AnandTech Storage Bench 2011: Much Heavier

I didn't expect to have to debut this so soon, but I've been working on updated benchmarks for 2011. Last year we introduced our AnandTech Storage Bench, a suite of benchmarks that took traces of real OS/application usage and played them back in a repeatable manner. I assembled the traces myself out of frustration with the majority of what we have today in terms of SSD benchmarks.

Although the AnandTech Storage Bench tests did a good job of characterizing SSD performance, they weren't stressful enough. All of the tests performed less than 10GB of reads/writes and typically involved only 4GB of writes specifically. That's not even enough exceed the spare area on most SSDs. Most canned SSD benchmarks don't even come close to writing a single gigabyte of data, but that doesn't mean that simply writing 4GB is acceptable.

Originally I kept the benchmarks short enough that they wouldn't be a burden to run (~30 minutes) but long enough that they were representative of what a power user might do with their system.

Not too long ago I tweeted that I had created what I referred to as the Mother of All SSD Benchmarks (MOASB). Rather than only writing 4GB of data to the drive, this benchmark writes 106.32GB. It's the load you'd put on a drive after nearly two weeks of constant usage. And it takes a *long* time to run.

I'll be sharing the full details of the benchmark in some upcoming SSD articles (again, I wasn't expecting to have to introduce this today so I'm a bit ill prepared) but here are some details:

1) The MOASB, officially called AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload, mainly focuses on the times when your I/O activity is the highest. There is a lot of downloading and application installing that happens during the course of this test. My thinking was that it's during application installs, file copies, downloading and multitasking with all of this that you can really notice performance differences between drives.

2) I tried to cover as many bases as possible with the software I incorporated into this test. There's a lot of photo editing in Photoshop, HTML editing in Dreamweaver, web browsing, game playing/level loading (Starcraft II & WoW are both a part of the test) as well as general use stuff (application installing, virus scanning). I included a large amount of email downloading, document creation and editing as well. To top it all off I even use Visual Studio 2008 to build Chromium during the test.

Many of you have asked for a better way to really characterize performance. Simply looking at IOPS doesn't really say much. As a result I'm going to be presenting Storage Bench 2011 data in a slightly different way. We'll have performance represented as Average MB/s, with higher numbers being better. At the same time I'll be reporting how long the SSD was busy while running this test. These disk busy graphs will show you exactly how much time was shaved off by using a faster drive vs. a slower one during the course of this test. Finally, I will also break out performance into reads, writes and combined. The reason I do this is to help balance out the fact that this test is unusually write intensive, which can often hide the benefits of a drive with good read performance.

There's also a new light workload for 2011. This is a far more reasonable, typical every day use case benchmark. Lots of web browsing, photo editing (but with a greater focus on photo consumption), video playback as well as some application installs and gaming. This test isn't nearly as write intensive as the MOASB but it's still multiple times more write intensive than what we were running last year.

As always I don't believe that these two benchmarks alone are enough to characterize the performance of a drive, but hopefully along with the rest of our tests they will help provide a better idea.

The testbed for Storage Bench 2011 has changed as well. We're now using a Sandy Bridge platform with full 6Gbps support for these tests. All of the older tests are still run on our X58 platform.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

We'll start out by looking at average data rate throughout our new heavy workload test:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

The Vertex 3 Pro on a 6Gbps interface is around 24% faster than Crucial's RealSSD C300. Note that the old SF-1200 (Corsair Force F120) can only deliver 60% of the speed of the new SF-2500. Over a 3Gbps interface the Vertex 3 Pro is quick, but only 15% faster than the next fastest 3Gbps drive. In order to get the most out of the SF-2500 you need a 6Gbps interface.

If we break out our performance results into average read and write speed we get a better idea for the Vertex 3 Pro's strengths:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

The SF-2500 is significantly faster than its predecessor and all other drives in terms of read performance. Good read speed is important as it influences application launch time as well as overall system responsiveness.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

Average write speed is still class leading, but this benchmark uses a lot of incompressible data - you'll note that the Vertex 3 Pro only averages 225.9MB/s - barely over its worst case write speed. It's in this test that I'm expecting the new C400 to do better than SandForce.

The next three charts just represent the same data, but in a different manner. Instead of looking at average data rate, we're looking at how long the disk was busy for during this entire test. Note that disk busy time excludes any and all idles, this is just how long the SSD was busy doing something:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

The Performance Degradation Problem AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload
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  • eva2000 - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    Thanks for the review, curious why the 256GB Crucial RealSSD C300 only included in some benchmarks and not others ? Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    That's simply a data entry issue, I'll get it fixed :)

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    Also, I'm curious as to why none of the REVO benchmarks are included? On the one hand, I understand how niche PCIe drives may be, but on the other, they can offer significant performance over both SATA 3Gbps and 6Gbps drives. It would be nice to see the new Heavy and Light benchmarks applied to those as well. Reply
  • ludikraut - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    +1 on including REVO drive results in the drive comparisons. Reply
  • markjx1 - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    because REVO drives are garbage. they're nothing more than a bunch of vertex2's slapped onto a board with a cheap Silicone Image controller that has a PCI-X to PCIe bridge. Resale value on REVO is crap and if one of the drives dies, you have a nice paperweight. Reply
  • bji - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    Your own personal opinion on the drives are not a reason to disclude them from the review. Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    Garbage that can pull down 800MB/s...? Go away, troll. For users without SATA 6Gbps, it's a very practical solution to achieve huge speed. In fact, even people WITH SATA 6Gbps would get a boost. The cost/GB is even under $2 for some of the REVOs, making them a reasonable alternative. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    All graphs should now have the 256GB C300 in them :) Reply
  • Breogan - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    Is the data in the Incompressible Write Speed Test mixed for the SF2500 drive or does it perform actually worse after trim?. It seems weird to me that a dirty drive performs as if it was stock and the trim actually worsens its perfomance. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    It's not TRIM that is making the drive slower, it's the next write pass that's actually pushing the drive into a lower performance state as there's more garbage collection/cleaning that's going on. If I hadn't TRIMed and just ran another pass of the AS-SSD test you'd see the same number.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply

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