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Intel SSD DC P3608 Review (1.6TB) – Over 5GB/s and 850K IOPS!

A year ago Intel launched their first line up of NVMe SSDs. The DC P3700, DC P3600, and earlier this year they officially launched the DC P3500. As you might be lead to believe, the DC P3700 was their top tier product, which we were able to review, not only in the view of enterprise performance, but also from a storage enthusiast’s perspective. The Intel DC P3700’s performance at the time was very impressive and still is today, delivering up to 2.8GB/s read and 1.9GB/s write as well as being able to withstand 460K/180K IOPS. At $3/GB delivering such high performance and now, up to 17 DWPD endurance for data center use, it was a recipe for success from the start. The DC P3500, the runt of the litter, is meant for read-centric workloads with much lower random write performance and a 0.35 DWPD endurance rating. The DC P3600 on the other hand is in the middle of the trio, meant for more mixed workloads with great read and write performance, but a 3 DWPD endurance rating.

Intel SSD DC P3608 1.6TB Final

Now, however, enterprise demands are evolving. We are seeing the need for higher capacity and even higher performance storage solutions. With NVMe now coming from all corners and 3D NAND from companies other than Samsung on the horizon, Intel has decided to breathe new life into their DC P3600 series before the new year and they did so with a pretty big breath. They continued down the road with NVMe of course, only this time they did so while utilizing a dual NVMe controller design and kept a similar $/GB value as the original DC P3600. The result is something rather impressive, the new DC P3608! This SSD has been designed to meet the demands of high performance computing (HPC), database, and big data analytics use cases. With incredible speeds of up to 5GB/s read and 3GB/s write, the ability to deliver up to 850K/150K IOPS read/write, and capacities up to 4TB, this NVMe PCIe SSD is definitively a beast. Now, let’s get on with the review shall we?

SPECIFICATIONS, PRICING, AND AVAILABILITY

The Intel SSD DC P3608 is a HHHL AIC form factor NVMe PCIe 3.0 x8 SSD. It is available in capacities of 1.6TB, 3.2TB, and 4TB. Read speeds are rated for up to 5GB/s while writes are rated for up to 3GB/s. In terms of IOPS the DC P3608 is rated for up to a staggering 850K IOPS read and up to 150K IOPS write! Furthermore, sequential latency is rated for 20us R/W. Intel states that in 8K 70/30 R/W mixed workloads it should perform up to 160K IOPS.

Intel SSD DC P3608 1.6TB Front Intel SSD DC P3608 1.6TB Back

Also, in line with the original DC P3600, the DC P3608 provides for 3 DWPD, based on the JESD219 workload, for the course of its 5-year warranty. To get such high endurance figures it utilizes a Low Density Parity Check (LDPC) engine for error correction and also has XOR of NAND which provides for RAID like protection from block, page, or even total die failure.

Intel SSD DC P3608
Capacity1.6TB3.2TB4TB
Sequential Read (MB/s)5,0004,5005,000
Sequential Write (MB/s)2,0002,6003,000
4K Random Read (IOPS)850K850K850K
4K Random Write (IOPS)150K80K50K
Endurance (PBW)/(DWPD)8.76 / 317.52 / 321.9 / 3
Price/Price per GB$3,009 / $2.19$7,009 / $2.19$8,759 / $2.19

Enhanced RAS is further enabled by power loss protection, end-to-end data protection, an UBER rating of 10^17, and silent bit error rate of 10^25 as well as a 1M hours MTBF rating. It also features variable sector sizes of 512, 520, 528, 4096, 4104, 4160, 4224 bytes for an array of use case compatibility. On top of that it meets many compliance and certification standards including NVMe 1.0 and RoHS.

There is OS support for:

  • Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2, 2008 R2, Windows 7, 8, 8.1 (32/64-bit)
  • RHEL 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 7.0, 7.1
  • UEFI 2.3.1
  • SLES11SP4, SLES12
  • Citrix Xenserver 6.5, Cent OS 6.7
  • VMWare ESXI 5.5

Intel SSD DC P3608 1.6TB AngleThe Intel DC P3608 utilizes both 5V and 12V power and has three active power modes. Default allows for up to 40W draw, but if that is too high for power sensitive systems it can also be set to 35W or 25W. Idle consumption is rated for 11.5W.

The drive’s operating temperature range is 0-55C and supports temperature monitoring via in-band through NVMe SMART and out of band, which enables OS agnostic monitoring through the NVMe management interface specification. Thermal throttling will occur when approaching maximum operating temperature. To ensure that doesn’t happen, you will need to make sure that this drive gets at least 400LFM of airflow.

A CLOSER LOOK

With the heat sink and back plate removed we can get a better understanding of how this drive is designed. While the dual NVMe controllers alone are a sight to see, what we found to be more interesting is the PLX PEX8718 switch chip between them. It is what allows for the controllers to work together over a PCIe x8 link. Also, we can see that each controller has a pair of capacitors, used for power-loss protection.

Intel SSD DC P3608 1.6TB PCB Front Intel SSD DC P3608 1.6TB PCB BackIntel is utilizing what seems to be an updated version number of their 18-channel NVMe controller in the Intel DC P3700 because it’s part number varies just slightly. It is CH29AE41AB1, while the Intel DC P3700 is part number CH29AE41AB0. Intel states that it is the same controller as their other NVMe SSDs. Each of the dual NVMe controllers are responsible for half the NAND and present two 800GB volumes to the OS. By utilizing RSTe 4.3 we will be able to stripe the volumes together to get a single RAID 0 volume capable of maximum performance.

We asked Intel what the RAW NAND amount and layout was, but they are not releasing the information at this time. What we do know is that the DC P3608 utilizes 128Gbit 20nm HET MLC NAND and there are 18 packages in total. So, with that we can speculate a possible RAW NAND capacity and over provisioning. We believe that each chip could have up to 8 die in each for a total package capacity of 128GiB. Times that by 18 and we get a possible total RAW amount up to 2304GiB. This equates up to a possible 44% OP. While this seems high, given the following information, this possibility seems to be believable. The DRAM cache is comprised of what seems to be ten Micron DDR3-1600 chips, part number MT41K1G4RH-125:E. These are 4Gb chips, thus they total to 5GB in capacity for a 2:1 DRAM MB:GiB NAND ratio.

  • John Fak

    Random adjectives, desperate efforts to “humanize” the tech resulted in this huge review to contain next to no information at all.

    There is no easy way to say this: software RAID 0 on PCIe is simply retarded.

  • Now just make it affordable

    • Well, for enterprise it is very affordable for what you get. If you are concerned about consumers/enthusiasts I can see where you are coming from, but this is not meant for them. Next year, however, we may be seeing performance like this trickle down.

      • More than likely next year

      • dravo1

        As an enterprise product I can see it as a high-end workstation device but not a server device. The lack of RAIDability seems to limit its use to caching and high-speed scratch work area.

      • dravo1

        I’ve been informed that PCIe hardware RAID will be available on the Skylake CPU and the Xeon version when it comes out later. Now we’re talking………

  • Luke

    so this is a preview, not a review… where are the comparisons to P3700 and PM951?

    • I don’t have access to those drives. We reviewed the P3700 in another system. Because of that as well as a change in our testing methodology, we cant not graph them side by side. Looking at the P3700’s specific review you can gauge for yourself the approximate performance difference between the two.

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