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Adaptec MaxiQ SSD caches RAID arrays

Hybrid storage arrives
Wed Sep 09 2009, 14:09

ADAPTEC IS PROMISING a fivefold boost in disk read performance by adding a Flash-based solid state drive (SSD) and a software update to its RAID controller cards.

Available from today, the MaxIQ SSD cacheing solution kit allows companies to speed disk performance in servers or workstations by using one or more SSDs to cache reads.

The move "breaks the trade-off between performance and capacity", according to Adaptec chief executive Sundi Sundaresh, and provides companies with a cost-effective way to boost performance in applications that involve a lot of random reads, such as databases, web servers and virtual environments.

Each MaxIQ kit consists of a modified 32GB Intel X25-E SSD with MaxIQ software, and works with any of Adaptec's Series 5xxx or Series 2xxx controller cards for serial attached SCSI and Serial ATA drive arrays.

Because SSDs have a much higher read speed than rotating disks, the MaxIQ kit uses the SSD to cache data read from the disks, greatly improving performance on subsequent reads.

"Over the last decade or so, processor performance has increased by about 175 times, while disk performance has only increased by about 30 per cent," said Jürgen Frick, EMEA product marketing manager at Adaptec.

However, while Flash SSDs have fast read characteristics, they lag behind rotating drives in storage capacity, so the cost of equipping servers entirely with SSDs would be prohibitive. The best solution is to combine the two in what is known as a high-performance hybrid array, which is what MaxIQ does.

"Using SSDs only would break the bank in the datacentre," said Frick, adding that MaxIQ brings together the benefits of high-performance and low power consumption.

Adaptec said that its solution does not require operating system level drivers, and therefore works with all platforms.

Each Adaptec controller card can be fitted with up to four MaxIQ SSDs, but Adaptec recommends that a typical server configuration would have one SSD for every six to eight hard drives.

Adaptec chose Intel's Flash SSDs because of their enterprise-grade single-level cell architecture, which means that they will last longer than the multi-level cell Flash drives seen in some laptops. Customers can expect them to last for up to 10 years, according to Sundaresh, which he pointed out is longer than the lifecycle of a typical server.

The MaxIQ SSD caching solution kit costs $1,295 (£780) for each 32GB module. However, Sundaresh said that, for customers needing high performance, this is still more cost effective than using large arrays of rotating drives to boost read speeds.

"People are already doing this with high-end storage arrays, but our solution lets you do it with standard servers," he said. µ


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