Solid-state drives (SSD’s) have been around for a while, but they have never been a mainstream alternative for enterprise server booting and applications. SSD’s were positioned as high-performance storage for special use cases and were too expensive for mainstream adoption. But that might change with the latest generation of SSD’s, as exemplified by the new Micron P400e that recently landed on my front doorstep.
“Just Right” For the Mainstream
When Ford introduced the midsized Taurus automobile in 1986, many predicted that it would be a failure. The large front wheel drive car with futuristic “jellybean” styling was just too different from existing Ford models. But the car became a huge success in the United States, selling over 2,000,000 examples in that first generation in becoming the standard for American families and business people.
The magic of the Ford Taurus was its “just right” nature: it was big enough for a family but not so big they could not easily be driven; it was luxurious enough for a businessman but not overly expensive or ostentatious; it was forward-looking but approachable. From a design standpoint, the Taurus was radically different in that it was engineered by a single team inside and out and based on up-to-date yet mature technology.
The new Micron P400e SSD is a lot like the Ford Taurus: it’s roomy enough for everyone, fast yet affordable, and up-to-date if not cutting-edge. Like the Taurus, I expect major server builders to buy P400e SSD’s by the handful. In the early 1990’s, HP bought a Taurus for every mobile worker. Today, I could definitely see a company like HP equipping every server with the “just right” P400e SSD.
Solid Performance and Capacity
The P400e combines Micron’s proven 6 Gb/s SATA SSD controller with MLC flash but adds enterprise features like hot plug support and full data path protection. Unlike earlier enterprise SSD’s, which focused on performance with expensive SLC flash chips, the P400e “makes do” with mainstream components. Micron SSD’s have a solid history of reliability (I’ve bought two myself) and the P400e enhances this with enterprise class software.
Micron sent me a P400e SSD to test, and I have been pounding on it for over a month now. Installed in my Sandy Bridge test rig, the P400e boots quickly, performs smoothly, and is much quieter than any hard disk drive (HDD). I connected it to the 6 Gb/s SATA port on my ASUS P8H67—M Pro motherboard.
For comparison purposes, I also attached and tested a Micron C300 SSD. Both Micron SSD’s were large capacity models that should perform better than smaller, cheaper versions. Although the P400e is available in 50, 100, and 200 GB sizes, Micron provided me with the 400 GB model. My C300 tester is a 256 GB example.
For testing, I used ATTO Disk Benchmark under Windows 8 Server Developer Preview, set to overlapped I/O and a queue depth of 4. Both drives performed nearly identically in this test, leveling off at between 200 and 250 MB/s with 128 kB writes and reads. This translates into over 20,000 IOPS for smaller (512 byte to 4 kB) read and write operations.
The time has come for an affordable enterprise grade SSD, and Micron has delivered this with the P400e. Although OEM only, this excellent SSD should find its way into end-user hands as server vendors decide to switch their mainstream offerings from spinning hard disk drives to SSD’s. With an excellent combination of performance, features, and low-cost (less than $2 per gigabyte), the P400e really is the mainstream choice.