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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

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... 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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