Sep 18, 2013

Micron P420m Enterprise PCIe SSD Snap Review

The Micron P420m is an enterprise application accelerator that ranges up to 1.4TB in total capacity that leverages the PCIe interface and is uniquely offered in both a half-height, half-length (HHHL) and 2.5" form factors. Micron has opted for 25nm MLC NAND for the P420m to meet not only mainstream market requirements for performance and reliability, but also to provide a more cost-effective and higher capacity offering than their P320h which is paired with SLC NAND. The other core difference between the P420m and the P320h is that Micron has added capacitors to protect in-flight data in the event of an unplanned loss of power. The additional data protection feature keeps the card powered long enough to flush all writes to the NAND, giving enterprises one more layer of data protection. The HHHL card interfaces via PCIe Gen2 x8 to achieve sequential read performance up to 3.3GB/s with writes up to 630MB/s and random reads up to 750,000 IOPS and 95,000 IOPS for write activity. The 2.5" interfaces over PCIe Gen2 x4 for up to 1.8GB/s and 430,000 IOPS, respectively.

At its core, the Micron P420m features the same custom Micron/IDT ASIC controller as its sibling the Micron P320h PCIe and the same RAIN architecture (redundant array of independent NAND). RAIN provides device-integrated algorithms that use RAID5 across flash channels, enabling Micron to deliver greater performance, reliability and data integrity. RAIN also guarantees continuous drive operation even after a channel failure by kicking off an automatic background rebuild when a failure is detected. RAIN is entirely automated and runs entirely in the background without degrading system-level performance.

The application accelerator market at large offers a wide scope of options in terms of capacity and performance, but one feature that can be overlooked is power consumption. Some solutions draw so much power and expel so much energy that in-host cooling is a serious concern. The P420m on the other hand is well within the PCIe spec and is rated at just 8W in standby (7W on the 350GB 2.5"), with active power ranging up to 30W depending on capacity, form factor and performance tuning options. The 2.5" form factor is rated at 14W for 350GB and 22W for 700GB. The HHHL form factor is rated at 22W for 700GB, while the 1.4TB model is quoted at 25W with power throttling turned on and 30W without its activation.

As noted, the Micron P420m is available in both HHHL and 2.5" PCIe form factors. The 2.5" PCIe form factor continues to be unique to Micron, though others have shown demos of the technology. Dell has created a backplane for their 12G PowerEdge servers for the drives that allows them to be mounted in groups of four in traditional front-facing drive bays. Of course being able to access the drives via front of server without having to power down the system and remove the lid to service the drive is seen as a substantial benefit by some. It also helps that Micron's 2.5" PCIe drives are by far the fastest storage available in that drive size, as seen in our 2.5" P320h review.

The 2.5" ships in 350GB and 700GB capacities, while the HHHL is available in the 700GB and upper-echelon 1.4TB capacities. The HHHL cards provide endurance of 5 PBW (700GB) and 10 PBW (1.4TB). Our review units are four 1.4TB capacity cards.

Micron P420m Enterprise PCIe SSD Specifications
  • Capacities
    • 700GB (MTFDGAR700MAX-1AG1Z)
      • Sequential Read: 3.3GB/s (128KB, steady state)
      • Sequential Write: 600MB/s (128KB, steady state)
      • Random Read: 750,000 IOPS (4KB, steady state)
      • Random Write: 50,000 IOPS (4KB, steady state)
    • 1.4TB (MTFDGAR1T4MAX-1AG1Z)
      • Sequential Read: 3.3GB/s (128KB, steady state)
      • Sequential Write: 630MB/s (128KB, steady state)
      • Random Read: 750,000 IOPS (4KB, steady state)
      • Random Write: 95,000 IOPS (4KB, steady state)
  • Ready Latency: <100 data-blogger-escaped-br="" data-blogger-escaped-s=""> Write Latency: <13 data-blogger-escaped-br="" data-blogger-escaped-s=""> Interface: PCIe Gen2 x8
  • Power: 30W maximum, 8 idle
  • Form Factor: HHHL
  • Dimensions: 68.90mm x 167.65mm x 18.71mm
  • Operating Temp: 0°C to +50°C
    • Reliability and Endurance
    • Uncorrectable bit error rate (UBER): <1 data-blogger-escaped-1017="" data-blogger-escaped-bits="" data-blogger-escaped-br="" data-blogger-escaped-per="" data-blogger-escaped-read="" data-blogger-escaped-sector=""> MTTF: 2 million hours
    • PBW: 5 (700GB), 10 (1.4TB)
  • OS Compatibility
    • Microsoft: Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 (x86-64), Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Hyper-V (x86-64), Windows Server 2012 (x86-64) SP128, Windows 7 (x86-64)
    • Linux: RHEL Linux 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 5.8, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 (x86-64), SLES Linux 11 SP1 and SP2 (x86-64)
    • VMware 5.0, 5.1 (x86-64)
    • Open source GPL (Kernel Rev. 2.6.25+)
Design and Build

The Micron P420m is a half-height, half-length x8 PCIe application accelerator that features a single controller mounted onto the mainboard, with daughter boards attached to house more MLC NAND and power-fail capacitors. As with its top of the line, SLC NAND-based P320h sibling, the P420m follows the universal HHHL spec, enabling installations for just about any open server PCIe slot.

The power-fail capacitors are new to the Micron P420m to help ensure data integrity in the event that power is lost, as Micron enabled write-back caching leveraging DRAM on the P420m. The P320h had its default configuration set to write-through, although users could (at their own discretion) enable write-back caching for increased performance. Since the default conditions changed to help drive greater performance from the new MLC platform, Micron opted to ensure reliable performance regardless of the conditions of the installed environment.

The top of the card features an adhesive black plate with Micron P420m branding. This plate also serves to protect the top layer daughter board with its power-fail capacitors, as well as the controller's heat sink. That controller is a Micron/IDT ASIC controller that was also found on the Micron P320h. As for NAND, Micron includes 64 of their own Micron 31C12NQ314 25nm MLC NAND packages. That comes out to 2048GB or raw capacity, which is then over-provisioned down to 1.4TB available.

Testing Background and Comparables

The Micron P420m Enterprise PCIe SSD uses a Micron/IDT ASIC controller and Micron MLC NAND with a PCIe 2.0 x8 interface.

Comparables for this review:
  • Fusion-io ioDrive2 (1.2TB, 1 x Xilinx Virtex-6 FPGA controllers, MLC NAND, PCIe 2.0 x4)
  • Huawei Tecal ES3000 (1.2TB, 3 x Proprietary FPGA controllers, MLC NAND, PCIe 2.0 x8)
  • Intel SSD 910 (800GB, 4 x Intel EW29AA31AA1, MLC NAND, PCIe 2.0 x 8)
  • LSI Nytro WarpDrive BLP4-400 (400GB, 4 x SandForce SF-2500 controller, Toshiba eMLC NAND, PCIe 2.0 x8)
  • Micron P320h (700GB, IDT Controller, SLC NAND, PCIe 2.0 x8)
  • Virident FlashMAX II (2.2TB, 2 x Proprietary FPGA controllers, eMLC NAND, PCIe 2.0 x8)
All PCIe Application Accelerators are benchmarked on our second-generation enterprise testing platform based on a Lenovo ThinkServer RD630. For synthetic benchmarks, we utilize FIO version 2.0.10 for Linux and version for Windows. In our synthetic testing environment, we use a mainstream server configuration with a clock speed of 2.0GHz, although server configurations with more powerful processors could yield even greater performance.
  • 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2620 (2.0GHz, 15MB Cache, 6-cores)
  • Intel C602 Chipset
  • Memory - 16GB (2 x 8GB) 1333Mhz DDR3 Registered RDIMMs
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 64-bit, Windows Server 2012 Standard, CentOS 6.3 64-Bit
    • 100GB Micron P400e Boot SSD
  • LSI 9211-4i SAS/SATA 6.0Gb/s HBA (For boot SSDs)
  • LSI 9207-8i SAS/SATA 6.0Gb/s HBA (For benchmarking SSDs or HDDs)
It's worth noting that the comparables we've selected are largely MLC-based drives, with the exception of the SLC Micron PCIe drive. That said, not all PCIe drives are created equally both in terms of performance targets and price. Specific applications require specific storage needs, thus we've opted to standardize the comps on NAND type rather than number of controllers, etc.

Application Performance Analysis

In the enterprise market there is a huge difference between how products claim to perform on paper and how they perform in a live production environment. We understand the importance of evaluating storage as a component of larger systems, most importantly how responsive storage is when interacting with key enterprise applications. To this end, we've rolled out application tests including our proprietary MarkLogic NoSQL Database Storage Benchmark and MySQL performance via SysBench.

In the MarkLogic NoSQL Database environment, we test single PCIe Application Accelerators with a usable capacity greater than or equal to 700GB. Our NoSQL database requires roughly 650GB of free space to work with, evenly divided between four database nodes. In our testing environment, we use an SCST host and present each SSD in JBOD (while some PCIe SSDs leverage software RAID0), with one device or partition allocated per database node. The test repeats itself over 24 intervals, requiring between 30-36 hours total for the SSDs in this category. Measuring the internal latencies seen by the MarkLogic software, we record both total average latency, as well as interval latency for each SSD. - source


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