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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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe everything regarding the 25nm issue has been resolved? OCZ has initiated an exchange program and is covering all associated costs for users that were affected.

    I'm still curious to look into the behavior of 25nm NAND however by the time I got back from MWC it looks like the bulk of what needed to happen regarding the 25nm issue already happened.

    Is there a remaining aspect of the issue that hasn't been addressed that you'd like me to pursue?

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • semo - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    Hi Anand,

    Thanks for replying. Just to be clear, what I've been expecting is for you to write a news item or an article about OCZ and 25nm SSDs. It seems you thought I was asking for you fix the problem (it is not your problem and it isn't you who was supposed to fix it).

    I still don't understand why all the review sites were silent even after the OCZ 25nm drives hit retail. Was I the only one excited about the new NAND flash tech, and itching to read an in depth review/analysis. Some time passed and some people started complaining that their 25nm V2s were somewhat slower than what reviews (and the packaging) were promising…still no in depth look at 25nm tech at that point.

    The jmicron issue was resolved eventually as well but there were a lot of articles written about it.

    I’m still stumped as to how hard it is to find a proper review about the 1st ever consumer 25nm SSD to hit retail (the OCZ V2).
    Reply
  • m.amitava - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    I am sure Anand has quite a lot of pull with OCZ and I believe users who have been stranded with 25nm drives will thank him for investing his time in sorting out the issue rather than writing on it....

    would like to hear your POV though Anand, so far you haven't given us your take on it....
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, March 03, 2011 - link

    -- Is there a remaining aspect of the issue that hasn't been addressed that you'd like me to pursue?

    Absolutely!!! Not so much the OCZ nonsense, but rather the impact we can expect on SSD acceptance and viability with 25nm parts. IIRC, IMFT NAND at 25nm has/will have ECC on die to deal with some of the issue.

    What's not clear is whether an SSD can be built at 25nm that ends up being as "good" as one at 32/34nm at the same price point. We may have hit a corner case in Moore's Law: the reduction in price at 25nm may not be sufficient to overcome both the erasure and electrical issues which present at 25nm. The OCZ fix was to replace larger die with smaller die to get back channels. That's gotta hurt the profit equation. And this doesn't fix the erasure issue.

    In other words, there's a whole lot to be delved into with regard to 25nm impact on SSD. A whole lot.
    Reply
  • semo - Friday, March 04, 2011 - link

    "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe everything regarding the 25nm issue has been resolved?"

    I've just done a quick search on newegg for a Vertex 2 and I still can't figure out at a glance which are the nerfed 25nm drives and which aren't. So the bait-and-switch games is still on as far as I can tell.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    It really boils down to the performance vs. reliability debate. The Vertex 3 is overall a faster drive (assuming you're not doing much in the way of incompressible writes), however it's unclear how much OCZ and SF have improved their reliability testing and validation. If the 510 is close enough in performance and can boast the same sort of reliability that the original X25-M did, then it may be a viable alternative for some users who aren't as interested in absolute performance but want a product that has gone through Intel's validation/testing.

    With the X25-M the performance gap was too great to really value the drive over the SF-1200 based offerings. The 510 is much more competitive, although our recommendation for pure performance is still obviously the Vertex 3.

    As I mentioned in the conclusion, if OCZ can ramp and ship the Vertex 3 with a better reliability track record than the Vertex 2 (not that the latter was bad, it just wasn't quite as good as the X25-M) then this becomes a non-issue. The way I see it is this: the 510 pressures OCZ to work on validation and QA testing, while the Vertex 3 forces Intel to take performance much more seriously. Both are very important to have in the market.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • lyeoh - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    Hi Anand, have you noticed any issues with hibernate for SSDs? Being able to hibernate is rather important for many mobile users.

    There are some people complaining that hibernate stopped working when they switched to their SSD drive, whereas others say they don't have probs.

    As for reliability, how much more reliable are Intel really anyway? They did have problems with their previous drives too.
    Reply
  • epicsnackus - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    I have hibernated my laptop with Intel G2 160GB drive every day for more than a year, with no issue Reply
  • jimhsu - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    I do have an issue with sleep though on an Intel SSD. On resume after sleep, the drive errors with KERNEL_NONPAGED bluescreens. Does not occur with hibernate. Any idea what is going on? Reply
  • aarste - Wednesday, March 02, 2011 - link

    Not tried Hibernate, but sleep is working fine on my Intel X-25M 80GB (I put the PC to sleep every night), so the BSOD may be something else entirely. Reply

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