For months SandForce has been telling me that the market is really going to get exciting once its next-generation controller is ready. I didn’t really believe it, simply because that’s what every company tells me. But in this case, at least based on what SandForce showed me, I probably should have.

What we have today are the official specs of the second-generation SandForce SSDs, the SF-2000 series. Drives will be sampling to enterprise customers in the coming weeks, but we probably won’t see shipping hardware until Q1 2011 if everything goes according to plan. And the specs are astounding:

We'll get to the how in a moment, but let's start at the basics. The overall architecture of the SF-2000 remains unchanged from what we have today with the SF-1200/SF-1500 controllers.

SandForce’s controller gets around the inherent problems with writing to NAND by simply writing less. Using real time compression and data deduplication algorithms, the SF controllers store a representation of your data and not the actual data itself. The reduced data stored on the drive is also encrypted and stored redundantly across the NAND to guarantee against dataloss from page level or block level failures. Both of these features are made possible by the fact that there’s simply less data to manage.

Another side effect of SandForce’s write-less policy is there’s no need for an external DRAM to handle large mapping tables. It reduces the total BOM cost of the SSD and allows SandForce to charge a premium for its controllers.

These are the basics and as I mentioned above, they haven’t changed. The new SF-2000 controller is faster but the fundamental algorithms remain the same. The three areas that have been improved however are the NAND interface, the on-chip memories, and the encryption engine.

NAND Support: Everything
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  • IceDread - Friday, October 8, 2010 - link

    Hehe oh yes.

    Looks like they beat intel's new controller as well, impressive!
  • Chloiber - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    I want to see some benches first before I believe ANYTHING.

    Same with SF1200. 275MB/s seq. writes on paper but in reality you are down to 100-140MB/s.
    Same for the IOPS.
    So yeah - unless I see some real benches...
  • bunnyfubbles - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    Agreed, however even if we get real world speed improvements proportional to the best case "on-paper" specs then we're looking at well over 400/MB read and 200MB/sec write real world speeds, which would be amazing for a single drive without resorting to a RAID controller.

    Intel really seems to be falling by the wayside when we compare these projected specs to what Intel is claiming with their G3 drives, which don't look too threatening to current Sandforce drives let alone this future beast. Hopefully this means some competitive pricing that finally starts to truly drive down SSD prices.
  • Chloiber - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    These specs are controller specs, not SSD specs - remember that.
    These specs are, what the controller can handle - Flash NOT included. So I would really be impressed if we see those specs on a MLC-based SSD for us consumers.
  • mino - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    Playing the "steady as she goes" song seems a very sensible path for Intel considering the Rock'n'Roll stuff others play.
    While Intel really wants to be major player LONG-TERM, they need not hurry.

    Alas they had their share of mess with buggy FW upgrades not so long ago. I do not see them being overly aggressive anytime soon.
  • Jaybus - Saturday, October 16, 2010 - link

    It isn't all about the controller. Intel will have, at least for a while, a huge lead in price/performance because they are going to 25 nm flash. They will get nearly double the capacity of current 34 nm flash for the same price. Others will also move to 25 nm flash, eventually, but meanwhile, Intel will have an advantage. Also, Intel's controllers have proven to be really good in the real world, and the new one is expected to be on par with SF-1200.

    I'm sure SF-2000 will be the better performer, but if I a 300 GB Intel drive is the same price as a 160 GB SF-2000 drive, then the SF-2000 drive better be twice as fast. It remains to be seen, but if the SF-2000 isn't WAY, WAY faster, then I'll take twice the capacity for the same price any day.
  • mailman65er - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    So yeah - unless I see some real benches...

    Totally agreed. And the more "application-specific" the benchmark is, the better. There is so much data 'manipulation' going on inside these modern SSD controllers that you almost need to run "your own" workloads to gauge actual performance.
  • Guspaz - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    Intel's revealed specs on the G3's performance were so underwhelming that it wouldn't take much to destroy them when it comes to performance. SandForce's previous generation parts are already faster than the G3 on paper in terms of sequential transfer rates. Even if they don't surpass that in practice, they're not that far off, so it wouldn't take much of a performance increase from SandForce's next-gen parts to surpass that.
  • rundll - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    Intel's 3G's SSDs overall performance should be way over SandForce's actual generations SSDs simply thanks to superior IOPS (read/write 50000/40000).

    Now, if Intel's 25nm production technology produces significantly cheaper SSDs, could Intel's SSD remain somewhat competitive choice in every day desktop use with its pretty decent speed. Especially if SandForce is putting a hefty pricetag to its new controller.

    We'll see.
  • jonup - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    Keep in mind that Intel sells a complete drives not just the controller. They can affort to make their profits not only from the controller but from the entire product. Other SSD manufacturer pay the profit margin of the controller manufacturer as well as the falsh manufacturer and therefore at the end of the day the cost of their final product is highe than Intel's. Intel can affort to sale their products at a significantly lower price than its compatitor and still maintain higher profitability than Sandforce (controller manufacturer) and OCZ, Corsair (drive manufacturers).
    I believe that Intel position its G3 to capture larger market instead of trying to acheave king of the hill performance. If the supply for SSD begins to match the demand prices of SSDs might start shooting down (as we have been promised for a while now) and Intel will be the big winner. As I've said before, Intel's performance is enough for the needs of the mainsteam PC user that is currently using fast HDDs due to the high cost of SSDs.

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