AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 Preview - 'The Destroyer'

When I built the AnandTech Heavy and Light Storage Bench suites in 2011 I did so because we didn't have any good tools at the time that would begin to stress a drive's garbage collection routines. Once all blocks have a sufficient number of used pages, all further writes will inevitably trigger some sort of garbage collection/block recycling algorithm. Our Heavy 2011 test in particular was designed to do just this. By hitting the test SSD with a large enough and write intensive enough workload, we could ensure that some amount of GC would happen.

There were a couple of issues with our 2011 tests that I've been wanting to rectify however. First off, all of our 2011 tests were built using Windows 7 x64 pre-SP1, which meant there were potentially some 4K alignment issues that wouldn't exist had we built the trace on a system with SP1. This didn't really impact most SSDs but it proved to be a problem with some hard drives. Secondly, and more recently, I've shifted focus from simply triggering GC routines to really looking at worst case scenario performance after prolonged random IO. For years I'd felt the negative impacts of inconsistent IO performance with all SSDs, but until the S3700 showed up I didn't think to actually measure and visualize IO consistency. The problem with our IO consistency tests are they are very focused on 4KB random writes at high queue depths and full LBA spans, not exactly a real world client usage model. The aspects of SSD architecture that those tests stress however are very important, and none of our existing tests were doing a good job of quantifying that.

I needed an updated heavy test, one that dealt with an even larger set of data and one that somehow incorporated IO consistency into its metrics. The new benchmark doesn't have a name, I've just been calling it The Destroyer (although AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 is likely a better fit for PR reasons).

Everything about this new test is bigger and better. The test platform moves to Windows 8 Pro x64. The workload is far more realistic. Just as before, this is an application trace based test - I record all IO requests made to a test system, then play them back on the drive I'm measuring and run statistical analysis on the drive's responses.

Imitating most modern benchmarks I crafted the Destroyer out of a series of scenarios. For this benchmark I focused heavily on Photo editing, Gaming, Virtualization, General Productivity, Video Playback and Application Development. Rough descriptions of the various scenarios are in the table below:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 Preview - The Destroyer
Workload Description Applications Used
Photo Sync/Editing Import images, edit, export Adobe Photoshop CS6, Adobe Lightroom 4, Dropbox
Gaming Download/install games, play games Steam, Deus Ex, Skyrim, Starcraft 2, BioShock Infinite
Virtualization Run/manage VM, use general apps inside VM VirtualBox
General Productivity Browse the web, manage local email, copy files, encrypt/decrypt files, backup system, download content, virus/malware scan Chrome, IE10, Outlook, Windows 8, AxCrypt, uTorrent, AdAware
Video Playback Copy and watch movies Windows 8
Application Development Compile projects, check out code, download code samples Visual Studio 2012

While some tasks remained independent, many were stitched together (e.g. system backups would take place while other scenarios were taking place). The overall stats give some justification to what I've been calling this test internally:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 Preview - The Destroyer, Specs
  The Destroyer (2013) Heavy 2011
Reads 38.83 million 2.17 million
Writes 10.98 million 1.78 million
Total IO Operations 49.8 million 3.99 million
Total GB Read 1583.02 GB 48.63 GB
Total GB Written 875.62 GB 106.32 GB
Average Queue Depth ~5.5 ~4.6
Focus Worst case multitasking, IO consistency Peak IO, basic GC routines

SSDs have grown in their performance abilities over the years, so I wanted a new test that could really push high queue depths at times. The average queue depth is still realistic for a client workload, but the Destroyer has some very demanding peaks. When I first introduced the Heavy 2011 test, some drives would take multiple hours to complete it - today most high performance SSDs can finish the test in under 90 minutes. The Destroyer? So far the fastest I've seen it go is 10 hours. Most high performance I've tested seem to need around 12 - 13 hours per run, with mainstream drives taking closer to 24 hours. The read/write balance is also a lot more realistic than in the Heavy 2011 test. Back in 2011 I just needed something that had a ton of writes so I could start separating the good from the bad. Now that the drives have matured, I felt a test that was a bit more balanced would be a better idea.

Despite the balance recalibration, there's just a ton of data moving around in this test. Ultimately the sheer volume of data here and the fact that there's a good amount of random IO courtesy of all of the multitasking (e.g. background VM work, background photo exports/syncs, etc...) makes the Destroyer do a far better job of giving credit for performance consistency than the old Heavy 2011 test. Both tests are valid, they just stress/showcase different things. As the days of begging for better random IO performance and basic GC intelligence are over, I wanted a test that would give me a bit more of what I'm interested in these days. As I mentioned in the S3700 review - having good worst case IO performance and consistency matters just as much to client users as it does to enterprise users.

Given the sheer amount of time it takes to run through the Destroyer, and the fact that the test was only completed recently, I don't have many results to share. I'll be populating this database over the coming weeks/months. I'm still hunting for any issues/weirdness with the test so I'm not ready to remove the "Preview" label from it just yet. But the results thus far are very telling.

I'm reporting two primary metrics with the Destroyer: average data rate in MB/s and average service time in microseconds. The former gives you an idea of the throughput of the drive during the time that it was running the Destroyer workload. This can be a very good indication of overall performance. What average data rate doesn't do a good job of is taking into account response time of very bursty (read: high queue depth) IO. By reporting average service time we heavily weigh latency for queued IOs. You'll note that this is a metric I've been reporting in our enterprise benchmarks for a while now. With the client tests maturing, the time was right for a little convergence.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 -

Now we see what Seagate's balance of consistency and peak performance gives us: leading performance in our latest benchmark. The Destroyer does a good job of penalizing drives with poor IO consistency as the entire drive is written to more than once, but the workload is more client-like than a pure 4KB random write. The result is a test that likes both peak performance and consistent behavior. Seagate's 600 delivers both. I purposefully didn't include a 120GB Seagate 600 here. This test was really optimized for 400GB+ capacities, at lower capacities (especially on drives that don't behave well in a full state) the performance dropoff can be significant. I'm not too eager to include 240/256GB drives here either but I kept some of the original numbers I launched the test with.

OCZ's Vector actually does incredibly well here, giving us more insight into the balance of peak performance/IO consistency needed to do well in our latest test.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 -

The 600's average service time throughout this test is very good. OCZ's Vector does even better here, outperforming the 480GB 600 and falling short of the 400GB 600 Pro. The difference between the 600 and 600 Pro here gives you a good idea of how much performance can scale if you leave some spare area on the drive.

Performance Consistency Random & Sequential Performance
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  • numberoneoppa - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    It's too bad about the idle power consumption, but if the prices are decent, I might pick up a higher capacity variant to replace my 80GB m25 G2 in my desktop. Reply
  • ssj3gohan - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    I don't think Anandtech has implemented their improved (DIPM-enabled) power consumption tests yet, so the idle figures here are pretty much meaningless. When it comes to market, check the datasheet for actual idle power consumption. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    Seagate's datasheet shows average idle power of 1.1W: http://images.anandtech.com/doci/6935/Screen%20Sho... Reply
  • lightsout565 - Wednesday, May 08, 2013 - link

    Does anyone know how power consumption compares to the 128GB Samsung 830? In Anand's review of the 830 he mentions, "Samsung sampled the 512GB version of the SSD 830 so it's unclear how much the sheer number of NAND die impacts power consumption here." During the test of the 513GB version, it showed 1.22W at idle. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Wednesday, May 08, 2013 - link

    The 128GB SSD 830 idles at 0.38W (I think the firmware is also newer, the 512GB had pre-production FW as far as I know). As always, you can find all our SSDs (and other components) in the Bench, here's the 128GB SSD 830:

    http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/533
    Reply
  • cactusdog - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    I don't understand why Seagate and WD were so slow in the SSD market. They should have a complete range of SSDs by now. They could have just rebranded OEM drives (if they didn't want to spend money) and would have sold millions just from their name alone. Like Kingston and others did...... I don't get it. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    I wonder if the main HD manufacturers here were doing a bit of "American auto industry" thinking. Like "We sold all the gas guzzlers we could make before, how are we supposed to know the general population is going to want cars that get better gas mileage?" Chrysler and GM had to be bailed out twice for that kind of thinking.

    So, were Seagate and Western Digital thinking "We're selling all the HDs we can make, why should we get into SSDs?" I don't know, but it's an explanation that seems to fit, to my way of thinking anyway.
    Reply
  • Powerlurker - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    I think it's more that Seagate and WD have extensive expertise in manufacturing HDDs that can't be replicated by competitors and lots of industrial infrastructure that only they (and Toshiba at this point) have. Meanwhile, on the SSD front, they would be competing with any idiot on the Pacific Rim with a reference design and a pick-and-place line. SSDs are rapidly becoming commodity products at the consumer level and long term profitability in the segment requires you to have your own special sauce (controller technology, firmware expertise, a NAND fab, or some other unique advantage) which WD and Seagate don't really have at this point. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    While WD and Seagate lack the SSD expertise, they have the distribution channels and resources. Hynix is a good example of a company that has all the expertise they need to develop a competitive SSD but their distribution channel is lacking. Seagate, on the other hand, operates globally and can reach billions of potential buyers in a short period of time. Even if you have a good product, it's fairly meaningless if it can't reach most of the market. Hynix actually makes SSDs but they are doing absolutely nothing to market them and I bet they don't have many distributors in the US or other Western countries (NewEgg sells their SSDs but I haven't seen them elsewhere).

    Seagate also has tons of capital to invest on the SSD market. Like in the case of this SSD, they didn't just go with stock SandForce but chose LAMD and invested on specializing the firmware. On top of that, I'm pretty sure Seagate has fairly big NAND deals with Toshiba and Samsung to ensure a steady supply of NAND, which requires capital. There have already been NAND shortages in the market and this year it will get even tougher - Seagate has an advantage because they can buy a ton of NAND whereas smaller players lack the capital for that (and the bigger client you are, the more important you are for the company so big clients are prioritized when there's a shortage).

    What would be a killer combination in the future is Seagate and Hynix combining their powers.
    Reply
  • secretAgent! - Tuesday, May 07, 2013 - link

    WD is coming out soon with SSD PCIe cards soon.... i've helped test them.... shhhh.... Reply

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