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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  • AnnoD - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Well I'm sorry, but... As positive as the conclusion is, to me this all sounds like Intel has found a way of hampering the competition. (I almost put "a new way" in that sentence instead, but I don't want to fire of wars...) How ethical is all this really? Is Intel putting effort into bugfixing itself, having SandForce doing the same work but with less manpower? Or are they actually not allowing to fix what Intel fixed for a while? I think this should not be so easily overlooked! Reply
  • quanstro - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    i'm not sure how one could say that intel is morally obligated to give competitors the results of a year's testing. or that the competition has lost anything. if intel had not done the validation work, competitors would have exactly the same benefit from intel. would that also be stifling the competition? Reply
  • spazoid - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Do you expect Intel to give their findings and bug fixes away for free? Why would they do that? Do you have ANY examples of that happening outside of the open source community? Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I sure wish I had one fewer drive to chose from, especially if that one was the most reliable! All in the name of "fairness." ;) Reply
  • DanSmith - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    Well thats how business works. Guessing you own a drive with a buggy SF controller from a competitor. Intel spent a year funded testing and bug fixing a controller they bought the rights to use so they get the benifit. Bet you OCZ have a similar deal but dont have the man power (or desire) to so thoroughly test.

    I know my time (and my companies downtime) is worth much more than the extra % for an SSD from a similar ilk as the x-25 and 320 series. As a sysadmin the thought of ever putting low cost consumer SSDs in production systems would keep me awake at night!

    I will be getting a few of these to evaluate for sure.
    Reply
  • Morg. - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    You're (like anandtech) overrating Intel's edge w/ their firmware.

    At best they've got a few more resolved firmware issues than the default SF firmware.
    Who cares ?

    And most of all, who cares about a late and expensive third gen drive when the biggest issue with its direct competitors is that *some* of them cause problems.

    Overall the 520 is a failure as a product and a resounding marketing success, as all of Intel's sponsored reviewers have an easy "real" story to tell. (like we had a 2281 that failed, put in the Intel one and boom it worked ... never tried another 2281, never tried another controller ... but who cares, let's buy overpriced intel)
    Reply
  • seapeople - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    Yes, it's a huge failure for a product to not only equal the fastest drives on the market today in performance, but to do so while besting them all in reliability and stability.

    Where's my sarcasm font?
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Since it's ~50% higher on the Intel drive and the BSOD issues seem related to power management, I suspect Intel turned part of the power management off.

    MrS
    Reply
  • coder543 - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    yet somehow they aren't terribly power inefficient. Reply
  • Hauk - Monday, February 6, 2012 - link

    Intel can you fix my OCZ Vertex 3 drives? They don't see to be as reliable as my old G2's.. Reply

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