Intel has taken large strides into the enterprise space in recent months by delivering new SSDs that are destined to alter the datacenter landscape. Much of the changes from Intel are not coming from groundbreaking performance. With both the Intel 910 and this SSD, it is clear that they aren't the fastest solutions available in their respective classes. There are faster PCIe SSDs and traditional form factor SSDs as well.
Intel has heavily marketed the new QoS and latency specifications as enabling superior performance. In an enterprise market dominated by solutions that already deliver similar, and in some cases better consistency, there need to be other ways for Intel to differentiate their product.
The majority of performance enhancements seem to stem from the routine cadence of the garbage collection and housekeeping algorithms. This does provide excellent latency characteristics in conjunction with the new 1:1 indirection table mapping. The excellent latency performance brings Intel into the same class as other SSDs with current generation controllers.
The DC S3700 excels at its IOPS to Watts metrics with very frugal power requirements. This is especially important in mass deployments, where every extra watt can affect TCO. The endurance of the DC S3700 is an important key as well, with 10 DWPD guarantying sufficient endurance for most scenarios. Intel is using endurance-increasing techniques to challenge flash industry stalwarts who have already developed their own techniques. The Optimus also provides 10 DWPD, and several solutions from STEC have impressive endurance as well.
The SATA connection for the DC S3700 will enable it's deployment into many varied situations, but also eliminate it as a contender in certain scenarios. SAS provides enhanced functionality from its full duplex operation, compared to the half-duplex of SATA. SAS also provides dual port, multipath and failover ability. These are important characteristics in mission-critical and high-load situations. Intel has a strategic collaboration with HGST for controller development, and we expect to see SAS SSDs from HGST with this new controller in the future.
The consistent performance should deliver enhanced performance in arrays due to RAID arrays limitations to the slowest I/O. The lack of the SCSI command set does impair management of the SSD behind most RAID controllers.
The most important change from Intel is bringing the price of solid-state solutions down to acceptable price points. The price of SSDs is falling rapidly, making them viable solutions for the datacenter. It is in Intel's best interest for SSDs from all manufacturers to gain wider acceptance into the enterprise space, simply because enabling parallel multi-threaded computing through increased storage throughput and reduced latency requires bigger, faster processors.
Bringing the price of the DC S3700 down to $2.35 per GB is going to force other competitors to lower their pricing into a similar range for similar products. In the SATA space, it is going to be very hard for existing solutions to match the pricing, performance and endurance of the Intel DC S3700. Throwing in the five year warranty only sweetens the deal.