Intel's SSD 520 in the Enterprise

I went through the basic premise of SandForce's controller architecture in our review of the 520. By integrating a real time data compression/deduplication engine in the data path of the controller, SandForce can reduce the number of physical writes it commits to NAND. It's an interesting way of combating the issue of finite NAND flash endurance. It works very well on desktop systems (BSOD issues aside), and for many enterprise workloads it should do similarly well. By writing less, you can get more endurance out of your NAND, making it an ideal technology for use in the enterprise where NAND endurance is more of a concern.

The limitations are serious however. You cannot further compress something that is already compressed and data sets that are truly random in makeup can't be compressed either. If your enterprise workload triggers either of these conditions, or if you're working with encrypted data, you're not going to get a big benefit from SandForce's technology.

There are still a lot of enterprise workloads (including portions of ours) that just revolve around reading and writing simple text (e.g. pages of a review, or tracking banner impressions). For these workloads, SandForce could do quite well.

Intel's SSDs have often been used in datacenter environments, including the consumer drives for reasons I've already described. Armed with a full set of Intel SSDs I put all of them through our newly created Enterprise SSD suite to see how well they performed.

Enterprise SSD Comparison
  Intel SSD 710 Intel X25-E Intel SSD 520 Intel SSD 320
Capacities 100 / 200 / 300GB 32 / 64GB 60 / 120 / 180 / 240 / 480GB 80 / 120 / 160 / 300 / 600GB
NAND 25nm HET MLC 50nm SLC 25nm MLC 25nm MLC
Max Sequential Performance (Reads/Writes) 270 / 210 MBps 250 / 170 MBps 550 / 520 MBps 270 / 220 MBps
Max Random Performance (Reads/Writes) 38.5K / 2.7K IOPS 35K / 3.3K IOPS 50K / Not Listed IOPS 39.5K / 600 IOPS
Endurance (Max Data Written) 500TB - 1.5PB 1 - 2PB Not Listed 5 - 60TB
Encryption AES-128 - AES-256 AES-128
Power Safe Write Cache Y N N Y
Temp Sensor Y N N N

It's worth pointing out that the Intel SSD 520 and 510 are both 6Gbps drives, while many servers deployed today still only support 3Gbps SATA. I've provided results for both 3Gbps and 6Gbps configurations to showcase the differences.

The Test

Note that although we debuted these tests in previous reviews, the results here aren't comparable due to some changes in the software build on the system.

CPU

Intel Core i7 2600K running at 3.4GHz (Turbo & EIST Disabled)

Motherboard:

Intel H67 Motherboard

Chipset:

Intel H67

Chipset Drivers:

Intel 9.1.1.1015 + Intel RST 10.2

Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 285
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 190.38 64-bit
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows 7 x64
Case Study: SSDs in AnandTech's Server Environment Enterprise Storage Bench - Oracle Swingbench
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  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    There's a *ton* of data that we manage. We run statistics, ad serving and forums all in house. Among other things, we can guarantee that no one funny is looking at the data we manage.

    Statistics are pretty beefy (they are one of our enterprise workloads after all) as we're tracking requests to all articles published. Couple a few hundred thousand readers per day with multiple article requests per reader and that's a lot of traffic to keep track of. Multiply all of that by a few ads per page and you can see where ad serving/tracking gets insane.

    Then there are the forums. Repeat the same workload as above but across a different, but also quite large community.

    The MS SQL server is main site, the My SQL server is forums + ads :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Lord 666 - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    @Anand,

    What model server and what controller was it using with the qty 8 320 drives? Been waiting for an article like for this for some time.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 09, 2012 - link

    The temporary hardware is a Dell R710 I believe. We're simply using Intel's Matrix RAID, no real need for a discrete PCIe RAID solution for what we're doing. I'll be providing more details about our final hardware configuration and how it compares to what we were running on for the past few years in the not too distant future.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • mojobary - Thursday, February 09, 2012 - link

    Hi,

    This is exactly the information I am interested in. I am a video editor, so my needs are typically long sequential reads. I would be interested in RAID adapters, iSCSI and Fibre channel RAID enclosures in respect to using SSDs. This is something that not much good information is present out in the wild. I have been researching this topic for about nine months and do not have conclusive information. Even from vendors which say "they support ssd", they don't list supported drives or even TRIM support. I typically like this site as it seems unbiased in the regard and usually helps me drive purchasing decisions.
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    HDDs are pretty good at sequential reads (and writes).

    For the same $, you'd be able to get more HDDs, and therefore higher sequential performance, than SSDs.

    This will remain true until SSDs get MUCH faster sequential performance, or get MUCH cheaper than they currently are.
    Reply
  • Movieman420 - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Given the 710's obvious benefit of using HET nand it'd be nice to see a comparison between it and an eMLC equipped Ocz SF2500 Deneva 2 drive. :evil grin: Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 09, 2012 - link

    I'm trying to get more enterprise SSDs in house. I've got a bunch that I'm working on now actually. Not the Deneva 2 sadly :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Sufo - Thursday, February 09, 2012 - link

    How about the HP for ProLiant drives? Also, anything from Anobit?

    Is the 710 a realistic option for enterprise?
    Reply
  • zepi - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    I was hoping on some input regarding TRIM and SSD RAIDs in enterprise environments. What if I stick these babies to a proper raid-controller to run them in RAID 5? Or how about under other operating systems than Windows? Do the drives choke quickly if trim is not available or is it a non-issue? Does trim work in a software RAID array, assuming my operating system supports it? And how about trim / garbage collection behavior if the drives are never idle?

    Afaik Intel has released RAID 0- and RAID 1-compatible drivers that support trim, but only for Windows. Was that active in your test or does it even matter the slightest?
    Reply
  • lonestar212 - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    I was about ask exactly the same thing. Very curious about this! Reply

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