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

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

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

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

Sequential Read/Write Speed AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload
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  • FunBunny2 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Well, no custom firmware, just a custom controller. Intel had the first really good pro-sumer controller. Likely still does. Reply
  • bhougha10 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Anand,
    can you give us an idea when the intel G3 will be comming out so we have an idea wait the field looks like here. Intel seems to keep this stuff very secret :(
    Reply
  • mckirkus - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    510 Series from Intel launching March 1 if you believe the rumors. Sata 6Gb/s but using 34nm flash. Just over $2/GB. Seems like it has low IOPS compared to other SSDs but real world performance is TBD.

    I'd bet a dollar Anand is working on a review of one right now. I'm using a 1st gen Sandforce drive and it's so damn fast I'm not sure I'll ever need to upgrade the thing.
    Reply
  • iwod - Friday, February 25, 2011 - link

    Not a Rumors, someone from Taiwan already has their hands on it.

    It uses an Marvel Chipset.

    At this moment we are still not sure if 510 series means G3.
    Reply
  • JonnyBlaze - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Not a bad idea. Reply
  • lorteti - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Hi Anand,

    How about a power consumption test.
    For those that want to use the Vertex3 in a notebook.

    Thanks,
    jx
    Reply
  • JFish222 - Sunday, February 27, 2011 - link

    Hi Anand,

    I'd like to second this request.

    I'd love to throw one of these into my laptop, but I'm always looking to balance performance with battery life (the old T61 is getting long in the tooth and an SSD sounds like a perfect upgrade!)

    All of the recommendations to add SSD's to "netbook class units" (atom and Brazos) adds to this conversation. Though netbooks are popular due to their low price, their portability and battery life (which one could argue are one and the same) are also selling points.

    Thanks again for the great review, and I'm looking forward to your future investigations into the OCZ debacle. Journalism has always been about both informing and inciting change. Anandtech remains the only site on the net that I've found that has the reach to do both.

    Thanks again,
    Jordan
    Reply
  • MarcHFR - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    Dear all, Dear Anand,

    I think it's important to note that AnandTech Storage Bench, like PC Mark Vantage HDD, represent a "best case" for SandForce based SSD.

    These benchmarks are based on logs which have recorded accesses to be repeated, but not the data contained in these accesses. These means that the data used in the benchmark may well be highly compressible, which isn’t necessarily the case in real usage.

    Am i wrong ?
    Reply
  • Chloiber - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I wanted to ask the same thing in the Vertex 3 Pro test. Would be nice to have an answer here. I don't think that the data is random. Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Thursday, February 24, 2011 - link

    I've also wondered about that. Does the 2011 Storage Bench that writes 100+ GB of data have a 100+ GB data file? If so, how much does that data file compress when run through a zip or 7zip compression program?

    If not, if the data file is much smaller than 100 GB, then exactly what is being written to the drives?
    Reply

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