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Intel squeezes one million IOPS from desktop

Seven SSDs = 5,000 hard drives

hands waving dollar bills in the air

IDF Intel has managed to squeeze one million IOPs out of a two-socket desktop tower.

Intel Fellow Rick Coulson showed off the eye-opening setup during a keynote Tuesday at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. The secret ingredients are SSDs tightly coupled to a host in a highly tuned setup that Coulson called "co-optimization."

Coulson's storage technologies group works to improve SSD performance. But that's not all. "Perhaps more importantly we look at the platform and see how the SSD and the platform play together," he said. "We look at the interface between the SSD and the system, software, overhead, those sort of things."

Since SSDs are, according to Coulson, about 100 times faster in terms of latency than hard drives, there are performance bottlenecks to be overcome in the physical interface, the protocols on that interface, the software driver, and the chipset interface.

"So as we look at optimizing some of those things," he said, "like interrupts, driver speculation, improving the physical interface between SSDs, and the system, we expect great gains in power, performance, and cost."

Gains in performance, for example, that add up to 1M IOPS (input/output operations per second) in Coulson's lab, where he hooked up a dual Xeon 5500 desktop tower to seven Intel SSD prototypes - four in the tower and three in a PCIe expansion box - and ran a 4K read/write benchmark on it.

"This many I/Os per second is about four gigabytes per second of storage bandwidth," he claimed. "As a storage guy, that's a huge number, a very huge number."

He also pointed out that during the test, the CPU utilization of the tower was about 50 per cent. "That's really nice," he smiled.

To the non-storage guys in the audience, he said "I want to put this in perspective: this is about 5,000 disk drives worth of random performance. And 5,000 disk drives, when you think about it, is a lot of floor space. Maybe more importantly, that's maybe 50 kilowatts of power - and this whole setup is about 500 [watts]."

To be sure, Coulson's setup is still in Intel's labs, and is tweaked to perfection. But no matter how you cut it, one million IOPS - 1,076,600, to be exact - is one hell of a lot of desktop I/O. ®

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