Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Intel X-25M SSD Benchmark Results (NASDAQ:INTC)

I just purchased an Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) X-25M 80GB SATA SSD (Solid State Drive) from (search for:X25M80GB) for $638.00 (a splurge, but I really wanted to speed up my primary software development desktop system!) I am pleased to report that, even with this "investment" coming at a rather steep price compared to traditional SATA hard-drives, I think it is worth it because of the massive productivity improvements I am seeing.

This "disk drive" (or, more appropriately, RAMDISK), is tiny and has no fan and makes zero noise because there are no moving parts. It is 2.5" form-factor drive, like a notebook drive, with a standard SATA interface and SATA power-cable (low-profile) connection. It installs just like any other SATA disk, and all I had to do was open up my machine, connect the cables, boot Windows (I still use XP Professional, as I have a dislike for Windows Vista still), and format the drive from Disk Manager utility.

I performed my tests on my Dell Dimension 9150 Desktop which has an Intel Pentium D 2.80Ghz Dual Core, 4GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, and SATA drives.

I do nearly all my work inside virtual machines, and as such, it is the performance of launching those VMs and running applications within those VMs that I have compared. For my Virtual-Machine testing, I am using VMWare Player 6.0 to run the VMs I created with VMware Workstation 6.0.

I especially do a lot of development in the Borland Delphi (aka, CodeGear Delphi, aka Embarcadero Delphi) IDE application. So, I have Delphi 2006 (D2006) Enterprise running under Windows 2003 Server with SP2 inside a VM, with a few Delphi component-sets installed that load into environment on startup (like Rave Reports, Raize Components, MustangPeak listview and treeview components, and QuickReports).

The Virtual Machine used in any benchmark below resides fully on whatever device it is that I am testing.

For the speed comparison, I tested the same features and functionality with my test Virtual Machine running from either 1) a local Western Digital 7200 RPM SATA drive, 2) a QNAP NAS RAID-1 Gigabit-Ethernet connected device, or 3) the new Intel SSD installed on my local machine.

I saw INCREDIBLE RESULTS with the Intel SSD delivering MASSIVE SPEED IMPROVEMENTS for every operation I tested, as you will see in the table below. My tests were limited, as the speed-improvement trend was quickly apparent in everything I tried. In general, execution/load times when using the Intel SSD device were reduced by 50-80% as compared to the other devices - WOW! My tests included:
  • Booting WindowsXP to login prompt. Just like it sounds.
  • Starting Delphi 2006 "cold" after Windows first booted up, with D2006 loading the last-used project (same for each test) and to the familiar Delphi "Welcome" page.
  • Using D2006 to compile my largest project - that project is my own custom software that is 50+ units and 50,000+ lines of my own code, not to mention 10's of 1000s of lines of linked in code.
  • Using the BDS (Borland Developer Studio) Help System to "filter" the results in help to a particular language (in this case: language = Delphi), since Borland also includes other Help for C++ and Windows APIs and all sorts of stuff I don't normally want my search to encompass. Though this may sound trivial, just selecting the "filter" operation drove me nuts in the past due to how slow it was. Thankfully, the SSD speeds this up INCREDIBLY!
  • A "Find-in-Files" operation, where I search my large Delphi project for instances of various words, including searching files that are not already open in the IDE.
Here is a table showing how long the same operation took to perform in one of three configurations.
Elapsed times are in SECONDS(Lower is better!)
QNAP SATA RAID over Gigabit Ethernet
Local WD 7200RPM SATA
Boot Windows XP to Login Prompt
Delphi 2006 : Launch IDE
Delphi 2006 : Compile a large project
Delphi 2006 : Filter Help by "Lang : Delphi"
Delphi 2006 : Find-in-Files operation

As I expected when I wrote about the Intel X-25M, X-25E, and X18M SSD Specifications on my blog recently, Intel's new Solid State Drive delivered a substantial performance boost to my desktop. I am now limited only by the throughput of my somewhat outdated desktop CPU and the bandwidth of the SATA bus that I have the SSD installed on. If cost were no concern, I would definitely install a SATA RAID card and RAID 4 of these SSDs together to achieve insane throughput rates. But, that will have to wait until prices fall dramatically to become an option that is more affordable.

I do expect the price to fall somewhat quickly by the second quarter of 2009 as other competitors come on line with SSD offerings, and as production is ramped up in general. In the short term, I actually noticed that Buy.Com increased the price by $30.00, perhaps due to strong demand, to $668.99. I will be waiting for a price drop or promotion before getting a second one for my primary Windows XP boot / OS drive.

I think there is certainly potential for ROI (Return-On-Investment) justification for this Intel SSD already. Fact is, if you find yourself spending a fair amount of your day waiting for your computer to keep up with you (due to slow disk drives), the Intel SSD will deliver outstanding improvements and make your day more productive and tolerable. If the drive saves even 15minutes/day of a $40/hour employee's time that is otherwise wasted sitting there while a disk-drive does something, that is $10/day of savings if the newly found time is used for more productivity. As such, the ROI period would be only 2 months!

Sure, many people will not save 15minutes per day unless they do a LOT of disk-intensive work, but even 5 minutes per day savings (loading office applications and such) would pay for the Intel drive in 6 months, not to mention the MTBF (Mean-Time-Between-Failure) should be VERY low thanks to the fact there are no moving parts - so, less maintenance or down-time = money saved too. And, this device uses nearly ZERO POWER, and you will save there too (and, you will save on cooling costs, as thermal footprint is much lower than a standard disk). Consider this Intel SSD either now or in the near future... it may save you a bundle.

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