Random Read/Write Speed

This test writes 4KB in a completely random pattern over an 8GB space of the drive to simulate the sort of random writes that you'd see on an OS drive (even this is more stressful than a normal desktop user would see). I perform three concurrent IOs and run the test for 3 minutes. The results reported are in average MB/s over the entire time:

As we established in previous articles, the disk operations that feel the slowest are the random small file reads and writes. Both of which are easily handled by an SSD. A good friend of mine and former AnandTech Editor, Matthew Witheiler, asked me if he'd notice the performance improvement. I showed him the chart above.

He asked again if he'd notice. I said, emphatically, yes.

Now this is super interesting. Intel's X25-M G1 drops from 40.8MB/s when new down to 26.3MB/s in a well used state. Unfortunately for the G1, it will never get TRIM and will spend more time in the lower performance state over the life of the drive. But look at what happens with the X25-M G2: it drops from 36.1MB/s to 35.8MB/s - virtually no performance is lost. In fact, the G2 is so fast here that it outperforms the super expensive X25-E. Granted you don't get the lifespan of the X25-E and the SLC drive should perform better on more strenuous random write tests, but this is a major improvement.

The explanation? It actually boils down to the amount of memory on the drive. The X25-M G1 had 16MB of 166MHz SDRAM on-board, the G2 upped it to 32MB of slower 133MHz DRAM. Remember that Intel doesn't keep any user data in DRAM, it's only used for the remapping, defragmenting and tracking of all of the data being written to the drive. More DRAM means that the drive can now track more data, which means that even in the heaviest of random-write workloads you could toss at it on a normal desktop you will not actually lose any performance with the drive in a used state. And this is the drive Intel has decided to grant TRIM to.

The G2 is good.

The Indilinx drives do lose performance here. They drop from roughly 13MB/s down to 7MB/s. We're still talking ~5x the speed of a VelociRaptor, so there's no cause for alarm. But it's clear that even Indilinx's SLC drive can't match Intel's random write performance. And from what I hear, Intel's performance is only going to get better.

This is what the X25-M price premium gets you.

Bahahaha, look at the hard drive scores here: 0.7MB/s and 0.3MB/s? That's freakin' terrible! And that's why your system feels so slow when you start it up, there are a ton of concurrent random reads and writes happening all over the place which your hard drive crunches through at roughly 0.5MB/s. Even the Samsung based OCZ Summit manages a significant performance advantage here.

The Indilinx drives all cluster around the 30 - 40MB/s mark for random read performance, nothing to be ashamed of. The Intel drives kick it up a notch and give you roughly 60MB/s of random read performance. It's a noticeable improvement. As our application launch tests will show however, loading a single app on either an Indilinx or Intel drive will take about the same amount of time. It's only in the heavy multitasking and "seat of the pants" feel that you'll have a chance at feeling a difference.

Sequential Read/Write Speed Overall System Performance using PCMark Vantage
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  • Wwhat - Sunday, September 06, 2009 - link

    If you read the first part of the article alone you would see how important a good controller is in a SSD and you would no ask his question probably, plus SSD's use the flash in parallel where a bunch of USB drives would not, the parallel thing is also mentioned in the article.
    And USB has a lot of overhead actually on the system, both in CPU cycles as well as in IO interrupts.

    There are plug in PCI(e) cards to stick SD cards in though, to get a similar setup, but it's a bit of a hack and with the overhead and the management and controllers used and the price to buy many SD cards it's not competitive in the end and you are better of with a real SSD I'm told.
    Reply
  • Transisto - Sunday, September 06, 2009 - link

    You are right, the controller is very important.

    I think caching about 4-8 gig of most often accessed program files has the best price/performance ratio, for improving application load time. It it also very easily scalable.

    One of the problem I see is integrating this ssd cache in the OS or before booting so it act where it matter the most.

    I think there could be a near x25-m speedup from optimized caching and good controller no matter what SSD form factor it rely on. SD, CF, usb , pci or onboard.

    Why it seams nobody talk about eboostr type of caching AND ,,, on other news ,,, Intel's Braidwood flash memory module could kill SSD market.

    I am quite of a performance seeker.

    But I don't think I need 80gig of SSD in my desktop,just some 8gb of good caching. Mabe a 60gb ssd on a laptop.

    Well... I'm gonna pay for that controller once, not twice (160gb?)
    Reply
  • Wwhat - Saturday, September 05, 2009 - link

    Not that it's not a good article, although it does seem like 2 articles in one, but what I miss is getting to brass tacks regarding the filesystem used, and why there isn't a SSD-specific file system made, and what choices can be made during formatting in regards to blocksize, obviously if you select large blocks on filesystem level a would impact he performance of the garbage collection right? It actually seem the author never delved very deeply into filesystems from reading this.
    The thing is that even with large blocks on filesystem level the system might still use small segments for the actuall keepin track, and if it needs to write small bits to keep track of large blocks you'd still have issues, that's why I say a specific SSD filesystem migh be good, but only if there isn't a new form of SSD in the near future that makes the effort poinless, and if a filesystem for SSD was made then the firmware should not try to compensate for exising filesystem issues with SSD's.
    I read that the SD people selected exFAT as filesystem for their next generation, and that also makes me wonder, is that just to do with licensing costs or is NTFS bad for flash based devices?
    Point being at the filesystem needs to be highlighted more I think,
    Reply
  • Bolas - Friday, September 04, 2009 - link

    Would someone please hit Dell with the clue-board and convince them to offer the Intel SSD's in their Alienware systems? The Samsung SSD's are all that is stopping me from buying an Alienware laptop at the moment. Reply
  • EatTheMeat - Friday, September 04, 2009 - link

    Congratulations on another fab masterclass. This is easily the best educational material on the internet regarding SSDs, and contrary to some comments, I think you've pitched your recommendations just right. I can also appreciate why you approached this article with some trepidation. Bravo.

    I have a RAID question for Anand (or anyone else who feels qualified :-))

    I'm thinking of setting up 2 160GB x25-m G2 drives in RAID-0 for Win 7. I'd simply use the ICH10R controller for it. It's not so much to increase performance but rather to increase capacity and make sure each drive wears equally. After considering it further I'm wondering if SSD RAID is wise. First there's the eternal question of stripe size and write amplification. It makes sense to me to set the stripe size to be the same as, or a fraction of, the block size of the SSD. If you choose the wrong stripe size does it influence write amplification?

    I'm aware that performance should increase with larger spripes, but I'm more concerned about what's healthy for the SSD.

    Do you think I should just let SSD RAID wait until RAID drivers are optimised for SSDs?

    I know you're planning a RAID article for SSDs - I for one look forward to it greatly. I've read all your other SSD articles like four times!
    Reply
  • Bolas - Friday, September 04, 2009 - link

    If SSD's in RAID lose the benefit of the TRIM command, then you're shooting yourself in the foot if you set them up in RAID. If you need more capacity, wait for the Intel 320GB SSD drives next year. Or better yet, use a 160 GB for your boot drive, then set up some traditional hard disk drives in RAID for your storage requirements. Reply
  • EatTheMeat - Friday, September 04, 2009 - link

    Thanks for reply. I definitely hear you about the TRIM functionality as I doubt RAID drivers will pass this through before 2010. Still though, it doesn't look like the G2s drop much in performance with use anyway from Anand's graphs. With regard to waiting for 320 GB drives - I can't. These things are just too enticing, and you could always say that technology will be better / faster / cheaper next year. I've decided to take the plunge now as I'm fed up with an i7 965 booting and loading apps / games like a snail even from a RAID drive.

    I just don't want to bugger the SSDs up with loads of write amplification / fragmentation due to RAID-0. ie, is RAID-0 bad for the health of SSDs like defragmentation / prefetch is? I wonder if anyone knows the answer to this question yet.
    Reply
  • jagreenm - Saturday, September 05, 2009 - link

    What about just using Windows drive spanning for 2 160's? Reply
  • EatTheMeat - Saturday, September 05, 2009 - link

    As far as I know drive spanning doesn't even the wear between the discs. It just fills up first one and then the other. That's important with SSDs because RAID can really help reduce drive wear by spreading all reads and writes across 2 drives. In fact, it should more than half drive wear as both drives will have large scratch portions. Not so with spanning as far as I know.

    Does anyone know if I'm talking sh1t here? :-)
    Reply
  • pepito - Monday, November 16, 2009 - link

    If you are not sure, then why do you assert such things?

    I don't know about Windows, but at least in Linux when using LVM2 or RAID0 the writes spread evenly against all block devices.
    That means you get twice the speed and better drive wear.

    I would like to think that microsoft's implementation works more or less the same way, as this is completely logical (but then again, its microsoft, so who can really know?).
    Reply

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