IDF: SSD Myths and Hardcore Gamers

On the last day of IDF 2008, Intel ran yet another SSD class, headed by Chris Saleski from the Storage Technologies Group and Jack Weast from the Consumer PC Group. While this was not the first SSD class (more like the second or third), Intel had two goals to accomplish. First, Intel wanted to firmly establish why the hardcore gamers should be interested in its new Mainstream and Extreme SSDs. Second, they wanted to address several industry-wide criticism about SSDs, and how its new drives will quickly put those worries to rest.

After quickly going over the new SSDs specifications one final time, Saleski brought up some dumbfounding benchmarks. While the RAIDed 500 GB, 7200 RPM Seagate Barracuda drives were getting a little under 550 IOPS (that’s input’s/output’s per second), the single 80GB X-25M Mainstream SSD was posting an almost unbelievable 44,000-plus IOPS. If these numbers hold true when the new drives hit shelves in several months, it will be interesting, to see what a pair of RAIDed Extreme drives can do. When an X-25M laptop was put up against a 5400 RPM-based in a PCMark Vantage showdown, the Mainstream-based system saw a 1.5x better overall score and an almost tenfold improvement in the Hard Drive category. Saleski then went over the game load times and demos he showed yesterday (see our SSD article from yesterday for some numbers).

The second half of the presentation, given by Weast, was about the misconceptions about the SSD market, and how Intel’s new offerings would try to sway the critics for good. Weast’s main theme was simple : not all SSDs perform equally. Going to the charts, he stacked up the Intel Mainstream drives against two unnamed SSD competitors as well as a 7200 RPM Barracuda from Seagate. If you put all your faith into Intel’s numbers, the Mainstream drives consistently beat the three competitors in random and sequential writes.

Next, Weast helped the audience to understand the true meaning of power when it comes to SSDs. While the chart showed the Intel drives using more power, it also shows that it has a much higher IOPS score, and thus finishes the task in less time So in the end, the Intel drive has a much better power per IOP scores, proving to be quite an efficient drive. Again, while the numbers are impressive, and we hope the new drives live up to the hype, look for us to throw up some numbers against named SSD competitors as soon as these new drives are released.

One point that troubled some in the audience was the lack of an answer to lost or potentially lost data. Because the Drive keeps track of NAND wear and can shut down individual pages and sectors, it was confusing when the Intel staff on hand couldn’t provide confirmation on if the drive would lose the data in the dying or dead sections, or if it would be moved. Hopefully, some light can be shed on this so no one will be risking their music collection or precious family photos.

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