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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  • jwilliams4200 - Friday, February 18, 2011 - link

    In that case, it would be helpful to print two after-TRIM benchmarks: (1) immediately after TRIM and (2) steady-state after-TRIM (i.e., TRIM, let the drive sit idle for long enough for GC to complete, then benchmark again) Reply
  • jcompagner - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    what i never understood or maybe i should read a bit more the previous articles, is that how come that a SSD can write many times faster then it can read?
    It seems to me that read is way easier to do then write...
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Friday, February 18, 2011 - link

    I originally thought that, but SSDs first write to the controller, which organizes the data for storing it to the disk. The major point is that the data can go anywhere in the array of NAND nodes and the list of the next available node in the stack is available almost immediately, whereas a read requires a hash lookup of where the data is stored, which means the seek could take longer to accomplish.

    I, as well, am not certain that's true, but that's my best guess.
    Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Saturday, February 19, 2011 - link

    Only for Sandforce controllers.
    Sandforce compresses the incoming data at real time. If the incoming data is highly compressible, in a very extreme example, writting a 500MB blank text file, will be instantaneous. So you see 500MB/ms or something ridiculous.

    It is also possible for write speeds to exceed read in burst when small amount of data is written to DRAM on other controllers
    Reply
  • Soul_Master - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    For zero impact from source performance, I suggest to copy data from RAM drive to your test hard disk. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    That's a great suggestion. I ran out of time before I left the country but I'll be playing with it some more upon my return :)

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

    I think the intel x25m was a pretty good control group to send the data from. I would auctally like to see the changes when sending the data through the RAM; that would be interesting. Reply
  • Hacp - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    Anand,
    You still direct your readers to your Vertex2 article but OCZ has changed its performance on those drives. Your results are no longer valid and it would be dishonest to link the old Vertex2 performance numbers in this new article when they do not reflect the new slower performance of the Vertex2 today.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 17, 2011 - link

    I've seen the discussion and based on what I've seen it sounds like very poor decision making on OCZ's behalf. Unfortunately my 25nm drive didn't arrive before I left for MWC. I hope to have it by the time I get back next week and I'll run through the gamut of tests, updating as necessary. I also plan on speaking with OCZ about this. Let me get back to the office and I'll begin working on it :)

    As far as old Vertex 2 numbers go, I didn't actually use a Vertex 2 here (I don't believe any older numbers snuck in here). The Corsair Force F120 is the SF-1200 representative of choice in this test.

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

    Good to hear that you are addressing the problems surrounding the Vertex 2 drives. There aren't many websites out there which deliver well thought through reviews and bechmarks such as Anandtech does, although some are getting better.

    I did some benchmarks on my own and with the new 25nm NAND the new 180GB OCZ Vertex2 can actually be slower then my more then a year old 120GB OCZ Vertex1.

    If anyone is interested. They can find an overview of the benchmarks performed on the following page. https://picasaweb.google.com/quindor/Benchmarks#

    Still, I would love to see an in depth comparsion as you are famous for. ;)

    For my personal usage scenario (my own ESXi server), the speed decrease will be of minimal effect because running multiple template cloned guests, the dedup and compression should be able to do their work just fine. ;)
    Reply

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