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

Introduction and Background

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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