A Word on Reliability

Marc Prieur has been around writing about hardware for as long as I can remember (think back to the old school Tom days). Late last year he published some particularly controversial numbers on his website: failure rates of various PC components according to a French etailer. Among the components were SSDs and the numbers are below:

SSD Failure Rates - Hardware.fr
  Intel Corsair Crucial Kingston OCZ
Failure Percentage 0.59% 2.17% 2.25% 2.39% 2.93%

I should add that the numbers Marc published were accurate (confirmed by some of the manufacturers involved), although they don’t paint the complete picture of world wide failure rates - they are an important sample to look at.

Other than Intel, none of the companies listed in that article were particularly pleased with the numbers.

I mentioned earlier that the 510 would go through Intel’s extensive validation testing, just like any other Intel product. Presumably this means that the SSD 510 should have similarly low failure rates in the field (unless there’s something horribly wrong with the Marvell controller that is). Compatibility should also be a strong point of the SSD 510 due to Intel’s stringent internal testing.

Note that I am separating reliability and compatibility from drive longevity. There’s typically a good correlation between high random write performance and low write amplification. The Intel SSD 510 doesn’t have particularly high random write performance, and in turn should suffer from fairly high write amplification in highly random workloads.

I’ve already proved in the past that at 5,000 p/e cycles there’s no cause for worry for a normal desktop user. The likelihood that you’ll wear out all of your NAND within the next 5 years is very, very low. However I will say that when faced with enterprise workloads you’re going to have to pay much closer attention to write amplification and spare area than you would on say a SandForce drive.

The Test

CPU Intel Core i7 965 running at 3.2GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)
Intel Core i7 2600K running at 3.4GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled) - for AT SB 2011, AS SSD & ATTO
Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel H67 Motherboard
Chipset: Intel X58 + Marvell SATA 6Gbps PCIe Intel H67
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel IMSM 8.9
Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel RST 10.2
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64
Intel’s SSD 510 Powered by Marvell Random Read/Write Speed
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  • Golgatha - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    Basically you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between sequentially reading 10MB of data or less at 215MB/s (Velociraptors in RAID0) vs 320MB/s (my Crucial C300 256MB average speed on a PCIe4x, SATA3, ASUS add-in card), hence the reason that sequential performance of SSDs doesn't matter much to me anymore.


    I'd also like to add that you will however most certainly notice the difference of 3.15MB/s of random R/W performance my RAID0 Velociraptors put out versus the random R/W performance of pretty much any SSD. SSDs make a huge amount of sense as an OS and applications drive.
    Reply
  • EddyKilowatt - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    "...the last thing SSDs are lacking is speed..."

    Amen. Ninety percent of us still have 3 GB SATA and are just waiting for the 25 nm devices to do their thing to the $/GB on more prosaic drives
    Reply
  • mgl888 - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    I had high expectations from Intel.. now I'm a little disappointed.
    As the article said, random read is MOST important for a boot drive. Surely Intel should know this?
    Reply
  • critical_ - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure I agree.

    1. The SSD market still has a lot of growth ahead of it. Price per GB is the current issue and may be the new "performance per watt" buzz word in this space. Case in point, when I can grab a cheap Dell server for $350 and average notebooks are advertised everyday for $300-$600, are people really going to spend $300-$600+ on an SSD? If it was a much cheaper option then many would go with it.

    2. Synthetic vs. Real-world. Synthetic benchmarks are great for bragging on the various overclocking forums but most of us get work done in the real-world. This is no different than people who tune cars for 1/4 mile races but must transport the car on a flat-bed carrier. For some this is a perfectly great trade-off for bragging rights but many of us prefer to get 90% of the 1/4 mile performance and be able to drive the car back and forth to a weekend outing. My point is that in real-world benchmarks there may be some minor deficiencies but will 95% of users notice? I doubt it.

    3. I put an Intel X-25M G2 160GB SSD in my father's quad-core desktop that he uses for Photoshop work after listening to many months of complaints that his system was too slow. After the swap, he loves the performance and I love the fact that I'm no longer fielding "it's too slow" complaints. This was the best money I've spent in recent memory but the price is still an issue for most people.

    4. Would a user like my father noticed a difference between the X-25M and either a 510 or Vertex 3? I doubt it. Besides we'd have to get him a SATA3 motherboard or an add-in card. Again, it's a price issue.

    5. Not too long ago the must-have upgrade was adding RAM to a Windows machine. These days 3-8GB systems are almost the norm so the must-have upgrade is an SSD if a user can stomach the cost. Head on over to NewEgg and read the reviews of "value" SSDs and you'll get an idea of the disappointment for some people who transitioned from HDDs to SSDs in both desktops and laptops. The drives in this segment aren't changing the user experience as dramatically as those ponying up for the high-end devices. Then there is the issue of lack of TRIM support, 4K issues, firmware upgrades destroying data, and the list goes on. The segment needs to addressed by Intel.

    6. Finally, hybrids. We see the Intel Z68 will support SSD caching along with higher-end stuff from Adaptec or HighPoint's RocketHybrid controllers trying to get the best of both SSDs and HDDs. Could this be a game-changer? Possibly.

    The points that I'm making come down to both real-world performance and market segments. The SSD market would benefit from a better stragety on the entry-level and mid-range markets the way ATI and nVidia have done things. Whoever brings the price down to grab the majority of users will eventually win a good chunk of business. With all that aside, as it stands the 510 is fine for the types of loads I'd put on an SSD as a power user so I'm happy to trade a bit of real-world performance for Intel's reliability.
    Reply
  • landerf - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    Well that was disappointing. Unless intel prices themselves under OCZ they may do very poorly with this drive. Reply
  • semo - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    The sad thing is that they won't. They always have their "conroe" moment and then they sink up their product in the next generations but they still come out ahead. Even their Prescott cores did very well when they shouldn't have. Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    Yeah that was my fault. I shouldn't have bought a Prescott Reply
  • m.amitava - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    I am really the biggest fan of Anand and his team (used to bypass my company firewall and risk losing my job just to read all the stuff here..) but it does seem like Anand is trying to smooth over the 510's seriously non-competitive random performance....

    IMO it showed badly enough that I finally decided to sign up and post a comment...

    I hope I am mistaken...
    Reply
  • Sigwulff - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    Well isn't it the old debate regarding synthetic vs. real-world tests? I'll admit it looked bleak for the random parts, but looking at the heavy and light workload 510 looked somewhat shinier...

    I was 100% sure on the Vertex 3, but presently I'll have to wait and see about the pricing when it lands here in little Denmark :-)

    Btw, mentioning the bundle you completely overlooked the very nice cabinet sticker Intel included. I would like some tests about glue adherency, how envious your friends look when they see the sticker on your pc-cabinet etc. :-)
    ok just kidding, very nice and informative review! (why we love Anand so much :-)
    Reply
  • semo - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    +1

    I'm still disappointed that Anand hasn't covered the OCZ Vertex 2 "25nm version" con. This is a consumer rights issue and should take precedence over any other development of a technical nature.
    Reply

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