Intel readies 20GB SSD for caching function on Z68 boards

By on April 28, 2011, 9:00 AM
Intel's new Z68 chipset is slated to arrive in the first half of May as a hybrid between the P67 and the H67. Besides allowing better CPU overclocking and enabling the Quick Sync transcoding technology that is embedded into Sandy Bridge processors, this LGA 1155 high-end chipset is introducing something called 'Smart Response Technology'.

In a nutshell, Smart Response Technology is a caching function that would boost system performance by marrying a conventional hard drive to a relatively small solid-state drive. Unlike just adding a boot drive for the operating system and applications, Intel's new caching feature automatically moves only the most frequently-accessed data onto the SSD for fast access while the two drives appear to users simply as a single drive.


As motherboard makers get ready to launch their Z68-based products some juicy information has come to light. The above image was pulled from a PDF flyer for the ASRock Z68 Extreme4 motherboard, and spills the beans on an upcoming "Larsen Creek" SSD from Intel apparently made for use within an SRT-based setup.

It's rather small at 20GB -- and thus we expect it to be relatively affordable -- but is large enough to store a plenty of frequently used files. In terms of performance it is said to provide a 355% boost in the PCMark 05 HDD Score when paired with a standard 1TB hard drive (compared to the 1TB drive alone) and will improve boot time by up to 19.4%.

Of course, SRT should work with any SSD, but the addition of a very affordable option on Intel's lineup might give the feature a welcome boost. It will be interesting to see how hybrid hard drives like Seagate's Momentus XT -- which also carry magnetic platters and flash memory chips -- compare against Intel's solution in both price and performance.



User Comments: 16

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Arris Arris said:

Hmm, idea... keep boxed replacement Asus P8P67 Pro when it arrives and sell it and pickup a Z68 board

Jibberish18 said:

I wonder how Seagate feels about this? Especially since Seagate had a hell of a time fixing its firmwares because bad behaviors of its drives. Some people say they still act funny. But I have to say, 20 GB is a LOT to be able to cache. The Seagate Momentus XT drives have 4 GB of SLC flash and that's good enough for startup feels plus some change but here you have lots more room.......I wonder if you'll be able to pair more than 20 GB? That would be SWEET.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Jibberish18 said:

I wonder how Seagate feels about this? Especially since Seagate had a hell of a time fixing its firmwares because bad behaviors of its drives. Some people say they still act funny. But I have to say, 20 GB is a LOT to be able to cache. The Seagate Momentus XT drives have 4 GB of SLC flash and that's good enough for startup feels plus some change but here you have lots more room.......I wonder if you'll be able to pair more than 20 GB? That would be SWEET.

I had the Momentus XT installed in two different computers. The computer in which I only ran a few basic programs, the drive worked like a champ. In my main computer where I ran lots of games and other software, the improvement was negligible over my Raptors in RAID, and a joke compared to the SSD that I recently installed.

20 GB is more realistic as far as what a "power user" would utilize. 4 GB is only good for very casual computing.

What I would expect eventually is a software/hardware solution, in the spirit of the Lucid Hydra, in which you install an SSD card, install regular HDs, and then the "solution" acts like the Momentus XT drive and moves the commonly used programs onto the SSD based on usage. Right now you have to do it all manually, but having it done automatically just seems like a logical progression of technology.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

gwailo247 said:

What I would expect eventually is a software/hardware solution, in the spirit of the Lucid Hydra, in which you install an SSD card, install regular HDs, and then the "solution" acts like the Momentus XT drive and moves the commonly used programs onto the SSD based on usage. Right now you have to do it all manually, but having it done automatically just seems like a logical progression of technology.

Isn't that what SRT basically accomplishes, or is it too heavily reliant on the hardware aspect?

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

madboyv1 said:

gwailo247 said:

What I would expect eventually is a software/hardware solution, in the spirit of the Lucid Hydra, in which you install an SSD card, install regular HDs, and then the "solution" acts like the Momentus XT drive and moves the commonly used programs onto the SSD based on usage. Right now you have to do it all manually, but having it done automatically just seems like a logical progression of technology.

Isn't that what SRT basically accomplishes, or is it too heavily reliant on the hardware aspect?

Maybe I didn't understand it right. I thought that the 20 GB drive would be something specifically designed for this technology, and sold by Intel. I was thinking that you'd be able to use any SSD with any HD.

Guest said:

I wonder how fast the drive is on its own. It's just about large enough for W7 on its own plus maybe a web browser, but that's 20GB not on my 128GB SSD. Hopefully it'll be quite quick and nicely cheap, so would make a good boot drive for my PC...

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

gwailo247 said:

madboyv1 said:

gwailo247 said:

What I would expect eventually is a software/hardware solution, in the spirit of the Lucid Hydra, in which you install an SSD card, install regular HDs, and then the "solution" acts like the Momentus XT drive and moves the commonly used programs onto the SSD based on usage. Right now you have to do it all manually, but having it done automatically just seems like a logical progression of technology.

Isn't that what SRT basically accomplishes, or is it too heavily reliant on the hardware aspect?

Maybe I didn't understand it right. I thought that the 20 GB drive would be something specifically designed for this technology, and sold by Intel. I was thinking that you'd be able to use any SSD with any HD.

Well the limited language of the article does not restrict the technology to be used only with specific hardware. More like, the article is pointing out that Intel is making a SSD drive that will be tailored for the support role in a SRT environment, which given its small capacity of 20GB, I hope it will be (relatively) cheap, since I'd be interested in it.

@Guest: using this 20GB drive as a boot drive defeats the point of SRT and probably one of the reasons why Intel is making such a "small capacity" drive. After all, Intel stll wants you to buy their 80GB+ SSDs at that higher premium. =p

Guest said:

Well, of course they want you to, but for those of us with existing SSDs that could do with a little extra space, it could be very interesting. Not only that, but as only Z68 supports the feature, it could appeal to users of the older platforms. I'm sure Intel won't mind a few more sales either way...

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

madboyv1 said:

Well the limited language of the article does not restrict the technology to be used only with specific hardware. More like, the article is pointing out that Intel is making a SSD drive that will be tailored for the support role in a SRT environment, which given its small capacity of 20GB, I hope it will be (relatively) cheap, since I'd be interested in it.

That's a good point. I guess I'm more apt to be cynical about hardware manufacturers being agnostic in terms of use of their products.

TrekExpert TrekExpert said:

Would their be any advantage to using a Seagate's Momentus XT with this over a standard HDD?

Jurassic4096 said:

the 20GB drive is to get newcomers to pair it with their new chipset, then upgrade to a standalone SSD later on. nothing more. a standalone SSD will still wipe the floor with this technology.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

jurassic4096 said:

the 20GB drive is to get newcomers to pair it with their new chipset, then upgrade to a standalone SSD later on. nothing more. a standalone SSD will still wipe the floor with this technology.

A single SSD still costs considerably more per GB than a platter based drive, and like the all in one hybrid drives this option allows the user to have better performance without paying a premium of a SSD and losing storage capacity or the cost/effort of setting up RAID and adding "unnecessary complexity" to the user's storage environment for the sake of performance. Though in retrospect of writing that second part, RAID 0 is probably the best option if you want both performance and capacity without adding that much cost.

Anyways, the point of this technology is not pure performance. The second you pair anything with a mechanical system, the mechanics get in the way of performance/efficiency. But like hybrid drives, SRT might offer a middleground for those who'd be interested.

mpsteel said:

I wouldn't be surprised in the future if we saw motherboard manufacturers incorporating a 20GB NAND into the board. This feature would be a major performance increase on low to mid range Z68 boards. For an extra 30 or 40 dollars, it would be a no brainier.

Guest said:

I'd really like to know whether this Intel SRT caches the HDD at the block-level (good) or at the file-level (like Marvell's HDD/SSD caching tech which is complete crap)

Supporting smaller SSD's kind of implies a block-level cache *drool*

Anyone have info on this tidbit??

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I wouldn't be surprised in the future if we saw motherboard manufacturers incorporating a 20GB NAND into the board.....it would be a no brainier.

More than likely.

Intel are already looking at stacked DRAM (GPU GDDR) memory within the CPU itself within the next generation (Ivy Bridge) CPU architecture. It's not unrealistic to expect that boot/local storage couldn't be handled by onboard non-volatile RAM or similar.

.pdf explaining in greater detail Intel's GDDR on CPU >>here<<

Guest said:

max of one per mobo? or can you add many to act in raid0 ? 30 or 40 dollars is too high a premium. I expect this will be slow cheap Nand. bits that broken off their bigger faster wafers. I read that it will be simply write thru cache for HDD. not used at all in writing. Still waiting for £50 for 50gb. Shout it out! 50 quid for 50 gig. ... let this be the slogan that ushers in a new era of prosperity and Harmony for ALL our nations.

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