Intel DC S3700 200GB & 800GB, Enterprise SSD Review
Although it may seem odd to some, there was actually a time when Intel didn't consider SSDs ‘ready for primetime’ and were rather slow to adapt to the possibilities this new technology had to offer. Luckily for the industry, Intel is not a company to do things by half measures. Once the potential in this new technology was realized, they quickly became a major player.
This review will be a bit of a departure from our usual mass-market focused articles. Instead of looking at an SSD which will appeal to gamers and the like, it will focus upon Intel’s DC S3700, an enterprise class drive which is supposed to shake this industry to its core.
The DC S3700 is unique for a number of reasons but its primary claim to fame is the new X25 controller which lies at its heart. Intel’s first and second generation X25 controllers brought ground breaking levels of performance and reliability when it was first released five years ago. Unfortunately, five years is a heck of a long time in the SSD market and Intel soon turned to the likes of Marvell, LSI and even Hitachi to power their later models. The Intel 3-series, 5-series and - most importantly- 9-series SSDs certainly proved the merit of this approach, but they were only stop gap measures.
Like all stop gap measures, the outsourced controllers were meant to be short term solutions. Today we will be looking at the first iteration of Intel’s long term solution: the third generation X25 controller. It is supposed to dramatically change any preconceptions large business administrators have about Enterprise storage solutions while also working to drive down the overall cost of high level SSDs.
What makes this controller unique is not the significant increase in peak performance it offers. Rather what makes the X25 a standout is the lowered latency and sustained performance it can offer the new DC S3700. Recently the OCZ’s Barefoot 3 offered home consumers a glimpse of how the next generation of controllers were not going to be just about short term ‘burst’ performance but rather the possibility of long term capabilities across the entire spectrum. However, in this area, the new X25 Gen.3 is touted by Intel as the controller to make this philosophy a reality.
In the Enterprise arena, there can potentially be hundreds of users simultaneously requesting data at any given time on a 24/7/365 basis. Because of these unique demands, there is simply no better environment to test and promote the high sustained performance of a controller. Hence why Intel has released their new controller inside an Enterprise grade product before it gets cascaded down to the enthusiast level.
Even when taking I/O performance ratings at face value the new DC S3700 is certainly an impressive step forward. Compared to the previous generation 710 series of drives it offers a massive increase in performance, write endurance and boosts error correction capabilities to unheard of levels. Equally impressive is this massive reduction in price per gigabyte. The DC S3700 actually has a lower price per gigabyte ratio than the mass market Intel 520 had when it was first released.
The DC S3700’s price also scales in a linear fashion with each capacity step receiving the exact same $2.35 per GB ratio. In other words, the 100GB model will have a 1000 unit purchase price of $235, the 200GB will be $470, 400GB will be $940 and the largest capacity 800GB will be $1880.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, the new naming scheme for Intel’s DC S3700 does make perfect sense and is actually in keeping with their latest nomenclature. Much like an Intel Core i7 3770K, the entire model name can be decoded to tell experienced users exactly what the new device is and where it resides in Intel’s current lineup. This is a much more rational naming scheme than previous generations which were rather simplistic in nature.
In the case of the DC S3700, the ‘DC’ moniker tells us it is part of Intel’s new “Data Center” family of solid state drives. The “DC family” is Intel’s short hand for Data Center, Server, Storage and Embedded SSD Solutions and is quite a bit more inclusive than simply saying ‘Enterprise’ as was the case before the DC S3700. The ‘S’ stands for SATA interface, the ‘3’ stands for third generation and the ‘700’ tells us where in Intel’s lineup –second from the top with 900 being the flagship - this particular device resides. We fully expect future Enterprise grade Intel solid state drives to come with comparably easy to decode – yet seemingly complex – naming scheme.
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