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Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 24 February 2011

SandForce SF-2000 Series SSD Processor Overview

Less than one year ago SandForce gained control of the consumer solid state drive market with their SandForce SF-1200 SSD Processor. This technology replaced the previous generation of Barefoot SSDs designed around South Korean-based Indilinx, Inc. While popular themselves, Indilinx Barefoot MLC SSDs lacked proper NAND management and performance dramatically degraded over time. SandForce DuraClass technology paired to TRIM support in Windows 7 has helped with this concern, but it was their RAISE technology that provides RAID-like protection for single SSD computer systems paired to AES-128 automatic data encryption that put them on top. Now preparing to ship their second generation of SSD processors, Benchmark Reviews takes a look at the differences.

SandForce introduces their new second generation solid state drives to both consumer and enterprise segments, with seven different models to choose from. On the consumer (retail) side you've got models using the older SATA 3Gb/s interface as well as the latest SATA 6Gb/s interface, while all enterprise drives utilize the 3rd-generation SATA 6Gb/s interface. More than any other factor, it's the Flash Channels/Byte Lanes configuration that these separate models. SandForce's SF-2000 series of SSDs continue to feature up to 8 data channels organized into 16 Byte lanes; similar to the previous generation of SF-1222/SF-1565 series SSD controllers, but now some models are scaled down for usage scenarios not requiring massive IO activity.

SandForce second-generation SF-2200 and SF-2100 SSD processors aren't just SATA 6Gb/s on paper - they actually require the bandwidth afforded to the host interface to deliver sustained sequential read/write performance up to 500 MB/s. SandForce DuraClass Technology is still a staple part of their feature set, but now include Trusted Computing Group (TCG) Opal-compliant Self Encrypting Drives (SEDs) support with AES-256/128 and double encryption. SF-2200 and SF-2100 SSDs also utilize high-speed ONFi2 and Toggle flash interfaces in single-level (SLC) and multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash families from all major suppliers. The last major difference is the reduced minimum over-provisioning requirement, which continues to use an integrated buffer but returns more capacity for storage assignment.

Key Changes in SF-2200/SF-2100 Client Products

Performance
6Gb/s SATA III (SF-2200 only)
500 MB/s Sequential Read and Write (SF-2200 only)
60K IOPS Random Read (4K transfers)
60K (burst)/20K (sustained) IOPS Random Write (4K transfers)

Security
TCG OPAL with AES-256/128 and double encryption

Continued multi-vendor flash memory support
3xnm & 2xnm SLC, MLC
Asynch/Toggle/ONFi2 interfaces
Up to 166MT
Binary user capacity points (RAISE off mode)

Reliability
Enhanced ECC with BCH and 55 bits/512 byte sector

Power Management
Power/Performance Balancing

The SF-2200 and SF-2100 Client SSD Processors address the needs of cost-sensitive client storage markets with many inherent enterprise-class features. These devices feature the highly sought-after SandForce DuraClass Technology including RAISE and patented and patent-pending DuraWrite features to deliver the ultimate in performance, endurance, reliability, and power management. Additionally, SF-2200 and SF-2100 Client SSD Processors feature:

  • Support for advanced 30nm- and 20nm-class NAND flash from all leading flash vendors with Asynch/ONFi1/ONFi2/Toggle interfaces with data transfer rates up to 166 Mega Transfers per second
  • Trusted Computing Group (TCG) OPAL security with 256-bit AES encryption and automatic, line-rate double encryption with a drive-level password
  • Advanced ECC engine correcting up to 55 bits per 512-byte sector to assure high data integrity and support for future generations of flash memory
  • Power and performance optimization and tuning features to maximize mobile battery life
  • Single-chip "DRAM-less" solution enabling highly compact and flexible designs

SandForce SSD Product Stack

SandForce SSD Processor:

SF-1222

SF-2141

SF-2181

SF-2281

SF-2282

SF-2382

SF-1565

SF-2582

SF-2682

Target Market

Client

Client

Client

Client

Client

Industrial

Enterprise

Enterprise

Enterprise

Family

SF-1000

SF-2000

SF-2000

SF-2000

SF-2000

SF-2000

SF-1000

SF-2000

SF-2000

SATA Interface

3Gb

3Gb

3Gb

6Gb

6Gb

6Gb

3Gb

6Gb

6Gb

MB/s* (Seq Read/Write)

250/250

250/250

250/250

500/500

500/500

500/500

250/250

500/500

500/500

IOPS* (Sustained 4K Reads)

30K

60K

60K

60K

60K

60K

30K

60K

60K

IOPS* (Burst/Sust 4K Writes)

10K

60K/10K

60K/20K

60K/20K

60K/20K

60K/20K

30K

60K/60K

60K/60K

SMART Attributes

Basic

Basic

Basic

Basic

Basic

Extended

Extended

Extended

Extended

Flash Channels/Byte Lanes

8ch/16bl

4ch/4bl

8ch/8bl

8ch/8bl

8ch/16bl

8ch/16bl

8ch/16bl

8ch/16bl

8ch/16bl

Flash Interface**

A

A / S

A / S

A / S

A / S

A / S

A

A / S

A / S

Package Type

BGA-361

BGA-256

BGA-256

BGA-256

BGA-400

BGA-400

BGA-361

BGA-400

BGA-400

Package Size (mm)

13x13

14x14

14x14

14x14

14x14

14x14

13x13

14x14

14x14

Package Pitch (mm)

0.65

0.80

0.80

0.80

0.65

0.65

0.65

0.65

0.65

Max Capacity GB

512

64

256/512***

256/512***

512

512

512

512

512

MLC/hMLC

512

64

256/512***

256/512***

512

512

512

512

512

eMLC

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

512

512

512

512

SLC

128

64

128

128

128

512

512

512

512

ECC (max bits/512B sector)

24 (RS)

55 (BCH)

55 (BCH)

55 (BCH)

55 (BCH)

55 (BCH)

24 (RS)

55 (BCH)

55 (BCH)

AES Encryption (bits)

128

256 & 128

256 & 128

256 & 128

256 & 128

256 & 128

128

256 & 128

256 & 128

Military Erase

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

iTemp Option

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

non-512 Byte Sectors

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Power Fail Circuit Support

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Minimum Over Provisioning

7%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

28%

28%

28%

Inspecting the SandForce product stack charted above, there are a few stand-out models and at least one model that doesn't quite make sense. The SandForce SF-2141 will be the 'entry-level' consumer SSD processor, utilizing a SATA-3G interface and offering only 4 channels with one byte lane apiece for standard operational loads. SF-2181 doubles the channels for intense-IO systems, but still uses a single byte lane per channel for a total of eight. The SandForce SF-2281 will likely become the sought-after SSD controller by hardware enthusiasts, since it delivers all eight channels and foregoes the enterprise byte lane scheme in favor of a consumer-orientated 1:1 ratio. High-IO consumer systems will be well suited for the flagship consumer SSD processor: SF-2282. The SandForce SD-2282 is virtually an eight-channel/sixteen lane enterprise drive with MLC NAND, and won't be produced in the same quantities as other controllers.

Taking the specification into consideration, an educated hardware enthusiast might look at the SF-2181 and SF-2281 models and wonder what makes them different. It's a fair question, because apart from the SATA-3G/6G interface the SF-2181 and SF-2281 are actually the same drive. Both feature 500 MB/s peak read and write speeds, and both offer 60K burst IOPS. The real difference will likely be determined in price, presumably, since consumers have a tendency to pay for a higher classification of product even if it yields not measurable increase in performance.

Moving towards the enterprise segment, all drives feature an 60K IO-optimized eight channel/sixteen byte lane design with extended SMART attributes. The SandForce SF-2382 is designated for industrial/military application and is not planned to be available on the retail market. SD-2382 will feature a SATA-6G interface, and is very similar to the SF-2282, but also includes support for military erase and eMLC with no over-provisioning. The SandForce SF-2582 is a 28% over-provisioned MLC SSD without 512-byte sectors, while the SF-2682 adds 512-byte sectors.

Benchmark Reviews will soon offer several tests of retail-available second-generation SandForce SSDs, just as soon as consumer samples are available.


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Comments 

 
# RE: SandForce SF-2000 Series SSD Overviewaberkae 2011-02-24 08:32
I've seen the ocz vertex 3 enetprise ssd in a few reviews already, looks promising. I wonder how it will go against the c400.
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# Asterisks?Cautious Consumer 2011-10-21 11:32
Advertising has taught me that anything followed by an asterisk is the absolute truth* 99.9%** of the time.

(* Results may vary.)
(** Statistical estimate.)

What do the asterisks in this review mean?
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# RE: Asterisks?Olin Coles 2011-10-21 14:47
If you're referring to the capacity, it denotes capcacity before over-provisioning for the integrated buffer. PS: this isn't a review.
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# IT DirectorDouglas 2012-05-23 21:16
hey guys - if the SF-2281 and SF-2282 don't seem to be the same drive. Looks like the byte lanes are 8 and 16 respectively. The enterprise level drives show 16 byte lanes as well.

Just curious if that would make a noticeable difference in speed, or if it's negligible.

Any thoughts?
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# RE: IT DirectorOlin Coles 2012-05-23 21:27
The number of data lanes have an impact on I/O, whereas 8 lanes is normally a top-end workstation/server and 16 is datacenter level. The number will have very little impact on transfer speeds in low-queue consumer-level tasks.
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