Checking Intel's Numbers

The product brief for the Optane SSD DC P4800X provides a limited set of performance specifications, entirely omitting any standards for sequential throughput. Some latency and throughput targets are provided for 4kB random reads, writes, and a 70/30 mix of reads and writes.

This section has our results for how the Optane SSD measures up to Intel's advertised specifications and how the flash SSDs fare on the same tests. The rest of this review provides deeper analysis of how these drives perform across a range of queue depths, transfer sizes, and read/write mixes.

4kB Random Read at a Queue Depth of 1 (QD1)
Drive Throughput Latency (µs)
MB/s IOPS Mean Median 99th 99.999th
Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X 375GB 413.0 108.3k 8.9 9 10 37
Intel SSD DC P3700 800GB 48.7 12.8k 77.9 76 96 2768
Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB 35.3 9.2k 107.7 104 117 306

Intel's queue depth 1 specifications are expressed in terms of latency, and at a throughput specification at QD1 would be redundant. Intel specifies a "typical" latency of less than 10µs, and most QD1 random reads on the Optane SSD take 8 or 9µs; even the 99th percentile latency is still 10µs.

The 99.999th percentile target is less than 60µs, which the Optane SSD beats by a wide margin. Overall, the Optane SSD passes with ease. The flash SSDs are 8-12x slower on average, and the 99.999th percentile latency of the Intel P3700 is far worse, at around 75x slower.

4kB Random Read at a Queue Depth of 16 (QD16)
Drive Throughput Latency (µs)
MB/s IOPS Mean Median 99th 99.999th
Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X 375GB 2231.0 584.8k 25.5 25 41 81
Intel SSD DC P3700 800GB 637.9 167.2k 93.9 91 163 2320
Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB 517.5 135.7k 116.2 114 205 1560

Intel's QD16 random read result is 584.8k IOPS for throughput, which is above the official specification of 550k IOPS by a few percent. The 99.999th percentile latency scores 81µs, significantly under the target of less than 150µs. The flash SSDs are 3-5x slower on most metrics, but 20-30 times slower at the 99.999th percentile for latency.

4kB Random Write at a Queue Depth of 1 (QD1)
Drive Throughput Latency (µs)
MB/s IOPS Mean Median 99th 99.999th
Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X 375GB 360.6 94.5k 8.9 9 10 64
Intel SSD DC P3700 800GB 350.6 91.9k 9.2 9 18 81
Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB 160.9 42.2k 22.2 22 24 76

In the specifications, the QD1 random write specifications are 10µs on latency, while the 99.999th percentile for latency is relaxed from 60µs to 100µs. In our results, the QD1 random write throughput (360.6 MB/s) of the Optane SSD is a bit lower than the QD1 random read throughput (413.0 MB/s), but the latency is roughly the same (8.9µs mean, 10µs on 99th).

However it is worth noting that the Optane SSD only manages a passing score when the application uses asynchronous I/O APIs. Using simple synchronous write() system calls pushes the average latency up to 11-12µs.

Also, due to the capacitor-backed DRAM caches, the flash SSDs also handle QD1 random writes very well. The Intel P3700 also manages to keep latency mostly below 10µs, and all three drives have 99.999th percentile latency below Intel's 100µs standard for the Optane SSD.

4kB Random Write at a Queue Depth of 16 (QD16)
Drive Throughput Latency (µs)
MB/s IOPS Mean Median 99th 99.999th
Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X 375GB 2122.5 556.4 27.0 23 65 147
Intel SSD DC P3700 800GB 446.3 117.0 134.8 43 1336 9536
Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB 1144.4 300.0 51.6 34 620 3504

The Optane SSD DC P4800X is specified for 500k random write IOPS using four threads to provide a total queue depth of 16. In our tests, the Optane SSD scored 556.4k IOPs, exceeding the specification by more than 11%. This equates to a random write throughput of more than 2GB/s.

The flash SSDs are more dependent on the parallelism benefits of higher capacities, and as a result can be slow at the same capacity. Hence in this case the 2.4TB Micron 9100 fares much better than the 800GB Intel P3700. The Micron 9100 hits its own specification right on the nose with 300k IOPS and the Intel P3700 comfortably exceeds its own 90k IOPS specification, although remaining the slowest of the three by far. The Optane SSD stays well below its 200µs limit for 99.999th percentile latency by scoring 147µs, while the flash SSDs have outliers of several milliseconds. Even at the 99th percentile the flash SSDs are 10-20x slower than Optane.

4kB Random Mixed 70/30 Read/Write Queue Depth 16
Drive Throughput Latency (µs)
MB/s IOPS Mean Median 99th 99.999th
Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X 375GB 1929.7 505.9 29.7 28 65 107
Intel SSD DC P3700 800GB 519.9 136.3 115.5 79 1672 5536
Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB 518.0 135.8 116.0 105 1112 3152

On a 70/30 read/write mix, the Optane SSD DC P4800X scores 505.9k IOPS, which beats the specification of 500k IOPS by 1%. Both of the flash SSDs deliver roughly the same throughput, a little over a quarter of the speed of the Optane SSD. Intel doesn't provide a latency specification for this workload, but the measurements unsurprisingly fall in between the random read and random write results. While low-end consumer SSDs sometimes perform dramatically worse on mixed workloads than on pure read or write workloads, none of these drives have that problem due to their market positioning and capabilities therein.

Test Configurations Random Access Performance
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  • masouth - Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - link

    With ddriver and RAM? I've only skimmed ddriver's posts but I believe a summary would be.

    1) RAM is faster than this product so adding more RAM would be a better option than adding a middle man that is only faster than the data storage device but still slower than RAM.
    2) RAM has much more endurance than these drives
    3) Servers tend to stay on 24/7 and have back up power solutions (UPS, generators, etc) to allow for a RAM data flush to a non-volatile data storage device prior to any power loss so it renders Optane's advantage of being non-volatile fairly moot.

    ddriver believes these reasons result in this product having very niche uses yet Intel keeps hyping this as a solution for every user while hiding behind synthetic benchmarks instead of demonstrating real world applications which would reveal that more RAM would lead to a superior solution in many/most cases.

    I may have missed something but I think that sums up what I have read so far.
  • masouth - Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - link

    oops, in the last part I forgot that he saying they are using the benchmarks to hide the fact that it's not as far ahead of NAND speads (although it is ahead) as they claim.
  • AnTech - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - link

    Is Intel XPoint Optane a fiasco? Check out:
    Intel crosses an unacceptable ethical line
  • Santoval - Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - link

    A few days ago I registered here on Anandtech and I found it very odd that such a very knowledgeable website provided (only) unsecure cleartext registration and log-in forms. I felt awkward and uncomfortable, because that is a very no no for me. I wanted to register though, so I used the Tor Browser, to risk being sniffed only by the exit node. Now I see that Charlie (which I used to read ages ago) has taken this quite a few steps further..
    The guy sells $1,000 annual "professional subscriptions" on a completely private, crystal clear transparent, as public as it gets, 100% unencrypted page. I am utterly dumbfounded... And I lost all appetite to read his article or anything from him ever again. For life. Click your link and then click the "Become a subscriber" link on the top to enjoy this adorable (in)security atrocity..
  • tsk2k - Thursday, April 20, 2017 - link

    You forgot one thing, CRYSIS 3 FPS?!?!
  • philehidiot - Thursday, April 20, 2017 - link

    I find the go faster stripes on my monitor screen make a massive difference to my FPS. I have many, many more FPS as a result. It's due to the quality of the paint - Dulux one-coat just bring down my latency to the point whe...

    .... I've sniffed too much of this paint, haven't I?
  • ddriver - Friday, April 21, 2017 - link

    If you use this instead of ram it will most likely be 3 FPS indeed :)
  • mtroute - Friday, April 21, 2017 - link

    never has Intel claimed that this product is faster the DRAM...Your indignation is not proportional to even your perceived slight by Intel. You work for SK Hynix or more likely Powerchip don't you?
  • ddriver - Sunday, April 23, 2017 - link

    Nope, I am self employed. I never accused intel of lying about hypetane being faster than dram. I accused them of lying how much faster than NAND it is and how close to dram it is. And I have only noted that it is hundreds of times slower than dram, making the population of dimm slots (which some intel cheerleaders claim will magically make hypetane faster) is a very bad prospect in 99.99% of the use cases.

    I don't have corporate preferences either, IMO all corporations are intrinsically full of crap, yet the amount of it varies. I also do realize that "nicer" companies are only nicer because they are it a tough situation and cannot afford to not be nice.

    What annoys me is that legally speaking, false advertising is a crime, yet everyone is doing it, because it has so many loopholes, and what's worse, the suckers line up to cheer at those lies.
  • MobiusPizza - Sunday, April 23, 2017 - link

    It is still a first gen product and I think it has potential in servers and scientific computing. First gen SSDs were also crappy with low capacity. Give it 5 years I think it will make more sense.

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