Saturday, September 06, 2008

Intel Solid State Disk Drives - Awesome!

For years I have been awaiting the release of SSDs (Solid State Disks, aka Solid State Drives, aka RAM disks) that were affordable, offered great performance, require nearly zero power consumption to operate, and come from a "mainstream" technology company in a standard interface (SATA).

Well, you can't get more mainstream than Intel, and Intel has just recently announced / released their first SATA Flash Memory SSD products (production to start this month - September 2008):
You just have to see the specifications to believe them (see below), as these drives are just unreal! Check out that super-low power consumption, and those blazing fast speeds! Oh my god I am looking forward to building the most insanely fast disk-array ever!

And, I have already purchased, and I am purchasing more, Intel stock (NASDAQ:INTC) based on the potential I see for this product. If you have been following the news about the issues large data-centers in the USA are experiencing, with regards to power-density (and not being able to get enough physical electrical power to run all the servers in a room) and the related cooling issues (again, buildings housing server rooms are being tapped-out with regards to the air-conditioning and climate-control systems, and the power to run those systems), you will see why I am so excited.

Ignoring all other performance factors of these new flash-memory standard SATA-interface hard-drives, I still see massive potential for companies to swap-out their existing spinning-disks (i.e., traditional hard-drives) in there data-centers and replace them with these new Intel Solid State Drives. It's a "no brainer" in my opinion. And, I am just talking data-centers here, and for simple power-density and heat (or lack thereof) considerations.

I have yet to even describe the incredible performance gains that some applications, like databases and the like, are going to realize from these drives. Physical IO (Input-Ouput) has always been the Achiles heel of any high-end server, as disks (in general) can not even come close to keeping up with the speed of today's modern processors (like the latest Intel and/or AMD 64-bit and multi-core offerings). But, with these new Solid-State-SATA-Drives, things are about to change... the power of the CPU(s) is about to be unleashed! I am picturing incredible new database applications, analytics, and more.

And, if that wasn't enough, couple all this new super-speed-storage from Intel with technologies like NVIDIA's CUDA - which gives programmers the ability to exploit the incredible parallel processing power of the modern NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA - another stock I am betting on for the coming years) GPUs through their CUDA development framework (essentially, Nvidia's extensions to C language). With CUDA, Nvidia has a product offering that is not just interesting, but substantially amazing, in its potential for massive financial analysis applications, data-analysis programs, and the like - by offloading compute-intensive (especially mathematical and matrix type) operations to the GPU. Nvidia only requires you own one of their GPUs from this list of CUDA-enabled Nvidia Products (GeForce 8 series ++ basically, or one of their "Tesla" servers). Oh, and what kind of processing power am I talking about here? Well, the new NVIDIA S1070 server (1U form factor too) has 4 Teraflops of performance (yes, 4 TRILLION OPERATIONS PER SECOND!). Holy $%*! So, I need only learn how to couple these new Intel SSDs and CPUs with this NVIDIA technology, and Skynet will be born! (a Terminator movie reference folks. lol.)

If that was not enough, I also guarantee that gamers (by the millions) are going to want these drives. Gaming afficionados have no problem dumping thousands on their "ultimate gaming computers" just to get a 10% speed-advantage over someone else. They will spend a thousand bucks on two new Nvidia GeForce SLI graphics cards for maximum frame-rates, and extra money on the fastest DDR RAM, and up until now, extra money for traditional RAID implementations (i.e., multiple hard drives with multiple spindles moving simultanesouly to serve up not just redundancy-enhanced data-storage, but speed given the right confiuration). Well, there is nothing even close to the speed of these new Intel SSDs when it comes to random reads, sequential reads, and nearly anything else. And, latency? Nearly non-existent!

From the Intel web-site...:

Technical specifications (Extreme SSD)

Model name Intel® X25-E Extreme SATA Solid-State Drive
Capacity 32GB and 64GB
NAND Flash components Intel® Single-Level Cell (SLC) NAND Flash Memory
10 Parallel Channel Architecture with 50nm SLC ONFI 1.0 NAND
Bandwidth Sustained sequential read: up to 250 MB/s
Sustained sequential write: up to 170 MB/s
Read Latency 75 microseconds
I/O Per Second (IOPS) Random 4KB Reads: >35,000 IOPS
Random 4KB Writes: >3,300 IOPS
Interface SATA 1.5 Gb/s and 3.0 Gb/s
Form factor 2.5" industry standard hard drive form factor
Compatibility SATA Revision 2.6 Compliant. Compatible with SATA 3 Gb/s with Native Command Queuing and SATA 1.5 Gb/s interface rates
Life expectancy 2 Million Hours Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF)
Power consumption Active: 2.4W Typical (server workload¹)
Idle (DIPM): 0.06 W Typical
Operating shock 1,000G / 0.5ms
Voltage 5V SATA supply rail
Operating temperature 0°C to +70°C
RoHS compliant Meets the requirements of EU RoHS Compliance Directives
Product health monitoring Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) commands, plus additional SSD monitoring

Technical specifications (Mainstream SSD)

Model Name Intel® X18-M Mainstream SATA Solid-State Drive
Intel® X25-M Mainstream SATA Solid-State Drive
Capacity 80GB and 160GB
NAND Flash Components Intel® Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND Flash Memory
10 Channel Parallel Architecture with 50nm MLC ONFI 1.0 NAND
Bandwidth Up to 250MB/s Read Speeds
Up to 70MB/s Write Speeds
Read Latency 85 microseconds
Interface SATA 1.5 Gb/s and 3.0 Gb/s
Form factor X18-M: 1.8" Industry Standard Hard Drive Form Factor
X25-M: 2.5" Industry Standard Hard Drive Form Factor
Compatibility SATA Revision 2.6 Compliant. Compatible with SATA 3.0 Gb/s with Native Command Queuing and SATA 1.5 Gb/s interface rates
Life expectancy 1.2 million hours Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF)
Power consumption Active: 150mW Typical (PC workload¹)
Idle (DIPM): 0.06W Typical
Operating shock 1,000G / 0.5ms
Operating temperature 0°C to +70°C
RoHS Compliance Meets the requirements of EU RoHS Compliance Directives
Product health monitoring Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) commands plus additional SSD monitoring

I have looked at other proprietary SSD / RAMDISK solutions over the years, and they were always insanely expensive to say the least, and the performance just wasn't worth the investment. In the past, most drives were tiny by comparison (4GB, 8GB, and maybe 16GB) for insane prices (yes, thousands; even for tiny capacities).

But now, with these new mainstream Intel SSD drives, things are about to change in a big, industry-transformational, way (and, in a "green" way too - from massive power savings and reduced cooling requirements). You wait, and you will see. The end of the hard-drive as we know it is coming, and SSDs are going to become the "standard", and I have a feeling Intel is going to lead the way with Solid State Drives using their dominant technology brand and value-proposition.

I will be anxiously awaiting the shipment-date so I can get my hands on a few of these drives. The possibilities are just too wonderful to not try these drives out in my production systems! And, even for the higher price (which, I expect will fall considerably as early as next year when production ramps up), I should see instant returns on investment by replacing my disk-drives that I launch VMware Virtual Machines from, drives that I have SQL-Server database on, and so on. My electric bill is certainly going to show some downward movement!

If you want more detailed information, I found a nice article at TG Daily - Intel SSD Discussion.

Intel announced a $595 pricetag for the mainstream 80GB SSD, which comes in 1.8-inch (X18-M) or 2.5-inch (X25-M) sizes for the same price; the 160GB version is coming later this year (Q4), and pricing has not yet been announced.

For this price, I will definitely grab a couple and put them to use in my primary desktop and notebook to see how they perform. If they meet expectations, I'll soon thereafter upgrade my servers.

I saw that PC Connection has a web-page listing the SKU for the 80GB mainstream model (Intel X25M) for $731.35 (though, the Manufacturer Part Number (SKU) being shown is SSDSA2MH080G1C5, which is supposedly a 5-pack, is obviously incorrect). I expect other vendors to have pricing online soon, and to hit Intel's target pricetag (or perhaps undercut a bit for the large volume dealers, since Intel's pricing was for 1000 or less drives - which suggests a volume disount above 1000 drives). Heck, some data-centers easily have over 1000 drives, if not 10,000... perhaps they should buy direct from Intel :)

No comments: