LSI WarpDrive 300GB PCI Express SSD Review

The WarpDrive Up Close and Dissected

As we noted earlier, the LSI WarpDrive is a combination of LSI's tried and true SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) RAID controller technology, along with SandForce-based SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration.  Specifically, there are six SSD cards that make up the WarpDrive in its 300GB configuration, all sporting SandForce 1500 series controllers and all taking to an LSI SAS2008 hardware RAID engine, and a very capable engine at that.
The SAS2008 is a hardware RAID controller that supports up to eight 6Gb/ps SAS/SATA ports and has a X8 PCI Express 2.0 interface on the other side.  At its heart is a 533MHz Power PC core CPU that does all the heavy lifting.  LSI's SAS2008 is definitely an advanced, very capable RAID controller with lots of headroom and bandwidth for future higher speed and higher capacity versions of the WarpDrive.

There's also a bit of non-volatile SRAM that affords the WarpDrive more resiliency and the ability to complete fast write transactions in the event of power loss or system reset.  The Flash firmware block is a chunk of configuration memory that the SandForce controllers need to function.  And of course LSI has their own RAID BIOS firmware for the WarpDrive, which, as we noted is basically hard configured, save for a few status and boot options; there is no option to change the RAID configuration of the WarpDrive as it stands today.  It's setup for maximum performance in RAID 0.

LSI WarpDrive - Half-Height PCI Express Card - Click for high res

SSD Flash Modules - Click for high res

The design of the WarpDrive is rather elegant, in light of the various different technologies at play with the device. Similar to OCZ's RevoDrive X2 series, there are mezzanine style Flash cards plugged into a half-height PCI Express X8 HBA card design. Each module has eight Micron NAND Flash chips on board for a total of 64GB per card. Together, they offer about 384GB of total capacity, but LSI reserves excess memory space for SSD garbage collection algorithms, wear-leveling and maintenance to keep the drive performing well over time and use.  Frankly these "non-native" PCI Express designs aren't quite as elegant as Fusion-io's direct attach approach that doesn't have to talk through RAID controllers and SSD controllers in tandem.  However, Fusion-io's custom PCI Express SSD ASIC adds a fair bit of cost to their solution as well.

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