Fusion-io vs Intel X25-M SSD RAID, Grudge Match Review - HotHardware

Fusion-io vs Intel X25-M SSD RAID, Grudge Match Review

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Disruptive technology; it's a term thrown around these days by industry marketing types and quite frankly it's just plain getting worn out as of late.  In the mid 90s, a Harvard Business School Professor coined this phrase to describe a product innovation that breaks current convention and exceeds market expectations so vastly that market leaders might not see it coming and perhaps even the market itself doesn't know how to react.  Since the term was brought forth, there were many innovations over the years that overzealous marketing types have hailed as "disruptive technologies," though obviously, in reality, this level of innovation is on a different scale all together.  However, a truly disruptive technology is unequivocally and unmistakably a game-changer.

Let's take NAND Flash memory for example.  A few years ago, the camera market was turned on its ear by the new storage technology and it has changed the landscape forever with digital cameras displacing film cameras almost completely now.  Then USB Flash sticks came along and of course the floppy drive then became extinct.  Disruptive enough for you?  In addition, it has become clear that there is yet another market the NAND Flash chip has set its disruptive sights on--secondary computer storage.  There is little question at this point, that SSD (Solid State Drive) technology will eventually supplant traditional rotational media, with perhaps the exception of large bulk storage arrays, at least for the time being.  Though it is debatable when the transition will reach critical mass beyond a few drives shipped in notebooks, some higher-end desktop configurations and the DIY niche'. 

However, is even the SATA SSD as we know it today, eventually going to end up on a proverbial endangered species list?  We'll leave you pondering that question as we take a competitive look at two SSD solutions that peg the performance scales with very different approaches to the technology.




  
Storage Of The Future - SATA SSD or PCIe? - Click for high res.

We've certainly heard of Fusion-io's bleeding edge PCI Express-based SSD solution (top right) but to date haven't yet gotten the chance to check it out on the test bench.  In addition, though we've put Intel's wonderfully fast X25-M SSD through its paces in stand alone testing, imagine what it would be like with up to four drives in RAID 0.  You see where we're going here, a battle royal of what is arguably some of the fastest SSD storage technology money can buy right now. 

So the stage is set but before we get into ripping up benchmarks, let's expand on what we think might be one of the paths solid state storage of the future might take on its disruptive journey through the valley of the hard disk dinosaur.  Let's drop down for a closer look at Fusion-io's 160GB ioDrive.  Does SATA have to watch its back?

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Nice article. I really can't wait till the Fusion-io drives come down in price. I also really like that Supermicro 2.5" rack, which I think you mean fits into a 5.25" bay, not 3.5". I currently have two SSDs TAPED to the inside of my case so you can see them facing the window.

On a related note, do you think you do do a similar set of tests on different RAID controllers? I noticed you said your X58 southbridge was faster than the controller cards you had in the lab, which is odd. I really want to know the benefits of using something like the crazy Areca RAID controllers with their own upgradeable RAM sticks, like the ones DV Nation have.

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Hey Lev,

We actually tried an Acreca 1210 card with 256MB of on board cache and the Intel array. It was actually slower than the ICH10R believe it or not. I was surprised too. However, it doesn't take much heavy lifting for RAID 0 an Intel probably has their Southbridge chipset and drivers tuned pretty well for their own SSD, so perhaps it's not all that surprising. However, with a RAID 5 setup, you definitely want hardware RAID of course.

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And Lev, we caught that typo within like 3 seconds of go-live. You're QUICK man! LOL

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What kind of alignment did you guys do on those Intel drives? And did you guys enable write-back cache? Those Intel drives didn't seem to scale as good as they should have after 2 were installed. Changing the alignment alone could result in some large gains. I know they are probably hitting the limits of the board, but i'm still curious if you could squeeze a little more out of them.

I didn't think that ioFusion card would be bootable. Once these kind of cards start to catch on tho... that might change with some BIOS updates, etc.

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You guys have 4 X25-Ms. Me wants.

Anyway thats some crazy performance on the fusion io. I can't wait until stuff like that becomes affordable on the consumer end.

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Bob, stick around for another few weeks. We'll be looking at the ioXtreme drive from Fusion-io very soon. It will be priced in the hundreds range, rather than thousands. :)

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Dave_HH:

Bob, stick around for another few weeks. We'll be looking at the ioXtreme drive from Fusion-io very soon. It will be priced in the hundreds range, rather than thousands. :)

Thats a bit more intresting. A solid SSD would perfect my desktop I think.

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Acarzt, write-back cache was definitely enabled and as far as alignment goes, the drives were setup with 128K stripe (default for RAID 0 on the ICH10R) and formatted with defaults for NTFS.

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Ahh I see... That's exactly how I have mine set... it's amazing the differece write-back cache makes.

About the alignment tho... I was talking about the volume itself after creating the RAID. I don't know if this applies to the Intel drives, but I did this with my raid...

http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=53756

Vista has a default allignment of 1024. 128k is more common for RAID'd drives. I've seen guys pick up over 100MB/s by changing it. So instead of

"create partition primary align 64"

like in the walkthrough... you would use...

"create partition primary align 128"

It's worth a shot... it might make a difference :-P

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Awesome review, $7200 wouldn't really justify for any home-use though. I saw a PCI-E add-on card where it has 8 DIMM slot for you to add old memory modules and make it into a cheap fast storage, non-bootable, and it only takes 32GB, MSRP at $499 (without the ram).

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