Final Words

I've been a fan of SandForce's technology since it first showed up in OCZ's Vertex 2 Pro in late 2009. Performance has never been an issue with SandForce and because of the fact that the controller writes less than its competitors, the controller and drives based on it are well behaved over months of use. The biggest issue with SandForce has always been a lack of validation compared to other, bigger players like Intel and Samsung. SandForce relies on its partners to do a lot of the validation and testing that would normally be internalized at its competitors. Until now, SandForce hasn't really had a partner large enough to really throw a ton of resources at drive validation. Now that SandForce is under the LSI umbrella things may change, but until then we finally have a well validated SF-2281 drive: the Intel SSD 520.

I'm still curious to see if other bugs crop up but if Intel hasn't found anything else after twelve months of testing I'm willing to bet that either the SF-2281 is irreparably broken or the 520 is going to be a reliable SSD.

I only have one data point where the 520 behaves better than other SF-2281 based drives, but that alone is a perfect example of what you pay for with Intel. This is exactly what we've been waiting for. If you want the absolute fastest SSD on the market today, the Intel SSD 520 is the only drive to get. If you're put off by the price, Samsung's SSD 830 is an excellent alternative.

I'm going to save this next bit for a future article, but have a look at the 520's performance in our enterprise workloads compared to the Intel SSD 320:

Enterprise SSD Performance
  Oracle Swingbench MS SQL DailyUpdates MS SQL WeeklyMaint
Intel SSD 320 300GB 56.5 MB/s 207.3 MB/s 230.4 MB/s
Intel SSD 520 240GB 67.2 MB/s 376.7 MB/s 418.1 MB/s

The 320 is actually widely used in servers as it's very reliable and can last a good amount of time with the right amount of over-provisioning. The 520 just destroys it. The bigger benefit is that if you're dealing with a workload that's not already compressed, the 520 will guarantee you much better drive longevity than the 320 thanks to the fact that it's simply not writing as much data to NAND. If you're looking for an affordable way to get a ton of IOPS for your enterprise workloads, Cherryville may be your ticket...

Power Consumption
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  • Sunburn74 - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    A short, but more indepth article on your findings concerning the BSOD bugs afflicting the Sandforce ssds would be well appreciated by many. The findings of a tech supergenius like yourself would help dispel all the quackery that is floating about concerning what causes it and what doesn't and ultimately will help us all. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    "The first possibility is that SandForce has been made aware of flaws in its current firmware and chooses against (or is legally prevented from) disclosing it to its partners"

    In other words, Intel is possibly forcing a company to sell knowingly defective product to its competitors. That is exactly the type of criminality that I would expect from intel. If this is true then it should be another billion dollars at some point, probably 8 years from now.
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    I don't see any "forcing to sell" happening.
    I do see in-house development not being given away for free, which is normal business behavior. I'm pretty sure, for the right price, Intel would be willing to share the information.

    In fact, the problem lies entirely with SandForce and the people blindly using their firmware, without doing the testing. Yes it's cheaper in the short run, but if you have to deal with a bunch of returns and your name being sullied, it may not pay off.

    Also, I remember OCZ having an excllusive deal with SandForce at the start, where they were getting preferential treatment with regards to patches - that's criminal too?
    Reply
  • DanSmith - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Great article thanks. The documentation on the 520 states it supports AES FDE but judging from my experience with other SF based drives it can be extremely hit and miss, with OCZ for example telling customers on their forum not to use it as it can permanently damage drives!!

    I hope to read more about AES on the 520 in the real world when you cover SSD's and enterprise soon.

    Cheers, Dan
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Even after "extensive validation" of their own SSD controller Intel had Bugs and had to issue a firmware update to fix it. I'm not going to be so sure that the SF controller validation is any better than Intel's controller until the 520 series drives have been out in the field for 18-24 months. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    -- until the 520 series drives have been out in the field for 18-24 months.

    Given the rate of change in SSDland, there'll likely not be any 520s for sale in that time frame.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    Then it's probably smart to let the guinea pigs suffer thru yet another half-baked SSD instead of wasting our time and money to be unpaid Beta testers for negligent SSD makers. Anand was correct: WAIT 6-12 months to see if they sort out most of the Bugs... He may need to extend that time frame to 36-48 months?

    As you can see from the numerous comments here, the 520 already has one or more BSOD reports at Intel's support site and people with OCZ and other drives still have issues even after the SandFarce firmware updates. On-The-Job-Training seems to be the current SSD strategy for most if not all SSD companies... which IMO is a disgrace.
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    I'm no fan of SF. It's only that SSD land is vastly different from HDD land. Reply
  • FelixO - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Hi,

    I am very tempted to get one of these because I want to shove it in a machine and forget about it for 5 years (rather than upgrade regularly).

    However the performance after being filled up is pretty worrying since that it something I do all the time!

    Anand, in your SSD reviews you used to talk about what % of the disk was reserved space to help with avoidance of write amplification, or to assist with wear-levelling (or something like that!). You also used to say whether formatting the disk or doing a secure-erase would get you back to peak performance.

    You seem to have omitted these discussions from recent reviews.
    Any comments on those issues for this drive (Or the Samsung 830)?

    Is it possible to adjust the reserved area on these drives? Will that mitigate the problems associated with completely filling the drives? Any comments on running these drives under Linux?

    Thanks
    Reply
  • 4G92 - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Can anyone (Anand?) confirm if the Vertex 2 drives have this same Sandforce bug? I know the controllers are different, but my symptoms are EXACTLY the same.

    I just replaced my Vertex 2 with a Crucial M4 and the problems have now stopped, so I suspect the OCZ drive is the cause of the lockups...
    Reply

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