Review: Enterprise solid state drives

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Intel X25 SSDSA2SH064G1GC

2.5” 64GB 3GB/sec $650

The Intel X25 series is generally intended for consumer applications rather than enterprise applications. It represents a high-performance consumer drive, which costs a good deal more than the Plextor drive, but delivers a higher level of performance as well.

While it is not optimized for write-intensive applications, which can be seen in the large increases between average and maximum response times, it could still improve performance substantially in read-intensive applications, for instance relatively static databases.

LSI WarpDrive SLP-300 (SSS-6200)

PCI-Express 8x 300GB $8,400

The LSI WarpDrive SLP-300 (SSS-6200) is very different from the other drives in this test. Rather than a SAS/SATA connection, it plugs into an 8x PCI-Express slot to use the higher-speed PCI bus rather than the relatively limited SATA or SAS connection. There are two issues with using the PCI-E interface – first, the number of slots in many servers is limited to one to four, which limits the total capacity, since each drive requires one slot. Also getting a server to boot from the WarpDrive is supposed to be possible, but I was unable to get this to work with either Windows 2008R2 or Windows 7.

The WarpDrive was able to achieve about four times the IOps of the next-fastest drive, and half-again the throughput of any other drive. The average and maximum response times were also much lower than the other drives, which can make a big difference in database applications. While the WarpDrive’s performance did drop during the write-intensive test, its performance was still better than any other drive by a large margin. With a cost of $8,400 for 300GB, the drive is expensive, but its speed and throughput make it an excellent choice for eliminating bottlenecks in database applications.

OWC Mercury Extreme Pro RE OWCSSDMXRE400

2.5” 400GB 3GB/sec $1,499

The OWC Mercury Extreme Pro series of drives offers very high performance for the price, with performance about 70% of the Pliant drive at less than a third of the cost. The OWCs were so fast that they overran the RAID controller I used to test with, showing little performance improvement in a two-drive RAID 0 configuration over a single drive. The OWCs also showed little degradation in performance during write-intensive operations. OWC:

Plextor PX-128M2S-02

2.5” 128GB 6GB/sec $250

The Plextor PX-128M2S-02 is very inexpensive for an SSD, at $250 for a 128GB, 6GB/sec drive. While its performance looks low in comparison to the other drives in this test, it still outperforms a standard hard drive by a substantial margin, at a relatively low price. It is capable of excellent performance in read-intensive applications, beating a standard hard drive by a factor of 10x in a read-intensive test. At a very low price per GB, the PX-128M2S-02 is ideal for testing SSDs in read-intensive environments.

Pliant Lightning LS 300S

3.5” 300GB 3GB/sec $6,899

Of the drives connected by SATA or SAS, the Pliant was the clear performance winner, with very high throughput and very low response times, ideal for database applications. It not only showed no performance degradation during the write-intensive test, it actually performed better in that test than in the standard mix test. While the drives are relatively expensive, they offer a degree of expandability not possible with the LSI WarpDrive, which requires an 8x PCI-Express slot for each drive, and the Pliant can also be used to boot a system which I was not able to get the LSI WarpDrive to do. The Pliant Lightning is an excellent choice for databases that are performance-limited by storage performance, and are much cheaper than the other usual alternative, increasing server memory by enough to keep indices in memory.

Relative prices: 300GB SATA 7200 $100 300GB SAS 15k $185 SSD 256GB low $700 SSD 300GB high $7000

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