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Adaptec MaxIQ: Flash SSDs Boost RAID Performance

Adaptec MaxIQ: Flash SSDs Boost RAID Performance

Everyone seems to be talking about flash SSDs these days and how they provide maximum performance with minimal power consumption. However, Adaptec isn’t convinced that SSDs are a silver bullet. High costs and limited capacities remain severe concerns in business applications. MaxIQ is Adaptec’s answer to these issues. It’s a software-based enhancement to Adaptec’s 5- and 2-series RAID controllers that allows administrators to add read caching to RAID arrays using customized Intel X25-E drives.

I/O Path Conditioning

Adaptec is right when it says that data paths between servers and storage require optimization. Millions of servers worldwide are running RAID controllers and arrays based on mechanical hard drives. Although SSDs are in the process of conquering the enterprise market, they primarily do it at the very high-end, where cost is secondary. 

With most systems, storage capacity and TCO are imperative, effectively disqualifying many SSD solutions due to limited per-drive capacities and disproportionate costs. In addition, SSDs may even disrupt storage ecosystems. Lastly, higher performance can be beneficial, but it may not be essential in many cases. So how can one affordably increase performance while maintaining existing high-capacity, validated storage ecosystems? Adaptec’s goals were to achieve the best cost per I/O, best power per I/O, best cost per gigabyte, and best data protection per I/O.

MaxIQ is an SSD Cache for Your RAID Array

Adaptec calls its MaxIQ  solution a high-performance hybrid array technology, and defines it as delivering maximum performance without the need for expensive DRAM caches, capacity-cutting short stroking, or application tuning. It is available as an upgrade to all 5- and 2-series Adaptec controllers and requires a firmware update, as well as one or more customized X25-E drives. The basic MaxIQ package with a 32GB Intel X25-E professional SSD retails today for $1,295.

We’ll look at details and benchmark numbers on the following pages, but can already speak highly of the combo for the way it integrates with your system. Once MaxIQ-capable firmware is installed on your Adaptec controller, you can potentially multiply read I/O performance. No applications or additional drivers are required, the setup only requires initial configuration. From there, the MaxIQ operation is transparent. Since the SSD is only used as a cache, data on your RAID array(s) is never at risk.

Let’s see if MaxIQ delivers on its massive number of promises, though.

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  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 12 February 2010 15:01
    I have to say, I was skeptical when I saw the theory, but I'm very impressed with the performance! A fantastic update to an already high performing product.
  • 0 Hide
    sub mesa , 16 February 2010 16:38
    Of course you don't need this proprietary technology, as is its already available free to everyone, in the form of the most advanced single-user filesystem at this moment: ZFS.

    ZFS allows you to create cache-devices, usually SSDs or RAM-backed devices, to accelerate (random) writes and act as a huge cache for commonly read files. You could have a RAID-Z or RAID5 array and add a small 30GB SSD to it, to keep your most accessed files on the SSD.

    Even better, it automatically scans your usage, so files you use often will end up being on the SSD, while less frequently used files will only be stored on the HDD - it dynamically builds a usage profile as it were.

    You don't need to buy anything to make this work. Just have a dedicated computer acting as NAS or network attached storage. Both FreeBSD and OpenSolaris have full support for this kind of operation. I'm using it at the moment, with full satisfaction.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 3 March 2010 06:18
    ZFS will rule the world.. but only when its included in Win7 (or win8). Until then, shut your cakehole.
  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 3 March 2010 14:52