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

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News Posted: Wed, Jul 8 2009 11:07 AM

We've certainly heard of Fusion-io's bleeding edge PCI Express-based SSD solution but to date haven't yet gotten the chance to check it out on the test bench here at HotHardware.  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.




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Lev_Astov replied on Wed, Jul 8 2009 12:36 PM

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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acarzt replied on Wed, Jul 8 2009 12:58 PM

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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Dave_HH replied on Wed, Jul 8 2009 4:04 PM

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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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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Dave_HH replied on Wed, Jul 8 2009 4:18 PM

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

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Dave_HH replied on Wed, Jul 8 2009 4:23 PM

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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Dave_HH replied on Wed, Jul 8 2009 10:26 PM

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 replied on Thu, Jul 9 2009 1:25 AM

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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bchiu replied on Thu, Jul 9 2009 5:06 AM

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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LaMpiR replied on Thu, Jul 9 2009 7:34 AM

Well I had the money, still wouldn't buy it. I would get  Area 1680ix with 4-6x vertex drivers. We be cheaper(ok, only by a grand or two) and it is bootable. This would be excellent if they could make it bootable.

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Jul 9 2009 9:31 AM

LaMpiR:

Well I had the money, still wouldn't buy it. I would get  Area 1680ix with 4-6x vertex drivers. We be cheaper(ok, only by a grand or two) and it is bootable. This would be excellent if they could make it bootable.

I'm told the ioXtreme (the coming next gen drive) will be bootable and though still around $10/G, will at least come in at around $895 for the 80G drive.  That said, not sure I'd waste 15 - 20G on an OS install just so it could boot faster but I'd load up all the apps and games I could on it for load time and responsiveness.

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Jul 9 2009 9:45 AM

The problem I have with that is that it's volatile DRAM. I'm not sure how it works but does it have ROM on board to keep whatever image is on it from disappearing when the power goes down?

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acarzt replied on Thu, Jul 9 2009 10:59 AM

I would think, all it would take is to put a PCI-E connection on the ioFusion card purely for booting purposes. Once it's booted and drivers are loaded it would switch to the PCI-E bus. It would be a simple fix.

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Jul 9 2009 11:11 AM

acarzt:

I would think, all it would take is to put a PCI-E connection on the ioFusion card purely for booting purposes. Once it's booted and drivers are loaded it would switch to the PCI-E bus. It would be a simple fix.


 

No this is definitely more of a firmware/BIOS compatibility thing.  A machine can boot off any PCIe target already.   That target just has to broadcast itself as bootable to the system.  Or at least I think that's the way it works, in layman's terms.  Smile

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I am curious why you used X25-M's & not Intel's X25-E. Would you have expected a big different had you done that?

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Dave_HH replied on Fri, Jul 10 2009 6:29 PM

Hi Terence,

Well, it's the simple fact that Intel hasn't been sending many of these drives out to the press unfortunately. Those drives are also crazy expensive, 32GB for $348. Likely write speeds would have improved dramatically, though reads, not as much.

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bchiu replied on Sat, Jul 11 2009 3:47 AM

Hi Dave,

Yes, you are right about that with the DRAM, it will lose all data if power is gone.  Therefore they have a battery pack (it charges everytime you turn on the computer).   The manufacture says the battery pack will able to keep the data in the DRAM for 2-3 years after one full charge.  The good thing is you can make use of your old DIMMs are make it a very fast 32G drives.

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