New vs Used SSD Performance

We begin our look at how the overhead of managing pages impacts SSD performance with iometer. The table below shows iometer random write performance; there are two rows for each drive, one for “new” performance after a secure erase and one for “used” performance after the drive has been well used.

4KB Random Write Speed New "Used"
Intel X25-E   31.7 MB/s
Intel X25-M 39.3 MB/s 23.1 MB/s
JMicron JMF602B MLC 0.02 MB/s 0.02 MB/s
JMicron JMF602Bx2 MLC 0.03 MB/s 0.03 MB/s
OCZ Summit 12.8 MB/s 0.77 MB/s
OCZ Vertex 8.2 MB/s 2.41 MB/s
Samsung SLC 2.61 MB/s 0.53 MB/s
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 0.81 MB/s -
Western Digital Caviar SE16 1.26 MB/s -
Western Digital VelociRaptor 1.63 MB/s -

 

Note that the “used” performance should be the slowest you’ll ever see the drive get. In theory, all of the pages are filled with some sort of data at this point.

All of the drives, with the exception of the JMicron based SSDs went down in performance in the “used” state. And the only reason the JMicron drive didn’t get any slower was because it is already bottlenecked elsewhere; you can’t get much slower than 0.03MB/s in this test.

These are pretty serious performance drops; the OCZ Vertex runs at nearly 1/4 the speed after it’s been used and Intel’s X25-M can only crunch through about 60% the IOs per second that it did when brand new.

So are SSDs doomed? Is performance going to tank over time and make these things worthless?


"Used" SSD performance vs. conventional hard drives.

Pay close attention to the average write latency in the graph above. While Intel’s X25-M pulls an extremely fast sub-0.3ms write latency normally, it levels off at 0.51ms in its used mode. The OCZ Vertex manages a 1.43ms new and 4.86ms used. There’s additional overhead for every write but a well designed SSD will still manage extremely low write latencies. To put things in perspective, look at these drives at their worst compared to Western Digital’s VelociRaptor.The degraded performance X25-M still completes write requests in around 1/8 the time of the VelociRaptor. Transfer speeds are still 8x higher as well.

Note that not all SSDs see their performance drop gracefully. The two Samsung based drives perform more like hard drives here, but I'll explain that tradeoff much later in this article.

How does this all translate into real world performance? I ran PCMark Vantage on the new and used Intel drive to see how performance changed.

PCMark Overall Score New "Used" % Drop
Intel X25-M 11902 11536 3%
OCZ Summit 10972 9916 9.6%
OCZ Vertex 11253 9836 14.4%
Samsung SLC 10143 9118 10.1%
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 6817 - -
Western Digital VelociRaptor 7500 - -

 

The real world performance hit varies from 0 - 14% depending on the drive. While the drives are still faster than a regular hard drive, performance does drop in the real world by a noticeable amount. The trim command would keep the drive’s performance closer to its peak for longer, but it would not have prevented this from happening.

PCMark Vantage HDD Test New "Used" % Drop
Intel X25-M 29879 23252 22%
JMicron JMF602Bx2 MLC 11613 11283 3%
OCZ Summit 25754 16624 36%
OCZ Vertex 20753 17854 14%
Samsung SLC 17406 12392 29%
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 3525 -  
Western Digital VelociRaptor 6313 -  

 

HDD specific tests show much more severe drops, ranging from 20 - 40% depending on the drive. Despite the performance drop, these drives are still much faster than even the fastest hard drives.

Simulating a Used Drive SSD Aging: Read Speed is Largely Unaffected
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  • Bytales - Friday, March 27, 2009 - link

    As i read the article, i'm thinking of ways to slow down the down the degrading process. Intel is gonna ship x-25m 320gb this year. If i buy this drive and use it as an OS drive, i will obviously won't need the whole 320GB. Say i would need only 40 to 50 GB. I can make a secure erase (if the drive isn't new), made a partition of 50GB, and leave the remaining space unpartitioned. Will that solve the problem in any way ?
    Another way to solve the problem, would be a method inside the OS. The OS could use a user controlled % of the RAM memory, as a cache for those small 4kb files. Since ram reads and writes are way faster, i think it will also help. Say you got 8GB ram, and use 2gb for this purpose, and then the OS would only have 6gb ram for its use, while 2gb is used for these smaller files. That would increase also the lifespan of the SSD. Can this be possible ?
    Reply
  • Hellfire26 - Thursday, March 26, 2009 - link

    In reference to SSD's, I have read a lot of articles and comments about improved firmware and operating system support. I hope manufacturers don't forget about the on-board RAID controller.

    From the articles and comments made by users around the web, who have tested SSD's in a Raid 0 configuration, I believe that two Intel X25-M SSD's in a RAID 0 configuration would more than saturate current on-board RAID controllers.

    Intel is doing a die shrink of the NAND memory that is going into their SSD's come this fall. I would expect these new Intel SSD's to show faster read and write times. Other manufacturers will also find ways to increase the speed of their SSD's.

    SSD's scale well in a RAID configuration. It would be a shame if the on-board RAID controller limited our throughput. The alternative would be very expensive add-in RAID cards.
    Reply
  • FlaTEr1C - Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - link

    Anand, once again you wrote an article that no one else could've written. This is why I'm reading this site since 2004 and will always do. Your articles and reviews are without exception unique and a must-read. Thank you for this thorough background, analysis and review of SSD.

    I was looking a long time for a solution to make my desktop experience faster and I think I'll order a 60GB Vertex. 200€(germany) is still a lot of money but it will be worth it.

    Once again, great work Anand!
    Reply
  • blackburried - Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - link

    It's referred to as "discard" in the kernel functions.

    It works very well w/ SSD's that support TRIM, like fusion-io's drives.
    Reply
  • Iger - Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - link

    This is the best review I've read in a very long time.
    Thank you very much!
    Reply
  • BailoutBenny - Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - link

    Great in depth article on flash based SSDs. I'm waiting for PRAM though. Reply
  • orclordrh - Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - link

    Very illuminating article, very well written and researched. It made me glad that I didn't pull the trigger on an SSD for my I7 machine and regret not buying OCZ memory! I'm interested in adding an SSD as the scratch disk for Photoshop CS4 to use. I don't really launch applications very often, say once a week on the weekly reboot and keep 6-8 apps open at all times. I have 12GB of memory for that. The benchmarks were very interesting, but what sort of activity does Photoshop scratch usage create? Large files or random writes? What type of SSD would be most cost effective here?
    An SSD does sound better than a SSD!
    Reply
  • semo - Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - link

    wait for ddr3 to enter the mainstream and buy loads of memory.

    use a ramdisk for your adobe scratch area. much faster than ssd and no wear to worry about (not that you would worry that much with modern ssds anyway).

    http://www.ghacks.net/2007/12/14/use-a-ramdisk-to-...">http://www.ghacks.net/2007/12/14/use-a-ramdisk-to-...

    there is also a paid for and more feature rich ramdisk out there. can't remember the name
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - link

    I'll have to check when I get home, but I believe the recommended size for the scratch disk is upwards of 10GB. So would need a motherboard that supports a LOT of RAM to give enough to main memory plus a scratch disk. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - link

    I was wondering the same thing. I'd guess it would be a lot of writing/erasing, so an SSD might not be the best from a longevity standpoint, but if your system is hitting the scratch disk often then the speed might make it worthwhile. Reply

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