Intel 520 Series SSD Pictured – True Gold and Possibly Not SandForce Driven

The paint hasn’t dried since our release a few days ago which detailed our belief that the Intel 520 Series SSD was ‘SandForce Driven’, yet today, we are going to suggest another angle where it is entirely possible that the Intel 520 is not SandForce based at all.  The incredible thing, in our minds anyway, is the fact that we have held the Intel/SandForce notion for so long yet, just a few minutes ago, we were led down another path thanks to ‘bluestang‘ at XtremeSystems.Org

To start, lets make it clear that our entire belief that the 520 controller is (or was) ‘SandForce Driven’ lie solely on the fact that the performance was just to close to be otherwise.  That is (or rather was) supported by the fact that the capacities of these drives were exact which was reflective of the exact capacities utilized by ‘SandForce Driven’ SSDs.


Giving full credit to ‘bluestang‘ once again, it appears that the controller in the 520 Series ‘can’ be of a different design, a design owned by Anobit who coincidentally closed a recent funding round of $32 million dollars led by, none other than, Intel Capital.  It also seems that Anobit, as it just so happens, also markets their own SATA 3 6Gbps controllers.

To take it a step further, Anobit controllers can be found in the new Genesis T Series enterprise SSD where read and write performance of 510MB/s is listed along with 70,000 IOPS.  Does this match the specs listed by Intels recently discovered 520 specifications?  No it doesn’t but what it does is show another very viable candidate for the 520 Series controller as they are very similar and Intel may just have had good reason to sink that much into Anobit.


There is also another angle, in that, the controller may just be that of the SandForce SF-2281 and Intel has looked to Anobit for the firmware because of their proprietary MSP technology.  From Anobit themselves:

Anobits MSP technology is comprised of proprietary signal processing algorithms that compensate for physical limitations of the NAND flash, combined with advanced error correction and innovative flash management schemes, resulting in a dramatic improvement in endurance, performance and system cost. Specifically, the MSP technology enables SLC (one-bit-per-cell) endurance and performance with MLC (two-bits-per-cell) NAND, and MLC endurance and performance with TLC (three-bits-per-cell) NAND, resulting in a significant reduction in cost-per-bit. The MSP technology is field-proven, with over 20 million Anobit MSP-powered flash controllers shipped year to-date to leading OEMs for embedded applications.

We have to admit the combination of Anobits MSP with the SandForce processor might be a natural match but, in the end, we have to concede that there is finally another option with respect to the Intel 520 Series components.


Heading back to the SandForce theory, we did find it a bit unusual that the 520 Series SSD has a firmware numbered 31H, especially since its a brand new release and, coincidentally, SF firmware is version 3x.

Kudos to Computer Base for the original discovery of the photo!