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Inside The SSD 710: Something Old And Something New

Intel SSD 710 Tested: MLC NAND Flash Hits The Enterprise
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Intel's PC29AS21BA0 NAND ControllerIntel's PC29AS21BA0 NAND Controller

Although this is technically a brand new SSD family, everything under the SSD 710's hood is pretty darned familiar. In fact, this enterprise-oriented drive is a mirror image of the consumer-oriented SSD 320. Both employ a ten-channel architecture based on Intel's PC29AS21BA0 controller. The difference, of course, is that the 710 SSD uses HET MLC, which is responsible for a scaled-back write speed rating. Beyond the controller and NAND, the SSD 320 and 710 share the ability to apply AES-128 encryption and protect data during power outages through the use of on-board capacitors.


Intel SSD 320 (G3)Intel SSD 710
Capacities120/160/300/600 GB
100/200/300 GB
NANDIMFT 25 nm MLC, ONFI 2.2
IMFT 25 nm HET MLC, ONFI 2.2
Cache
64 MB DRAM, 166 MHz
64 MB DRAM, 166 MHz
Sequential Read270 MB/s270 MB/s
Sequential Write220 MB/s210 MB/s
4 KB Random Read39 500 IOPS38 500 IOPS
4 KB Random Write23 000 IOPS2700 IOPS
SecurityATA Password + AES-128ATA Password + AES-128


Put a 300 GB SSD 320 and a 200 GB SSD 710 next to each other; it's difficult to distinguish one from the other.


Intel SSD 710
200 GB
Intel SSD 320
300 GB
Market Price (Debut)
$1299
$549
Price Per GB
$6.50$1.83
Raw Flash
320 GB320 GB
IDEMA Capacity
200 GB300 GB
User Accessible
186.31 GiB279.46 GiB
Over-Provisioning
40%6.66%


Like the 300 GB SSD 320 in our lab, Intel's 200 GB SSD 710 has 20 NAND packages, each one adding 16 GB to the drive's capacity. But while each SSD's PCB is aesthetically identical, the company's enterprise offering employs 40% over-provisioning. That's the highest we've seen from any product. This is a critical component in the adoption of MLC in the enterprise space, though, as increasing over-provisioning decreases write amplification, which in turn positively impacts the drive's endurance.

While 40% sounds like a lot, Intel recommends even more over-provisioning for write-heavy applications. If it were to set aside an additional 20% of the drive's NAND flash, write endurance would increase by another 50% or so. Combining HET MLC and exorbitant amounts of over-provisioning allows the SSD 710 to achieve an endurance rating 33x higher than the consumer-flavored SSD 320.

Write Endurance
(20% Extra Over-Provisioning In Parentheses)
NAND
Capacity Point
Endurance Rating
Intel SSD 320
MLC
160 GB
300 GB
600 GB
15 TB
30 TB
60 TB
Intel SSD 710
HET MLC
100 GB
200 GB
300 GB
500 TB (900 TB)
1.0 PB (1.5 PB)
1.1 PB (1.5 PB)


Although there's one formula you can use to calculate the endurance of enterprise- and consumer-oriented SSDs, both classes employ different specifications. After all of the available P/E cycles are consumed, NAND cells on a consumer SSD (like the 320) retain data for 12 months. On enterprise-oriented SSDs (like the 710), it's only possible to retrieve data for three months, which is perfectly fine. In the world of enterprise storage, swapping out a defective drive occurs within hours, so a lengthy data retention window is unnecessary.

Application
Active Use
(Power On)
Data Retention
(Power Off)
Functional Failure
Requirement (FFR)
Uncorrectable Bit
Error Rate
Client
40oC
8 hrs/day
30oC
1 Year
≤ 3%
≤ 10-15
Enterprise
55oC
  24 hrs/day
30oC
  3 Months
≤ 3%
≤ 10-16
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