SSD versus Enterprise SAS and SATA disksby Johan De Gelas on March 20, 2009 2:00 AM EST
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- IT Computing
The system administrators with high-end, ultra mission critical applications will still look down their nose at the Intel X25-E Extreme SLC drive: it is not dual ported (SATA interface) and it does not have a "super capacitor" to allow the controller to write its 16MB cache to the flash array in the event of a sudden power outage. For those people, the Enterprise Flash Drives (EFD) of EMC make sense with capacities up to 400GB but prices ten times as high as the Intel X25-E SLC drive.
For the rest of us, probably 90% of the market, the Intel X25-E is nothing short of amazing: it offers at least 3 to 13 times better OLTP performance at less than a tenth of the power consumption of the classical SAS drives. We frankly see no reason any more to buy SAS or FC drives for performance critical OLTP databases unless the database sizes are really huge. From the moment you are using lots of spindles and most of your hard disks are empty, Intel's SLC SSDs make a lot more sense.
However, be aware that these ultra fast storage devices cause bottlenecks higher in the storage hierarchy. The current storage processors seem to have to trouble scaling well from four to eight drives. We have witnessed negative scaling only in some extreme cases, 100% random writes in RAID 5 for example. It is unlikely that you will witness this kind of behavior in the real world. Still, the trend is clear: scaling will be poor if you attach 16 or more SLC SSDs on products like the Adaptec 51645, 51645, and especially the 52445. Those RAID controllers allow you to attach up to 24 drives, but the available storage processor is the same as our Adaptec 5805 (IOP348 at 1.2GHz). We think it is best to attach no more than eight SLC drives per IOP348, especially if you are planning to use the more processor intensive RAID levels like RAID 5 and 6. Intel and others had better come up with faster storage processors soon, because these fast SLC drives make the limits of the current generation of storage processors painfully clear.
Our testing also shows that choosing the "cheaper but more SATA spindles" strategy only makes sense for applications that perform mostly sequential accesses. Once random access comes into play, you need two to three times more SATA drives - and there are limits to how far you can improve performance by adding spindles. Finally, to get the best performance out of your transactional applications, RAID 10 is still king, especially with the Intel X25-E.
 Dave Fellinger, "Architecting Storage for Petascale Clusters". http://www.ccs.ornl.gov/workshops/FallCreek07/presentations/fellinger.pdf
 US Department of Energy. Average retail price of electricity to ultimate customers by end-use sector, by state. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html