The devil is in the details when selecting the correct SSD for an enterprise application. A scan of the marketing materials does little to help during the decision making process - which often leads to expensive and time consuming POC deployments.
All applications are latency-sensitive to some extent, but some applications require the utmost performance - a few milliseconds of excess latency in the storage layer can result in seconds of delay at the application level. Enterprise SSDs weigh in to provide the best mix of cost, capacity and performance for the most latency-sensitive applications, but inconsistent performance is the hidden killer of application performance. This fuels our intense focus on performance consistency and QoS metrics in our product evaluations. We also provide power consumption and efficiency metrics to visualize the long-term cost of each respective flash-based storage solution.
Many guides merely rehash the published specifications, but we delve deeper and actually test the products to ensure they meet the advertised performance levels. We test enterprise storage products in our independent lab to cut through the marketing fuzz and provide clear, concise and actionable metrics that focus on the key characteristics of each storage device.
The latest enterprise SSDs indicate that the industry is focusing on three primary themes this year: standardization, accessibility and density.
A broad industry consortium developed NVMe to be the standardized future of all non-volatile memory, and that future is here. The move to the standardized interface provides the benefits of wide interoperability and shorter qualification cycles for end users, but it also serves to lower the bar of entry for new SSD vendors. Standardization ushers in commoditization, which drives lower price structures.
We tested PCIe AIC (Add-In Card) SSDs from HGST, Intel and Memblaze over the last few months, with the HGST SN150 emerging as our top pick due to its solid blend of performance, QoS and cost.
SSDs are penetrating into pedestrian applications that were the traditional stomping grounds of 2.5" performance HDDs, so accessibility is important. AIC SSDs provide bleeding edge performance, but are buried deep inside the server chassis and are not hot-pluggable. Servicing or replacing an AIC SSD requires gymnastics prior to shutting down the server, or even worse, relying upon redundant systems during the service window. The next failure can always be the last, so the best option is to eliminate downtime with hot-pluggable front-bay accessible SSDs.
U.2 NVMe SSDs are stepping into the role through the beauty of a standardized NVMe hot-plugging feature. We tested the first U.2 2.5" SSDs to hit our lab, the Intel DC P3700 and the Toshiba PX04P, and were impressed with the form factor and performance. The Toshiba PX04P came out on top courtesy of its efficient and consistent controller, which also just happens to power our pick for the leading 12Gb/s SAS SSD.
The final theme is density. Vendors typically increase SSD density through NAND die shrinks, but the physical limitations of flash spurred the industry migration to 3D NAND, which stacks layers of bits (as opposed to shrinking them) to increase density. Samsung has enjoyed its status as the only vendor with shipping 3D NAND for several years, but Micron, Intel and SanDisk all have impending 3D NAND products on the horizon.
Another route to increasing density is to utilize a smaller form factor, and the new M.2 SSDs fit that bill. These diminutive SSDs range in size from as small as a coin to a bit larger than a stick of gum, but come packing impressive storage capacity. The incredible density and low power mesh well with ultra-dense server designs being driven by the Open Compute Project (OCP) community. SK Hynix wades into the M.2 segment with the first NVMe M.2 we have tested, and it also comes with the company's new 3D NAND V2, which is only the second 3D NAND to hit the market. The SK Hynix PE3110 shattered our expectations of a small form factor SSD and took our Editors' Choice award for the segment.
The pace of innovation in the SSD market is increasing as more vendors roll out 3D NAND products and exploit new form factors. The SATA segment has been quiet, but with 3D NAND from the major fabs hitting the market soon, there is no doubt we will see movement in the coming months.
Our Best Picks
About Our Recommendations
- We only recommend SSDs we've actually evaluated.
- The list is based on U.S. prices from online retailers. In other countries or at retail stores, your mileage will vary.
- These are new SSD prices. No OEM, bulk pricing, used or open-box offers are in the list.
- Our picks should be valid throughout the month of publication.
- Prices and availability change on a daily basis, but the embedded green links provide real-time pricing.
Best NVMe AIC Enterprise SSD
Best Custom Driver AIC Enterprise SSD
Best M.2 Enterprise SSD
Best 2.5” U.2 Enterprise SSD
Best 12Gb/s SAS Enterprise SSD
Best High-Endurance SATA Enterprise SSD
Best Mixed Workload SATA Enterprise SSD
Best Read-Centric SATA Enterprise SSD