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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  • will792 - Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - link

    How do you hardware RAID these drives?

    With SATA/SAS drives I can use LSI/Adaptec controllers and mirror/striping/parity configuration to tune performance, reliability and drive failure recoverability.
    Reply
  • iwod - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    While NVMe only uses a third of the CPU power, it is still quite lot to achieve those IOPS. Although consumer application would / should hardly see those number in use in real life.

    We really need PCI-E to get faster and more lanes, the Ultra M.2 promoted by ASRock was great. Direct CPU connect, 4X PCI-E 3.0. Lots and Lots of headroom to work with. Compared to upcoming going to be standard which would easily get saturated buy the time they arrive.
    Reply
  • juhatus - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    You should really really explore how you make this bootable win8.1 drive on Z97. Is it possible or not? With M.2 support on Z97 it really should'nt be a problem? Reply
  • Mick Turner - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Was there any hint of a release date? Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Why is the S3700 200GB drive being used as the comparison to this gigantic 1.6TB monster? Unless there is something I don't understand it has always been the case where the larger the drive (and more channels used) can significantly increase the performance compared to a smaller drive (with less channels). The S3700 had an 800GB drive. That one IMO would be more representative of the improvements of the P3700. Reply
  • shodanshok - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Hi Anand,
    I have some question regarding the I/O efficiency graphs in the "CPU utilization" page.

    What performance counter did you watch when comparing CPU storage load?

    I'm ask you because if you use the classical "I/O wait time" (common on Unix and Windows platform), you are basically measuring the time the CPU is waiting for storage, *not* its load.

    The point it that while the CPU is waiting for storage, it can schedule another readily-available thread. In other words, while it wait for storage, the CPU is free to do other works. If this is the case, it means that you are measuring I/O performance, *not* I/O efficiency (IOPS per CPU load).

    On the other hand, If you are measuring system time and IRQ time, the CPU load graphs are correct.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • Ramon Zarat - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    NET NEUTRALITY

    Please, share this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpbOEoRrHyU

    I wrote an e-mail to the FCC, called them and left a message and went on their website to fill my comment. Took me 5 insignificant minutes. Do it too! Don't let those motherfuckers run over you! SHARE THIS VIDEO!!!!

    Submit your comments here http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/begin?procName=14-... It's proceeding # 14-28

    #FUCKTHEFCC #netneutrality
    Reply
  • underseaglider - Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - link

    Technological advancements improve the reliability and performance of the tools and processes we all use in our daily routines. Whether for professional or personal needs, technology allows us to perform our tasks more efficiently in most cases. Reply
  • aperson2437 - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    Sounds like once these SSDs get cheap it is going to eliminate the aggravation of waiting for computers to do certain things like loading big programs and games forever. I can't wait to get my hands on one. I'm super impatient when it comes to computers. Hopefully, there will be some intense competition for these NVMe SSDs from Samsung and others and prices come down fast. Reply
  • Shiitaki - Thursday, June 5, 2014 - link

    No, it was not out of necessity. SSD's have used Sata because they lacked vision/ lazy, or whatever other excuse. PCI express has been around for years, as so has AHCI. There is no reason there isn't a single strap on a PCI express card to change between operating modes, like AHCI for older machines, and whatever this new thing is. All an SSD is largely a risk computer that overwhelmingly provides it's functionality using software. Msata should have never existed, if you have to have a controller anyway, why not a PCI-express? After all, SATA controllers connect to PCI-express?

    SSD's could have been PCI express in 2008. Those early drives however were terrible, and didn't need the bandwidth or latency, so there was no reason. They were too busy trying to get NAND flash working to bother worrying about other concerns.

    Even now, most flash drives being sold are not capable of saturating Sata3 even on sequential reads. I'm going to jab Kingston again here about their dishonest V300, but Micron's M500 isn't pushing any limits either. Intel SSD's should be fast, this isn't news, they have been horribly overpriced. What is news is that the price is now justified.

    Why isn't the new spec internal thunderbolt? Oh yeah, has gots to make money on licensing! Why make money producing products when it is so much easier to cash royalty checks? The last thing the pc industry needs is another standard to do something that can already be done 2 other ways, but then we need a jobs program making adapters. Those two ways are PCI-Express, and thunderbolt.

    At some point the hard drive should be replaced by a PCI-express full length card that accepts NAND cards, and the user simply buys and keeps adding cards as space is required. This can already be done with current technology, no reinventing the wheel required.
    Reply

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