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Adaptec MaxIQ: Flash SSDs Boost RAID Performance

Adaptec MaxIQ: Flash SSDs Boost RAID Performance
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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.