MaxIQ: Quadrupling Existing RAID Performance?
Original Article Date: 2009-12-01
Conventional mechanical hard drives are inexpensive and have high-capacities
that meet increasingly hungry storage needs. But they have not increased significantly in performance over the last 10-15,
especially compared with the orders of magnitude increase in CPU
New solid state drives, or SSDs (see my SSD article for more
information) on the other hand, offer seek-times and access latencies several
orders of magnitude better than conventional hard drives. But SSDs are still
expensive and have limited capacities.
Is there a middle ground? With an enterprise level RAID, maybe there is...
Just as a cache on a CPU significantly improves the performance of that
CPU through the rapid storage and retrieval of frequently used data on a local
chip store, so too do RAID controllers have a cache for storing frequently used
bits of information going to and from the storage array. But RAID controller
caches are limited in size, especially compared to the data store total volume,
and whilst they do provide a benefit, it is not as significant as that of a CPU
cache's benefit to its parent processor.
Now, if you're tracking with me here, you'll probably have already guessed
what's next. What if we took a low-latency, high performance SSD, and made that the cache of a RAID volume?
Whilst the 32-160 gigabytes that SSDs have might not be enough for the RAID
volume itself, such a size is much more than the mere megabytes of cache that come with RAID
controllers, and might just be enough to provide a cache to the RAID that can
make a real difference. Genius! And this is exactly
what Adaptec have done, with their MaxIQ product.
MaxIQ: An SSD Cache for a Conventional HDD RAID
Launched in September of this year, Adaptec's MaxIQ product uses an
32GB Intel X25-E SSD and a proprietary software package to provide
intelligent caching of RAID volumes built onto their Series 2 and Series 5 RAID
The following diagram provides a summary of how MaxIQ works:
"Hot" data defined in the diagram above is frequently used or repeated
information, which is common in web server and database applications, amongst
others. "Cold" data would be that data which is "new" to the controller, such as
the bits on a video server from a file that hasn't been accessed for a while.
MaxIQ uses the SSD as a cache for the hot data, thereby improving overally RAID
performance significantly in certain applications.
Adaptec have claimed that IOPS (I/Os per second) on RAIDs fitted with MaxIQ have
increased by as much as five times! So potentially we're not talking about
percentage increases, but several factors of increase in performance.
For further reading, check out Adaptec's MaxIQ Page.
Max IQ Available Now from Electronics Nexus
MaxIQ is available now, either with new servers, or as an upgrade to existing
equipment. Most servers supplied by Electronics Nexus in the last 12-24 months
were fitted with Adaptec Series 5 RAID controllers. This means that you can
retrofit your existing server from Electronics Nexus now, to take advantage of the potential
performance increases that MaxIQ has to offer.
Here's what you need to take advantage of the MaxIQ package:
- Max IQ, which includes a 32GB Intel X25-E SSD with special Adaptec
header information (which allows it to be used with the MaxIQ software), plus a
CD of the MaxIQ Software Suite which will run under Windows or
- An Adaptec Series 2 or Series 5 RAID Controller (5405, 5805, 5085 models
are the most common). Existing systems will require a simple firmware upgrade
to the RAID controller to enable MaxIQ functionality on the card.
- A 2.5" to 3.5" hotswap drive frame, to allow the SSD to fit into your
existing SAS or SATA hotswap backplane. The SSD is then simply connected to the
RAID controller via the SATA/SAS cabling just like any regular drive.
New systems can be fitted with MaxIQ by simply selecting the MaxIQ cache drive
and software item on the "Hard Disk Drive Bay Population" array in any of our
online system configurators.
Existing users can contact me for special pricing on the upgrade of existing
systems, and to determine whether their RAID controller is compatible.
Chief Systems Engineer