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Intel Optane SSD 905P 1.5TB Review - Massive 3D XPoint

By: Chris Ramseyer | SSDs in Storage | Posted: Oct 24, 2018 3:05 pm

1TB Class Performance Testing

 

Product Comparison

 

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With performance being nearly equal across the 900P/905P product lines, we turn our attention to the flash-based competitors. With so few 2TB and even fewer 1.5TB products shipping we grabbed our 1TB result group that includes popular NVMe SSDs from Adata, HP, Plextor, Samsung, and SanDisk. The entry-level Intel 600p is also in the group because it was a very popular NVMe SSD last year.

 

 

Sequential Read Performance

 

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As we mentioned on the previous page, the Optane 905P lacks the same peak sequential performance as flash SSDs. The sequential read chart with escalating queue depth shows that the best flash-based drives and the Optane 905P both start with queue depth (QD) 1 performance between 2,000 and 2,400 MB/s. As we ramp up the 100% read test, something many will likely not run outside of a specialized workload, the flash drives scale better.

 

 

Sequential Write Performance

 

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Moving over to sequential writes, we see a similar scenario using bursting data. The Optane SSD 905P is very close to the best NVMe SSDs at QD1, but lacks the same peak performance as we scale the workload.

 

 

Sustained Sequential Write Performance

 

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Nearly all modern SSDs currently use 3-bit per cell (TLC) flash that relies on a single-bit buffer to increase burst performance. Once you write data beyond the preprogrammed or dynamic single-bit cache, the write performance decreases. The Samsung 970 Pro is the last remaining MLC flash SSD, and it doesn't use a SLC buffer, so it doesn't lose performance in the same way. There are more SSD models shipping with 3D XPoint memory than MLC flash.

 

 

Like MLC flash, the Optane 905P doesn't lose performance with simple large block size file transfers of data to the drive. There is a performance gap between the 970 Pro 1TB and the Optane 905P. Our tests at QD1 show a 300 MB/s difference with the advantage going to the Samsung 970 Pro.

 

 

Sequential Steady State Performance

 

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All flash-based SSDs with MLC, TLC, and new to market QLC must pass through a read, modify, write cycle to put new data on the storage media. When data already exists in that space, the process takes longer.

 

3D XPoint memory doesn't use the traditional read, modify, write cadence. The new data can "write-in-place," overwriting old data with new data without the extra steps that increase latency. This is a very important distinction in a professional workload where the SSDs don't have a lot of idle time for background management to clean free cells used to keep flash-based drives fast.

 

The Optane SSD 905P didn't outperform the other SSDs with 100% and burst loads, but shows a massive advantage in steady-state with mixed workloads. We will talk about mixed burst workloads a little later in the article.

 

 

Random Read Performance

 

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You don't need to push your Optane SSDs into steady-state to benefit from the technology. If you read more than a couple of our storage articles, you already understand the relationship between random read performance and the user experience. The two are so closely aligned that you don't even have to draw a line between them, they overlap.

 

At very low queue depths, where most desktop and workstation work actually happens, the Optane SSD 905P is more than three times faster than the best flash-based NVMe SSDs. At QD2 the 905P is nearly at peak performance with a single CPU core workload and the flash-based drives have barely started to ramp up performance in relation to peak performance. Which only comes later on in the flash drives at queue depths well beyond what a normal workload can reach.

 

 

Random Write Performance

 

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We see similar results in the random write burst test, but the Optane SSD 905P has less of an advantage here. The drive is still faster than the flash-based drives, but the SLC buffer helps to shield the native TLC performance.

 

Random Steady State Performance

 

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Pushing flash beyond the SLC buffer with random data has a severe impact on performance. Optane's write-in-place method eliminates the loss and allows the drive to perform the same with clear or dirty (data already at the location) areas of the media. At queue depth 32, the 905P shows a 100,000 IOPS advantage over the next closest drive on our charts in steady state.

 

 

70% Read Sequential Performance

 

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Mixed workloads are difficult for flash-based SSDs. The NVMe protocol increased mixed workload performance but NVMe paired with 3D XPoint memory unleashes the full performance of the PCI Express bus for storage.

 

At lower queue depths, the 905P chews through the sequential mixed workload at a very high rate of speed. Flash SSDs need more queue depth in the workload. The Samsung 970 Pro only matches the 905P at QD8 in our burst test.

 

 

70% Read Random Performance

 

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With random mixed data, the flash-based drives don't get anywhere near the 905P until QD16, well outside of what your workstation application is likely to reach.

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