Samsung's Z-NAND SSDs emerged in the channel under the 983 ZET name. The new series sports lower specifications than the SZ985 SSDs that shipped directly to data center customers a year prior. The channel products enjoy wider availability nonetheless and bring the power to Z-NAND to more system administrators for less than other latency-optimized products shipping today.
Samsung's other Z-NAND SSD shook the ground below Intel's feet, and everyone else sitting in the auditorium, at Flash Memory Summit. In a room full of flash enthusiasts, Samsung announced an Optane competitor using mystery Z-NAND. A year later, the SZ985 specifications emerged. The series would ship in several capacities up to 3.2TB with 3,200 MB/s sequential read and 3,000 MB/s sequential write speeds. The random performance tipped the scales at 750,000 IOPS read and 170,000 IOPS write, but the real head spinner came from the massive 30 drive writes per day (DWPD) rating.
Samsung optimized the 983 ZET further to appeal to a broader range of applications. The sequential read performance increased 200 MB/s and delivers more user capacity in similar sizes. The 983 ZET ships in a 480GB model, a capacity class not offered in the SZ985 series. The starting capacity for the SZ985 is 800GB and the largest 983 ZET is 960GB. The increase in user capacity does decrease random write performance under steady-state conditions to 75,000 IOPS and shrinks the DWPD rating by a third.
At the time of writing Samsung only announced the 983 ZET channel Z-NAND SSDs in two capacities, 480GB and 960GB. The drives use less overprovisioning compared to the limited release SZ985, and that changes some of the performance and endurance characteristics.
The performance is nearly identical between the 480GB and 960GB drives. Both sport 3,400 MB/s sequential read and 3,000 MB/s sequential write numbers. Random reads for both capacities is 750,000 IOPS. Random write performance differs slightly with the 960GB rated at 75,000 IOPS and the 480GB at 60,000 IOPS. To elevate any confusion, Samsung rates datacenter products with steady-state performance and not fresh out of box numbers like consumer products.
At the heart of the 983 ZET is a Samsung Phoenix 8-channel controller. The Phoenix appears in a number of Samsung's products including the consumer 970 series and datacenter 983 DCT.
What makes the ZET series stand out is Samsung's 48-layer SLC memory. The drive doesn't use massive DRAM as some suggested during the initial release coverage. The older 48L memory uses a 64Gbit die size, far smaller than the modern 512Gbit and even 1Tbit in use today for consumer products. The smaller size can erase and program faster than the larger pages in more modern flash optimized for capacity more than performance.
Pricing, Warranty, and Endurance
The 983 ZET was surprisingly easy to find for a channel product. We usually check CDW first with these products and that was a homerun for both availability and the best price. The 480GB model sells at CDW for $999.99 and that doubles for the 960GB model. We also found the 983 ZET drives at other outlets like Amazon, for a little more than CDW.
Both capacities carry a five-year warranty from Samsung. The endurance for this series is superior to most datacenter SSDs using flash memory. The 960GB model covers up to 10 drive writes per day (DWPD). That drops slightly for the 480GB model, to 8.5 DWPD.
Accessories and Software
Samsung's Datacenter (DC) Toolkit and a dedicated enterprise version of Magician (both command line) works with the company's enterprise and data center products.
The 983 ZET includes only one accessory in the package, a half-height back plate.
A Closer Look
The 983 ZET cards ship in a half-height half-length form factor. Samsung includes both half and full width back brackets in the channel packaging.
The card itself uses functional passive cooling on both sides of the board. The 960GB model only populates half of the available flash pads so it should be easy for Samsung to double the capacity on demand if the controller can handle the additional capacity.
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