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MK4001GRZB : Great Endurance, Fast Reads, Slower Writes

Toshiba's $7000+ 400 GB SSD: SAS 6Gb/s, SLC Flash, And Big Endurance
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The cadre of IT managers who make purchasing decisions for big enterprises don't just read reviews and buy pallets of storage devices. Rather, they spend weeks and months with new technologies in isolated servers, testing their mettle before deploying into production. In many performance-sensitive workloads, SSDs make a lot of sense. They can even save money when they replace a much larger quantity of disk drives. But reliability is of the utmost importance and, by extension, endurance receives attention as well.

As a result, it's difficult to render final judgement on an enterprise-class SSDs. Performance isn't the headliner that it is in desktop environments. Rather, it shares the spotlight with data security, and that's a very difficult variable to quantify.

We can determine performance over the course of a weekend (even taking steady states into account). If the only thing you care about is raw throughput, you could conclude that Toshiba's MK4001GRZB delivers excellent read speed, but is generally matched by desktop-class drives like Intel's SSD 520 that cost a lot less and facilitate better efficiency. The MK4001GRZB sells for more than $7000, while a 480 GB SSD 520 is available under $1000. A 200 GB P300 goes for somewhere around $2000, which can't stand up to the Intel drive, but it also employs SLC NAND, too.

Reliability is the real challenge. Statistically, a handful of reviews is insufficient for crowning one company or another the best for keeping data secure. To really gauge reliability, you'd need to watch the failure rate of a large population of SSDs subjected to the same workload. Why? Because solid-state storage changes its behavior based on activity, which cannot be said for hard drives. Right now, vendors only seem willing to cite the return rates from distributors, which generally involve fairly small sample sizes. Invariably, it'll take more time and a study like Google's own independent analysis of failure trends to shed more light on how SSDs compare.

Endurance is related to reliability, but certainly not the only (or most important, even) determinant of it. It's possible to test and estimate the rated longevity of an SSD using SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) tables and a bit of math. Unfortunately, it is a very time-consuming process. In order to give you an idea of what it took for us to present endurance figures for Toshiba's drive, we had to write to the MK4001GRZB for 41 days, 24 hours a day, to get the MWI to drop 1%. In the process, we wrote approximately 900 TB worth of data. And that figure only applies to a purely sequential workload. Estimating endurance for random access would require a separate test, as write amplification is higher. We're not sure how much longer testing would have taken, but it could have been as long as three or four months.

As a result, our conclusions are and will always be admittedly less complete than a review conducted over the course of months or even years. But that's the trade-off for also publishing something in a timely manner. This could have been a great candidate for a long-term story where we put the rubber to the road and go ahead with calculating random I/O endurance as well. Alas, with a $7000+ price tag, it's understandable that Toshiba wanted to get the drive back sooner than later.

At the end of the day, based on our testing, we can say that Toshiba's MK4001GRZB offers very fast reads, slower write performance, and amazing endurance in sequential workloads. The last point can't be understated. In an environment pushing sequential writes all day, every day, it'd take more than 11 years to use up the 400 GB model's rated P/E cycles. That's well beyond Toshiba's five-year warranty. And so, when it comes to enterprise storage, the MK4001GRZB  shows us why SLC flash is still top-of-the-line. 

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Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    bennaye , February 24, 2012 4:41 AM
    nebun$7000 any company willing to pay this much for an SSD is fullish


    ...fullish of cash? Definitely. Foolish? Probably not.
  • 15 Hide
    spazoid , February 24, 2012 9:36 AM
    amdfreakIt is too expensive for the performance it offers. You can get a RAID array of many Intel SSDs beating Toshiba in every segment.


    You've clearly not understood the purpose of this article. Stick to commenting the desktop drive reviews in the future, please.


    Thank you for this review, and especially your estimations on the endurance of the drive. It's something that's damn near impossible for us IT professionals to get accurate estimations of in the real world. For some reason, bosses tend to want the expensive hardware to be put to use instead of being thoroughly tested.

    More of these types of articles please! :]
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    compton , February 24, 2012 4:09 AM
    Good job, Mr. Ku.

    Perhaps the Enterprise SSD Fairy will bring you a Hitatchi UltraStar with Intel's 6gbps controller. I'd be eager to see how it compares.

    There is no substitute for SLC though.
  • 23 Hide
    bennaye , February 24, 2012 4:41 AM
    nebun$7000 any company willing to pay this much for an SSD is fullish


    ...fullish of cash? Definitely. Foolish? Probably not.
  • 6 Hide
    nebun , February 24, 2012 5:57 AM
    bennaye...fullish of cash? Definitely. Foolish? Probably not.

    damn the english language.....there are way to many words that sound alike
  • -7 Hide
    confish21 , February 24, 2012 6:00 AM
    How is this $7000 drive profitable over it's competition again?
  • -4 Hide
    nitrium , February 24, 2012 8:03 AM
    Why is the 4KB Random read/write performance shown as IOPS, but 128KB and 2MB performance is in MB/sec? What speed (in MB/sec) does this drive achieve in 4KB? I guess I could calculate it from (IOPS * 4KB) / 1024 (I think that's right), but why should I have to?
  • 15 Hide
    spazoid , February 24, 2012 9:36 AM
    amdfreakIt is too expensive for the performance it offers. You can get a RAID array of many Intel SSDs beating Toshiba in every segment.


    You've clearly not understood the purpose of this article. Stick to commenting the desktop drive reviews in the future, please.


    Thank you for this review, and especially your estimations on the endurance of the drive. It's something that's damn near impossible for us IT professionals to get accurate estimations of in the real world. For some reason, bosses tend to want the expensive hardware to be put to use instead of being thoroughly tested.

    More of these types of articles please! :]
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , February 24, 2012 10:57 AM
    @spazoid, so you are telling me that you are willing to pay 10x for an endurance of 3x over the INTEL 520 SSD?
    Even when the INTEL SSD already has an endurance longer than your refresh cycle for your tech stack?
  • 6 Hide
    EJ257 , February 24, 2012 2:17 PM
    frozonicLOL, i can just imagine myself in ten years telling my kids that we had to pay 7000$ for a 400gb ssd...by that time we are gonna have 400+ TB ssds


    "Back in my days storage drives used to have moving parts. Now its all solid state."
  • 2 Hide
    jaquith , February 24, 2012 2:50 PM
    I own a small data center and thankfully have access to a 'major' financial institutions test data, and I agree with your conclusions especially regarding deployment into production. $7K SSD is a tough call with a 5-year, but if it were 7~10-year then probably an easy call.

    Unlike super-sized enterprise which I am not, the cost/benefit calculations would be difficult for myself. I know firsthand the money that i.e. financial institutions push into their data centers, and for those folks $7K isn't out of the question.

    Interesting SSD and if the prices come down and warranty extended then IMO it would be something to consider and compare against Intel's products.
  • 8 Hide
    willard , February 24, 2012 3:12 PM
    I came into this article expecting people to bitch about prices, compare to consumer products and just misunderstand enterprise class hardware in general.

    I was not disappointed.
  • 3 Hide
    therabiddeer , February 24, 2012 3:36 PM
    nebun$7000 any company willing to pay this much for an SSD is fullish

    I refer you to the ~$20,000 1.2TB fusion-io SSD's.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , February 24, 2012 4:47 PM
    I've got one of those $20,000 fusion IO drives... and it stomps all over my $130,000 storage san...
  • -2 Hide
    andywork78 , February 24, 2012 5:30 PM
    Good review and test.

    but wow... $7000...

    I go with 10 of 128GB SSD....
  • 6 Hide
    nforce4max , February 24, 2012 5:31 PM
    nebun$7000 any company willing to pay this much for an SSD is fullish


    Hell I'll gladly pay that much because drives like this save money in the long run. They are cheaper and much easier to set up and maintain vs hundred of mechanical drives in a raid setup. In power alone over the live of the drive vs mechanical drives adds up. So $7k isn't that bad and this isn't the most expensive SSD that I have seen.
  • 6 Hide
    holyprof , February 24, 2012 7:26 PM
    amdfreakIt is too expensive for the performance it offers. You can get a RAID array of many Intel SSDs beating Toshiba in every segment.


    Throw 50TB daily writes on that Intel SDD array of yours and it will last you only 3 months until full failure.
  • 9 Hide
    A Bad Day , February 24, 2012 8:01 PM
    nebun$7000 any company willing to pay this much for an SSD is fullish


    "Hey uh, our entire rack of $50 SSDs simply died on us, along with all of our business files."
  • -3 Hide
    garciam , February 24, 2012 9:05 PM
    Anyone thinking this can last longer than a few SSD's raided obviously does not know *** about how NAND works and how much it lasts.
    Throw 3 Intel MLC 480 GB SSD's in RAID-5 (1k each), make an agressive overprovisioning...and they will both last MUCH longer and also run circles to this expensive piece of hardware being reviewed.

    Heck, it's pretty much touching Fusion-IO pricing without even coming close on speed.

    This will only work for people needing plug & play replacement for their SAS drives AND with very deep pockets. Since i suspect the replacement should be made in batches...it will be VERY expensive.

    Anyone else with brains can find a lot of cheaper, faster AND more reliable solutions.

    I'd wait for a Velodrive, raid a couple of them and just have regular backups on a storage with regular HDD's (that is, read GB/s from a couple SSD's...write GB/s sequentially to a storage).

    I do understand though that there are out there companies that can't risk innovation and smart choices and have to recur to handwritten promises and warranties of the big guys.

    Reason why buying a Dell costs a hell lot more than building it yourself.
    Reason why building your own storage is a fraction of the price of an EMC solution.

    And so on...
  • 1 Hide
    Reynod , February 25, 2012 12:57 AM
    Anybody checked to see if it is worth it's weight in gold or platinum ?


    For $7000 that is the first thing I would have done Andrew.

    :) 
  • 2 Hide
    peevee , February 25, 2012 9:45 AM
    EJ257"Back in my days storage drives used to have moving parts. Now its all solid state."


    "Why are they called drives, granpa?"
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