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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  • extide - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    Yeah, this except more correctly it is SATA vs PCIe as the interface and AHCI vs NVMe as the protocol.

    Connectors:
    M.2 --> Supports AHCI over SATA, AHCI over PCIe, and NVMe over PCIe
    SFF-8639 --> Supports AHCI over PCIe and NVMe over PCIe
    PCIe card --> AHCI over PCIe, and NVMe over PCIe

    Now the latter 2 (and even the first one if you really wanted to...) could have a PCIe based SATA controller on it which would go PCIe --> SATA/SATA RAID Controller -> SATA SSD Controller(s), (For example this is how the OCZ Revo Drive works)
    Reply
  • Galatian - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    That's not what I meant with my comment. I'm upset that besides ASRock on the Extreme 6 and 9 and ASUS on their Impact no other manufacture included a higher bandwidth M.2 connector. I guess all upcoming PCIe M.2 drives will already be bottlenecked by the lackluster M.2 speeds most mainboard manufactures are building into their products, Reply
  • hpvd - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    hmmm are you sure? no new mainboard needed? No new Bios? Should it work in all boards which could boot existing PCIe SSDs? Reply
  • hpvd - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    I would really appreciate a short test of this. How should this work when AHCI is the standard on todays Mainboards/Bios/UEFI? There is alreday some work done until the Windows-/Linux driver take over the helm
    (which is of course already available: http://www.nvmexpress.org/blog/open-fabrics-allian...
    Reply
  • TelstarTOS - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    404 Reply
  • j00d - Friday, June 6, 2014 - link

    just take off the trailing ) in the url Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    Since a couple of you asked, I threw it in our X79 testbed.

    Windows 8.1U1 sees the drive without issue, however it is not bootable as our motherboard cannot see the drive as a bootable devices. I preface that with the fact that our X79 testbed is a consumer platform (ASRock X79 Professional) and X79 is a rather old chipset. So I can't speak for how this would behave on a brand spanking new Z97 board, or a server board for that matter.
    Reply
  • hpvd - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    many thanks for giving this a try! Should be further investigated... Reply
  • hpvd - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    PCIe booting may be a general prob with standard bios setting on these boards. I found a tiny bios setting guide how to fix this (on a similar Asrock X97 board). Would be awesome If you could try this:
    http://www.oczforum.com/forum/showthread.php?10114...
    You would be the very first in web booting from an NVMe device :-)
    Reply
  • hpvd - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    the other way around the question is:
    does
    - your board
    - with this bios version
    - with this bios settings
    - in this PCIe slot
    see other bootable PCIe SSD devices?

    if so this new Intel PCIe NVMe SSD behave somehow different
    If others couldn't be seen either - there is still hope for "normal" boot support :-)
    You just have the right board, bios settings...
    Reply

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