Intel offers firmware upgrade for SSD performance problem

SSD fragmentation issue unlikely to affect average user, company says

Intel Corp. has released a firmware upgrade for its consumer solid-state drive, the X25-M, which suffers from fragmentation issues resulting in performance degradation over time.

The fragmentation problem was uncovered by PC Perspective reviewers, who spent months putting several X25-M SSDs through their paces using multiple PCs and applications in order to test Intel's advanced wear-leveling and write-combining algorithms, which are used to improve the longevity of the drive. The result of the tests showed that write speeds dropped from 80MB/sec. to 30MB/sec. over time and read speeds dropped from 250MB/sec down to 60MB/sec. for some large block writes.

An Intel spokeswoman responding in an e-mail to a Computerworld request for information said: "While the risk of a typical client user experiencing this is very low based on Intel's detailed analysis of the data, [the company] did want to take the issue seriously, root cause it and then have released a firmware upgrade solution."

Intel said synthetic workloads, like those produced by benchmarking software from companies like ATTO Technology Inc. and its ATTO Disk Benchmark product, affect its SSD controller's data management policy when servicing sequential rather than random host writes.

All of Intel's SSDs will suffer periods of reduced performance after significant random write fragmentation, which is not something Windows users will typically experience, the company said.

"The 8820 firmware now services both random and sequential write to ensure that fragmentation does not put the drive in a lower-than-expected performance state," Intel wrote.

Firmware Version 8820 should solve the problem with previously shipped X25-M SSDs and enable relatively stable 80MB/sec. write speeds and 230MB/sec read speeds. The company said all drives currently shipping now contain the firmware upgrade. The 8820 firmware revision is available for field upgrades to end users. Intel said end users with questions can contact its support team.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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