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Intel Solid State Drive DC S3500 Data Center SSD
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Date: Jun 11, 2013
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Intel is updating its line of enterprise-class solid state storage offerings today, with a new more cost-effective drive that targets datacenter and cloud-computing applications. The Intel SSD DC S3500 as it is known, is similar in a number of ways to the SSD DC S3700 we evaluated a few months back. The new drives, however, are built around more affordable NAND flash memory than the previously released DC S3700-series drives. Regardless, data integrity and consistent performance remain key differentiators for Intel’s datacenter-targeted “DC”-branded drives, but the SSD DC S3500 will do so at much more mainstream price points than the higher-end DC S3700-series drives.

We’ve got the full list of features and specifications for Intel SSD DC S3500 series listed below. Please note that the chart lists data for two different form factors, since these drives will be released in both 2.5” and 1.8” flavors. Take a gander at the specifications and then we’ll tear one of the drives down and see how it performs versus a handful of other competing drives...


Intel SSD DC S3500 480GB Solid State Drive

Intel SSD DC S3500 Series Solid State Drives
Specifications & Features


The Intel SSD DC S3500 will be offered in 80GB - 800GB capacities in both 2.5” and 1.8” form factors, but a number of capacities, like the 120GB, 160GB, 300GB, and 600GB drives, will only be offered in 2.5” versions.

We’ve got a 480GB, 2.5” drive on deck for you here. As you can see, the SSD DC S3500’s enclosure looks much like previous Intel-built solid state drives. It’s a basic, metal case with a 7.5mm Z-Height, adorned with a couple of decals detailing the drives capacity and a few specifications. If you’ve seen any of Intel’s recent SSD offerings, the DC S3500 will probably look familiar.

Inside the SSD DC 3500’s enclosure there are few noteworthy items worth pointing out. First, is the controller. The Intel-built controller used in the DC S3500 family of SSDs supports 8 NAND channels, AES-256 encryption, and has a native SATA 6Gbps interface. The controller is paired to 256MB or 512MB of DDR3-1333 DRAM cache and there are also a couple of capacitors on-board designed to power the drive just long enough to write any unsaved data to the NAND in the event of a power failure.

The actual NAND used in the drive is Intel 20nm MLC (Multi-Level Cell) NAND, with total capacities that vary from drive to drive. The 480GB model pictured here is outfitted with a total of 528GB of NAND, with the additional capacity used for wear leveling, bad block replacement and other proprietary and maintenance-related features.

 
 

Although the controller used in the new DC S3500 family has a SATA 6Gbps interface, Intel’s focus wasn’t on maximum sequential throughout with these drives. Instead, Intel’s focus was on, reliability, consistency and low latency. Intel claims total IOPS shouldn’t vary by more than a few percentage points, regardless of the drive’s state, and that it’s able to service 99.9% of 4K random IO request in .5ms (QD1). The drives are also able to handle 450TB of written data based on the JESD218 standard, using the JESD219 workload. More data about the JEDEC SSD endurance workloads and test procedures is available on the JEDEC website.
 

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The SSDs were secure erased and left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-2600K

Asus P8Z6-V Pro
(Z68 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Kingston DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

WD Raptor 150GB (OS Drive)
Samsung SSD 830 (256GB)
OCZ Vertex 3 Pro (200GB)
Intel SSD 520 (240GB)
Intel SSD 710 (200GB)
Intel SSD 520 (240GB)
Intel SSD DC S3700 (800GB)
Intel SSD DC S3500 (480GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 x64
Intel 9.2.0.1030, iRST 10.5.1027
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 275.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v4.61
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2012

IOMeter
I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you an't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and IOMeter's default access pattern of 2K transfers, 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.

The new Intel SSD DC S3500 performed about on par with the Intel 710 series drive when tested with IOMeter's default access pattern, but it trailed the pack when tested with our custom workstation access patters. When doubled up in a two-drive, RAID 0 setup, performance increases significantly (as you'd expect).

In terms of total bandwidth with the IOMeter access patters we tested, the Intel SSD DC S3500 didn't fare very well. It trailed all of the other drives with our workstation access patters, and offered middling performance with the default pattern.
 

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SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

The new Intel SSD DC S3500 performed relatively well in SiSoft SANDRA's Physical Disk Benchmark. The drive led the pack in the read test and offered very good write performance as well.  When running two of the drives in RAID 0, the Intel SSD DC S3500 led once again.
 

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ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

When running in a single drive configuration, the Intel SSD DC S3500 put up numbers competitive with all of the other drive, but it didn't break away in either the read or write tests.  When operating in a RAID 0 configuration, though, the Intel SSD DC S3500 drives performed very well in the read tests with small transfer sizes, but ultimately ended up trailing the DC S3700 and SSD 520 RAID setups.
 

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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v4.61
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com







The Intel SSD DC S3500 put up some very nice read performance scores in the HD Tune benchmark, though write performance trialed some of the other drives. The Intel SSD DC S3500 also put up some excellent access times in this benchmark, especially in the read portion of the test.
 

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests

The Intel SSD DC S3500 performed very well in the various CrystalDiskMark tests, especially in terms of write performance. The drive put up good numbers in the sequential and 512K tests, but it really shined in the 4K transfer tests, at both low and high queue depths.
 

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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n

The Intel SSD DC S3500's performance isn't affected by the compressibility of the data being transferred on the drive, unlike the LSI SandForce-based drives shown here (the OCZ Vertex 3 and Intel 520). Performance was competitive with the SSD DC S3700, throughout.
 

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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com

PCMark 7's individual tests show the Intel SSD DC S3500 performing just a hair behind the more expensive DC S3700-series drive in 4 of 7 tests. And in the other 3, the Intel SSD DC S3500 just squeaks past the S3700.

With such competitive numbers in the individual tests, the Intel SSD DC S3500's overall score of 5405--which is only 11 points behind the S3700--should be no surprise.
 

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The 480GB Intel SSD DC S3500 series drive we featured here offered very good performance throughout out testing. Read performance was competitive with all of the other drives we tested in all but the IOMeter benchmarks. Write performance, however, while good, wasn’t quite as high as some competing offerings in the majority of tests. Overall, we’d say the Intel SSD DC S3500’s performance is very similar to, though slightly lower than, the more expensive Intel SSD DC S3700, which is based on 25nm HET-MLC (High Endurance Technology – Multi-Level Cell) NAND.


The Intel SSD DC S3500--In 2.5", 480GB Trim

Intel’s new DC S3500-series SSDs will be offered in capacities ranging from 80GB to 800GB, in both 2.5” and 1.8” inch form factors. 2.5” drives should be available immediately, but 1.8” models won’t ramp up for a few more weeks. All of the drives are accompanies by a 5-year warranty.

If you’ve priced out any of Intel’s previously-released, enterprise-class solid state drives when they launched, this is the point where you’re probably expecting us to reveal some relatively high prices for the Intel SSD DC S3500 series drives, but we won’t. In fact, Intel is pricing these drives fairly competitively. Pricing will obviously vary from drive to drive, but to give you an idea of what to expect, the DC S3500 1.8-inch 80GB drive will be priced around $115, while the 2.5-inch 800GB drive with max out at $979. The 480GB drive we tested should fall somewhere around the $639 mark. That puts pricing in the $1.22 – $1.44 range, which is much lower than many enterprise-class solid state drives. Considering their strong, consistent performance, relatively higher endurance, and power-loss data protection, the Intel SSD DC S3500 series drives should be a great fit for all but the most demanding, enterprise workloads.

 

  • Read Performance
  • Power Loss Data Protection
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • Competitive Pricing
  • Write Performance Trailed Some Competing Drives



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