Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Data Storage Intel

Power-Loss-Protected SSDs Tested: Only Intel S3500 Passes 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the 95%-of-everything-is-crud dept.
lkcl writes "After the reports on SSD reliability and after experiencing a costly 50% failure rate on over 200 remote-deployed OCZ Vertex SSDs, a degree of paranoia set in where I work. I was asked to carry out SSD analysis with some very specific criteria: budget below £100, size greater than 16Gbytes and Power-loss protection mandatory. This was almost an impossible task: after months of searching the shortlist was very short indeed. There was only one drive that survived the torturing: the Intel S3500. After more than 6,500 power-cycles over several days of heavy sustained random writes, not a single byte of data was lost. Crucial M4: failed. Toshiba THNSNH060GCS: failed. Innodisk 3MP SATA Slim: failed. OCZ: failed hard. Only the end-of-lifed Intel 320 and its newer replacement, the S3500, survived unscathed. The conclusion: if you care about data even when power could be unreliable, only buy Intel SSDs." Relatedly, don't expect SSDs to become cheaper than HDDs any time soon.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Power-Loss-Protected SSDs Tested: Only Intel S3500 Passes

Comments Filter:
  • by CajunArson (465943) on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:37PM (#45800277) Journal

    "after experiencing a costly 50% failure rate on over 200 remote-deployed OCZ Vertex SSDs"

    Stop gloating about how you got the good batch of OCZ SSDs! Some of us weren't so lucky....

  • by ssufficool (1836898) on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:37PM (#45800279)
    and get a UPS. Why blow more money on a slightly more reliable SSD when a UPS is so much cheaper?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you are good with electricity, and computer electrical needs are modest, one might be even better off by going with a solar panel setup, a couple sets of AGM solar batteries, a PSW inverter, and a MPPT charge controller. This wouldn't allow a 15 amp circuit to run at full throttle for long, but a computer that takes at most 200-400 watts (the new Mac Pro maxes at 480 watts), it would provide steady, clean power regardless of anything in the house.

      Solar is cheap, so much that having a dedicated circuit i

    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:57PM (#45800471)
      Because Intel doesn't make UPS and he is shilling for Intel? Seriously, people actually run WITHOUT a UPS nowadays? There's no excuse. They're not $700 beasts like they used to be.
      • by haystd (145257) on Friday December 27, 2013 @06:17PM (#45800637)

        The "remote-deployed" may have something to do with it. These may be part of some kind of set-and-forget devices that are not maintained by IT types. Think industrial settings.

        If the UPS units were desktop grade, they are a crapshoot for quality and would probably have to be rotated out every 2-3 years and are expensive to ship due to weight. Add in the hassle of recycling the lead-acid batteries.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Then get a lithium one, smaller, lighter, and easier to ship. Replacement batteries are easier to swap as well.
          • by Lehk228 (705449)
            or a NiFe and it will outlast whatever is connected to it by at least 2 generations of equipment. expected life of a NiFe is 20 years or better and they give less than a fuck about overcharge, being left fully discharged, or even screwing up the electrolyte mix
      • by lgw (121541) on Friday December 27, 2013 @06:34PM (#45800775) Journal

        I've never found a UPS useful. I used to buy them, but this always happened:

        * Power went out
        * UPS didn't quite come up in time
        * Computer reset
        * UPS now was happy to provide power for my computer to boot

        I've tried very expensive and very cheap - they just don't work for computers in my experience, and the batteries need replacing every couple of years, and are difficult to dispose of.

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday December 27, 2013 @06:50PM (#45800931) Journal
          I've had at least two UPSes add injury to insult by simply dropping dead and failing to even act as a power strip, merrily cutting power to everything attached to them despite mains power being available (and every 'unprotected' device not even flickering). Thanks a lot APC...
          • You probably tried to draw more power than the UPS is rated for. The UPS will cut power at this point to protect itself.

            • The UPSes in question had both been handling the same load for over a year (with no trouble reports from the little network management card widget) when they died, so I don't think that it was excess draw. It also wasn't 'died' as in 'popped a breaker for safety reasons'; but as in 'all management interfaces, NIC, serial, LEDs on the front and all power outputs go silent, no amount of poking brings the device back to life'.
          • by 241comp (535228)
            I've had this same problem with a Tripp-Lite APS3636VR which is a $1200 UPS designed to provide hardwired circuits with continuous power. Despite mains being available, we suffered considerable losses due to the APS3636VR failing, and Tripp-Lite refused to do anything to make it right. I'm now very cautious about the use of UPS devices in any type of critical application.
        • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Friday December 27, 2013 @06:56PM (#45800983)

          I've never found a UPS useful. I used to buy them, but this always happened:

          * Power went out
          * UPS didn't quite come up in time
          * Computer reset
          * UPS now was happy to provide power for my computer to boot

          I've tried very expensive and very cheap - they just don't work for computers in my experience, and the batteries need replacing every couple of years, and are difficult to dispose of.

          "UPS didn't quite come up in time"? WTF? I've never had a UPS do that, and I"m on my third one in 12 years.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 27, 2013 @07:18PM (#45801283)

            Wild guess: He's mixing a cheap off-line UPS with a horrible PC PSU that can't do the required hold-up time.

            • by Tumbleweed (3706)

              Wild guess: He's mixing a cheap off-line UPS with a horrible PC PSU that can't do the required hold-up time.

              Ah, good point. I haven't skimped on the PSU in 15 years. It's the dumbest piece of a machine to skimp on.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ahabswhale (1189519)

          I've never had this problem. I run my computer, monitor, wifi, and cable modem into mine and it works like a champ every time. I've only had two UPSs but they both worked without fail each and every time. The only problem they have is that their power is reduced as they age.

    • by Kenja (541830)
      The people in Starbucks look at me funny when I walk in with my Macbook Air and a UPS.
    • by kthreadd (1558445)

      and get a UPS. Why blow more money on a slightly more reliable SSD when a UPS is so much cheaper?

      That will give absolutely zero help when the machine blows a fuse and halts.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        That will give absolutely zero help when the machine blows a fuse and halts.

        And what if the "fuse blown" is inside the SSD itself?

        Onboard reliable power only helps in a very limited number of places that a UPS does not, and there are still plenty of obscure failure modes that onboard power doesn't protect you from.

        At some point you have to accept that some things are beyond your control and maybe you should have a backup or two of your important data.

        • by kthreadd (1558445)

          I have backup of my important data. The problem is that it takes a couple of days to restore it all from tape so I really don't want to do that unless I really have to. As long as the price is not way too high I stick with what's most reliable.

    • by gweihir (88907)

      From the small sizes and absence of current larger drives, I deduce this is a very specific application, like an on-disk journal or a measurement recorder or the like. The UPS may be problematic for a number of reasons, in particular that it does not solve the problem, just gives the OS warning and some grace time. It is expensive though and has battery-lifetime issues.

      Incidentally, you could also generate the 5V power for the SSD from 12V and give is a bit more endurance (say, 0.1-1sec) that 12V power and

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Two reasons:

      1) Defense in depth. Sure, your UPSes should protect against power outages. But what if both mains and UPS fail? They may consider their data important enough that they need to prepare for that situation.

      2) Niche hardware. From the sound of it, they aren't a typical server scenario. They required 16GB size as a minimum (incredibly small even for an SSD), and they tested a huge number of power loss cycles. This makes me suspect they aren't doing typical server or desktop stuff, but I haven't the

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:38PM (#45800289) Homepage

    These things are already expensive; surely spending a few more cents per unit on a capacitor to ensure power loss reliability isn't a big deal.

    The cap only has to be big enough so the controller can do a controlled shutdown.

    • I'm still trying to process the fact that there are new SSDs that DON'T have ultracaps. You'd think that what happened to OCZ might have taught the industry a lesson or something. Well, besides, "There's a sucker born every minute!"

  • by CajunArson (465943) on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:43PM (#45800345) Journal

    Slightly more seriously than my last post, the S3500 was the only enterprise-grade SSD tested in that batch. Frankly, I have little sympathy for you if you expected consumer-grade SSDs to perform like Enterprise-grade SSDs in a mission-critical application.

    Consumer grade drives, even/especially the "high performance" ones that will often benchmark better than the "overpriced" enterprise drives, ain't designed to have perfect data retention. Of course, consumer or enterprise, any drive can fail and appropriate measures including RAID and backup* should always be in place no matter what type of drive you have.

    * Yes, RAID != backup, I know, don't bother making that post.

  • If I were to pull the plug on a consumer grade mechanical hdd in the middle of a write, would it not lose data as well?
    • Probably... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That it is losing data outside of the data being written.

      Some SSDs are notorious for the firmware's block tables getting corrupted if they're suddenly powered off. Unlike a hard disk, what this means is they could potentially be writing under the assumption that the set of blocks they're reading/writing are meant for an entirely different set of sectors than they actually contain. IE massive data corruption because you're not getting back the data you're assuming you will. Due to the write limits of Flash,

    • If I were to pull the plug on a consumer grade mechanical hdd in the middle of a write, would it not lose data as well?

      My only guess is that they're looking at it from the point of view of file system corruption with journaling filesystems, and whether or not stuff committed with sync() is actually safely stored on the drive at that point in time or not. However, the poor way in which the author describes this (assuming it's what he's attempting to describe at all) seriously makes me wonder why I should trust that he knows what the hell he's doing.

      Some years ago while discussing design of a journaling filesystem with someo

    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday December 27, 2013 @11:19PM (#45802789) Homepage

      Technically -yes-, but the issue can be catastrophic with an SSD where as with an HDD, you just loose maybe a file. Both the drive and a journaling filesystem should be able to recover from. With an SSD however, the LBAs are not mapped predominately to memory cells. They get reassigned based on whatever algorithm of wear leaving is employed. If this separate abstracted database to the drive's firmware itself becomes corrupted, you could lose the entire drive. And that's the problem, yet another abstraction that SSDs use that's completely vulnerable to uncommitted writes-backs from power failure. This is something where the OS and filesystem can't help you on an SSD. Unfortunately.

  • by MatthiasF (1853064) on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:47PM (#45800393)
    Does this mean the write-cache is NAND too? I do not see that in the features for the SSDs they selected.

    Also, why was Samsung excluded? Their 800 series with RAID support has been tested in the past with long term writes with great results.

    http://us.hardware.info/reviews/4178/10/hardwareinfo-tests-lifespan-of-samsung-ssd-840-250gb-tlc-ssd-updated-with-final-conclusion-final-update-20-6-2013 [hardware.info]

    I do not mean to plug a particular brand, but the range of SSD's tested in the articles does not seem very expansive nor do they seem to fit into the criteria they specify.
    • by dave562 (969951)

      +1 for wondering why Samsung was not included.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Also, why was Samsung excluded? Their 800 series with RAID support has been tested in the past with long term writes with great results.

      Samsung's 800 series doesn't have power loss protection.
      That's why it was excluded from a test where the main criteria was Power Loss Protection.

      • "No official power loss protection label" is not the same as "losing data on power loss in real life".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you have important data don't store it on an SSD drive. I own decent size small company which ships lots of systems with the better drives (not Intel) with comparable user satisfaction ratings to Intels SSD drives and they certainly aren't that terribly reliable. They are much better than the junk SSD drives, but for real reliability stick with the 7200 RPM or 5400 RPM drives. Sadly the 7200 RPM drives are dead now. Nobody makes them for laptops. I guess the next best thing for speed + a little more reli

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:56PM (#45800455)

      There's still one 720RPM laptop drive, I just bought a 1TB 7200RPM HGST drive recently...

      That said one of the newer Seagate drives scored faster in a speed check. Not sure what to make of that.

    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday December 27, 2013 @06:01PM (#45800499)
      People who have "important data" and fail to make a backup copy - no matter which type of media they are using - deserve to lose their data. Seriously, what you said doesn't only apply to SSD's.
      • This is all a great theory, until the "data" in question is something like copy protection hackery that someone's high-end software puts on your SSD boot disk without necessarily telling you anything about it.

        The only time I had an SSD failure, the hardware guys were great and got a replacement to me the next day, while it took literally weeks (and, in the end, a recorded letter threatening legal action) to get Adobe to let me use the software I already f**king bought on the same f**king PC it was always in

        • by lgw (121541)

          If your story includes "I use an Adobe product", you really have no one to blame but yourself for any and all disasters.

          • That's cute, but approximately 100% of professionals working in graphic design would disagree with you. If someone else made products anywhere the level of Creative Suite and with better customer service than Adobe, plenty of us would use them.

        • by Dunbal (464142) *
          It's up to Adobe customer support to resolve this issue for you, and they probably will. I have had games with "limited number of installs" run out of installs since I constantly upgrade my machine(s). I send them an email explaining the situation and they send me a new key. After all the "copy protection" is supposed to prevent someone from cranking out pirated copies by the millions, not to make it impossible for a user to recover his software.
    • but for real reliability stick with the 7200 RPM or 5400 RPM drives. Sadly the 7200 RPM drives are dead now. Nobody makes them for laptops. I guess the next best thing for speed + a little more reliability is Intel SSD.

      7200 RPM laptop drives are readily available from multiple vendors.

    • If you have important data don't store it on an SSD drive.

      Don't store it on any one drive.

  • Original research (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Original research by someone whose identity I can't look up. Hmm.

    I'd trust every conclusion except the one that pretty blatantly advertises Intel. I guess that means Toshiba might be worth looking into.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Are you retarded? His web page includes his full CV and LinkedIn profile.
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday December 27, 2013 @05:59PM (#45800485)
    Do it again OP with exactly the same parameters, but this time compare SSD's to platter hard drives.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure the reviewer tested what they had available, but I'm not sure I'd draw any conclusions from this list of drives. The drive that passes is the only current generation drive on the list. Everything else is last generation or older. In the case of the OCZ Vertex, much older. Most of the current popular drives seem to be omitted.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      They tested every drive out there, and only shared the results from those that made the Intel look good. A "study" commissioned by Intel would have results consistent with what was presented.
  • by vux984 (928602) on Friday December 27, 2013 @06:01PM (#45800501)

    If you are worried about data loss during a power failure wouldn't the money be better spent ensuring there isn't a power loss?

    UPS are cheap and reliable, and give you time to shut down.

    Its interesting and good to know that the intel SSD survived thousands of powercycles while it was trying to work without losing a single byte of data. But my desktop SSD is on a UPS. And my laptop has a battery built into it. So a power failure affecting the SSD in the middle of an operation is pretty much unheard of.

    • by sribe (304414)

      UPS are cheap and reliable, and give you time to shut down.

      BWAHAHAHAHA! Cheap UPSs are not reliable. Seriously, just put in a new NAS this year for user backups, in a building (hospital) with extremely reliable power, but put it on a UPS just in case. And within a few months the UPS failed, abruptly cutting power to the NAS. That is just one story, but I have many others involving cheap UPSs.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      UPS are cheap and reliable, and give you time to shut down.

      Cheap UPSes are horribly unreliable. What's more, they can be less reliable than grid power... APC's horrid SmartUPS devices had an awful tendency for a significant percentage to drop the load during a self-test, even when both battery and utility power were in perfect working order...

      Even if you have dual power supplies, and connect to different UPSes, you're screwed. The SmartUPS all perform a self-test at exactly the same time, two weeks from

  • Hey lkcl, I don't know if this is a concern of yours, but I ended up having some fairly costly troubleshooting a few years ago with the original OCZ Vertex drives where the root cause was my laptop battery had degraded enough to where the OCZ wasn't getting the necessary voltage/current on boot-up or when the power was unplugged and it ran off of battery. The OCZ Vertex drive hardware wasn't well designed to handle not getting enough power (it was still receiving power) and totally and completely corrupted

  • by amaurea (2900163) on Friday December 27, 2013 @06:12PM (#45800601) Homepage

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but from my skim through the article, it seems like he only used a single drive of each type. That makes it hard to demonstrate that the differences he saw were real, and not just random. I.e., it may be that all drives have a 75% chance of surviving the test, and that the Intel one just happened to be the lucky one. A more robust test would be to test N copies of each drive. N = 5 should give pretty good significance if this really is completely deterministic.

    • by arbiter1 (1204146)
      On top of testing 1 drive, only tested a hand full of SSD and it was 3 consumer level drives vs an enterprise level. that test is about as fair as testing towing capacity of a 1500 series pick up vs a 3500 series truck in a test of towing. I noticed Samsung ssd's weren't in that list which says test was half ass'ed IMO from minute 1.
    • by bledri (1283728)

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but from my skim through the article, it seems like he only used a single drive of each type. That makes it hard to demonstrate that the differences he saw were real, and not just random. I.e., it may be that all drives have a 75% chance of surviving the test, and that the Intel one just happened to be the lucky one. A more robust test would be to test N copies of each drive. N = 5 should give pretty good significance if this really is completely deterministic.

      I had the same thought. And to make the sample really meaningful, the N drives from each vendor would ideally come from production different lots.

  • by Chemisor (97276)

    Yes, you could buy an Intel SSD for twice the cost of one without power loss protection. Or, you could buy a UPS for a mere $43 [amazon.com], and get protection not just for the SSD, but for all the other components, as well as non-disk related software. So why would I care about power loss protection in the hard drive again?

  • Intel needs to feed data from said drives to the NSA while you sleep.
    (Side note: unplug the cat5).

  • Adaptec's new 8805 (currently backordered everywhere). Their no Zero-Maintenance-Cache-Protection = no battery cache. About $500 or in that neighborhood.
  • How many samples of each model did you test? Did you purchase them from different vendors to increase the odds of serial randomness? Was the failure rate consistent for across the same models?
  • I am responding to the relatedly footnote so no, this is not off topic.

    I think one reason SSDs are not going to become cheaper than HD's anytime soon is because the price on hard drives is plummeting partly in response to the more slowly lowering price on SSDs - it's just the competitive nature of the industry, even if that means sometimes companies are competing with themselves. I can get a 1 terabyte 7,200 RPM hard drive for $50 bucks, or I can get a Sandisk Extreme 2 120GB SSD for $100. I was recently
    • I think one reason SSDs are not going to become cheaper than HD's anytime soon is because...

      ...they're better.

  • As many others have posted, a UPS will protect the whole computer from data loss in the case of a power outage. what about the data stored in memory without a UPS? Are you going to test that? the idea that a capacitor can store enough temporary power for shutdown is neat but worthless. SSDs were made to replace harddrives. what happens when you unplug power from harddrives in the middle of a write? Why would you want SSDs to be better than harddrives in that function?
    What does the failure rate of ocz ssd

    • by sribe (304414)

      SSDs were made to replace harddrives. what happens when you unplug power from harddrives in the middle of a write?

      Hard drives do not constantly re-arrange pages into newly-erased blocks, and so do not constantly have to update the mapping of logical blocks to physical location, so with power removed will most likely just drop whatever file data is in cache, instead of dropping the mapping update like an SSD which potentially results in massive corruption.

    • by raxx7 (205260) on Friday December 27, 2013 @07:46PM (#45801569) Homepage

      HDDs, even the cheapest ones nowadays, allow the software to enforce the order in which pending data is written to safe permanent storage and software to known that pending data has indeed been safely committed to permanent storage.

      The operative systems, file systems and applications build upon this to ensure that, in case of an unexpected crash, you don't end up with a corrupted file system or data. You may lose files created in the last 5 minutes, but you won't end up with a file system so corrupted that you need to re-install your computer.
      Databases uses this to ensure that, once you've clicked "pay" in a e-commerce site, it will either record it properly or not at all, so you don't end up with half-way situations where you get charged and don't get the product you paid for or vice-versa.

      According to reports like TFA and the article TFA was attempting to reproduce, a lot of cheap SSDs break this guarantees.

  • It looks like all the SSDs the author was testing are low-end models, that obviously don't have Enterprise features such as high-end fault protection circuits / super capacitor in the design.

    • Yes, of *course* he was mostly testing low-end models, one of the criteria was a price limitation!

      Certainly if budget is increased then you can include more enterprise level drives which would be expected to have a capacitor for controlled shutdown. The whole point of the test is whether any of the low-budget drives behave well during power outages.

  • by Immostlyharmless (1311531) on Friday December 27, 2013 @07:35PM (#45801455)
    120 gig version, Randomly hangs for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes at any given, access lights go on, and the computer becomes more or less non responsive, I can see the mouse cursor move, but no dice for anything else. Have tried reading forum advice and disabling certain power management settings, same problem. No firmware updates, and it's slow. My daughters WD 500 gig blue edition is damned near as fast loading levels in games. Pure waste of money, I'll never buy another SSD.
    • by willy_me (212994)
      Return it. Same thing happened to me. Called Intel, they provided an RMA, I shipped off the bad SSD, they returned a new one. They told me that their policy was to never refurbish SSD drives so you're guaranteed a brand new replacement - at least with my model.
    • by csumpi (2258986)

      My daughters WD 500 gig blue edition is damned near as fast loading levels in games.

      Without testing a different HDD in place of your drive, it's silly blaming it on the SSD. It can be anything from your motherboard, SATA controller, bad memory, cable, heck you might even have some malware installed.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Friday December 27, 2013 @07:38PM (#45801487)

    I understand that the reviewer was restricted by the ultra-low price point set by his employer, but the result is that this is a really poor selection of SSDs, many of them obsolete, and is not particularly reflective of the market today. For instance, he reviewed the Crucial M4 (release date: early 2011), but not the newer Crucial M500, which according to reviews [tomshardware.com] has both RAID-style NAND redundancy and a bank of capacitors to protect against power failure. The M500 isn't even all that expensive on a per-GB basis, though it isn't available in the ultra-small sizes the reviewer apparently needed because of his very limited budget.

    There are other, even more glaring, omissions. No mention of any Samsung drive? Nothing from SanDisk? These are two of the biggest SSD vendors, and both have a good reputation for reliability. Leaving out their products makes this roundup almost worthless.

    The SSD market is advancing so fast that reviewing drives over 2 years old is going to give an extremely misleading impression of the current state-of-the-art.

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. -- Ambrose Bierce

Working...