Breaking Records With SSDs: 16 Intel X25-Es Do 2.2 GB/s

Drives: Intel X25-E 64 GB SSD

We reviewed Intel’s professional-series SSD, the X25-E, in February 2009, and the conclusion was clear: this product cannot outperform other performance drives when it comes to read throughput, but it delivers higher write throughput than other products, and it is capable of delivering massive I/O performance numbers. The X25-E delivers between 10x and 25x the performance of a single 15,000 RPM enterprise hard drive, while boasting state-of-the-art throughput. The recipe for success lies in Intel’s ten-channel flash controller with integrated cache memory to optimize wear leveling as well as write performance. Intel’s latest firmware updates, which have been available for download on the Intel Web site, do not yet include the professional X25-E drives.

The 64 GB version, featuring 50 nm SLC NAND flash memory, is still Intel’s top model. Next-generation devices will switch to an advanced 34 nm process soon (watch for a review any day!). This will double capacities to 128 GB in the enterprise segment and 320 GB in X25-M consumer drives. There’s still some headroom for additional performance increases, but the SATA/300 interface may soon become the next bottleneck. Luckily, SATA/600 is fully specified and ready to go.

We wanted to get as many X25-E drives as possible, but we expected to reach more than 2 GB/s bandwidth with far fewer than 24 drives, which the Samsung project used. After having received Intel’s 16 SSDs, we tried several configurations to optimize for maximum throughput and I/O performance.