Intel SSD DC P3608 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive Review

Introducing The Intel SSD DC P3608

Major players in the solid state storage business continue to innovate at a breakneck pace, especially now that the market has begun a shift away from the lowly SATA interface towards higher performing alternatives like PCI Express. For a while, manufacturers were bolting multiple SATA controllers together on single devices, in RAID configurations, to boost performance beyond what a single SATA-based drive could do. But with the advent of NVMe, that’s no longer necessary for most applications. Though, pairing up multiple NVMe devices can also be a means to increase performance, of course.

Just to give a quick refresher, NVM Express or NVMe, is a low-latency, scalable host controller interface designed specifically for PCI Express-based solid state storage devices. NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) offers a number enhancements over legacy SATA or SAS interfaces, like support for parallel operations and support for up to 64K commands within a single I/O queue to the storage volume. NVMe also offers many enterprise-targeted features like end-to-end parity data protection, enhanced error reporting, and virtualization, among other things. NVMe can provide up to many times the throughput of a SATA 6Gbps interface, with lower latency and higher reliability.

Today we’re going to take a look at Intel’s latest NVMe-based solid state storage device, the SSD DC P3608. As the DC in the product name suggests, this drive (or should we say drives?) is designed for the data center and enterprise markets, where huge capacities, maximum uptime, and top-end performance are paramount. The Intel SSD DC P3608 is somewhat different than the recent consumer-targeted NVMe PCI Express SSD from Intel we evaluated, the SSD 750 series, however. This drive essentially packs a pair of NVMe-based SSDs onto a single card, built for high endurance and high performance. Check it out...
intel p3608 ssd front
Intel SSD DC P3608 Series
Specifications & Features
dc 3608 specs

There are currently three drives slated for the Intel SSD DC P3608 series, a 1.6TB model, a 3.2TB model, and a monstrous 4TB model. All of the drives feature similar NAND and dual Intel NVMe controllers, though obviously their capacities differ. The 1.6TB drive is outfitted 800GB of usable NAND allotted to each controller, along with some DRAM cache. The 3.2TB drive doubles that to 1.6TB per controller; the 4TB drive has 2TB per controller.
intel p3608 ssd angle2
The particular drive we’ll be showing you here is a 1.6TB Intel SSD DC P3608. The drive features the aforementioned pair of Intel NVMe controllers, paired to Intel 20nm MLC HET NAND flash memory (High Endurance Technology). The drive is outfitted with a PCIe x8 electrical interface (max bandwidth up to 8GB/s), which is twice as wide at the P3700 series, and it has a half-height form factor. The Intel NVMe controller used on these drives in an 18-channel design, which can offer significantly more bandwidth (at lower latencies) than the 4 – 10 channel controllers used on most SATA SSDs. The 1.6TB drive’s specifications list max read 4K IOPS in the 850K range, with sequential reads and writes of 5GB/s and 3GB/s respectively. Read and write performance is slightly different on the larger drives due to their tuning and over-provisioning configuration.
intel p3608 ssd side
The Intel SSD DC P3608 series also offers enhanced power loss protection. There are an array of capacitors on the PCB, which work in combination with firmware algorithms to provide robust power-loss protection in the event on an unplanned outage.

The Intel SSD DC P3608 is also outfitted with a large heatsink that covers the controllers and all of the front-mounted NAND, while the back features a simple heat plate, but neither gets particularly warm to the touch, even after hours of testing. Unlike some previous PCIe-based SSDs we’ve looked at, which required significant cooling to remain operational long-term, the Intel SSD DC P3608 should be fine as long as there is moderate air-flow through the system.
intel 3608 2
The Intel SSD DC P3608 is presented to a system as two storage volumes, but on supported Xeon platforms Intel’s latest v4.3 RSTe drives will auto-RAID the drives together. For other platforms, software RAID 0 (striping), in addition to installing the latest Intel NVMe driver, is currently required to achieve peak performance. That means the drives aren’t bootable if you’d like to use the entire capacity in the striped pair, but its individual volumes are bootable.

We should also mention that the SSD DC P3608 has full support for TRIM and idle garbage collection, as you’d expect from a modern SSD. All of the drives carry a 5 year warranty and offer end-to-end data protection with an endurance rating range from 8.76PBW (petabytes written) on the 1.6TB drive to a whipping 21.9 PBW on the 4TB model. The SSD DC P3608 can also be configured to different power states, should you want to sacrifice some performance to reduce power consumption. In its highest performing mode, the drive is rated for 40W typical active power.

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