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Intel Smart Response Technology: SSD Caching on Z68 Tested

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

The Larson Creek SSD 311 Solid State Drive

In parallel with the Z68 Series Chipset launch, Intel has released the 'Larsen Creek' series of SSD's. The finalized name is the SSD 311 Series.

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This is a very small capacity SSD, aimed at being as good as it can be when acting as a pure HDD cache. To accomplish this, a drive needs the best possible controller and flash memory, as random access caching beats up such a cache with very small random writes. Since only the most frequently read files (or parts of files) are cached, there's no real chance for contiguous files to be stored - it will all be purely random writes, which over time will do a number on the fragmentation level of an SSD.

Intel attacked this caching chore by equipping the SSD 311 with enterprise-grade 34nm SLC flash memory. That's right folks, SLC is back. Sure this type of flash memory is very fast, and also very expensive. Luckily the 311 has only 20GB of it, so costs can be kept relatively low.

Specifications

Sustained Bandwidth Performance
— Sequential Read: Up to 200 MB/s
— Sequential Write: Up to 105 MB/s
 
Read and Write IOPS
(Iometer* Queue Depth 32)
— Random 4 KB1 Reads: Up to 37,000 IOPS
— Random 4 KB Writes:Up to 3,300 IOPS
 
Latency
— Read: 65 μs (TYP)
— Write: 75 μs (TYP)

...and now let's get a look at the guts:

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The 311 is equipped with only 5 flash chips, meaning the layout is similar to that of the X25-V 40GB SSD. It also means that the 2.5" unit can be easily restructured into an mSATA unit, for use in mobile platforms equipped with newer 6-series chipsets (Z68, HM67, QM67).

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Enough of the guts. Let's see how this puppy performs!

May 11, 2011 | 06:28 AM - Posted by drexeltim (not verified)

Great Article.

Allyn, is there any reason this wouldn't work using one of OCZ's PCIE Revo Drives?

May 11, 2011 | 08:39 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It has to be a SATA SSD connected to the Z68.

May 11, 2011 | 07:33 AM - Posted by Subsailor

Awesome job Allyn, thank you.

May 12, 2011 | 01:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Allyn, can a RAID 1+0 configuration (4HDD) be used together with the SSD Caching ? OR 2HDD in RAID 1 with th SSD Caching?

May 14, 2011 | 08:21 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Yes. From the Intel docs:
Intel® Smart Response Technology only support 1 HDD + 1 SSD or 1 RAID Partition + 1 SSD combination.

I'd put the RAID 10 on the 4 SATA 3Gb/sec ports, for consistency.

May 19, 2011 | 06:02 AM - Posted by Bernie (not verified)

Hi Allyn,
I have just installed my OCZ 64GB SSD and am using a Hitachi 1TB HD. All is working well, but I would like to know if other factors (normally used on SSDs alone) need to be addressed here too?

Some of these factors are: Sector Alignment, turning off Defrag, No Pagefile, etc.

Thanks,
Bernie

July 25, 2011 | 11:39 PM - Posted by lynnandmike (not verified)

Allyn,
I noticed the Intel 310 40 Gig SSD on the HW leader-board. It looks like this drive is more for Notebooks vs, desktops where size and low power isn't as critical. Any idea why we should select this vs. something designed more for Desktops? I want to use this drive on a Z68 MB as a SMART scratch drive. What do you recommend for around $100?

Looking at getting most or all of items on High-end HW Leader Board.
Thanks,
Mike

October 10, 2011 | 08:28 PM - Posted by Undermoose (not verified)

Sandy Bridge motherboards have UEFI support (not sure if all of them have it).

What I did was create a single volume 4 x 2tb raid 10 array, C & D partitions, installed Windows 7 with EFI boot on the GPT disk.

Walla Sandy Bridge Raid 10 boot with 60gb SSD caching both partitions on the single volume.

January 7, 2012 | 02:59 AM - Posted by Sean (not verified)

Seems to be an excellent performance boost with older slower drives, but suppose you use a 60GB SSD cache, a 120GB SSD drive for apps, and a larger SATA 3 for data?

Would this be a waste of hardware?

What if the smaller drive used as a cache read/writes at about 250 Mbps and the larger SSD for apps writes at around 500?

Would one be better off leaving the cache out of the mix?

Thanks in advance!

March 18, 2013 | 10:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Quick questions:

1) what is faster, 2x HDD 7200Rpm in RAID or 1 HDD + small SSD for caching?

2) would a combination of 2x HDD 7200RPM in RAID + small SSD caching both be as fast as 2x SSD in RAID?

June 5, 2013 | 04:20 AM - Posted by antimo (not verified)

sorry, how can io access the option rom menu? generally it's "ctrl+i" but not on my laptop. thanks.

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