At Computex 2018, one of the products that we saw that I personally was most excited for was the Intel Optane 905P 380GB M.2 drive. This small NVMe device is an absolute game-changer for servers. Realistically, on the desktop, most will be better off using AIC or U.2 devices, cabling for the U.2 devices. Intel even has a kit to wire a U.2 drive to a M.2 slot which is great for desktops. You can see the difference between Intel Optane 900p 280GB SSDPE21D280GASM and SSDPE21D280GASX we highlighted when the drives first came out. In servers, the Intel Optane 380GB M.2 device is the highest endurance (~7PBW) option currently available in a M.2 22110 drive. It is also the fastest M.2 logging device for sync writes that occur in server applications. Today that wait is over and we have a retail purchased Intel Optane 905P 380GB NVMe SSD. If you run a ZFS storage array and need a ZIL/ SLOG device in an M.2 slot, this is it. If you have small databases in the few hundred MB to few GB range that need solid write performance, this is the drive you want.
Intel Optane 905P 380GB M.2 Drive Overview
The Intel Optane 905P M.2 drive is a relatively simple device. Here is what the top of the device looks like:
Here is the bottom of the Intel Optane 905P. You can notice the lack of DRAM cache onboard.
We wanted to take a second and mention, Intel Optane 800P drives come in capacities of up to 118GB. At 380GB, the Intel Optane 905P is the first really usable capacity M.2 Optane drive for primary storage applications. It is also a full PCIe 3.0 x4 enabled NVMe SSD, unlike some of the earlier PCIe x2 NVMe Optane drives put into the market. One of the key differences between the M.2 NVMe Optane drives we have seen thus far and the Intel Optane 905P 380GB M.2 is that the newer drive has backside 3D XPoint packages. That, along with over 9W of power consumption when active, raises the cooling needed for these devices.
Diverging from the desktop norm, the Intel Optane 905P 380GB is a M.2 22110 drive size which means it is 110mm long. That is important. Many motherboards, especially embedded mITX motherboards, only have M.2 2280 or 80mm long slots. Even many of the lower-cost PCIe slot to M.2 adapters only support 80mm drives. You need to be careful when spec’ing your server for the size drives it supports. You also need PCIe enabled M.2 slots as we have seen quite a few server and embedded motherboards with only SATA wired M.2 slots. Compatibility is a factor, however, most higher-end server hardware will support 110mm drives. The 110mm form factor is essentially what you need for a NAND M.2 drive to also have PLP circuitry. In the lab, we have had to use drives from SK.Hynix and Samsung. The PLP enabled M.2 drives we have tested, such as the one we use in our Supermicro X11SCA-F Review, are frankly slow.
2GB/s read/ write are often more than these drives can handle, and many top out at well under 1.5GB/s. The pictured SK.Hynix PE3110 runs around 1.7GB/s read and 750MB/s write and falls off considerably under heavy sustained workloads (it is generally fine on 90/10 or 70/30 workloads.) Other popular options we have in the lab include the Samsung PM953 M.2 22110 drive that is slightly faster at 850MB/s writes but only 1GB/s reads. A Seagate XP400HE30002 will hit just under 2GB/s read and 1.2GB/s writes.
The common theme has been 110mm M.2 drives with PLP capacitors tend to sacrifice performance considerably to fit into these cases. For large hyper-scale clients where they are designed to be used in JBOFs like the OCP Lightning that we also saw on our visit to Wiwynn recently, where PCIe switches are used and thus a single drive is not expected to fill a PCIe 3.0 x4 path’s bandwidth.
As you are going to see, the Intel Optane 905P 380GB M.2 NVMe SSD is able to read and write at over 2GB/s.
Next, we are going to talk about the Intel Optane 905P power loss protection, a question we get frequently. We then discuss specs and measured power consumption before moving onto performance and our final thoughts.