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Adaptec Sideloads SSD To Bridge CPU And I/O Performance Gap

Adaptec rolled out their MaxIQ solution, creating a hybrid mix of high-performance SSD drives and high-performance SATA hard disk drives. Using updated controller firmware and custom Intel drives, Adaptec now enables an I/O cache that is completely transparent to the applications and the operating systems that they run on. Designed to speed up read-intensive servers, such as web servers, Adaptec claims significant performance increases without modifying the applications themselves.
The MaxIQ, as introduced, consists of two components. The first is a firmware update for Adaptec's Series 2 and Series 5 SATA storage controllers. While the software will eventually come pre-loaded on Adaptec's cards, the MaxIQ product ships with a CD to update controllers already in the field. The second element is a customized 32GB Intel X25-E Extreme SATA SSD drive. When attached, administrators can define the Intel drive as cache storage. When in cache mode, the drive will not even appear to the operating system, as all of the caching will be handled at the controller level, not by the OS. 
Adaptec uses its own algorithm built into the controller to monitor the blocks of data being accessed and copies it to the solid-state drive.  Future reads of that block are then delivered from the high-speed cache. All write operations, however, go directly to the hard disk, and then the blocks in the cache are updated. This ensures data integrity and minimizes the need for battery or super-cap back up of volatile RAM caches.  
In pure read-only testing, Adaptec claims an impressive 11x performance improvement by enabling MaxIQ.  While their numbers dip to a slightly less impressive 4x as the read-write testing mix is adjusted, there are clearly opportunities to marginalize the I/O bottleneck within enterprise servers. With a list price of $1,295, Adaptec's hybrid caching solution could delay the next round of server purchases as enterprise scale to meet the growing application needs.