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.


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


Intel H67 Motherboard


Intel H67

Chipset Drivers:

Intel + 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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  • krazyderek - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    i've been thinking about recycling some agility 2's into a raid array on a server, and this article gives a great blue print on the intel side of things! thank you!
  • neotiger - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    It's important to note that most of the SSDs you tested are not suitable for "enterprise" use because they are not crash-safe.

    X25-E, 510, 520 - none of them come with capacitors. That means in the event of a crash or power outage your data will be lost or corrupted (most likely both). They are not suited for enterprise use.
  • Per Hansson - Sunday, February 12, 2012 - link

    Hi Anand,
    Any interest in testing Adaptecs Hybrid RAID?
    It claims to offer good speed on a RAID-1 setup with a normal HDD together with a SSD.
    Something that on a normal controller would limit the SSD to the write speed of the HDD...

    Also will you be including any more SLC drives in your tests?
    Like the Micron RealSSD P300

    I love that you are finally starting to do enterprise tests :)

    Per Hansson
  • silversurferer - Saturday, February 18, 2012 - link


    Fabulous article - very well written!

    Just digging in on SSD since im having huge problem with my mailserver as the accounts and files grow in numbers and weight.

    It seems that SSD is made for this, if im not mistaking. Witch SSD disk would be suited for this and what kind of setup is recommended? Take gladely any pointers in this subject.

  • enealDC - Monday, February 20, 2012 - link

    Don't normally post, but I wanted to say great read!

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