Samsung Z-SSDs draw a bead on Intel’s Optane drives

Intel's Optane SSDs and the 3D Xpoint memory they're based on offer impressive latency and quality-of-service consistency. Samsung is now ready to fire back with its own high-end SSDs based on a technology that it calls Z-NAND. The new drives are called Z-SSDs, and judging from what Samsung says, they're quite credible competitors for Intel and Micron's technology.

The Z-SSDs that Samsung is announcing today are members of the SZ985 series, and they'll come in 800 GB and 240 GB capacities. Samsung only lists specifications for the 800 GB model, so keep that in mind as you read on. The drives use Z-NAND in combination with 1.5 GB of LPDDR4 memory and "a high performance controller" that Samsung offers no other details about. The company does say that Z-NAND offers "10 times higher cell read performance than 3-bit V-NAND."

Intel's Optane SSD DC P4800X offers impressive performance, especially with regards to latency and especially consistent latencies under heavy load. Intel claims that the P4800X can respond to I/O requests in under 10 microseconds. Samsung says its new drive comes close to hitting that mark with as little as 12 μs latency on reads and 16 μs on writes. The SZ985 has some advantages, too: Samsung puts it down for 3.2 GB/s on both sequential reads and writes, figures superior to the 2.5 GB/s for reads and 2.2 GB/s writes of Intel's DC P4800X. The Samsung drive also will supposedly do up to 750K IOPS in random reads. Samsung doesn't talk about the queue depths behind those numbers, however, and low queue depths are another place where Optane drives shine. NAND SSDs typically need much higher QDs to exhibit maximum performance, but we're not certain how that logic applies to Z-NAND yet.

The Z-SSDs' random write performance is a bit less impressive at 170K IOPS, falling well short of the nearly-symmetrical 500K IOPS figure of Intel's product. The durability of Samsung's product is through the ceiling, though. The company claims its new drives will withstand 30 full writes per day for five years—a total of about 42 petabytes of writes, on par with the 41-PBW rating of the DC P4800X.

Samsung actually announced Z-NAND and the Z-SSDs back in 2016, and was calling the drives "launched" in August of last year. That timeline obviously slipped, and the company isn't shipping all of the capacities it originally promised. Still, better late than never. You can read the product brief for the SZ985s here. If you're eager to see one in person, Samsung will be showing the Z-SSDs at ISSCC 2018 in San Francisco starting February 11.

Comments closed
    • Shobai
    • 2 years ago

    Final paragraph:

    [quote<]capcities[/quote<]

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    [quote<]The company claims its new drives will withstand 30 full writes per day for five years—a total of about 42 petabytes of writes. That makes the 8.76 PB endurance rating of the SSD 900p look downright pedestrian in comparison.[/quote<] The write endurance is certainly impressive compared to a consumer SSD or Optane drive, but the enterprise 750GB Optane drives are also rated for 30 full-writes per day over 5 years, which comes out to 41 PB. [url<]https://www.anandtech.com/show/11930/intel-optane-ssd-dc-p4800x-750gb-handson-review[/url<] So the endurance of an 800GB Z-SSD is pretty much on par with a 750GB enterprise Optane drive, and Samsung's own literature makes it clear that these drives are enterprise and not consumer products.

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 2 years ago

      I should have caught that this AM, sorry for the apples-to-oranges comparison. I’ve adjusted the post accordingly.

        • chuckula
        • 2 years ago

        No problem. Given that most people here are concerned with consumer-level hardware it’s still a valid statement even if some extra context would be helpful.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    This smells of “up to [i<]x[/i<]" specs all over, with max queue depth and best-case scenarios being used to eke the most out of the drive. Don't get me wrong, 170K IOPS is great, but lack of information about how those speeds were attained is worrying, if it was Optane-beating Samsung would be shouting it loudly and proudly. Optane performs better the more you abuse it, In a tortured state down at worst-case-scenario of low-queue, small random mixed loads. This Z-NAND's massive cache certainly gives me the impression that the cache is a crutch designed to hide the inferiority of the underlying NAND. Sure, it'll lightning-quick whilst writes 1.5GB of DDR4 are used up, but then they're just touting the performance of LPDDR4, rather than their new NAND. I don't know the first thing about Z-NAND, but competition is good so I'll wait for a head-to-head review of Optane vs Z-NAND and remain cynically-optimistic that I'm wrong.

      • Chaserx
      • 2 years ago

      I just purchased of the INTEL Optane 900P. Benchmarks wise it has no rivals. But my experience, even with its claimed low queue depths, is minuscule compared to a mainstream NVE flash SSD. The price difference most certainly does not justify it. Keep in mind I am a high-end gamer that does work on the side. So I’m probably not the best candidate for this test in the first place. But INTEL has marketed this SSD as a “gamer” friendly drive. Save your money. Even bragging rights aren’t worth the cost of admission.

        • Chrispy_
        • 2 years ago

        I bought an optane stick at work, just to play with.

        It’s pointless for client workloads because our consumer OS and applications are the bottleneck, in the way they’re written. The problem is 100% not the storage, to the point that a cheap SATA SSD gets you 90% of the way there and the entire SSD market is just fighting over those last few percentage points of difference. Remember the TR scatter plots before mechanical drives were taken out of the equation? Yeah. Putting the baseline back at a WD Blue mechanical drive will suddenly make the differences between cheap SSDs and fancy Optane insignificant.

        3DXpoint is database/transaction server material, and not much else, though I’ll admit that the 32GB Optane stick is a great thing to stick in a budget laptop’s empty M.2 slot – largely because it’s the cheapest storage option large enough for a Windows install, not because of its performance.

          • UberGerbil
          • 2 years ago

          [quote<]Remember the TR scatter plots before mechanical drives were taken out of the equation? Yeah. Putting the baseline back at a WD Blue mechanical drive will suddenly make the differences between cheap SSDs and fancy Optane insignificant. [/quote<]Yeah, I think about that from time to time. It really did put things in perspective back then, and as you say really is worth remembering. I like the idea of the Optane stick for a Windows install, though the users of budget laptops are often the least capable of understanding a two-drive system (W10 with its libraries does a pretty good job of hiding that complexity, thankfully). It's been a while since I've done a minimal clean W10 install -- how much space do you have left over on a 32GB stick? Between OS updates (and system restore points), apps that still insist on throwing code on the boot drive, and enough room for a comfortable page file, I'm not sure I'd feel safe with something that small.

            • Chrispy_
            • 2 years ago

            Not a lot of space. 10-15GB free.

            In saying that, the vast bulk of W10 tablets and netbooks, as well as all Chromebooks are limited to 32GB of storage, so it’s completely plausible to run a 32GB OS drive.

            Intel really missed a trick by restricting their Optane cache system to 200-series chipsets. It would be of most use as a $45 upgrade to a $500 laptop that had only a mechanical drive – most of those lack the chipset support needed for Optane’s SRT-like acceleration mode.

          • Bauxite
          • 2 years ago

          The SC code makes a good dent in the price with minimal extra effort. I helped acquire a nice bunch of 280GB U2 versions this way. Theres a reason that is the largest non-enterprise U2 version lol.

          Everyone knows DBs love them but these things are also god’s gift to ZFS arrays.

            • BurntMyBacon
            • 2 years ago

            [quote=”Bauxite”<]The SC code makes a good dent in the price with minimal extra effort.[/quote<] SC code? Drawing a blank. Perhaps I need coffee. Please elaborate. [quote="Bauxite"<]Everyone knows DBs love them but these things are also god's gift to ZFS arrays.[/quote<] Kinda what I was thinking. Good write endurance. Low latency. Seems like a fine SLOG drive to me. Could also work for L2ARC storage, but perhaps with less gain vs a good SSD. The supperior low queue depth performance of Optain won't help for a heavily utilized system, but lightly loaded systems would benefit.

            • chuckula
            • 2 years ago

            ZFS SLOG performance has been explored here: [url<]https://www.servethehome.com/exploring-best-zfs-zil-slog-ssd-intel-optane-nand/[/url<]

            • BurntMyBacon
            • 2 years ago

            Good article. Confirms my suspicion that Optane would make a fine SLOG device. A little better than I expected actually.

            Nothing on the L2ARC side here, but I suspect (as stated earlier) that the benefits vs a good SSD would be less impressive under heavy loading. Still wonder about the light loading scenario, though. Keep in mind that an L2ARC device isn’t as write heavy and doesn’t have the same power loss or endurance requirements that a SLOG has either.

            Still don’t know what that SC code was supposed to be.

    • christos_thski
    • 2 years ago

    I’d ask for z-nand cache drives competitive with intel’s “skylake+above and bootdrive caching only” straightjacket… but then I remembered how all around Shit samsung is with anything on the firmware/software side.

    • chuckula
    • 2 years ago

    One interesting point that I can tell just from the promo photos: Samsung is definitely relying on a large amount of plain ol’ RAM [edit: 1.5GB for an 800GB drive] to get the performance. You can tell by the big honking capacitors that are shown in that photo for power loss protection.

    While it’s certainly possible for Optane to use a RAM cache, as of right now no Optane product on the market uses any RAM cache whatsoever. Hence the power loss protection without requiring big capacitors.

      • Klimax
      • 2 years ago

      I wonder if those capacitors are sufficient for flushing of full 1,5GB of data…

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