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Comay Pluto SC3 Enterprise SSD Review

Comay Pluto SC3 Enterprise SSD Review

Comay's Pluto SC3 features an LSI SandForce 2481 controller in tandem with Intel 25nm MLC NAND. With enterprise class features, such as host power-loss protection and enhanced data security, and a low price point, this will make for a good option for the value-conscious.

@paulyalcorn
Published Thu, Apr 25 2013 10:15 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 88%Manufacturer: CoreRise Electronics

Introduction

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The Comay Pluto SC3 is an enterprise MLC SSD powered by the LSI SandForce 2481 controller. The Pluto SC3 features impressive specifications of 555MB/s in sequential read and 530MB/s in sequential write speed. 4K random read weighs in at 82,000 IOPS and 4k random write speed is 69,000 IOPS.

Comay is the SSD division for the Chinese-based company CoreRise. Comay is one of the world's largest manufacturers of SSDs. CoreRise features an extensive line of SSDs for enterprise, industrial, military and client environments. Comay spends considerable resources on R&D, and their broad background and manufacturing capability leads to many unique features for the Comay SSDs, lending extra reliability to the final product.

The primary focus of Comay is on quality and reliability. Comay has invested heavily in infrastructure to test and validate their products, utilizing standardized CR-M/I/E/C tests. The comprehensive testing includes environmental tests from -40C to +85C, burn-in tests, sleep-wake cycle testing (10,000 cycles), and character and compatibility testing.

Extensive validation and unique features are important in a market that has more than its fair share of SandForce powered SSDs. The ubiquitous SandForce controller makes it easy for manufacturers to create and market their own SSDs, but has also led to a plethora of very similar SSD offerings. Comay has created differentiation in their design by making significant departures from SandForce reference PCB designs.

Power fail protection is necessary when protecting user data and Comay addresses this with their Cap-X system. This large capacitor provides up to four seconds of power for the SSD to commit all data in transit to the NAND. LSI SandForce controllers do not utilize DRAM for operation, and along with fewer components, one advantage of forgoing DRAM usage is lessening of the impact of power failure. SandForce SSDs already have only a 1/1000 possibility of data loss without power protection, but the additional super capacitor extends this protection even further.

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The power circuitry on Comay SSDs feature premium components and overvoltage protection. The overload protection provides security against power surges, short circuit and static electricity discharges. Robust power delivery systems on SSDs are critical, as the majority of premature SSD failures originate from power delivery circuitry failures.

Another interesting feature with the Comay SSDs is a cooling system for the PCB, consisting of metal strips that allow the PCB to dissipate heat away from the PCB. Comay also provides their customers with the Comay SSD Toolbox software, which allows for easy firmware updating, secure erasure and monitoring of the SSD. Enhanced SMART data aids in monitoring of the SSD and is helpful for predictive failure analysis.

The LSI SF-2481 is an enterprise-class controller that features an UBER rating 1/10th of the standard SF-2281 controller. The Pluto SC3 utilizes double ECC in the form of BCH 33bit/512byte ECC. With RAISE providing an extra layer of data protection from lost sectors, pages and blocks, Comay has the bases covered for data integrity; let's take a look at the specifications.

Comay Pluto SC3 Specifications

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The Comay Pluto SC3 SSD is designed for mainstream use in cloud computing, servers and datacenters. AES-128 bit encryption is standard fare for LSI SandForce SSDs, idle voltage is rated for 1W, and active is specified at 2W, though we did note higher active requirements during our testing.

One of the benefits of ordering SSDs from Comay is the option for extensive customizations to meet the needs of the intended environment. Comay has options for enabling/disabling RAISE and varying levels of overprovisioning. Options that are more expansive include conformal coating, BGA underfill, military secure erase capability and TCG OPAL compliance.

LSI SandForce controllers have numerous built-in optimizations that make them great building blocks for enterprise SSDs. RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) provides parity data that will allow for the reconstruction of data in the event of lost sectors, pages or even whole blocks.

DuraWrite provides low write amplification, partially due to compression, and efficient garbage collection. Comay SSDs also have write throttling to ensure that the SSD will live to the warranty term of three years, but in typical Comay fashion, users can order their SSDs with this feature disabled.

The Pluto SC3 comes in three capacities of 225GB, 335GB and 450GB. Pricing can fluctuate, but with volume discounts (up to 16% discount with incremental increases of 2% per unit ordered), this SSD currently retails for roughly $1.85 per GB. This places the Pluto SC3 into a tier above that of the value SSDs (typically below $1.50 a GB) and full featured mainstream SSDs.

It is important when viewing the test results that the Pluto SC3 has a lower price structure than our other featured SSDs in this review.

Comay Pluto SC3 Internals

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The Comay Pluto SC3 comes in a milled aluminum chassis that has a bit of heft to it. The case is sturdy and held together by four Phillips head screws.

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Opening the SSD reveals the super-cap and the slender copper areas on the bottom of the PCB and in the upper corners. This is a system Comay uses on all of its SSDs to dissipate heat away from the PCB during operation. This unique approach provides more stability and longevity in high heat environments.

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The SF-2481VB1 controller stands alone near the top of the PCB. As with all LSI SandForce SSDs, there is no associated DRAM chip. The power circuitry to the left of the controller is not a typical SandForce reference design. Comay uses their own proprietary system that consists of beefed up power circuitry that also offers overload protection. This can be helpful in the event of static electricity discharges and power surges. The front of the PCB holds four IMFT 24nm synchronous MLC NAND packages, with a 5,000 P/E cycle ratio.

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The rear of the PCB holds the remaining four NAND packages along with the CapX super capacitor. This 90mF capacitor provides up to four seconds of power for the SSD to flush all data in transit to the NAND in the event of a host power-loss event.

Test System and Methodology

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We utilize a new approach to HDD and SSD storage testing for our Enterprise Test Bench, designed specifically to target long-term performance with a high level of granularity.

Many testing methods record peak and average measurements during the test period. These average values give a basic understanding of performance, but fall short in providing the clearest view possible of I/O QoS (Quality of Service).

'Average' results do little to indicate the performance variability experienced during actual deployment. The degree of variability is especially pertinent, as many applications can hang or lag as they wait for I/O requests to complete. This testing methodology illustrates performance variability, and includes average measurements, during the measurement window.

While under load, all storage solutions deliver variable levels of performance. While this fluctuation is normal, the degree of variability is what separates enterprise storage solutions from typical client-side hardware. Providing ongoing measurements from our workloads with one-second reporting intervals illustrates product differentiation in relation to I/O QOS. Scatter charts give readers a basic understanding of I/O latency distribution without directly observing numerous graphs.

Consistent latency is the goal of every storage solution, and measurements such as Maximum Latency only illuminate the single longest I/O received during testing. This can be misleading, as a single 'outlying I/O' can skew the view of an otherwise superb solution. Standard Deviation measurements take latency distribution into consideration, but do not always effectively illustrate I/O distribution with enough granularity to provide a clear picture of system performance. We use histograms to illuminate the latency of every single I/O issued during our test runs.

Our testing regimen follows SNIA principles to ensure consistent, repeatable testing. We attain steady state through a process that brings the device within a performance level that does not range more than 20% during the measurement window. Forcing the device to perform a read-write-modify procedure for new I/O triggers all garbage collection and housekeeping algorithms, highlighting the real performance of the solution.

We measure power consumption during precondition runs. This provides measurements in time-based fashion, with results every second, to illuminate the behavior of power consumption in steady state conditions. Power consumption can cost more over the life of the device than the initial acquisition price of the hardware itself. This significantly affects the TCO of the storage solution. We also present IOPS-to-Watts measurements to highlight the efficiency of the storage solution.

For LSI SandForce-powered SSDs we conduct all preconditioning, and the following workloads, with 50% compressible data. This is the result of industry feedback, and the middle ground provides a picture of performance that is neither too critical, nor too favorable. Readers must bear in mind that there is varying performance with LSI SandForce processors due to its internal compression engine. Incompressible data will score much lower than the results presented in these tests, and fully compressible data will score much higher. It is important for administrators to know their workload and select the storage solution accordingly.

Our test pool features SSDs of varying capacity, so it is important to bear this in mind when viewing results. The first page of results will provide the 'key' to understanding and interpreting our new test methodology.

4K Random Read/Write

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We preconditioned the Comay Pluto SC3 with 50% compressible data for 18,000 seconds, or five hours, receiving reports on several parameters of workload performance every second. We then plot this data to illustrate the drives' descent into steady state. Please refer to the previous page for a note on data compressibility.

This chart consists of 36,000 data points. This is a dual-axis chart with the IOPS on the left and the latency on the right. The black dots signify IOPS during the test, and the brown dots are latency measurements during the test period. We place latency data in a logarithmic scale to bring it into comparison range. The lines through the data scatter are the average during the test. This type of testing presents standard deviation and maximum/minimum I/O in a visual manner.

Note that the IOPS and Latency figures are nearly mirror images of each other. This illustrates the point that high-granularity testing can give our readers a good feel for the latency distribution by viewing IOPS at one-second intervals. This should be in mind when viewing our test results below.

We provide histograms for further latency granularity below. This downward slope of performance happens very few times in the lifetime of the device, typically during the first few hours of life, and we present the precondition results only to confirm steady state convergence.

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Each QD for every parameter tested includes 300 data points (five minutes of one second reports) to illustrate the degree of performance variability. The line for each QD represents the average speed reported during the five-minute interval.

4K random speed measurements are an important metric when comparing drive performance, as the hardest type of file access for any storage solution to master is small-file random. One of the most sought-after performance specifications, 4K random performance is a heavily marketed figure.

The Comay Pluto SC3 averages 44,558 IOPS in a pure 4K read environment at QD256, below the other competitors.

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Garbage collection routines are more pronounced in heavy write workloads. This leads to more variability in performance, and the Pluto SC3 has a wide range of performance, averaging 25,483 IOPS. This wild variance in read performance equates to some read operations occurring in the sub-15K IOPS range.

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Our write percentage testing illustrates the varying performance of each solution with mixed workloads. The 100% column to the right is a pure write workload of the 4K file size, and 0% represents a pure 4K read workload.

The Pluto SC3's performance variability during write operations is clear in this testing, with a much looser range of performance in comparison to the other SSDs in the test pool. The P400m does fall slightly lower in the 70-90% write testing.

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The Pluto SC3 has 4,010,350 I/Os (52.6%) fall into the 10-20ms range, and 3,340,094 I/Os (43.8%) at the 5-6ms range. The latency mirrors the SC3's close performance to the P400m in the testing.

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We record the power consumption measurements during our precondition run. We calculate the stated average results during the last five minutes of the test, after the device has settled into steady state.

The Pluto SC3's power consumption falls into the lower range of the test pool, with an average of 3.74 Watts.

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IOPS to Watts measurements are generated from data recorded during our precondition run, and the stated average is from the last five minutes of the test.

The Comay Pluto SC3's wide 4K write performance variability leads to a very scattered performance range that runs behind the other SSDs in the test pool. The Pluto SC3 averages 7,134 IOPS per Watt, the P400m comes in very close with 7,624 IOPS per Watt, the Intel scores 8,336 IOPS per Watt and the Optimus scores 6,617 IOPS per Watt.

8K Random Read/Write

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8K random read and write speed is a metric that is not tested for consumer use, but for enterprise environments this is an important aspect of performance. With several different workloads relying heavily upon 8K performance, we include this as a standard with each evaluation. Many of our Server Emulations below will also test 8K performance with various mixed read/write workloads.

The average 8K random read speed of the Pluto SC3 comes in at 27,783 IOPS at QD256, again falling below the nearest SATA competitors at roughly 40,000 IOPS.

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The average 8K random write speed of the Pluto SC3 is 16,129 IOPS at QD256. The wide performance variability ranges from as high as 27,000 IOPS to a low of 6,500 IOPS.

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The Pluto SC3 again demonstrates wide performance variability in the write percentage testing. The Micron P400m is far more consistent, though its average dips below that of the SC3 in the 60-90% write percentage fields.

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The Comay Pluto SC3 provides 2,078,476 I/Os (43.1%) in the 20-40ms range, 1,813,480 I/Os (37.6%) at 6-8ms, and 613,775 I/Os (12.7%) at 10-20ms. This latency variation closely mirrors the results in the performance testing. The entire latency range spans from .9-1ms to 100-200ms.

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Power consumption for the Pluto SC3 averages 3.5 Watts, below the rest of the field.

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The Pluto SC3 has a wide variation in the IOPS to Watts testing, due to performance variability. The SC3 averages 4,611 IOPS per Watt, higher than the rest of the test pool.

128K Sequential Read/Write

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The 128K sequential speeds reflect the maximum sequential throughput of the SSD using a realistic file size actually encountered in an enterprise scenario.

The Pluto SC3 handles sequential read better than most, and ties the Optimus at an average of 528MB/s.

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The Pluto SC3 has similar 128K write performance to the Intel DC S3700, but has a wider range of performance variability. The averages of the two are very close, with the SC3 averaging 445MB/s in comparison to the Intel's 444MB/s.

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The Pluto SC3 shines in the sequential write percentage testing, with a nice tightly defined performance range that actually bests that of the Intel DC S3700.

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The Pluto SC3 provides 942,700 I/Os (88.5%) at 60-80ms, and 7.9% at 80-100ms.

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The Pluto SC3 averages 4.3 Watts during sequential write testing.

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The Pluto SC3 does well in this test, providing 100MB/s per Watt.

Database/OLTP and Webserver

Database/OLTP

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This test emulates Database and On-Line Transaction Processing (OLTP) workloads. OLTP is in essence the processing of transactions such as credit cards and high frequency trading in the financial sector. Enterprise SSDs are uniquely well suited for the financial sector with their low latency and high random workload performance. Databases are the bread and butter of many enterprise deployments. These are demanding 8K random workloads with a 66% read and 33% write distribution that can bring even the highest performing solutions down to earth.

As we begin to delve into our mixed workload benchmarks, it is important to note, again, that we test the Comay Pluto SC3 with 50% compressible data. OLTP and Database workloads tend to be highly compressible, so in real deployment performance may be higher than represented in these tests. Other workloads we test may also tend to have different compression ratios, so it is important to understand the workload and adjust purchasing decisions accordingly.

The Pluto SC3 averages 21,778 IOPS with a bit of variability, though not nearly as pronounced in pure write situations.

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The Pluto SC3 provides 4,094,387 I/Os (62.8%) at 10-20ms, 1,681,827 I/Os (25.8%) at 8-10ms.

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The SC3 averages 3.4 Watts during the precondition run.

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The Pluto SC3 averages 6,372 IOPS per Watt, with the variability again lending some clutter to the chart. The Micron P400m averages 7,422, the Intel 9,418 and the Optimus 5,659 IOPS per Watt.

Webserver

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The Webserver profile is a read-only test with a wide range of file sizes. Web servers are responsible for generating content for users to view over the internet, much like the very page you are reading. The speed of the underlying storage system has a massive impact on the speed and responsiveness of the server that is hosting the websites, and thus the end user experience.

The Pluto SC3 averages 18.476 IOPS at QD 256, below the other SSDs.

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The SC3 provides 5,360,782 I/Os (97%) in the 10-20ms range.

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The Pluto SC3 averages 3.2 Watts during the measurement window.

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The SC3 averages 5,701 IOPS per Watt.

Fileserver and Emailserver

Fileserver

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The File Server profile represents typical file server workloads. This profile tests a wide variety of different file sizes simultaneously, with an 80% read and 20% write distribution.

The Pluto SC3 averages 24,473 IOPS at QD256.

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The SC3 provides 4,980,059 I/Os (68%) in the 10-20ms range, and 2,307,813 I/Os (31%) in the 8-10ms range.

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The Pluto SC3 averages 3.5 Watts in steady state.

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The Pluto SC3 averages 6,929 IOPS per Watt, coming in very close to the Optimus average of 7,276 IOPS.

Emailserver

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The Emailserver profile is a very demanding 8K test with a 50% read and 50% write distribution. This application is indicative of the performance of the solution in heavy write workloads.

The Pluto SC3 exhibits a wide range of variability in this test, averaging 20,096 IOPS at QD256.

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The Pluto SC3 provides 4,471,226 I/Os (74.5%) at 10-20ms, and 1,142,981 I/Os (19%) at 8-10ms. There is also a wide scattering of distribution from 1-2ms through 40-60ms.

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The SC3 averages 3.46 Watts during the measurement window.

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The SC3 averages 5,838 IOPS per Watt.

Final Thoughts

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The Comay Pluto SC3 is a well-rounded product from an SSD manufacturer with extensive experience and a good reputation. It brings expected performance from a LSI SandForce SSD along with a competitive price point.

LSI SandForce SSDs benefit greatly from compressible workloads, but do suffer some performance loss when dealing with incompressible data. The compression performance characteristics of SandForce SSDs are well suited to most enterprise deployments. We strive for the 'middle ground' by testing with 50% compressible data, but it is important for administrators to know their workload and to adjust their purchasing decisions accordingly.

During our testing, we found that the Pluto SC3 performed within expectations for an SSD powered by the LSI SandForce SF-2481 controller. One of the primary drawbacks we observed was the significant performance variability when dealing with pure random write workloads. In our 4K and 8K random write testing there was significant variability that would likely impact performance in heavy write workloads.

In random read testing we observed solid performance with very little variability, and another strength of the Pluto SC3 is the sequential read and write performance. Here we noted performance at the top of the charts, even matching the SAS powered Optimus in sequential read. The sequential write performance was also good, with speeds that matched the Intel DC S3700.

The Pluto SC3 offers enterprise-class features that are important in demanding environments. The extra parity data provided by RAISE affords an extra line of defense in addition to the enhanced BCH ECC. The bolstered power circuitry of the Pluto SC3 protects from errant voltage from any number of sources, and the capacitor provides power hold up in the event of power loss. The power capacitor is a welcome inclusion, but tantalum arrays of capacitors do have an advantage of not having one point of potential failure.

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The Comay Pluto SC3 does not lead the charts in terms of overall performance, but it does provide solid performance at a reasonable price point. One of the greatest attractions for this SSD will be the enhanced enterprise features at a lower price point than other full featured SSDs (roughly $1.85 a GB at the time of writing). The competing SSDs in our tests today fall into a higher price range ($2 per GB and up) than the Pluto SC3, which provides a nice niche for the SC3, as a more value-oriented mainstream enterprise offering.

With features such as power loss protection, enhanced ECC and overload circuitry, the Pluto SC3 is designed with data protection in mind. Coupled with Comay's extensive validation process, there is an expectation for reliability backed up by a three year warranty. We would like to see a longer warranty with this product, as many competing SSDs feature a five year warranty. The lower price structure of the Pluto SC3 may come into play with the warranty period, but with the tried and true LSI SandForce controller and IMFT NAND onboard, we feel that this SSD is composed of quality components that should easily outlive the warranty period.

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The quest for benchmark world records led Paul further and further down the overclocking rabbit hole. SSDs and RAID controllers were a big part of that equation, allowing him to push performance to the bleeding edge. Finding the fastest and most extreme storage solutions led to experience with a myriad of high-end enterprise devices. Soon testing SSDs and Enterprise RAID controllers at the limits of their performance became Paul's real passion, one that is carried out through writing articles and reviews.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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