Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Memblaze for a last few years has quietly shipped some of the fastest enterprise SSDs available. The company's technology and proprietary firmware spreads across the industry. You can even find it in Micron's flagship NVMe datacenter SSDs like the recently released 9300 Series.
The Memblaze PBlaze5 D916, the first of two models in the series we will test today, is nearly identical to the Micron 9300 Series. The D916 uses slightly more overprovisioning on the Micron 64-layer TLC flash than the 9300 Max and slightly different firmware. Also like the 9300 Max, the PBlaze5 D916 only ships in a 2.5" form factor with a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface.
The Memblaze PBlaze C916 moves to the HHHL add-in card form factor to accommodate a PCIe 3.0 x8 interface that doubles throughput performance to the controller over the 2.5" model. The C916 is the highest performing enterprise SSD we've ever had in house for testing.
Memblaze products sit in a niche area of the SSD market where datacenter customers go directly to the company and place large orders, work directly with the company on validation and use the direct access for custom configurations.
The generic specifications sheet shows the potential of the 916 series. This series spreads across four product SKUs with two capacities and two form factors. The first is the ultra-high performance C916 available in 3.2TB and 6.4TB with a PCIe 3.0 x8 interface in a HHHL form factor.
The second model in this series ships in the same 3.2TB and 6.4TB capacities but uses the 2.5" U.2 15mm z-height form factor and a PCIe 3.0 x4 interface.
- Higher Density and Lower Cost with 64-Layer 3D NAND
- 30%-40% Energy Efficiency Optimization
- Guaranteed Data Reliability
- Flexible and Accurate Power Consumption
- Up to 8TB/s Enterprise TRIM Function
- Up to 32 Multi-Namespace Creation
- High-Availability Dual Port Mode
Some of the items on the feature's list come from a comparison to the previous generation that used more flash and over-provisioning to achieve design goals (performance and capacity). The previous generation utilized Micron's 32-layer TLC, the company's first generation 3D memory.
The generation we're testing today uses 64-layer 3D TLC memory. Memblaze was able to utilize less physical memory (lowering the spare area) to meet the same design goals. Fewer NAND die also lowers the upfront cost to datacenters while also lowering the operational costs due to lower power consumption.
The PBlaze5 916 Series uses a single large capacitor to combat host power failures. The feature joins end-to-end data protection, up to 32 namespace support, and the ability to run the series in dual-port mode.
Pricing, Warranty, and Endurance
SSD pricing is dynamic, and small shifts in the raw flash market make large swings in large capacity products like those offered by Memblaze. The company doesn't publish pricing details, and these products don't show up at the usual places like Amazon, Newegg, and CDW. You must contact Memblaze directly for pricing details.
All 916 Series products carry a 3 drive per day endurance rating and a strong 5-year warranty.
A Closer Look
Synthetic Performance Testing
We can't fit more than a handful of comparison products in the charts and still keep them tidy and readable. We have to be selective in the process. For this review, we chose the Micron 9100 Max because its DNA leads back to Memblaze. The company also sold a similar model two generations ago. We also chose the Intel DC P4510 8TB, a very popular enterprise SSD used in many data centers today.
Sequential Read Performance
The C916's interface advantage shows best with sequential data at high queue depths. With our server, we achieved roughly 6,300 MB/s with peak performance coming at 32 outstanding IO (OIO). The 2.5" D916 bumped up against the interface's 3,500 MB/s ceiling at 16 OIO while reading 128KB sequential data.
Sequential Write Performance
In steady state, both PBlaze5 SSDs show similar sequential write performance. The only real variation we saw in this workload was at 4 OIO where the add-in card was able to use its bandwidth advantage to surpass 3,500 MB/s
Sequential Mixed Workload Performance
NVMe is a bidirectional interface, and that allows the PBlaze5 D916 to handle mixed sequential data at speeds beyond 3,500 MB/s.
The C916 shows us where it's extra interface performance becomes useful in this test. The C916 is capable of delivering the same sequential performance as the D916 from 40% writes to 100% writes. The C916 outperforms the D916 in the 100% reads to 70% reads areas.
Random Read Performance
The two PBlaze5 SSDs deliver nearly identical random read performance in our test system at all OIO. Both drives trail the Intel DC P4510 slightly until 64 OIO where the performance equals. At higher queue depths the Memblaze SSDs overtake the Intel.
Random Write Performance
The Micron 9100 Max is an older Memblaze design built for Micron. The new PBlaze5 has similar peak performance as the 9100 Max, but at lower OIO, the new design shows a significant advantage.
Random Mixed Workload Performance
The PBlaze5 916 SSDs show just a modest increase over the Micron 9100 Max at 100% workloads (all reads and writes), but the real advantage comes in the middle with mixed random workloads. We rarely see mixed workloads portrayed on specification sheets, but in most cases, this is where your data lives.
Workload Performance Testing
At higher queue depths, the two PBlaze5 916 SSDs dominate the other products. This series of charts do a good job of showing how Memblaze has been able to increase performance since the Micron 9100 generation.
The OLTP test shows similar results to the database test. The PBlaze5 SSDs show excellent performance against a previous generation and what some would call the industry standard.
The two PBlaze5 NVMe SSDs are so high performance that we struggle to find a workload that makes them stumble. Like the other tests, the two drives manage to blast past the two comparison SSDs in the charts.
Our most strenuous workload comes from the Dell Performance Lab in the form of the Archive workload. This workload uses a mix of reads and writes different block sizes. It's very difficult for very good SSDs to deliver consistent performance under the Archive workload but the PBlaze5 managers to keep the IO tight while also maintaining high performance at extreme queue depths.
Regardless of which you choose, the Memblaze PBlaze5 916 series is one of, if not the fastest, enterprise NVMe SSDs shipping today.
The PBlaze5 C916, the HHHL add-in card is a rarity these days. Intel still ships add-in cards, but the industry has transitioned to 2.5" U.2 drives as standard protocol and new "next-gen" form factors like the Ruler for bleeding edge rack density.
Memblaze calls the PBlaze5 series an accelerator card. The HHHL C916 does a great job pushing past the limitation of PCIe 3.0 x4 for large block size workloads, but every other measurement is nearly identical to the 2.5" D916 in our testing.
The specification sheet shows a modest performance improvement in random workloads for the C916 HHHL model, but you will need a very powerful server to squeeze the extra couple hundred thousand IOPS. Clearly, our test server is not capable of scaling that high with all the vulnerability patches that plague most platforms today.
The PBlaze5 D916 2.5" U.2 NVMe SSD is the workhorse of the two models we tested today. This form factor is widespread across the industry and its even shipping in commodity NAS servers like our new QSAN XN8012R that we use to test HDD media. Even with new form factors emerging, the 2.5" U.2 continues to grow.
The one area we would like to see Memblaze improve is availability. The company is in Beijing, but so many technology-focused firms are. When you search for Memblaze PBlaze the autofill feature on Google instantly shows "price" right after. For those in the know, these are highly sought after components, but availability is nonexistent in the channel and pricing details are just as difficult to come by.
Bundle and Packaging
The Bottom Line
Memblaze has an incredible product line but don't expect to find these in the channel. The C916 HHHL AIC is one of the fastest SSDs we've ever tested but the 2.5" D916 is the workhorse.