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Micron's RealSSD P320h: The Future Of Enterprise-Class SSDs?

Micron RealSSD P320h Review: A PCIe Drive Capable Of 3.2 GB/s
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The future of solid-state storage has nothing to do with the SAS or SATA interfaces, at least as we know them today. Achieving 8 and 12 Gb/s transfer rates on the desktop will likely require that the SATA software infrastructure be applied to PCI Express, yielding a technology that'll be referred to as SATA Express.

Of course, both SAS and SATA will have a place in enterprise storage for a long time to come. But if you have a chance to look at the roadmaps from Intel or Samsung, it's clear that the companies see the future in NVMe, the stylized version of Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface Specification. This is going to standardize SSDs on PCI Express so that just one driver is needed to support compliant products. 

We're not there yet, as evidenced by the fact that we had some proprietary driver issues with Micron's RealSSD P320h. However, the company does give us a glimpse at what is possible without legacy bottlenecks getting in the way.

Based on our benchmarks, we can say with certainty that the RealSSD P320h is a great enterprise storage option. A review of the results makes a few points abundantly clear. First, this device delivers outstanding read performance. Whether you're talking about small-block random operations or large-block sequentials, the P320h consistently outperforms Intel's SSD 910 and OCZ's Z-Drive R4. In certain examples, the results aren't even close. As a result of its sizable advantage in read operations, the P320h also comes out on top in most enterprise workloads, which are so heavily read-biased that their outcomes were sort of foregone conclusions.

Although read performance is out of this world, the RealSSD P320h's write performance isn't nearly as spectacular. That's not to say the drive doesn't do well; it's just not as impressive after looking at those massive read numbers. Achieving 200,000 random 4 KB write IOPS, Micron's drive is fast enough to smoke Intel's SSD 910, but it falls short of OCZ's Z-Drive R4.   

When Micron told us that its P320h was optimized for high queue depths, the company wasn't kidding. A queue depth of 256 is the sweet spot for this device. If your application can't keep more than 32 commands outstanding, it's a toss-up whether the P320h can beat the SSD 910 or Z-Drive. Just in case you were thinking about it, wealthy enthusiast, this is the exact reason you wouldn't want to drop Micron's drive into a workstation. For it to shine, you really need to tax the P320h with an enterprise workload...

...like video streaming. The P320h is, hands down, the most consistent drive we have ever tested. Registering a write latency of <311 µs and a read latency of <47 µs, this drive does remarkably well in our streaming tests. That's partly attributable to the PCI Express to memory interface, and also a result of Micron's reliance on SLC NAND. The results speak for themselves.

Final Words

Micron's RealSSD P320h has a lot going for it. But, like most enterprise-oriented products, it does its job best in very specific environments. Fortunately, what the P320h does well is applicable to many different types of high-end storage that recommending it becomes a lot easier. Just be aware that Micron sells the product in two form factors, available in different capacities and with varying specifications. The 700 GB RealSSD P320h is what we were testing today, and it's a true beast. If this is truly the future of SSDs, we can't wait to see what's next.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    wolley74 , January 3, 2013 3:22 AM
    my wallet just had a heart attack, this thing would be freaking amazing to have
  • 12 Hide
    bawchicawawa , January 3, 2013 3:53 AM
    mayankleoboy1i dont see this as the future of consumer SSD's, just like a 16 core CPU is not the future of consumer CPU's.



    Such an apples to oranges comparison...
  • 10 Hide
    rdc85 , January 3, 2013 12:05 PM
    drwho1$10 dollars per GB.... LOL


    It using SLC and geared towards enterprise market...

    IMO it understandable price...
Other Comments
  • 14 Hide
    wolley74 , January 3, 2013 3:22 AM
    my wallet just had a heart attack, this thing would be freaking amazing to have
  • 12 Hide
    bawchicawawa , January 3, 2013 3:53 AM
    mayankleoboy1i dont see this as the future of consumer SSD's, just like a 16 core CPU is not the future of consumer CPU's.



    Such an apples to oranges comparison...
  • 9 Hide
    memadmax , January 3, 2013 4:11 AM
    Eliminating the SAS controller is the logical way to have these pci-e based ssd drives...
    Kinda surprised something like this didn't come out first as it makes more sense....
  • -9 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , January 3, 2013 4:32 AM
    bawchicawawaSuch an apples to oranges comparison...


    really ? Increasingly, performance is basically dependent on extracting parallelism. Whether in storage or in CPU performance.
    Desktop/Mainstream users just dont do so much in parallel that they can fully use all the hardware.
  • 5 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , January 3, 2013 4:35 AM
    mayankleoboy1i dont see this as the future of consumer SSD's, just like a 16 core CPU is not the future of consumer CPU's.

    I see a purpose for 16 core processors. How are we going to otherwise be able to run Crysis 6?
  • 7 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , January 3, 2013 4:38 AM
    JOSHSKORNI see a purpose for 16 core processors. How are we going to otherwise be able to run Crysis 6?


    Use a 5000 core GPU ?
  • 2 Hide
    youssef 2010 , January 3, 2013 6:29 AM
    ArticleAlthough read performance is out of this world, the RealSSD P320h's write performance isn't nearly as spectacular. That's not to say the drive doesn't do well; it's just not as impressive after looking at those massive read numbers. read performance was out of this world, the write performance wasn't nearly as spectacular. Now, that's not to say that the P320h doesn't perform well, it's just not as impressive as the read results


    ????????!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 9 Hide
    abbadon_34 , January 3, 2013 7:26 AM
    After all these years it's nice to see the OCZ Revo at least mentioned. Considering a bootable PCI-E x4 SSD can be had for under $200 for over 5 years now, and is on it's 4th+ generation, one can only wonder why it's been ignored for so long.
  • 6 Hide
    Marcus52 , January 3, 2013 7:44 AM
    Micron deserves a pat on the back for this one!

    Thanks for the review, love to see this kind of advancement and a peak into the future new hardware brings with it, even if it isn't directly applicable to me at this point in time.
  • 4 Hide
    goodguy713 , January 3, 2013 9:19 AM
    because the revo drive is a picky bastard that only plays nice with certain hardware.. i have a revo drive 3 and i love it but at the same time its a love hate relationship
  • -3 Hide
    Reynod , January 3, 2013 10:45 AM
    Its still not fast enough ... I'm not impressed.

    Can you put two of them in RAID0 ??

    Signed,

    Bonkers :) 
  • 10 Hide
    rdc85 , January 3, 2013 12:05 PM
    drwho1$10 dollars per GB.... LOL


    It using SLC and geared towards enterprise market...

    IMO it understandable price...
  • 6 Hide
    Fulgurant , January 3, 2013 1:27 PM
    mayankleoboy1i dont see this as the future of consumer SSD's, just like a 16 core CPU is not the future of consumer CPU's.


    Eh, depending on how far in the future we're talking about, neither of those statements is iron-clad. In the case of a 16-core processor, it's pretty much guaranteed that we will eventually see one in the consumer space, at mainstream prices. Whether the extra cores on that CPU will offer any compelling benefit to the mainstream consumer is an open question, but at least those cores do offer meaningful performance benefits to hardcore multi-taskers.

    Similarly, current consumer-grade SSDs offer very nearly instantaneous responsiveness already -- unless the user attempts to perform multiple disk-intensive tasks simultaneously. But who knows what the future holds? You could make a case that current enterprise-grade SSDs (or something similar to them) are far more likely to make a meaningful mark on the consumer market years from now than 16-core processors, because the benefits of CPU parallelism are limited in principle. By contrast, the benefit of storage speed is only limited by the speed of the components that rely on it; storage speed applies both to singular and parallel tasks.

    That said, I agree with your sentiment if not with the particulars of your argument: my gut reaction to the article was that although 3.2 GB/sec is a very impressive number, I already feel like I'm flying at the ~0.5 GB/sec (at best) that I get out of my Intel 330. From the consumer perspective, performance comparisons between different SSDs almost always seem to me materially irrelevant, so it's hard to get too excited about the performance of an enterprise-grade SSD, even in the abstract.

    Still, this is a worthy review of an interesting product. Appreciate the insight.
  • -6 Hide
    oxxfatelostxxo , January 3, 2013 2:53 PM
    This is a pointless waste of money, for less You can get a high end Raid card and enough ssds to have a read and write over 3gb/s as well as more storage, oh and the best part, Redundancy if wanted and the fact that a failure doesnt mean a multi thousand dollar loss.
  • 3 Hide
    freggo , January 3, 2013 4:14 PM
    rdc85It using SLC and geared towards enterprise market... IMO it understandable price...


    1989... 1MB of memory chips (card extra) was $100 wholesale !
    We sold them by the boat load for Amiga computers.

    And yes, that is 1 MegaByte...
    an 8MB card retailed for $1,800 (and that's in 1989 Dollars).

  • 2 Hide
    Andy Chow , January 3, 2013 4:35 PM
    Thank you for the nice metrics, like $/PB-Written. It's the type of useful information lacking from many reviews.
  • 0 Hide
    drewriley , January 3, 2013 5:11 PM
    youssef 2010????????!!!!!!!!!!!
    Fixed, thanks for the heads up!
  • 2 Hide
    drewriley , January 3, 2013 5:13 PM
    Andy ChowThank you for the nice metrics, like $/PB-Written. It's the type of useful information lacking from many reviews.

    I am glad you find it useful, it is something that I have always cared about and tested because I have been burned in the past.
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