LSI WarpDrive 300GB PCI Express SSD Review
Introduction and Specifications
LSI is the sort of company that has been a household name in storage for many years; highly respected and trusted in the HBA (Host Bus Adapter) space, especially in high availability datacenter and media server applications. If we consider companies like LSI and their competitors, like Adaptec and AMCC (3Ware), you'll note that they're in a unique position in this storage technology migration, in that they can almost take an agnostic stance, in terms of which media type and market opportunity they decide to resource development efforts. For players like LSI, with a wealth of HBA controller IP at their disposal, they can relatively easily adapt and re-tool their technologies to service NAND Flash SSD memory structures and bring compelling solutions to market as market demand develops.
The LSI WarpDrive that we have on hand for you here is representative of LSI's efforts to capitalize on the company's strong SAS RAID controller technology base, combined with the most cutting-edge SSD technologies on the market today. We'll call to your attention early here that the WarpDrive means business though. With a $11,500 MSRP and street pricing in the $7400 - $8K range (yes, we're not sure what's up with that), end-user enthusiasts are likely not going to belly-up the justification to support the cost of a storage subsystem that is much more expensive than a typical entire system build. The LSI WarpDrive is targeted to the datacenter, workstation and server markets, where gobs of bandwidth, instantaneous random access and high reliability mean money in the bank, and as a result, "total cost of ownership" becomes increasingly more practical.
Alas, we'll squelch the marketing speak, before your eyes begin to glaze over, and get down to the details. After all, we've got some of the fastest PCI Express-based SSD technology money can buy on the test bench and we intend to light it up for you to see on the pages that follow...
The first thing to notice in the WarpDrive spec sheet is that we're looking at an SLC NAND-based SSD. SLC is decidedly more expensive than MLC NAND Flash, which is what's currently powering the large majority of consumer-class SSD products on the market today. However, it also has a write endurance factor some 10X that of MLC NAND. In other words, SLC is much better suited for high availability and reliability applications like those found in a web server, data center or pro workstation environments.
Other spec notables are LSI's proprietary RAID controller, that LSI has built a custom firmware wrapper for, that affords it the ability to interface with multiple SSD volumes configured in a RAID 0 stripe. Though you have access to the RAID BIOS on the WarpDrive, there's not much to configure there, save for boot options and some reporting. The drive is pretty much hard configured to a single RAID 0 volume of 300GB for the fastest performance it's capable of delivering. Let's take a closer look at the hardware...