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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  • Casper42 - Friday, October 8, 2010 - link

    You know what else comes out in Early 2011?

    Sandy Bridge and the Intel 60 series chipsets.
    Intel has already announced they will have 2 SATA 6Gbps ports on those chipsets.

    Core i7 2620M with 8GB of DDR3 and a SATA6G SSD? Yes Please!
    Stick a 750GB Green SATA Drive where the Optical drive usually goes and then just use a $40 USB DVD Drive when you really need it (rarely now that DVDs include the "digital copy" and software companies are embracing online delivery.
    And of course throw in an nVidia Optimus 4xx as well.
  • Hector2 - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    So we have a battle of Specs ? Sure makes the Marketer's jobs easier
  • jwilliams4200 - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    In a battle of specs, I am going to trust Intel a lot, and Sandforce not at all.

    The most careful SSD reviews these days are coming from They use AS-SSD to test sequential write speed for incompressible data, and also they fill the drive up with data, delete it, run TRIM, and then test the drive again.

    Check out the lighter-colored bars on the sequential write speeds. Those are the speeds after writing a lot to the drives and then TRIM. Note that the Intel X25-M 160GB gets 99 MB/s sequential write even after being heavily used. It is spec'ed at 100 MB/s sequential write. Just as Intel specified, so their SSD performs.

    Next, look at the Sandforce drives lighter-bar sequential write, for example, the OCZ Vertex 2E 120GB. This is a drive that is spec'ed at 275 MB/s sequential write. But when someone actually measures the speed with realistic data, after the drive has been used, it only manages a pathetic 83 MB/s sequential write. That is only 30.2% of the spec'ed value, and is even lower than Intel's 99 MB/s !

    Or look at the Revodrive, which is two SF drives in parallel with a RAID controller. It is spec'ed at 490 MB/s sequential write, which looks quite similar to what Sandforce is claiming for the SF2000 series. But what is the actual, real world sequential write for the Revodrive? measured it, and it is a pathetic 139 MB/s. A single Crucial C300 256GB drive achieves 190 MB/s !

    Bottom line is that none of Sandforce's specifications can be believed.
  • Chloiber - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    Just wanted to tell you, that the german site came to the same conclusion. They even had a talk with OCZ about it and they admitted it: the sandforce drives lose performance after being heavily used which cannot be restored with TRIM, only with a secure erase.
    Sequential write on random data dropped from 140MB/s (fresh) to 90MB/s (used) on a Vertex 2 120GB.
    Real world usage was still pretty good though.
  • Zan Lynx - Friday, October 8, 2010 - link

    Agreed about real world usage.

    You have to benchmark the drives with an application you're actually using. If you only write encrypted data that looks random, then do not buy a Sandforce.

    On the other hand, if you use real programs the data will not be random and the Sandforce will perform well.
  • DoktorSleepless - Friday, October 8, 2010 - link

    They use incompressable data for what you linked. That's not realistic. That's worst case scenario, which is unlikely to happen. I believe anand did a set of similar tests and got a low speed too. SF's speed relies heavily on compressing data.
  • hackztor - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    they never mentioned price. All is cool for 1gb in 2 seconds, but if the price is 1000, I think many consumers will have a hard time justifying this.
  • Phynaz - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    It's not a consumer device.
  • Chloiber - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    "Enterprise", "Industrial" - everything but conusmer.
  • slickr - Thursday, October 7, 2010 - link

    I suspect that SandForce worker force is out of this world. I think the slides that we just witnessed today confirm that indeed Aliens have come to this planet and are working for SandDorce. How else would you explain such amazing performance on very new technology in so short time?

    I call all UFO hunters and Aliens investigators to go to SandForce HQ and investigate, ladies and gentlemen this way be the most historic day in the history of planet earth by uncovering aliens working for a human firm.

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