Intel’s X25-E SSD Walks All Over The Competition


If you took the time to flip through all of the benchmark pages, then you probably won’t need to read this conclusion to know what we're going to say. Intel’s first SSD, the X25-M, which aims at the premium desktop and mobile market, was already impressive. It still dominates many benchmarks, pairing high performance with great efficiency. But the X25-E is something different altogether.

Performance Madness

The new device is based on the same controller and cache memory architecture. It does not provide more maximum throughput than the X25-M (200 MB/s), and it is limited to 32 GB and 64 GB capacities for now. But it offers serious write performance (160 MB/s) thanks to single level cell flash memory, which the mainstream drive doesn’t possess. More importantly, it introduces I/O performance that is 10x to 25x higher than what you can get from the latest 15,000 RPM server hard drives. In almost every I/O benchmark, except the Web server test, the X25-E is three to five times faster than its direct flash SSD competitors.

Revealing the Inefficient

Describing the X25-E as the most efficient server drive would be correct, but I prefer to endorse it as the flash SSD storage product that finally redefines server storage performance, and resets the standards for high I/O devices. It isn’t so much more efficient than hard drives, but hard drives are simply extremely inefficient when it comes to random workloads.

Sophisticated flash memory technology has reached a level at which a single storage product is capable of delivering performance levels formerly reached only on complex RAID arrays with 6-12 hard drives. Not only does it outperform those good old hard drives, but this single X25-E storage product does it while consuming only a bit more than 1 W, on average, compared to at least 100 W for a RAID array.

This doesn’t mean that the hard drive is going to disappear, of course. High capacity applications and fast throughput remain an undisputed domain of magnetic storage products. But the days of hard drives being used in I/O intensive server applications are numbered. Hitachi and Seagate had better do their homework before releasing their flash SSD products in late 2009 or 2010, as Intel has set the bar higher than it has ever been before in the server storage market.