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Micron RealSSD P400m Enterprise SSD Review
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Date: Feb 13, 2013
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Micron is announcing a brand new, enterprise-class solid state drive today, the RealSSD P400m. We have a looked at a number of Micron-built solid state drives in the past, including the ultra high-end RealSSD P320h PCI Express-based beast and the consumer-targeted RealSSD C300, but what makes the P400m somewhat different is that it was designed from start to finish by Micron’s NAND and SSD engineering teams to provide high endurance and reliability and superior data protection. That’s not to say Micron’s previous products lacked in those departments, but the P400m goes a few steps further with custom NAND and firmware and physical power loss protection designed for mainstream enterprise applications.

We’ve got the Micron RealSSD P400m’s main specifications and features listed below and have a full set of benchmarks laid out on the pages ahead. Take a look at the drive itself and familiarize yourself with some of its proprietary features, and we’ll get to some hard numbers in a bit...

Micron P400m SSD
Micron's RealSSD P400m Enterprise SSD

Micron RealSSD P400m Enterprise SSD
Specifications & Features


From the outside, the Micron RealSSD P400m looks just like the vast majority of other 2.5” solid state drives currently on the market. The drive has a slim, 7mm Z-Height, and is adorned with a single decal listing the model number and some other identifying information, but other than that, there’s not much to see externally.

 

Crack open the RealSSD P400m and you’ll find that the drive is built around the tried-and-true Marvell 88SS9187-BLD2 controller, which has been used by a number of other manufacturers as well. This particular drive is a 200GB model, but it’s outfitted with 256GB of total NAND. The unallocated capacity is used for wear leveling and other maintenance routines.

 

The actual flash memory in this drive is custom 25nm MLC NAND that is not being offered to other drive manufacturers at this time. Details were scarce on what makes this NAND different than what Micron offers to OEM customers, but we’re told it was designed for longevity and endurance. According to Micron, “The P400m takes full advantage of Micron’s vertical integration with XPERT and a custom MLC NAND device designed specifically for our enterprise SSD product line. This NAND device is built using our proven 25nm process and will not be sold to the open market—it will only be available in Micron SSDs.”

What the pictures don’t show are some of the proprietary technologies Micron has incorporated into the RealSSD P400m, including RAIN (Redundant Array of Independent NAND), Adaptive Read Management/Optimized Read (ARM/OR), and DataSAFE, which fall under the umbrella of Micron’s extended performance and enhanced reliability technology, or XPERT.

RAIN can be considered somewhat of a RAID 5-type solution that works across the flash channels in the drive. With RAIN, the P400m can recover lost data beyond page, block, and die-level failures. Adaptive Read Management / Optimized Read (ARM/OR) uses custom DSP algorithms implemented in firmware to optimize NAND read locations to deal with issues that affect the accuracy and endurance of a cell over time. DataSAFE is a protection scheme that ensures all data is within the drive is transferred correctly through the various SSD structures, including the drive interface, DRAM cache, all error checkers, etc. To further protect data, the RealSSD P400m is also outfitted with Physical Power-Loss Protection. The drive sports an array of capacitors that can provide enough power for the drive to commit all pending write commands in the event of a power failure.

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest UEFI available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The SSDs were secure erased before testing and left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-2600K

Asus P8Z6-V Pro
(Z68 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Kingston DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

WD Raptor 150GB (OS Drive)
Samsung SSD 830 (256GB)
Samsung SSD 843 (256GB)
OCZ Vertex 3 (200GB)
Corsair Force GT (240GB)
Crucial M4 (256GB)
OCZ Vector (256GB)
Micron RealSSD P400m (200GB)
Intel SSD DC S3700 (200GB)
OCZ Vertex 4 (256GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 x64
Intel 9.2.0.1030, iRST 10.5.1027
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 275.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v4.61
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2012

IOMeter
I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you can't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and another with 4K transfers, 100% random, 100% writes.

 

All of the drives offered consistent performance in the 4K random write test, with the Micron P400m finishing between the Intel and OCZ drives. Samsung's latest enterprise SSD, however, pulled way ahead (review forthcoming). In our custom workstation test, the Intel drive jumps out to a big lead. Note that the Micron drive offers consistent, predicable performance regardless of the queue depth tested.

In terms of bandwidth with the two access patters we tested in IOMeter, the Intel and Samsung drives lead the other drives and trade victories. The P400m is able to outpace the OCZ Vector in the 4K test though, and just misses catching the Intel DC S3700.

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SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

SiSoft SANDRA 2012: Physical Disk Test
Synthetic Disk Benchmarking

 

The new Micron RealSSD P400m didn't date too well in the SANDRA Physical Disk read benchmark, trailing all of the other drives we tested, save for the Intel 710 Series. The Micron drive did much better in the write test, however, outperforming the Intel DC S3700 drives by a few percentage points.
 

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ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

The Micron RealSSD P400m finishes towards the middle of the pack in the ATTO Disk Benchmark--it outpaced the Intel DC S3700 200GB drive in the Read test, but trailed the same Intel drive slightly in the Write test.
 

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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v4.61
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com







The Micron RealSSD P400m trailed all but the Intel SSD 710 series drive in the HD Tune transfer rate benchmark. Access times in the write benchmark were competitive, but the Micron drive stumbled here.

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests







The Micron RealSSD P400m was a middling performer in the various CrystalDiskMark tests as well. Here, the P400m hangs with the Intel DC S3700 drives, but generally trails by a few percentage points.
 

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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n

The Micron RealSSD P400m offers consistent performance, regardless of the data being transferred. Overall, transfer speeds generally trailed the other drives we tested, but the P400m was just a notch behind the Intel DC S3700 throughout.

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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com

According to PCMark 7's trace based tests, there's less than 9% delta separating the fastest drive we've ever tested (the Samsung SM843) and the Micron RealSSD P400m here. Ultimately, the P400m trailed competing drives like the Intel DC S3700 by a couple of percentage points, but the differentials were quite small.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The array of benchmarks we ran do a good job of illustrating the Micron RealSSD P400m’s performance-related strengths and weaknesses. In terms of IOPS and read / write bandwidth, the RealSSD P400m trails competing enterprise-class drives like the Intel DC S3700 most often than not. The Micron RealSSD P400m, however, offers very consistent performance, regardless of data type, and remains competitive at higher queue depths.


The Micron RealSSD P400m Enterprise Solid State Drive

All of the numbers on the previous pages point to a drive that doesn’t necessarily stand-out from the crowd in terms of performance. What the numbers don’t show are the underlying technologies that improve the Micron RealSSD P400m’s long-term endurance and reliability. Unfortunately, those things aren’t easy to test, but its combination of custom MLC NAND and in-house developed DRAM and firmware, coupled with Micron’s ability to manufacture, test and qualify all aspects of the drive at their own facilities should make for a reliable, dependable end product. As we’ve mentioned, the Micron RealSSD P400m is rated for ‘at least’ 10 fills per day for 5 years, or roughly 3PB (petabytes) of writes for the 200GB drive we tested here. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Expected pricing for the Micron RealSSD P400m in quantity is still in a state of flux, but individual drive pricing at CDW puts the 200GB drive we tested at $725, or roughly $3.62 per GB. That price currently makes the RealSSD P400m  more expensive than Intel’s recently released DC S3700 series of solid state drives, which is difficult to justify looking back at our performance numbers. We suspect final street prices will be somewhat lower once the drive is shipping in volume to multiple resellers, however. If you’re in need of a reliable, enterprise-class SSD though, that should stand up to strenuous workloads over the long-haul, the Micron RealSSD P400m should serve you well.

 

  • High Endurance
  • Consistent Performance
  • Physical Power-Loss Protection
  • Somewhat Pricey
  • Generally Trails Some Lower Priced, Enterprise SSDs



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