Today Marvell is announcing its third generation SSD controller with the 88SS9187. Its predecessor, the 88SS9174 was used in many drives including Crucial's m4 and Intel's SSD 510. The 9187 appears to be mostly a feature update, adding support for the following:
- SATA 3.1
- On-chip RAID (allowing for failure of defective NAND block, plane, die or device)
- DDR3 memory interface (up to 1GB external DRAM supported)
- ~500MB/s sequential write speed
- 6Gbps SATA limited sequential read speed
- "best-in-class" random read/write speed
Details are scarce but it sounds like the 9187 is simply a higher performance (potentially lower power?) version of its predecessor. Marvell is expecting the 9187 to be used by manufacturers in Ultrabooks among other designs this year. Marvell's SSD controllers have always been priced competitively, but they've often required a lot of custom firmware work to get the best performance/compatibility/reliability out of them. I see no indication that Marvell's business model has changed, so you can expect to see the 9187 used similarly to its predecessor. 


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  • solipsism - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    It's been finalized for about 8 months now. I'm surprised to here of products adopting it so quickly.
  • Metaluna - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    That's the thing about usually don't have to support every single feature the spec allows in order to claim you are compliant, so just saying "Supports SATA 3.1" doesn't really tell us much. In fact, technically even a device running at 1.5Gbps would probably be compliant with SATA 3.1, since the spec encompasses all the legacy modes as well as the new functionality, just as a USB device can legally claim to be USB 2.0 compliant but only support 11Mbps transfer rates. Reply
  • iwod - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    SATA Revision 3.1 includes several enhancements that help implementers take full advantage of SATA’s 6 Gb/s data rate. These enhancements range from new power management requirements to improvements that help maximize device efficiency. Key features include:

    mSATA – SATA for mobile computing devices, now with enhanced auto detection to provide increased interoperability by eliminating the need for a dedicated mSATA connector
    Zero-Power Optical Disk Drive (ODD) – eliminates the power consumption of an idle SATA ODD, resulting in increased energy savings
    Required Link Power Management – drives energy efficient power management across all SATA devices, reducing overall system power demand
    Queued Trim Command – allows SATA SSDs to execute Trim without impacting normal operation, improving SSD performance
    Hardware Control Features – enable host identification of device capabilities, allowing hosts to make more effective use of SATA devices

    And USM, Unified Storage Module - But the post did't explain what exactly is it.
  • zcat - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    I remember when it wasn't so long ago that SSDs were running into SATA2's 3Gbps (300MB/s) bandwidth limit, and now they're already saturating SATA3's ceiling?

    How long before until SATA4 or its replacement (not PCI-E storage) shows up? I'll be in the market to upgrade my old sata2 miniitx motherboard + OCZ Vertex 1 in a few months and I'd rather not settle for rate-limited SSDs going forward.
  • krazyderek - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    i'd say they still have their hands full working out all the bugs in the current round. Random performance still doesn't saturate the pipe, latency (avg and particularly max) can still be improved on many SSD's, and incompressible write speeds are still sub SATA II on drives like the vertex 3.

    Until every benchmark you can throw at an SSD flat lines, and reliability is unquestionable, there's no need to rush off to a new standard just cause one or two tests are approaching the SATA III limits.
  • iwod - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    I dont think there would be SATA 4 anytime soon. SATA 3 speed is more then enough even for some of the fastest consumer Hard Drive. And without any RPM improvement in the foreseeable future, simple increasing Platter density we have plenty of headroom for SATA 3 in the next five years.

    There is an SATA -Express. Which is more like SATA designed for SSD.

    Quote from the article.

    The next interface is SATA Express. This one is designed to keep SATA relevant while allowing for the growth of high performance SSDs. It took SandForce all of one year to release a controller that could saturate a 6Gbps SATA interface. Many companies have turned to PCI Express as a solution to offer more bandwidth than a single SAS/SATA port can deliver. SATA Express is designed to fix this issue.

    The spec won't be complete until the end of the year, but it will allow for two new SATA speeds: 8Gbps and 16Gbps as well as backwards compatibility with existing SATA devices. SATA Express will leverage PCIe 3.0 for higher operating speeds, perhaps indicating that it'll layer on top of PCIe rather than remain as an independent interface. If the spec is completed at the end of this year, don't expect to see controller support until mid to late next year at the earliest. It'll take a while for SSDs to natively support the standard as well.

    Then we should have ( or we are already nearing it ) reach the point where software needs take advantage before we see any more improvement from SSD.
  • zcat - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    Interesting - thanks. Looks likes "SATA Express" aims to deliver the speed of PCIe without the compatibility issues of PCIe-based storage. Don't know if I can (or need to) wait until 2013 for the new motherboards, though. Reply
  • Loknar - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    I'm waiting to see what Capcom comes up with to match this.. Reply
  • iwod - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - link

    I really hope Apple uses these as their Controller. I could not understand why they are not using it and instead uses controller from Samsung or Toshiba....... Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    The advantage of Samsung and Toshiba is that they provide the whole package (controller, firmware, NAND, assembly etc.). Marvell only makes controllers and the firmware they provide is very basic and OEMs usually design their own firmware (that's why there are noticeable differences between Marvell SSDs).

    I see Samsung's PM830 as the most likely option for Apple, although a Marvell solution is also possible (Apple may need to source SSDs from multiple manufacturers, like they are doing with the MBA).

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