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Leaked Intel roadmap reveals PCIe flash kit

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Tom's Hardware has reported a leaked Intel storage roadmap that confirms a PCIe flash product is coming, as well as confirming updates across Chipzilla's three flash product families.

According to the slide:

  • The 700-series high-end products have a Ramsdale PRQ coming by the end of the year. It is a 200GB or 400GB PCIe card using SLC flash. The possibility of Intel bringing out its own PCIe card was mooted earlier this year, with a suggested 34nm process and up to 180,000 random read and 56,000 random write IOPS with 4KB data blocks, and 2.2GB/s sequential reads and 1.8GB/sec sequential writes.
  • In the second quarter of next year we'll see a Ramsdale MLC (multi-level cell) PCIe flash drive. There are no capacity details on the slide but, if it's 2-bit MLC, we can guess at 400GB and 800GB capacities as obvious choices.
  • A Taylorville PRO drive is planned for the third quarter of next year. This is a 2.5-inch, 6Gbit/s SATA interface drive with 800, 400 and 200GB capacities. We don't know if it's an SLC or MLC drive.
  • In the 500-series mid-range area Intel has a Cherryville PRQ coming by the end of the year. This is an MLC, 2.5-inch, 6Gbit/s SATA drive with capacity levels of 60, 120, 180, 240 and 480GB.
  • In the second quarter of 2012 Intel is planning a King Crest PRQ, another 2.5-inch, 6Gbit/s SATA drive with unknown capacity points.
  • At the 300-series low-end consumer area we'll see a Hawley Creek PRQ by the end of his year which comes in both SLC and MLC form with a 3Gbit/s mSATA interface. There will be a 24GB and 20GB SLC versions, and 40, 80 and 128GB MLC versions.
  • In the third quarter of 2012 Intel is planning a Lincoln Crest PRQ, a 2.5-inch, MLC, value 6Gbit/s SATA drive with as yet unrevealed capacity points.

Currently Intel has a Lyndonville 2.5-inch, 3Gbit/s SATA 700-series drive and this high-end area is going to see expansion that commits Intel to competing with PCIe flash card leader Fusion-io as well as its own partner in the IMFT flash foundry business, Micron, plus PCZ and a few other PCIe flash card hopefuls. Fusion recently introduced its second-generation PCIe cards and these look to be much faster than the previously reported random IOPS speeds for Intel's PCIe cards. The ioDrive 2 Duo, with a 1.2TB capacity using 2Xnm process SLC NAND, features 503,000/64,000 random read/write IOPS with 4KB blocks and a 3GB/s bandwidth.

Micron's P320H SLC PCIe card does 750,000/341,000 random read/write IOPS with a 3/2GB/s bandwidth for sequential read/writes. It looks as if Intel will have to up its game from the reported speeds of its PCIe cards if it wants to compete with Fusion-io and partner Micron. But that might not be in its game plan with price, performance and reliability being emphasised over sheer speed.

The Intel PCIe cards appear to be faster than STEC's base Kronos cards (110,000 random read IOPS, 1GB/sec) and slower than its Bi-Turbo (440,00 random read IOPS, 4GB/sec), and also slower than OCZ's Z-Drive R4 (410,000 random IOPS, 2.8GB/sec). Intel PCIe product would also lag behind TMS' RamSan-70 on random IOPS numbers.

OCZ has announced a Deneva 2 mSATA interface product, with capacities of up to 128GB, saying it "offers 6Gbit/s throughput rates with up to 80,000 random 4k write IOPS and 550MB/s of bandwidth". It has a second mSATA drive, the Intrepid, offering an overload of buzzword features: "Indilinx Arowana Flash Transition Layer with Hyper-Queuing, resulting in increased sequential write speeds and IOPS." Indilinx is the flash controller company OCZ bought earlier this year. These look to be Intel 300-series competition.

PCIe server flash is going to be one of the most hotly contested flash form factors next year and Intel has its work cut out if it wants to be a performance king, but it may go for volume victory, ceding the performance market to partner Micron, and hoping that its vertical integration from flash foundry to PCIe flash card will give it a winning edge. ®

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