New Marvell SSD controller ready for drive makers


— 10:57 AM on March 15, 2012

Marvell is one of the most popular controller makers in the SSD business. Its chips underpin drives from the likes of Intel, Crucial, and Corsair, and now there's a new one: the Marvell 88SS9187. This third-generation SSD controller supports revision 3.1 of the Serial ATA specification, which adds the ability to queue TRIM commands, purportedly improving performance.

The press release makes no mention of major architectural changes, so the chip likely retains the eight memory channels of its forebear. New this time around is a RAID-like feature similar to what's available in Intel's 320 Series and a just about all the SandForce-based SSDs on the market right now. This NAND-level redundancy scheme protects against data loss due to physical flash failures, although it surely consumes part of the drive's total storage capacity. Marvell does say the controller offers "best-in-class" random read and write performance with minimal overprovisioning, though.

Few performance claims are made about the new controller, but it's supposed to be capable of hitting ~500MB/s with sequential writes "even at dirty drive conditions," which we'd presume to be a used state. Marvell also boasts of "maximum sequential read performance for a SATA 6G device," suggesting that read rates bump up against the practical limits of the 6Gbps Serial ATA interface. The controller's performance should also be aided by its support for up to 1GB of DDR3 cache memory.

Although Marvell's drive partners have yet to announce products based on the 88SS9187, it probably won't be long before we see the controller in the wild. "A significant number of high-profile SSD manufacturers are set to deploy Marvell’s newest solution immediately," the press release says. Given Crucial's history with the Marvell controller—and the fact that the m4 SSD is about a year old now—I suspect it will be one of the first to offer something based on Marvell's new silicon.

   
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