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...

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  • Beenthere - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    Unfortunately Intel just like OCZ, Corsair and most all the rest of the SSD purveyors have adopted the Asus Biz model where you ship it today and hope you can fix it tomorrow when people find it's got lots of defects.

    It's totally unscrupulous to ship products with defects that have not been corrected due to a proper validation procedure not being implemented because the mfg. was more interested in rushing the product to market for quick profits or they are simply incompetent.

    If you bought a new car and the brakes didn't function you'd have a Helleva lawsuit. If the car's trans only worked on Wednesdays and Fridays, you'll have a Helleva lawsuit. If the car maker only responded to the problems by replacing the defective product with another defective product - yup, you'd have a Helleva lawsuit.

    This is how a lot of SSD companies are responding the defects in consumer grade SSDs.
    Reply
  • NitroWare - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    I understand what your saying but ASUS is a company who do no skimp on overall validation of their products. This can be objectively proven by comparing their BIOS changelogs and QVL lists against a tier 2 manufacturer.

    Enthusiast products are touch and go especially when high speeds or aggressive compatibility is involved. You can not have it both ways wether its a SSD, Mobo, VGA or even a car

    There are 'stable' products and there are 'aggressive' products (esp mobos and vga)

    The stable products, Intel Desktop Boards, Supermicro server/workstation boards, DELL/HP Prebuilts and some basic generic motherboards are BORING to part of the target market who are being targeted by cheap and fast SSDs.

    Do dell even validate many different SSD controller on their desktop and portables?

    There are firms who have SSD in Mission Critical apps. Either Team Lotus or Red Bull F1 I forget who switched all their pitcrew laptops to SSD due to vibration from the F1 engines.

    Can you imagine what would happen if an engineer experiencing a BSOD such a frantic scenario ?

    The target market want the bleeding edge and many vendors are forced to comply by playing the numbers game or including technical features on their products which have no benefit (eg extra power sockets) except as a marketing bulletpoint targeted to enthusiasts and matching their competition.

    Many would be surprised how many features on components such as motherboards or power supplies are stuck on simply due to customer (OEM) requests or technical marketing/competitive demands.

    There are parts of the enthusiast community, especially extreme and sub zero overclockers who don't care about 'stability' or who do not understand what the true meaning of this is. Their definition is stability is how much LN2 they can pour by balancing one hand with another hand on their mouse in vain effort to get their overclock stable.

    Manufs of cheaper devices have never really cared about support and many have a small handful of design engineers who are already overworked. This has not changed in twenty years of PC add on devices.

    It is a shame that some 'brand names' currently have issues really, a damm shame.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    One of Intel's biggest advantages was the spread spectrum of their wear-leveling controller. I may have missed it, but I didn't see any mention of it in the article.

    It would be nice if they could have combined the SF-2281 with their own controller to give a fast, controller that was spread evenly across the NAND, to further increase its shelf-life. Maybe that would be too costly, or maybe it wasn't needed, but I'm interested to hear what they have to say.

    vol7ron
    Reply
  • Sufo - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    So, will the 720 be based on SF-2000? How far away is that?

    I'm soon to be building an enterprise server... are these Intel drives (5xx or 7xx) really up to enterprise load? Unlike many people, being able to pick something like the 710/720 would be a huge cost _saving_ - it seems to me that approved drives such as the HP ones cost 10x more than even these Intel drives.

    On a side note, since Apple's acquisition of Anobit, is it safe to say the Genesis 2 is on hold?
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    The story title is really inappropriate considering there is no proof that the 520 is any more reliable than other SSDs. There are even reports already of BSOD on the 520 drives at Intel's customer support forums. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    No question, BUT I'd still pick my Intel 320 over the 520. I still trust Intel's controller more, and the 320 is the only drive I know of that has built in hardware encryption. Completely awesome! I'm sure there must be other drives that do too, but that alone would have me picking the 320, and then when you consider I trust it more anyway, and it's a bit cheaper...

    Wish the 600GB 320 wasn't over $1000 though :-D Oh well, my 300GB one is okay, and my Seagate Momentus XTs are great too.
    Reply
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    Already reports of 520 BSOD at Intel support... :( Reply
  • Galvin - Friday, February 10, 2012 - link

    I could get a BSOD and report in intel forums too. All I have to do is disable AHCI drivers in windows and reboot. Get a BSOD. I think the issue is not the drive but the user not setting their bios up correctly or windows correctly or both. Reply
  • Galvin - Friday, February 10, 2012 - link

    Just wanted to update if you read that post. He fixed the problem. It had nothing to do with the drive. People want to hate intel just cause they're intel. Reply
  • mbryans - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    Intel SSD 520 Series 480 GB: random 4 KB writes up to (only) 42,000 IOPS? While for 240 GB could reach 60,000 IOPS. The greater capacity should be faster. Reply

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