerators. The MSRP of the Intel DC S3700 SSDs is a mere $2.35 per GB. This is going to put a squeeze on margins for competitors and spur wider adoption of SSDs into the enterprise.