A SQL Server Hardware Tidbit a Day – Day 18

For Day 18 of this series, I am going to talk about the Intel 910 series PCI-E device that was released back in May of 2012. It is available in 400GB and 800GB capacities. The 400GB model has a suggested retail price about $2000.00 while the 800GB model has a suggested retail price of about $4000.00. As is typical with flash-based storage devices, the larger capacity model offers significantly better performance than the smaller capacity model, both for random I/O and for sequential reads and writes.

The 800GB model can do about 2000MB/sec for sequential reads and 1500MB/sec for sequential writes (in max performance mode), while the 400GB model can do about 1000MB/sec for sequential reads and about 750MB/sec for sequential writes. The 800GB model can do about 180,000 IOPs for random 4K reads and about 75,000 IOPS for random 4K writes, while the 400GB model can do about 90,000 IOPs for 4K random reads and about 38,000 IOPs for 4K random writes.

These cards require at least a PCI-E 2.0 x8 slot, which means they will not give their full performance in an older server with a lower bandwidth PCI-E slot. It is also not a bootable device. Both of these come in at about $5.00/GB which is quite affordable for PCI-E flash devices. NewEgg is selling the 400GB model for $1999.99 and the 800GB model for $3999.99. These are not the fastest PCI-E flash storage devices, but they do offer good performance at a relatively affordable price.

Figure 1: Exploded View of Intel 910

The Intel 910 has gotten quite a number of very good reviews, and I have a couple of customers using them for SQL Server workloads already.  Here are links to some relevant reviews:

The Intel SSD 910 Review (AnandTech)

Intel SSD 910 Series Enterprise PCIe Review (Storage Review)

Intel SSD 910 Review: PCI Express-Based Enterprise Storage (Tom’s Hardware)

Intel 910 PCIe SSD Review – Amazing Performance Results In Both 400GB and 800GB Configurations (SSD Review)

Intel 910 800GB and 400GB PCI Express Solid State Drive Review (TweakTown)

One issue to keep in mind for the Intel 910 is that the 800GB model will show up as four 200GB devices (somewhat less than that after formatting) in Windows, while the 400GB model will show up as two 200GB devices. This is similar to what you see with the Fusion-io Duo product line.

Another issue is these Intel 910 cards have been so popular, they are currently a little hard to find, especially if you want the 800GB model. Unless you are using a high availability technology like database mirroring or SQL Server 2012 Availability Groups, you will want to use Windows Software RAID 1 at the OS level across two of these cards in a database server to avoid having the card or PCI-E slot being a single point of failure. These cards do have four onboard capacitors to allow time to write to the NAND in the event of a power failure.

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