Intel Flash Storage Products for SQL Server

Intel has recently introduced a couple of flash-based storage products that are aimed at the Enterprise and server market. These are both quite price competitive with some of the other storage products in the marketplace.

The first is the Intel 910 series that was released back in May of 2012. It is a PCI-E device that is available in 400GB and 800GB capacities. The 400GB model costs about $2000.00 while the 800GB model costs 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. Both of these come in at about $5.00/GB which is quite affordable for PCI-E flash devices.

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)

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 AlwaysOn 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 a single point of failure.

A newer product is the Intel DC S3700 series of 6Gbps SATA SSDs. The DC S3700 series is available in 100GB, 200GB, 400GB, and 800GB capacities. The DC S3700 uses 25nm HET-MLC NAND technology, which means that you get higher write endurance than standard MLC consumer drives. The pricing for this new line is very aggressive, with the 100GB model going for $235.00, the 200GB model going for $470.00, the 400GB model going for $940.00, and the 800GB model going for $1880.00. That is $2.35/GB, which is less than half the price of the Intel 910. Of course they are different products meant for different usage.

The DC S3700 series is a 6Gbps SATA device, so it is limited less than 600MB/sec of sequential throughput due to the SATA III interface. SATA devices do not perform as well as SAS devices under extremely high queue depth workloads, and they do not have dual-port support. Intel specifically engineered this line for more reliable, consistent performance than you get with normal, consumer MLC SSDs.

I think these DC S3700 drives could be very useful as boot devices in a database server. Two of them in a RAID 1 array would give you a faster boot time than 15K magnetic drives and better reliability, along with lower power usage. According to Intel, they don’t need TRIM support to avoid having deteriorating write performance over time, so they are suitable for usage with a standard hardware RAID controller.

Here are a couple of the first reviews for the DC S3700:

The Intel SSD DC S3700 (200GB) Review (AnandTech)

Intel SSD DC S3700 Series Enterprise SSD Review  (Storage Review)

Anand Shimpi from AnandTech has has some podcasts from the recent SC12 conference where he had the chance to talk to a number of people from Intel about the DC S3700 line.

I could see building a very powerful database server for SQL Server 2012 usage with a two-socket Dell PowerEdge R720xd with a number of Intel 910 cards and up to 26 DC S3700 SSDs in the internal drive bays, based on your space needs and budget. You could use SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups as part of your HA/DR solution with a number of these servers.

These are fun times!

4 thoughts on “Intel Flash Storage Products for SQL Server

  1. Hi Glenn,

    We are considering using local SSD storage for the tempdb on a new SQL 2012 cluster. Do you think either the Intel 910 or the DC S3700 would be a good choice for this?



    1. That depends on your workload. The Intel 910 will have better sequential and random I/O performance, but it requires a PCI-E slot, and is more expensive. The Intel DC S3700 will use a SATA/SAS 6Gbps connection, and will be less expensive. It will also have less sequential and random I/O performance. The DC S3700 does better on reads than it does on writes.

  2. What are your thoughts on using a RAM disk for tempDB while using these? We are actually configuring a server with 2x of these right now and are current server hammers the tempdb pretty hard. Ram is cheap enough we can setup 4GB for a Ram disk, put tempdb on there to both not put as many write cycles on the SSD’s as well as improve overall IO.

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