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Intel SSD 910 Review: PCI Express-Based Enterprise Storage

Enterprise Video Streaming Performance

As we know, enterprise customers have different requirements and expectations of their storage than even desktop enthusiasts. If a consumer drive demonstrates periodic performance dips, most users don't perceive the difference. Photoshop may load a few milliseconds slower, or a file finishing copying one second later. In the enterprise video sector, though, large block performance is critical, and even small performance hiccups can cause major issues. 

In many streaming applications, you are getting data from a physical device, which could be a digital frame grabber, and writing it to disk. If the disk can't keep up, the data still has to go somewhere. If it can't get to the drive at a specified rate, buffers overflow and data is lost. Ideally, the acquired data would DMA from the device into host memory, and then down to disk. But in the real world, you need buffers. Their size and location can vary greatly based on the application. This section of our story helps show how much buffer allocation is needed for a specific data rate.

Reviews (this one included) give you lots of data designed to demonstrate performance in a number of different scenarios, with the idea that at least some will be relevant to you. The main drawback is that, by going wide, you end up with averages or small sample sizes. Here, we're using the 800 GB SSD 910 in Maximum Performance mode, getting into a steady state, and writing the full capacity 100 times in a row. Each test consists of 8 MB sequential writes with a queue depth of four. Each point on the graph is a 100-point average of the individual 8 MB writes. We'd give you the chart without averages, but Excel does care for 95 000 data points.

The graph below shows the best and worst runs out of all 100 iterations.

If you don't know any better, that might look bad. But it really isn't. Intel's SSD 910 actually does a really good job of maintaining its performance across the entire disk. The table below shows estimated buffer sizes.

Setpoint (MB/s)Best-Case Buffer Size In MBWorst-Case Buffer Size In MB
13502328
140024100
145033646
1500462520
1550656729

The Intel SSD 910 can easily sustain 1400 MB/s with only a minimal amount of buffering (100 MB). If you go much beyond that, you need to seriously look into allocating multiple gigabytes of memory in order to sustain higher data rates.

The average speed across the entire drive during the best- and worst-case iterations was 1568 and 1536 MB/s, respectively. Even though the difference was 2%, there were a number of other runs with the same deltas that did not show the same drastically different buffer requirements.

  • that is one fast Sequential read speed. It to bad that they will be $1000+ market and out of reach of all but the server/ workstation crowd
    Reply
  • The OCZ is tested with compressible data? talk about best case scenario. what were the incompressible results like?
    Reply
  • s3anister
    PCI-E Solid State Storage is great but I can't help but wonder; where is the Memristor? The true performance gains to be had are with massive RAM-disks that aren't volatile.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    The most important and un-comparable factor here is 5 years later those Intel SSD's will still be functional, any other brand im surprised they last 5 months in normal machines with the failure rates i have seen first hand - OCZ, GSkill etc there all horrible i bought an Intel SSD for this reason - THEY WORK.

    Review sites never cover real world use - that is to live with it day in day out (reliability), its not all about raw speed and performance.
    Reply
  • ZakTheEvil
    Yeah, consumer SSD reliability is a bit of disappointment. At best they seem to be as reliable as hard drives.
    Reply
  • georgeisdead
    This is a note to address several articles I have come across lately that state intel's reputation for quality and reliability in the SSD market as if it is a given. These comments are from my personal experience with intel's drives. I have owned 3 intel solid state drives, one X25-M G1, and two X25-M G2's. The X25-M G1 failed after 2 years while one of the G2 drives failed after 2.5 years. Now, I am not an expert on MTBF and reliability, but in my opinion this is a pretty poor track record. It is entirely possible that this is a coinicidence, however both drives failed in the same manner, from the same problem (determined by a third party data recovery specialist): Bad NAND flash.

    As best I understand it as it was descibed by the company that analyzed these failed drives, a block of NAND flash either went bad or became inaccessible by the controller rendering the drives useless and unable to be accessed by normal means of hooking it up to a SATA or USB port. Two drives, different NAND (50 nm for the G1 and 34 nm for the G2), same failure mode.

    Once again, this is not definitive, just my observations but to me, I think review sites need to be a little more cautious about how they qualify intel's reputation for quality and reliability because from my perspective, intel has neither and I have since began using crucial SSD's. Hopefully, I will see much longer life from these new drives.
    Reply
  • jdamon113
    I would like to see something like this stacked in our EMC, Could this drive with a rack of othere just like it, run 24/7 for 3 + years, Sure we replace a drive here and there in our EMC, but the unit as a whole has never went down in its 5 year life.
    Intel, you should test these drive in that real world application. EMC, VM-ware and several data bases carve out some LUN's and Push the envelope. In this situation, should the device prove worthy, the 4000 price tag will come down very fast, and the data center will put it trust in product, So for those reading this for your personal home workstation and gaming ridge, you need not apply in this arena.
    Intel is just about 18-months 2 years of owning the data center, Even EMC is powered by intel.
    Reply
  • jaquith
    Enterprise e.g. SQL you need SLC otherwise you'd be making a career replacing drives. The cost is down time and replacement. I can write more 'stuff' but it's that simple. For our IDX and similar read data it about reliability and capacity.
    Reply
  • willard
    razor7104that is one fast Sequential read speed. It to bad that they will be $1000+ market and out of reach of all but the server/ workstation crowdThat's because this was not designed for consumers. It's not like they're marking the price up 1000% for shits and giggles. Enterprise hardware costs more to make because it must be much faster and much more reliable.

    This drive, and every other piece of enterprise hardware out there, was never meant to be used by consumers.
    Reply
  • drewriley
    jimbob rubaeThe OCZ is tested with compressible data? talk about best case scenario. what were the incompressible results like?
    Check out the Sequential Performance page, lists both compressible and incompressible. For all the other tests, random (incompressible) data was used.
    Reply