Testing enterprise SSDs is a tricky business. SSDs deliver varying performance depending upon what state they are in. When SSDs are fresh, they deliver astronomical performance, but once full and subjected to heavy workloads, they drop to a lower level of performance referred to as steady state. Removing the test load from the SSDs allows them to begin recovery, and the best SSDs pull back up near the original fresh performance with extended idle time.
The key to testing flash-based storage solutions is to ensure repeatable results. With wild performance fluctuations from the SSDs, tests require design and execution in a manner that ensures the SSDs are in the same performance state during measurement periods. The SNIA committee has designed guidelines for the accurate testing of SSDs, and we adhere to the guidelines for preconditioning and test methodology. This provides us with accurate and repeatable results, which are key when comparing and contrasting the performance impact of different storage subsystem components.
The 12Gb/s JBOD is designed specifically for HDD/SSD testing environments, and this requires a transparent bridge between the DUT (Device Under Test) and the HBA/RAID controller. Pushing the limits of the 12Gb/s connection is required to ensure that the SA-ENC12G-01A doesn't incur any performance or latency penalties.
The common belief has always been that the best method of testing storage devices is with a direct connection. This provides the most transparent connection between the DUT and the HBA/RAID controller. We have adhered to this guideline for years. This leads to some messy wiring setups when pushing arrays of 24 SSDs, but it has always been considered necessary to remove the chance of interference from backplanes, JBODS, and enclosures. We don't go to the extremes of direct connection for massive setups for no reason; our testing with different enclosures and backplanes has rooted out significant negative performance impacts in the past.
It is safe to say the SA-ENC12G-01A has changed that perception for us. This is the first enclosure we have tested that provides nearly unmeasurable interference in test results. The tests speak for themselves; the variances are well below what we would expect from test to test even with a direct connection. There are so many factors at play, including the SSDs, RAID controller, and operating system, that we normally would not expect results this close in line with each other, even if testing with the same direct connection repeatedly. The Serial Cables enclosure simply blew away our expectations, and in some cases, it delivered slightly higher results than direct connection. Of course, this is due to the nature of SSD performance, and using the enclosure will not provide faster performance from the storage devices. However, this is indicative of a pure unadulterated connection.
Build quality is superb. A common problem we experience with all manner of enclosures occurs when we install the drives. The latching devices usually have some small hitching, or require a bit of pressure, to seat correctly. We have even broken drive connectors in the past with low-quality enclosures. The Serial Cables JBOD has the smoothest function we have experienced in this respect; there is literally no friction when installing and latching the drives. The use of the enclosure in labs and development environments will result in thousands of opening/closing cycles, and the JBOD was obviously designed with that in mind.
The Serial Cables SA-ENC12G-01A delivers excellent performance that doesn't hamper test results and also has a superior build quality, meriting the TweakTown Editor's Choice Award.
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