The Enterpise TLC Storage Era Begins: Rounding Up 13 SSDs With Samsung, Intel, and Memblaze

2018 was a busy year for consumer SSDs. With all the NAND flash manufacturers now shipping high-quality 3D NAND in volume, we’ve seen more competition than ever, and huge price drops. NVMe is starting to go mainstream and Samsung is no longer sitting atop that market segment unchallenged. But not all of the interesting SSD advancements have been in the consumer realm. We’ve reported on new datacenter SSD form factors, the introduction of QLC NAND and enterprise SSDs with staggering capacities, but we haven’t been publishing much in the way of traditional product reviews for enterprise/datacenter SSDs.

Tackling the Enterprise SSD Market
Today we’re looking at several recent models that cover the wide range of enterprise SSDs, from entry-level SATA drives based on the same hardware as mainstream consumer SSDs, up to giants that deliver 1M IOPS over a PCIe x8 connection while pulling more than 20W.

For the few niches that still require the highest endurance and lowest latency that money can buy, alternative memories like Intel 3D XPoint and Samsung Z-NAND are filling the gap left by the disappearance of traditional MLC and SLC NAND flash. 16gb memory card price samsung SAS SSDs still exist, but their relevance is waning now that NVMe SSDs have matured to the point of offering not just higher performance, but all the same reliability and management features that are standard in the SAS ecosystem.

In the consumer SSD market, there’s not a big price between the cheapest NVMe SSDs and the fastest (NAND-based) NVMe SSDs, so it’s difficult to divide the consumer NVMe market into multiple product segments that each contain reasonable products. The enterprise SSD market doesn’t have this problem. There’s a clear distinction between the lower-power NVMe drives that usually share a controller platform with a consumer product, and the high-end drives that use enterprise-only 16 to 32-channel controllers.

Probing Samsung, Intel, and Memblaze
The table below lists the drives that are the subject of this review. Three of the four new models Samsung announced during Q3 2018 are included: two SATA and one NVME, and a fourth (983 ZET Z-SSD) will be reviewed later. The Intel DC P4510 mid-range NVMe SSD and Optane DC P4800X have already been reviewed on AnandTech, but are being revisited now that we have more relevant drives to compare against. The Memblaze PBlaze5 is the most powerful flash-based SSD we have tested, and is a good representative of the top-tier enterprise SSDs that don’t get sampled for review very often.

Not shown in the table but included in the review is the older Samsung PM863 SATA drive, which helps illustrate how things have progressed since the days when Samsung had a monopoly on 3D NAND. We do have several other enterprise SSDs on hand, but they’re all either in service as boot drives for various testbeds, or are old planar NAND drives, so they’re not included in this review.

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