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


View All Comments

  • km23 - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    What drive would you suggest for a Mac Pro? I have an early 2008 with 3G connection. I keep reading about the Mercury drives from Macsales. Any suggestions? Thanks. Reply
  • Beenthere - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    WAIT for SSD makers to sort the Bugs out of their SSDs. Contrary to what Intel says, I think that's the only way we will have any idea of the reliability of the 520 series SSDs. Maybe in 12 months enough guinea pigs will have found most of the Bugs. Reply
  • troystarr - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    I understand why IOPS would go down for smaller capacity drives with fewer NAND die to interleave, but I'm curious why it would go down when the capacity goes up. Reply
  • haa - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    When using SSDs in laptops whole disk encryption is often required (and easy to enable with e.g. FileVault 2 on Macs) so it is not just a corner case as the computer is writing incompressible (encrypted) data all the time, bringing out the worst case performance case probably pretty soon... Reply
  • Cow86 - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    So now that the belated 520 has finally shown up (originally Q4 according to the roadmap), will the other SSD that also should've been out already also show up soon? The successor to the intel 311, hawley creek? Kinda been waiting for that one for a reliable, and hopefully cheaper, caching SSD....Enough capacity means getting 180GB or more, which is too expensive from any vendor at this time for me, and I'm not too sure about using a 60 GB SSD for caching either, with regards to reliability....Hawley Creek seems to have completely dissapeared off the radar though :/ Reply
  • fausto412 - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    these things still have reliability issues? Reply
  • Westyfield2 - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    Intel say:
    "Superior data protection features: The new Intel SSD 520 Series offers the best security features of any Intel SSD to date and comes preconfigured with Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) 256-bit encryption capabilities. In the event of theft or loss of your computer, you have the peace of mind that your personal data is secured by an advanced encryption technology. Additionally, the Intel SSD 520 Series contains “End-to-End Data Protection” ensuring integrity of stored data from the computer to the SSD and back."

    Any details Anand? Here's a forum thread about FDE on the Intel 320.

    I, for one, would be very interested in an FDE SSD (I remember Samsung did one a few years ago, but that's all gone quiet).
  • panthal - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    I find it odd Anand or anyone else doesn't think what Intel as has done is shady as hell.All the issues were not with the Sandforce controller.It was also partly how the Intel chip-sets handled power schemes and other advanced parts of the power management.Intel one was one of the MAIN vendors pushing for some of the more advanced power settings,then DISABLED them on their own Intel branded SSD drives.What does that tell you?

    The Sandforce fixes didn't come because Intel didn't want them sorted till it got closer to time for their own Intel branded Sandforce drives.They helped just enough to get the last firmware pushed that solved most the Sandforce issues.
    Call it conspiracy if you want,but it's all there if you care to look.
  • Beenthere - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    Perish the thought that Intel would ever operate in any manner than with the utmost integrity and respect for it's customers and the PC industry.
  • NitroWare - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    Some of the SATA power management schemes were convinced years ago before cheap SSDs became mainstream. Intel did not invent SATA by itself.

    No logic is perfect, even from Intel.

    As for claiming Intel has somehow thrown a wrench into the gears thats a bit foolish. Corsair, OCZ and Kingston amongst others put their reputations on the line when these issues arise. These firms do not sell $300-$2000 CPUs that make up their revenue. For some tech firms, a product recall is the last thing they will ever want to do.

    Apparently these cheap SATA III SandForce SSDs are selling like hotcakes in some regions from what some channel distributors tell me and they can't keep enough stock to meet demand or the vendors have to shift stock allocations between regions to meet such demands, annoying other regions.

    Consumers want cheap SSDs, regardless of who they are from. No consumer will buy an ultra enterprise product for $2000. You can not have your cake and eat it too.

    If there is a genuine issue with a product, either a fix will be made available or worst case swap under warranty for a revised product.

    For specific motherboard support blame the mobo vendors. They are reluctant to patch BIOSes for older models such as adding the latest Intel Option ROM. Many angles to this. Manpower, validation, lazy, no care factor, pushing newer models, open a can of worms and so on. They can get the latest drivers, firmwares or fixes if they want, if they still buy particular chips they are provided with support. If they don't use this support its their fault.

    Some are even reluctant to patch new boards.

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