Intel releases the 750 Series SSD, its fastest consumer flash

Intel dropped SATA for this drive because it posed a bottleneck for performance

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Intel today unveiled its first consumer-class solid-state drive (SSD) with a PCI Express 3.0 bus and non-volatile memory express (NVMe) high-speed host controller interface.

The new 750 Series SSD's performance tops out with sequential read/write speeds of up to 2,400MBps and 1,200MBps, respectively.

Unlike previous Intel consumer flash products that used a serial-ATA (SATA) computer bus interface, the new SSDs will be directly attached to a motherboard via NVMe or through PCIe interconnect.

750 Series SSD in 2.5-in form factor Intel

The 750 Series SSD in a 2.5-in (15mm z-height) form factor.

"The key to this product is raw performance. It's the highest SSD performance you'll see ... for a long time," said Jeff Fick, an Intel product marketing engineer. "We're delivering anywhere from two to four times the performance over our last SATA-based drive."

The 750 Series SSD comes in 400GB ($389) and 1.2TB ($1,029) capacities.

Using 4KB operations, its random read/write performance peaks out at 440,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS) and 290,000 IOPS, respectively.

"We focused this product specifically on random [performance]. What we're targeting here ... is high-end desk top users as well as workstations," Fick said. "But the sequential performance is quite high as well when we compare it to SATA-based products."

While Intel has previously offered both NVMe and PCIe interconnects in SSDs, those products were aimed at data center use.

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The cabling diagram for the 750 Series SSD in 2.5-in form factor.

Intel's new SSD 750 Series, however, is the company's first consumer NVMe/PCIe Gen3 x4 (four I/O lanes] SSD.

While the majority of today's SSDs use the third-generation SATA interfaces, which run with a native transfer rate of 6Gbps over a single I/O lane, PCIe offers a total of 16GBps throughput.

Intel said it chose the PCIe/NVMe interfaces because SATA would have created a bottleneck for an SSD with as high a performance capability as the 750 Series.

Intel's previous high-end consumer SSD, the 730 Series, was a SATA-based drive. That drive had top a sequential read/write performance of 550MBps and 470MBps, respectively. Its random performance for reads/writes was 86,000 IOPS and 89,000 IOPS, respectively.

"When you start using these products in a Broadwell, or X99 or Z97-type platform, you'll find you really want this product to be a CPU direct-attached product," Fick said. "That means we're not actually connecting it to the [Platform Controller Hub] where normal storage would sit on a SATA interface."

Intel 750 Series SSD Intel

The Intel 750 Series SSD on an X99 platform.

The direct-attached nature of the 750 Series also lends itself to a lower latency. The SSD's sequential latency is around 20 microseconds for both reads and writes; latency for random reads and writes is 120 microseconds and 30 nanoseconds, respectively. (A microsecond is equal to one millionth of a second).

The 750 Series SSD has an endurance rating of 70GB of writes per day and up 219TB  of writes over its lifetime. Intel also gave the SSD a 1.2 million hour mean time before failure rating (MTBF).

The 750 Series comes in two form factors: a standard 2.5-in SSD and a half-height, half-length add-in card. The 2.5-in SSD has a 15mm z-height, meaning it will fit in standard laptops, but not in ultrathins.

The 2.5-in version, typical for use in most laptops, will require a special cable and connector on a computer's motherboard to function correctly, an issue Intel said has addressed.

The 2.5-in model comes with a cable that connects to SFF-8639 PCIe at the drive and to Mini SAS (SFF-8643) at the motherboard. It has a SATA split off for power only.

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Intel's 750 Series SSD in a half-height, half-length add in card.

This story, "Intel releases the 750 Series SSD, its fastest consumer flash" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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