Today we have the launch of the Marvell Bravera SC5 that is set to usher in 14GB/s read performance NVMe SSDs in the 2022 PCIe Gen5 era. The new controller series is also part of a new storage controller brand, Bravera, and is being announced well ahead of the PCIe Gen5 ecosystem. We expect to start seeing more PCIe Gen5 storage announcements later this year, but as AMD Genoa, Intel Sapphire Rapids, and other platforms go into volume production in 2022, we will have a new bus speed which means more performance per device. Unlike with PCIe Gen4, we are going to see a lot of pre-announcements since Intel and AMD will be close on their transition timing.
First, My Apology to Marvell
This is an announcement I have to apologize to the Marvell team for. During the pre-briefing, I let Marvell know that its previous name for the controller that was used during the pre-briefing was one that another company was using. They said that nobody else had brought that up, yet for some reason over the last few days all of the slides, press releases, and such have changed. It seems like my comment may have caused the product name change which likely cost a few folks their weekends, so apologies to the Marvell folks for that.
Normally I do not do this type of article for STH anymore, but since I feel like I may have directly caused a big change at the last minute, I felt I needed to offer this apology. With that said, let us get into the announcement.
Marvell has been active in the storage space for many years with SSD controllers along with RAID controllers and HBAs. Marvell is finally taking the step of branding its storage line “Bravera” which shortens “brave new era.”
I have to say, this beats the 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors just in its brevity which is nice.
Marvell Bravera SC5 Controllers
At the heart of the new line are the two new SC5 controllers. The new SC5 family includes the MV-SS1331 and MV-SS1333 controllers supporting 8 and 16 NAND channels, respectively. Hopefully, in future iterations, we get MV-BC51331 or something like that to tie to the model name/ brand.
Behind the launch are a number of partners including AMD and Intel for platforms. These devices will also need support with retimers, switches, and other architectural elements. On the NAND side, currently, Kioxia, SK hynix, and YMTC are being qualified for NAND. Part of Marvell’s value proposition is having a single controller that can work with many NAND vendors since so much of a SSD’s cost is in the NAND. This allows large cloud providers like Facebook and Microsoft (OCP members) to qualify the controller and then utilize many NAND providers.
The Marvell Bravera SC5 is designed for both capacity-optimized as well as IOPS optimized with different feature sets for each fo these workloads.
In terms of performance, Marvell is claiming read speeds of 14GB/s and over 2M IOPS per drive. For some sense of performance, back when we had 24x 2.5″ SATA SSDs in a server, getting 1M IOPS from that configuration was amazing. Now we are getting more than that in a single device and with better latency profiles.
We will note that while performance has gone up by 2x in many cases, we only get 40% better power efficiency. Part of that is the natural progress to higher speed PCIe Gen5. PCIe Gen5 will mean we need higher power SerDes to enable higher data rates.
Aside from the raw performance, Marvell has what it calls an Elastic SLA Enforcer. One can have a single drive support SEF, ZNS, OCP SSD specs, and so forth while the Elastic SLA Enforcer manages QoS and queues on the device.
Something that was very interesting was that Marvell is discussing flexibility, yet at the same time, there is something new on this slide. The launch partner slide above has Kioxia, SK hynix, and YMTC as NAND vendors. This slide adds Micron, Samsung, and Western Digital.
We have discussed E1.S replacing M.2 in the cloud. I spoke at the Open Compute Project Data Center NVMe SSD and EDSFF event a few weeks ago. We also have shown things like hands-on with the 1U half-petabyte Supermicro EDSFF server and covered E1.S in the BigTwin E1.S EDSFF edition launch as well as the Kioxia XD6 EDSFF launch. Both Microsoft and Facebook are pushing the standard to get a better data center form factor. As a result, Marvell’s controller is designed to allow enough PCB space to fill 16 channels in the small E1.S form factor. That leads to better performance.
In terms of the drive itself, we mentioned many of these points before, but the idea is that one high-performance controller can allow for more performance while handling different usage models.
Marvell also has data security and protection built-in which is required of many SSDs these days.
Here is the summary of the new controller that includes a few features such as the fact that one can handle dual-port PCIe Gen5 with these drives.
Here is the block diagram enlarged.
We can see features like the onboard Arm cores as Arm has taken over most peripherals in servers.
Marvell’s announcement is very interesting. The company already has relationships with the top-tier NAND providers, drive manufacturers, and customers, so it feels like this announcement is very early. At the same time, it is good to see the company getting its announcement out ahead of drive availability.
2022 will be fascinating in servers. We are working to prepare our readers for that. While this is not a CXL device, you can check out our recent Compute Express Link or CXL What it is and Examples piece as the first part of our 2022 technologies series.