Intel is revamping its enterprise SSD lineup with two new offerings that feature TLC 3D NAND and a new SSD controller that brings a range of new features, including increased performance and simplified management capabilities.
We've seen the client SSD market transition to 3D TLC NAND en masse, and we expect the same trajectory for the enterprise space, too. 3D NAND offers plenty of advantages, such as increased endurance and reduced power consumption, but most importantly, it offers lower pricing and increased density. The Intel DC P4600 and P4500 employ Intel's first generation 32-layer TLC NAND with 384Gb die.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Intel DC P4600||Intel DC P4500||Intel DC P3520||Intel DC P3700||Intel DC P3608|
|NAND||20nm IMFT 3D TLC NAND||20nm IMFT 3D TLC NAND||20nm IMFT 3D MLC NAND||20nm MLC NAND||20nm MLC NAND|
|Random Read IOPS (up to)||702,000||710,000||365,000||460,000||870,000|
|Random Write IOPS (up to)||257,000||68,000||22,000||175,000||110,000|
|Sequential Read MBps (up to)||3,280||3,290||1,600||2,800||5,000|
|Sequential Write MBps (up to)||2,100||1,890||1,400||2,000||2,300|
|Power Operating/Idle||9.9/20.7W - Idle ?||10.9/18.3W - Idle ?||12/25 - 4W||25 - 4 W||25/50 - 8-10 W|
|Form Factor||AIC & U.2||AIC & U.2||AIC & U.2||AIC & U.2||AIC Only|
|Endurance (up to)||21,700 TBW/4 DWPD||4,600 TBW/0.7 DWPD||2,490 TBW/0.35 DWPD||43,800 TBW/17 DWPD||21,900 TBW/3 DWPD|
Intel's vertically integrated design employs the company's own NAND, controller, firmware, and components. The new fourth-generation controller features 12 channels (four CE per channel), whereas previous-generation controllers employed 18 channels. Paring back the channel count confers reduced power consumption, but in this case, it also yields a net performance gain. The performance increase is surprising in light of the transition to TLC NAND, which typically results in lower performance. Intel employs a dual-PCB design to house the hefty allotment of NAND, but it hasn't specified which capacity points leverage a daughterboard. The company also claims the new controller is more scalable than previous generations, so we could see higher capacities in the future with the same platform. Endurance is also a notably impressive metric in light of the TLC NAND. The DC P4500 features 10% overprovisioning, while the DC P4600 steps up to 30%.
Aside from the fancy new heatsink (which is the same as the 3D Xpoint-powered Intel DC P4800X), the DC P4600 brings up to 702,000/257,000 read/write IOPS, which is a big improvement over the previous "standard" Intel enterprise SSDs. In fact, only the DC P3608, which is two SSDs melded onto one PCB, offers more random read IOPS, and it pales in comparison with random write performance. Notably, the increased performance offers superior IOPS-per-TB metrics, which is an important factor in the data center. Sequential throughput metrics are also impressive for a single-ASIC design.
That all comes down to firmware and controller optimization. One of the more notable aspects of the series is the step up to more submission/completion queues. These queues spread out amongst the processor cores to offer increased performance and consistency. Intel has also enabled "snap reads," which allow the controller to read only a NAND page instead of wasting time processing the entire block. The company also added the capability to suspend in-flight background operations, such as garbage collection, to prevent interference that can impact read performance. Intel also coalesces TRIM commands and can suspend them to prevent interference with time-sensitive operations. The culmination of the techniques improves both performance and consistency.
We don't have more fine-grained specifications, such as detailed QoS metrics, due to Intel's new policy of not releasing product manuals. This notable departure from the norm is the result of an unnamed competitor duplicating some of Intel's SMART implementation. That's unfortunate. As such, Intel customers will not get access to the product manual without a signed NDA. Intel did provide the basic 99.99th percentile metric of 500 microseconds with a 4K QD1 workload, which is an impressive 8x improvement compared to the DC P3700.
Intel stepped up to NVMe 1.2, which offers new management features and performance optimizations for large deployments, and still employs the PCIe 3.0 x4 connection. The increased capabilities of the NVMe Management Interface (NVMe-MI) allow the company to offer increased telemetry for important metrics, such as latency distributions, SSD health, and temperature monitoring. The new out-of-band management capabilities also allow for OS-agnostic management and firmware updates. The SSD also comes with the expected end-to-end data path and power loss protection features. Support for multiple namespaces also makes its way into the arsenal, which is important for carving up devices into logically separate volumes.
The new Intel data center SSDs are in production with top cloud service providers. General availability begins in June. The new SSDs feature competitive price points and Intel's standard five-year warranty.