Final Words

The vast majority of PCIe SSDs have been disappointing up to this point. We either saw poorly implemented designs that offered SATA RAID on a PCIe card or high priced, proprietary PCIe designs. The arrival of NVMe gives SSDs the breathing room they need to continue to grow. We finally get a low latency, low overhead interface and we get to shed SATA once and for all.

Intel's SSD DC P3700 gives us our first look at an NVMe drive, and the results are impressive. A single P3700 can deliver up to 450K random read IOPS, 150K random write IOPS and nearly 2GB/s of sequential writes. Sequential reads are even more impressive at between 2 - 3GB/s. All of this performance comes with very low latency operation thanks to an updated controller and the new NVMe stack. CPU efficiency is quite good thanks to NVMe as well. You get all of this at $3/GB, or less ($1.4975/GB) if you're willing to give up some performance and endurance. As an enterprise drive, the P3700 is an excellent option. I can't imagine what a few of these would do in a server. At some of the price points that Intel is talking about for the lower models, the P3xxx series won't be too far out of the reach of performance enthusiasts either. 

Intel's P3700 launch deck had a slide that put the P3700's performance in perspective compared to the number of SATA SSDs it could replace. I found the comparison interesting so I ran similar data, assuming perfect RAID scaling from adding together multiple DC S3700s. The comparison isn't perfect (capacity differences for one), but here's what I came up with:

A single P3700 ends up replacing 4 - 6 high performance SATA drives. If you don't need high sustained 4KB random write performance, you can get similar numbers out of the cheaper P3600 and P3500 as well. This is a very big deal.

Once again we see Intel at the forefront of a new wave of SSDs. What I really want to see now however is continued execution. We don't see infrequent blips of CPU architecture releases from Intel, we get a regular, 2-year tick-tock cadence. It's time for Intel's NSG to be given the resources necessary to do the same. I long for the day when we don't just see these SSD releases limited to the enterprise and corporate client segments, but spread across all markets - from mobile to consumer PC client and of course up to the enterprise as well.

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  • Ammaross - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    The M.2 SATA-protocol-on-PCIe drives? A comparison would mean Apple would need have to have support for NVMe first or the ability to even slot in such a card (rules out the 3 offerings you outlined). Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    What are you talking about? "The M.2 SATA-protocol-on-PCIe drives?" doesn't even make sense.

    All you need to do to compare them is run the benchmarks on the apple hardware, possibly while running under a windows OS. OR, if the drives use the regular m.2 style connector you could just stick them in a desktop. The fact they run AHCI over PCIe does not make a comparison impossible, in fact all of the other PCIe cards in this review that were benchmarked against were also AHCI based cards. Seems like NVMe is confusing people at lot more than it should.
    Reply
  • Galatian - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    I think he tried to say that you can't stick one of those new NVMe drives into a Mac, since OS X does not yet support NVMe.

    That being said, Apple discontinued the old Mac Pro where you could put a PCIe device inside, so the point is moot no matter what.
    Reply
  • gospadin - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    I'd have liked to see the drive in 25W mode too Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    Yeah, I would as well. I am assuming the 25W mode has specific cooling requirements? More info on this would be nice. Also what is the default TDP? Reply
  • eanazag - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    That's also the first thing I thought. I wanted to see the boost level. That bottom is pretty close to where I would consider splurging for my desktop with a 400GB. If you consider a RAID card and few drives then $600 is justifiable.

    I stayed away from the PCIe SSDs because of boot issues and quality concerns. A lot of those were OCZ.
    Reply
  • Galatian - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    I might have just overlooked it, but I guess those drives are not bootable? Reply
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    " Booting to NVMe drives shouldn't be an issue either." Reply
  • Galatian - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    Ah great...so this might be a nice alternative to the lackluster state M.2 is right now after all! Reply
  • dopp - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    NVMe won't necessarily be a replacement for M.2. M.2 is just the connector, and the M.2 standard supports both SATA and NVMe as protocols to control the SSD. That said, you need a motherboard that's wired to give PCIe-over-M.2 as well as a drive that supports NVMe, and NVMe M.2 drives will likely be much better than SATA ones. Reply

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