Micron RealSSD P320h PCI Express SSD Review

Article Index

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary:  Micron's P320h PCI Express SSD is an interesting beast to be sure.  Its architecture is inherently simplified and designed for high throughput, blazing fast random access and high workload queue depths.  Throughout most of our testing, the P320h offered top-end performance, besting more complex competitive solutions on the market that rely on standard SAS/SATA controllers from companies like LSI SandForce.  Especially with high queue-depth Reads, the Micron P320h is very competitive with the fastest PCIe drives on the market and in some cases can blow them right out of the water.  We also think the performance picture will improve over time, as Windows drivers mature for the product.

A Note on Stability and Drivers:  All was not rosy with the Micron P320h, however, and while the Engineering team at Micron has spent much of its time validating on Linux and Server Chipset-based platforms from Intel, the Windows driver we've been working with over the past few weeks only became available to us recently.  In addition, we were only able to get the P320h up and stable in an Intel X79-based test system we had on hand, while X58 and Z77 boards we tested the drive in often failed to get past POST or ended up with a blue screen with the drive falling back to a verify state, rebuilding its internal array after a hard reset.  The array rebuild is normal operating functionality after a failure but it was clear Micron needed more time validating the driver and hardware under more chipset platforms in Windows environments.  It is possible there is additional performance headroom left untapped in its current state as well.

 

What Micron and IDT have put together here is nothing short of impressive.  We've looked at a lot of PCI Express SDDs in our day and it always appeared that, like Fusion-io had previously proven, there were less complex, more elegant ways to attack the problem and with much less bridging and translation getting in the way of performance.  In a former life, I spent many hours selling to Engineers in the back-room labs of big iron storage players like EMC, talking to engineers about their designs.  Back then, PCI Express SSDs simply didn't exist, serial interfaces were just starting to gain serious traction across platforms and Intel was just beginning a vigorous push for X86 in embedded designs, which quickly evolved into something called "common platform," a catch phrase that was another way of saying X86 servers were on their way to ubiquity.  A lot has changed since then but one mantra that was drilled into our sales grunt heads was that bridging and translation across interfaces = latency and bottlenecks. 

It seems now, the native, direct-attached PCI Express SSD has finally arrived. Though Micron may not have been the first, they are the first to have delivered a product with a purpose-built ASIC and custom storage processor, rather than a programmable device. Though clearly, with its $7K price tag, the Micron P320h is a solution targeted at the Data Center and Enterprise (but yes, it is bootable), I can see a time in the not so distant future where PCI Express SSDs are resident in desktops and notebooks as well, sans a SATA or SAS controller getting in the way of IO throughput.  Until then, the Micron P320h gives IT pros another weapon in their arsenal of handling more users and transactions in smaller footprints and with the exponentially higher throughput that only a PCI Express SSD can deliver.
 

Micron P320h 700GB PCI Express SSD

  • Native PCI Express design, No SATA Or SAS Bridging
  • Blazing fast high queue depth Reads
  • Great write performance at high queue depths as well
  • SLC endurance along with ECC and RAID 5 (RAIN) redundancy
  • Half-height, half-length compact design
  • Expensive
  • Immature Windows platform validation and drivers
  • Falls flat under shallow queue depths and workloads

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