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Intel 910 800GB and 400GB PCI Express Solid State Drive Review - Final Thoughts

Intel jumps into the server PCIe flash acceleration market and in a big way. With an amazingly low price point compared to competitors, Intel aims to dominate this market segment. (NASDAQ:INTC)

| PCIe SSDs in IT/Datacenter | Posted: Jun 26, 2012 2:29 pm
TweakTown Rating: 96%      Manufacturer: Intel

Final Thoughts

 

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The Intel 910 overall is a compelling solution that is certainly going to set a class-defining price point. TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) is the big story here. Price has always been one of the major inhibitors for companies looking to upgrade to enterprise-class flash products and Intel is helping to break down those boundaries.

 

Intel is an industry "˜heavy' that has the ability to come in and change the landscape and with the 910 launch, the game is definitely going to change for the competition. Intel has come in with such a low price point that others will be forced to attempt to match. Intel enjoys an advantage in pricing, which isn't always going to be easy for competitors who do not own foundries. The low pricing of this SSD easily outstrips other PCIe solutions and could even become a threat to some 2.5" SSDs. The 800GB model has an MSRP of $3859 and the 400GB is listed for $1929.

 

Some of the industry leading SLC SSDs can cost around $7000 for half of the capacity of the Intel 910. This leads to lopsided comparisons in the price-per-GB area, with some SLC SSDs commanding $17.50 per GB in contrast to $4.82 per GB for the 910. When comparing Dollar per IOPS measurements, the 910 becomes an even clearer winner, with two cents per read IOP compared to as high as eight cents per IOP for some SLC SSDs.

 

Value-oriented and easier to use products can help to bring forth wider adoption. Ease of use is important to minimize downtime. The LSI drivers provide a flexible platform that has deep compatibility roots, allowing for plug-and-play capability. The amount of time that it takes to configure and manage the device is also important. Once the device is slipped into the waiting PCIe slot, all that is left is volume management.

 

The lightweight drivers allow for high performance with minimal host overhead and also excellent overall latency figures. By having multiple volumes presented to the host system, there are a number of different configurations that can be utilized and one particularly effective usage would be for tiering models. This type of implementation can reap huge benefits for users with existing infrastructure. Tiering and caching software would allow the 910 to boost the performance of large arrays of HDDs simply by writing the hot files to the 910 as a caching device. This allows the CPU of the system to be used to its fullest, maximizing performance for the whole system.

 

At the end of the day, one has to remember that Intel is primarily a CPU manufacturer. With multicore processors the norm, the key for Intel to sell more units is to get more use out of the high powered CPUs that they sell. Flash is a means to do this for them, as it can break the storage bottlenecks that have hamstrung the power and speed of the CPUs for several generations now. What is the point of having an ultra-high performance CPU if it is strangled by storage bandwidth? Virtualization, tiering and caching models, cloud computing servers and the financial sector are areas that the 910 is designed for, but there are other uses that the price point allows for. For professional video and audio editing, this would be a dream drive.

 

The high endurance of the device is provided from using high quality 25nm HET MLC flash direct from Intel's own foundries and they can also set aside the highest binned NAND for their own SSD products. Just a few short years ago 14 Petabytes of endurance from MLC flash was simply unheard of and is still impressive today. Tying this endurance in with high-grade power capacitors that help protect the data results in a reliable SSD that is backed by a five year warranty. The five year warranty covers the SSD for 10 full drive writes per day.

 

Finally we get down to the performance aspect and here Intel beats all of their own marketed specifications easily. We attained 227,247 4K random read IOPS, well above the rated 180,000 IOPS. The 4k Random write IOPS reached 85,768, also higher than the rated 75,000. The capability of 100,000 4K random write IOPS in Steady State with 20% Overprovisioning tells the story for the possibility of configuring the device for high random workloads as well.

 

Overall it is rare that we see a device that wins on all counts, but the Intel 910 is definitely in a class of its own.

 

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