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Samsung SM863 & PM863 960GB Enterprise SATA III SSD Review

Samsung SM863 & PM863 960GB Enterprise SATA III SSD Review

Samsung introduces two new datacenter SATA III based SSDs, the SM863, and the PM863. Read on for our full review.

@JonCoulterSSD
Published Wed, Jan 20 2016 8:46 AM CST   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction and Quick Specs

Looking to expand their datacenter portfolio, Samsung has introduced two new SATA-based SSDs. The SM863 is aimed at penetrating ~3 DWPD (Drive Write Per Day) mixed workload environments. The PM863 is targeted at read intensive workloads where ~1 DWPD provides sufficient endurance.

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VIEW GALLERY - 43 IMAGES

Samsung designed their SM863 SSDs with 2-bit MLC V-NAND for write-intensive applications such as mail servers, data warehousing, and high-performance computing. The MLC powered SM863 is able to deliver the tight consistency and quality of service that is highly sought after in the enterprise space. The PM863 TLC V-NAND SSDs are focused on read-intensive applications such as streaming services, content delivery networks, web servers and cloud services. These type of read-intensive applications have fairly low endurance requirements which are ideal for value-centric TLC flash arrays.

The SM863, as far as we can tell, was created not as a replacement for the ultra-high endurance 10 DWPD 845DC Pro, but more to fill the need for a high capacity, top performing mid-endurance storage solution that was missing from Samsung's datacenter portfolio. The PM863, on the other hand, seems to be a replacement for the 845DC EVO. The PM863 featuring Samsung's second generation V-NAND delivers a nice all around upgrade over the 845DC EVO. Lower cost, better performance, increased capacity, and endurance makes the PM863 more desirable than the already potent 845DC EVO.

Both of these SSDs are based on Samsung's V-NAND (3D) technology, which makes them both inherently superior to competing planar (2D) solutions. Samsung's V-NAND is superior to planar (2D) flash on all fronts including density, endurance, performance and power consumption. Currently, Samsung is the only NAND fab shipping 3D flash products. This along with Samsung's completely in-house production gives them a clear advantage over the competition.

Quick Specs

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A quick look at the specs shows the SM863 960GB delivering up to 97K/28K read/write IOPS and 520/485 MB/s sequential read/write sustained performance. We find the PM863 960GB delivers up to 99K/18K read/write IOPS and 520/475 MB/s read/write sustained performance. The 960GB SM863 retails for 67 cents per gigabyte, and the 960GB PM863 comes in at 57 cents per gigabyte.

Photos and Specifications

Enclosure / Internals

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Both SSDs come in a familiar 2.5" x 7mm all black aluminum alloy enclosure. The front face of the enclosures inform us that these are Samsung solid state drives. The back face of the enclosures have a manufacturer's label that includes the model number, serial number, capacity, shipping firmware, and various other relevant information.

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The back plate of the enclosure attaches to the front cast piece with three pentalobe screws; two of which are located under the manufacturer's label. The PCB is aligned with two locater pins.

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Both PCB's are identical on the front half. Both feature Samsung's 500 MHz tri-core 8-channel ARM-based "Mercury" controller, which is the same controller we previously saw on the 2TB 850 Pro and EVO. One core is dedicated to read operations, one for write operations, and one is dedicated to host interaction.

Both feature a single LPDDR3 1024MB DRAM cache package as well as ten tantalum capacitors for power-loss protection. We note a few minor differences in small surface mounted components on the back half of the PCB's. The SM863 (on the left) features eight 128GB V-NAND MLC flash packages, and the PM863 eight 128GB V-NAND TLC flash packages.

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The SM863's controller is on the left, PM863's controller on the right. We observe a difference in labeling. We do not know if there are any physical differences between the two, but we do note the drives utilize different firmware revisions.

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128GB MLC V-NAND flash package on the left, 128GB TLC V-NAND flash package on the right.

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Both drives utilize the same single 1GB LPDDR3 Samsung cache package.

Specifications and Features

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Features include a Serial ATA 6.0Gbps interface, Samsung V-NAND 3D Flash Array, Random Read QOS above 99%, Advanced ECC Engine, End-to-End Data Protection, Power-Loss Protection via a Tantalum capacitor array, S.M.A.R.T monitoring, and Dynamic Thermal Guard protection. Drive management is available through Samsung's SSD Magician DC V2.0 software.

SM863 960GB sustained performance specs:

  • Sequential 128KB QD32 Read (up to): 520 MB/s
  • Sequential 128KB QD32 Write (up to): 485 MB/s
  • Random 4KB QD32 Read (up to): 97,000 IOPS
  • Random 4KB QD32 Write (up to): 28,000 IOPS
  • Power: 2.2W Read, 2.9W Write, 1.3W Idle

Reliability: MTBF 2 million device hours, UBER: 1 per 10^ 17.

Endurance: PBW (Petabytes Written): 6.16 PBW equivalent to 3.6 drive writes per day for five years.

Warranty: Five-year limited.

PM863 960GB sustained performance specs:

  • Sequential 128KB QD32 Read (up to): 520 MB/s
  • Sequential 128KB QD32 Write (up to): 475 MB/s
  • Random 4KB QD32 Read (up to): 99,000 IOPS
  • Random 4KB QD32 Write (up to): 18,000 IOPS
  • Power: 2.9W Read, 3.8W Write, 1.3W Idle

Reliability: MTBF 2 million device hours, UBER: 1 per 10^ 17.

Endurance: PBW (Petabytes Written): 1.4 PBW equivalent to 1.3 drive writes per day for three years.

Warranty: Three-year limited.

Test System Setup and Testing Methodology

Jon's Enterprise SSD Review Test System Specifications

  • Motherboard: ASRock Rack EPC612D8A-TB (Intel C612 chipset) - Buy from Amazon
  • CPU: Intel Xeon E5-2667 V3 8-Core - Buy from Amazon
  • Cooler: Supermicro Air Cooler
  • Memory: Samsung 64GB DDR4 ECC 2133MHz - Buy from Amazon
  • Video Card: Onboard Video
  • Power Supply: Seasonic Platinum 1000 Watt - Buy from Amazon
  • OS: Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 - Buy from Amazon
  • Drivers: Microsoft AHCI Driver

We would like to thank ASRock Rack, Crucial, Intel, Samsung, Seagate, and Seasonic for making our test system possible.

TweakTown's Enterprise SSD testing methodology replicates enterprise environments as closely as possible. Our test systems use strictly enterprise based hardware. Enterprise chipsets, Intel Xeon processors, ECC DRAM, and standard air-cooling. Storage drivers are Windows standard drivers, except as otherwise required for the test device to operate as designed.

TweakTown strictly adheres to industry-accepted Enterprise Solid State Storage testing procedures. Each test we perform repeats the same sequence of the following four steps:

  1. Secure Erase SSD
  2. Write entire capacity of SSD a minimum of 2x with 128KB sequential write data, seamlessly transition to next step
  3. Precondition SSD at maximum QD measured (QD32 for SATA, QD256 for PCIe) with the test specific workload for a sufficient amount of time to reach a constant steady-state, seamlessly transition to next step
  4. Run test specific workload for 5-minutes at each measured Queue Depth, record results

We chart workload preconditioning IOPS or MB/s and latency for each specific test. We plot workload preconditioning using scatter charts with each recorded 1-second data point represented on the chart, allowing us to see some of the performance variability exhibited by our test subjects. We chart workloads using line charts plotting average workload IOPS or MB/s and latency at each measured QD. Utilizing line charts provides a good visual perspective of the test subject's performance curve.

To summarize, we test with Enterprise hardware, Windows Server Operating System, and we strictly adhere to industry-accepted Enterprise SSD testing procedures. Our goal is to provide results that are consistent, reliable, and repeatable.

Benchmarks – 4K Random Write/Read

4K Random Write/Read

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We precondition the drive for 16,000 seconds, or 4.44 hours, receiving performance data every second. We plot this data to observe the test subjects descent into steady state. We plot both IOPS and Latency. We plot IOPS (represented by blue scatter) in thousands and Latency (represented by orange scatter) in milliseconds. We observe a steady state is achieved at 4,000 seconds of preconditioning for both drives. We also observe the tight consistent performance that Samsung SSDs are renowned for.

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With our configuration, the SM863 performs right at Samsung's 28K sustained random write specification across the board. Samsung SSDs hit maximum random write performance at QD1, which is in contrast to the M510DC that hits its stride at QD4 and above. The PM863 is performing better than specification, coming in at about 19.5K sustained random write performance. The PM863 performs much better than the 845DC EVO it is replacing. The M510DC displays robust random write performance, but still well below that of the SM863.

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The SM863 hits its maximum performance at QD16, the PM863 at QD32. Both drives max out at about 98K. Both the SM863 and the PM863 handily outperform the M510DC and the 845DC EVO. In the case of 845DC EVO, the PM863 is outperforming it mainly because of a 200MHz core speed increase built into the drives "Mercury" controller.

Conclusion: The SM863 delivers class leading performance with superior consistency. The PM863 delivers a large increase in performance over the 845DC EVO that it is replacing.

Benchmarks - 8K Random Write/Read

8K Random Write/Read

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We precondition the drive for 16,000 seconds, or 4.44 hours, receiving performance data every second. We plot this data to observe the test subjects descent into steady state. We plot both IOPS and Latency. We plot IOPS (represented by blue scatter) in thousands and Latency (represented by orange scatter) in milliseconds. We observe the SM863 achieving a steady state at 5,000 seconds of preconditioning. The PM863 achieves a steady state at about 8,000 seconds of preconditioning.

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8K random is a more demanding workload than 4K. As we typically see, performance is half that of 4K. 8K is a common transfer size in a server environment. The M510DC delivers good results, outperforming all but the SM863. Just a quick note on the 480GB M510DC. The 480GB capacity point of the M510DC is by far the best performing capacity point of the series, making it a better comparison than the 960GB M510DC. The PM863 again handily outperforms the 845DC EVO it is replacing.

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The SM863 leads all the drives in our test pool up to QD8. The PM863 takes a slight lead at QD16-32. We again see a nice improvement when comparing the PM863 to the 845DC EVO. Micron's M510DC is outmatched by all three of the Samsung SSDs in our test pool. Samsung's SSDs are capable of delivering class leading read performance as these charts again illustrate.

Conclusion: Samsung's PM863 shows us why it is ideal for read-intensive workloads, managing to outperform the SM863 at QD16-32.

Benchmarks – 128K Sequential Write/Read

128K Sequential Write/Read

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We precondition the drive for 6,500 seconds, or 1.8 hours, receiving performance data every second. A sequential steady state is achievable in a much shorter span of time than a random steady state. We plot both MB/s and Latency. We plot MB/s using blue scatter and Latency using orange scatter. We observe that both the SM863 and PM863 achieve steady state at 0 seconds of preconditioning, indicating that the previous 2x plus LBA fill phase achieved a sequential steady state. Both drives exhibit tight, consistent performance.

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Samsung specs the 960GB SM863/PM863 as capable of delivering up to 485/475 MB/s sustained sequential write speeds. With our configuration, we can extract significantly better results. The SM863 is delivering 530 MB/s at QD8-32, the PM863 510 MB/s at QD8-32; indicating that Samsung's sequential write specifications are quite conservative. As we've seen so far, the SM863 is capable of delivering a nice performance boost over the 845DC EVO. The M510DC is again easily outperformed by all three of Samsung's offerings.

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All of the drives in our test pool achieve maximum performance at QD4. The PM863 is the star of the show delivering a massive 559 MB/s sustained sequential read performance. This is well over the 520 MB/s quoted by Samsung. The SM863 is not far behind, with 555 MB/s sustained sequential read performance. Micron's M510DC is again overmatched.

Conclusion: All of the Samsung offerings in our test pool deliver best-in-class sequential performance.

Mixed Workload Benchmarks - Email Server

Email Server

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We precondition the drive for 16,000 seconds, or 4.44 hours, receiving performance data every second. We plot this data to observe the test subjects descent into steady state. We plot both IOPS and Latency. We plot IOPS (represented by blue scatter) in thousands and Latency (represented by orange scatter) in milliseconds. We observe the SM863 achieving a steady state at 4,500 seconds of preconditioning. The PM863 achieves a steady state at about 6,000 seconds of preconditioning. We observe extreme consistency with zero outstanding IO's from the SM863.

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An Email Server workload is a demanding 8K test with a 50 percent R/W distribution. This application gives a good indication of how well a drive will perform in a write heavy workload environment.

The SM863 owns this test, delivering vastly superior performance in comparison to the rest of the drives in our test pool. The SM863 is serving up close to double the performance of Micron's M510DC at QD16-32. The PM863 shows once again that it is a worthy replacement for the 845DC EVO. Samsung's enterprise SSDs deliver remarkable mixed workload performance.

Conclusion: The SM863 cuts through this demanding workload with ease.

Mixed Workload Benchmarks – OLTP/Database

OLTP/Database

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We precondition the drive for 16,000 seconds, or 4.44 hours, receiving performance data every second. We plot this data to observe the test subjects descent into steady state. We plot both IOPS and Latency. We plot IOPS (represented by blue scatter) in thousands and Latency (represented by orange scatter) in milliseconds. We observe the SM863 achieving a steady state at 5,500 seconds of preconditioning. The PM863 achieves a steady state at 7,000 seconds of preconditioning. Once again, we observe extreme consistency with zero outstanding IO's from the SM863.

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Samsung SM863 & PM863 960GB Enterprise SATA III SSD Review 37 | TweakTown.com

An On-Line Transaction Processing (OLTP) / Database workload is a demanding 8K test with a 66/33 percent R/W distribution. OLPT is online processing of financial transactions such as credit cards and high-frequency trading in the financial sector. Database workloads are challenging for any storage solution.

More of the same, the SM863 easily outperforms the rest of our test pool. The PM863 also performs quite well. Micron's M510DC hangs in there with the PM863 up to QD4, after that, the PM863 leaves it behind. At QD32, the SM863 is delivering well over double the performance of the M510DC at QD32.

Conclusion: The SM863 continues to dominate in a mixed workload environment, with the PM863 not far behind.

Mixed Workload Benchmarks – Web Server

Web Server

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We precondition the drive for 16,000 seconds, or 4.44 hours, receiving performance data every second. We plot this data to observe the test subjects descent into steady state. We plot both IOPS and Latency. We plot IOPS (represented by blue scatter) in thousands and Latency (represented by orange scatter) in milliseconds. We precondition for the 100% random read Web Server testing with an inverse 100% random write workload. We observe the SM863 achieving a steady state at 4,000 seconds of preconditioning. The PM863 achieves a steady state at 6,000 seconds of preconditioning.

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The Web Server workload is a pure random read test with a wide range of file sizes. Our test consists of the following file sizes and corresponding percentage of the overall 100 percent workload file size: 512B = 22 percent, 1KB = 15 percent, 2KB = 8 percent, 4KB = 23 percent, 8KB = 15 percent, 16KB = 2 percent, 32KB = 6 percent, 64KB = 7 percent, 128KB = 1 percent, and 512KB = 1 percent.

Web server is an application that the PM863 was designed for. In a 100% read environment, the PM863 and the SM863 perform very similarly. The SM863 has a slight edge over the PM863 at QD1-16. At QD32, the PM863 is able to overtake its MLC powered sibling.

Comparing the PM863 to the Micron M510DC, both of which are in direct competition with one another for market share, we find the PM863 is capable of delivering almost twice the performance at QD32. The M510DC provides a longer warranty and slightly more endurance than the PM863, but in a Web Server environment, neither the warranty nor endurance is a major consideration.

Conclusion: Samsung's PM863 illustrates the value of TLC in a read intensive datacenter environment.

Final Thoughts

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Density in a datacenter environment is supremely important. Other than performance, it could be considered the most important factor when considering a flash array. Samsung realizes this and has responded with V-NAND datacenter solutions that offer at least double the capacity of competing solutions in the same footprint. V-NAND is superior on all fronts, providing greater capacity, more endurance, and lower power consumption, which translates to lower TCO and a smaller footprint in the datacenter.

Looking at the performance we were able to achieve with our configuration, we had no problem meeting or exceeding Samsung's listed specifications for both the SM863 and PM863. The SM863 dominated our testing with its exquisite consistency and overall performance. We believe the SM863 is without a doubt the best SATA-based, mid-endurance, mixed workload focused SSD available on the market today.

We believe the PM863 is destined to replace the already potent 845DC EVO. The PM863 improves on the planar-based 845DC EVO across the board most of which stems from its second generation V-NAND flash array providing lower cost, better performance, more endurance, and higher density. The PM863 demonstrates that TLC is a viable, high-performance storage medium that is well suited for read-intensive applications.

Simply put, the SM863 and the PM863 are in a class of their own, and there is nothing on the market today that can provide a greater value in their respective market segments.

Pros:

  • Highest in class performance
  • Density
  • QOS

Cons:

  • No encryption support
TweakTown award
Performance98%
Performance Consistency98%
General Features95%
Value for Money95%
Quality, Design, Build and Warranty95%
Overall96%

The Bottom Line: Both the Samsung SM863 and PM863 deliver best-in-class performance and consistency which are the hallmarks of a superior enterprise storage solution.

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Jon became a computer enthusiast when Windows XP launched. He was into water cooling and benching ATI video cards with modded drivers. Jon has been building computers for others for more than 10 years. Jon became a storage enthusiast the day he first booted an Intel X25-M G1 80GB SSD. Look for Jon to bring consumer SSD reviews into the spotlight.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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