Waiting for PCI-E: An SSD Raid Experiment

Old 3 Comments on Waiting for PCI-E: An SSD Raid Experiment 26

I’ve been an SSD user since nearly the beginning, starting in the days of the SF-1200 controller. Back then,  SSD’s cost as much as $4/GB, my 128GB drive cost me a whopping $400.  That drive lasted me until a few weeks ago, in a couple different systems with a few different OS’s installed on it, when I finally decided to move on.

The SSD market is alot more saturated now than it was in those earlier days, and nearly every computer hardware vendor has joined in for the excitement. There are also alot of different form factors and interfaces than there were 4 years ago. Shortly after I bought my Corsair Force drive it was already behind in times using the older SATAII bus. Once controllers were able to utilize the SATAIII bus the following year or so, the raw speed of SSD’s nearly doubled. Since then, the market has gradually lowered the price of SSDs and real world performance levels have increased.

A few weeks ago, Crucial (a subsidiary of memory manufacturer Micron) released an AMAZING new drive. Its called the MX100 and while its not the fastest drive on the market, nor does it have the longest warranty but the thing is a BARGAIN. I purchased not one, but TWO 256GB drives for a little over $200–nearly half what I paid for a single 128GB drive a few years ago. These things in RAID 0 on a regular Intel desktop Z97 controller are giving me over 800MB/s reads! That’s more than 4 times the reads I was getting on my old SSD.

The Future of SSDs
For the average user, the solution I have is probably overkill, but for a geek– man this setup is AWESOME. My computer boots instantly, my games and applications load considerably faster, and overall my system feels faster. But there is more to the story and as I said before, 2.5mm sata SSDs are no longer the only fish in the pond.  Things like NGFF, or M.2 are coming soon,  Drives like the Samsung XP941 are already here, and it runs on a 4x PCi-E link in an M.2 format. This is the SSD seen in Mac Pro products. However, Very few PC motherboards support this new form factor, and if they do some can’t even boot to it without tweaks.  You can’t even buy it from a regular retailer, and have to buy it at a pretty high premium from a specialized computer repair shop in Australia!  Samsung isn’t the only one in this market, however. Intel has released its enterprise-class PCI-E SSDs recently, and they are truly the performance kings of SSDs, but with a cost upwards of $1000 for a 400GB drive, you are paying for the performance.

Diminishing Returns

As with most things tech, you will always pay a premium for the best-of-the-best performers. In the enterprise and professional markets, these new drives make sense, but in home PC use, you are able to get nearly the same performance of a fancy M.2 drive with a couple consumer SSD’s in RAID 0. Since SSD’s don’t die the same way hard drives do, its hard to argue about the safety of your data with SSD’s and RAID, so I wouldn’t worry about data loss with dieing drives any time in the next decade. 

As for the enterprise-class Intel SSD’s, one can argue that in consumer-level workloads, the speed difference will be negligible. These drives are designed with enterprise class SAN’s and servers in mind, and the price difference is probably not worth the premium-per-gigabye you will pay for them. That being said, wait a year or two and this kind of performance will be coming to a desktop (and even laptop!) PC near you, without the cost.


Nicholas Fusco

Nick Fusco is a young IT Consultant and "geek"! As a contributing author on GBD, he covers all things tech and writes reviews for a variety of products and services.

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  1. Cpt. Ahab June 20, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Good piece, small edit, i think you mean €4/mb.

    • Nicholas Fusco June 20, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      No sir, $4 a gig. About $200 divided by 128GB (with about 100GB of usable space) is 4 dollars/GB

      • Nicholas Fusco June 20, 2014 at 12:51 pm

        Sorry– about $400 🙂 That time was a typo

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