StoreMI: The Way To A Faster JBOD

When AMD launched the Ryzen APUs earlier this year, one of the minor side-announcements was that AMD was promoting software called FuzeDrive, from Enmotus. For an extra $20, this software could be yours. For the new Ryzen-2000 series desktop processors and X470 platform, this software is now branded as part of AMD’s software stack, and can be downloaded for free from the AMD website under the StoreMI branding.

The Benefits of a Cache

The principle for StoreMI is that a user can take a mid-range system, powered by a slow drive, and add a small but fast drive to increase the speed of the most frequently accessed files. The software creates a storage ‘tier’ between the fast drive and the slow drive, giving the user a single drive with the combined capacity of the two drives, while the software implements pattern recognition to understand which files can be placed on the fast drive and help with acceleration.

Tiered storage is not new – it is used in many storage-focused enterprise systems backed by very complex software. Fast storage is small expensive, while content is typically large: content delivery networks (CDNs), like Netflix or Steam, will use tiered storage and caching such that the most frequency accessed films or games will come from storage that is both near to the user and from the fastest possible location.

In a modern computer, the fastest storage is the onboard memory / DRAM. This is where files and programs are loaded to when the processor needs to access the data or keep data close for the lifetime of the software. In recent years certain enthusiasts have used RAMDisks, creating a drive using the onboard memory, to act as a fast repository. The only downside is that the data is lost on restart as the data held in DRAM is volatile (or not persistent).

A modern enthusiast machine is likely to have some sort of solid-state drive (SSD) based on NAND flash – either a drive connected via the PCIe lanes as super-fast storage, or connected through a SATA port. These users often have a mechanical hard-drive, based on spinning platters of rust, as a backup for bulk storage, commonly referred to as a hard-disk drive (HDD), and the speed is limited to how the system reads from a drive that spins at 7200 or 5400 times per second. Many machines still ship with HDDs as their primary and bulk storage, much to the dismay of users that notice the immediate user experience benefit of an SSD.

With StoreMI, a user can take any configuration of PCIe SSD, SATA SSD, or HDD, and implement them into a tiered storage drive. The combined single drive will have the capacity of all the drives in the tier, and the software will manage which data should be moved around into the fast storage drive. This process is gradual, and the software will take time to learn which files are the most important – this will mean that the effect will not be immediately noticeable, but after the third or fourth time that software or a game has been loaded, the system should have a good idea.

The StoreMI tool also allows the user to add up to 2GB of onboard memory into the storage tier. This process does not add additional capacity to the tier, but the DRAM acts as the fastest cache and will hold copies of the data held on other drives such that data is not lost. As mentioned above, as onboard memory is volatile, the speed up information will be lost on restart. In our discussions with AMD, they felt that 2GB was a good amount of memory for this DRAM cache: due to the way the software works, the company said that a large cache showed no tangible benefit. It also allows systems with only 8GB of total system memory to take advantage of the software.

Configurations

Unlike the caching technology behind Intel’s RST (which has only recently supported caching on non-Boot drives), AMD’s StoreMI can be used at any time in the lifecycle of the system. For any user that wants to delay the purchase of an SSD NVMe or SSD SATA storage drive, or delay to buy a bigger drive, they can do so and implement it into the tiered storage at a later date.

StoreMI can support almost any configuration requested, either on a Boot drive or on a data drive. For a Boot drive, AMD recommends installing the operating system on the higher capacity slower drive first, such that the HDD, and adding a blank SSD as the fast tier, although the reverse is also possible for users that want to add the larger drive later (there may be additional steps to the process). The only difference is that the software is likely to move a lot of data around at the beginning.

Configurations that are suggested for StoreMI are:

  1. HDD + DRAM
  2. HDD + SATA SSD
  3. HDD + SATA SSD + DRAM
  4. HDD + NVMe SSD
  5. HDD + NVMe SSD + DRAM
  6. SATA SSD + DRAM
  7. SATA SSD + NVMe SSD + DRAM
  8. NVMe SSD + DRAM

The biggest noticeable improvement should occur in configuration 4, when an NVMe SSD is paired with a mechanical HDD.

AMD states that if a tier reaches across from native chipset to controller based SATA ports, the software is likely to move files related to hibernation over to the drive on the native SATA ports for stability; this process might take up to 30 minutes.

Users can also remove drives from the tiered storage, if there is enough space to put all the data on the drive that stays in the tier. The removed drive will be left with zero data, and can be removed from the system or used for other things.

The Big Limitation: 256 GB on the Fast Tier

A point not mentioned in our initial briefings when FuzeDrive was launched alongside the APUs, but repeated sufficiently in the StoreMI User Guide, is that AMD’s bulk licensing deal with Enmotus means that the faster drive in the tier can only be up to 256GB in size.

When adding a drive larger than 256GB as the fast tier, the system will partition the blank drive automatically, offering the extra capacity as a separate drive letter on its own.

When adding a large HDD as the slow tier to an SSD boot drive, this is only a problem if the SSD is bigger than 256. Users in this circumstance will be required to migrate the operating system (using other software) from the SSD to the HDD first, then boot the system using the HDD and add the (now blank) SSD as a fast tier.

Some users might see this as a big deal – adding a 3TB HDD slow drive to a 512GB SSD-based boot drive shouldn’t have to be this complicated. However in this circumstance it might be suggested that the drives be kept separate, and items like the Steam folder are manually bifurcated into two locations with the favorite games on the sizeable SSD. However StoreMI is geared more towards systems that would naturally only have a large HDD in them to begin with – adding in a small fast SSD, say 64GB-128GB, is the intended use case here.

The Failure Rate: Downsides of a JBOD

Most options for combining drives in an array involve an element of speed (reading data across many drives at once) or protection against failures (data is replicated, or a parity bit is introduced), and usually storage array options combine both, trading failure protection for speed or vice-versa. For users involved in storing files, one of the options for combining drives is known as a JBOD, or ‘just a bunch of disks’. A JBOD offers neither speed nor failure protection.

A JBOD array does one thing: it combines the drives into the array to appear as one contiguous file space, and it treats it as such. Putting eight 10 TB drives into a JBOD will appear as an 80 TB drive in a system. However, it does not read from or write to the drives simultaneously – it will purely write data in a sequential manner and read the data from the drive that has it. As a result, it is still only as fast as a single drive, but if one of the drives in the JBOD array fails, the array is broken and the array is lost. Without specialist tools, all the data is lot from the whole array as well, and the data on that specific drive is almost certainly gone. If a single drive has an average failure rate, an eight drive array is expected to fail eight times as frequently as it relies on every drive being in workable condition.

What StoreMI does in this context is that it suffers from the same lack of protection from drive failures. There is no mechanism by which the data is protected if one drive in the tier fails – if one drive in the tier fails, the data across all the drives is lost. If the boot drive is a bargain SSD using low quality NAND, or the hard drive is old, then losing the data across both drives is a real possibility.

Initially I thought this was a significant issue. If a user was to put 10 drives into the tier, for example, it could spell disaster. The significance was muted however, when I learned of the 256 GB fast tier size limit, as it means that most users are likely to only pair two drives into a tier. AMD’s response to the threat of failure was to say that users should expect to keep backups regardless, and no specific comment was made based on the increased failure rate of a two-drive tier compared to a single drive. Because StoreMI moves data around from SSD to HDD, there could be additional concern as the software could write more data to the SSD over time than a casual user might do if it was just the boot drive, causing the NAND to wear out quicker. Neither AMD nor AnandTech see this as much of an issue, given that modern MLC and TLC SSDs are very good at managing bad data blocks and have overprovisioning built in.

Benchmarks!?

At present we haven’t had time to directly test StoreMI, having focused on other projects and upcoming events. If we get time, we will have a new article on StoreMI.

New X470 Chipset and Motherboards: A Focus on Power Benchmarking Setup and Power Analysis
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  • YukaKun - Saturday, April 21, 2018 - link

    Oh, I'm actually curious about your experience with all the systems.

    I'm still running my i7 2700K at ~4.6Ghz. I do agree I haven't felt that it's a ~2012 CPU and it does everything pretty damn well still, but I'd like to know if you have noticed a difference between the new AMD and your Sandy Bridge. Same for when you assemble the 2700X.

    I'm trying to find an excuse to get the 2700X, but I just can't find one, haha.

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • Luckz - Monday, April 23, 2018 - link

    The the once in a lifetime chance to largely keep your CPU name (2700K => 2700X) should be all the excuse you need. Reply
  • YukaKun - Monday, April 23, 2018 - link

    That is so incredibly superficial and dumb... I love it!

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Monday, April 23, 2018 - link

    YukaKun, your 2700K is only at 4.6? Deary me, should be 5.0 and proud, doable with just a basic TRUE and one fan. 8) For reference btw, a 2700K at 5GHz gives the same threaded performance as a 6700K at stock.

    And I made a typo in my earlier reply, mentioned the wrong XEON model, should have been the 2680 V2.
    Reply
  • YukaKun - Tuesday, April 24, 2018 - link

    For daily usage and stability, I found that 4.6Ghz worked best in terms of noise/heat/power ratios.

    I also did not disable any power saving features, so it does not work unnecessarily when not under heavy load.

    I'm using AS5 with a TT Frio (the original one) on top, so it's whisper quiet at 4.6Ghz and I like it like that. When I made it work at 5Ghz, I found I had to have the fans near 100%, so it wasn't something I'd like, TBH.

    But, all of this to say: yes, I've done it, but settled with 4.6Ghz.

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Friday, March 29, 2019 - link

    (an old thread, but in case someone comes across it...)

    I use dynamic vcore so I still get the clock/voltage drops when idle. I'm using a Corsair H80 with 2x NDS 120mm PWM, so also quiet even at full load; no need for such OTT cooling to handle the load heat, but using an H80 means one can have low noise aswell. An ironic advantage of the lower thermal density of the older process sizes. Modern CPUs with the same TDP dump it out in a smaller area, making it more difficult to keep cool.

    Having said that, I've been recently pondering an upgrade to have much better general idle power draw and a decent bump for threaded performance. Considering a Ryzem 5 2600 or 7 2700, but might wait for Zen2, not sure yet.
    Reply
  • moozooh - Sunday, April 22, 2018 - link

    No, it might have to do with the fact that the 8350K has 1.5x the cache size and beastly per-thread performance that is also sustained at all times—so it doesn't have to switch from a lower-powered state (which the older CPUs were slower at), nor does it taper off as other cores get loaded, which is most noticeable on the the things Samus mentioned, ie. "boot times, app launches and gaming". Boot times and app launches are both essentially single-thread tasks with no prior context, and gaming is where a CPU upgrade like that will improve worst-case scenarios by at least an order of magnitude, which is really what's most noticeable.

    For instance, if your monitor is 60Hz and your average framerate is 70, you won't notice the difference between 60 and 70—you will only notice the time spent under 60. Even a mildly overclocked 8350K is still the one of best gaming CPUs for this reason, easily rivaling or outperforming previous-gen Ryzens in most cases and often being on par with the much more expensive 8700K where thread count isn't as important as per-thread performance for responsiveness and eliminating stutters. When pushed to or above 5 GHz, I'm reasonably certain it will still give many of the newer, more expensive chips, a run for their money.
    Reply
  • spdragoo - Friday, April 20, 2018 - link

    Memory prices? Memory prices are still pretty much the way they've always been:
    -- faster memory costs (a little) more than slower memory
    -- larger memory sticks/kits cost (a little) more than smaller sticks/kits
    -- last-gen RAM (DDR3) is (very slightly) cheaper than current-gen RAM (DDR4)

    I suppose you can wait 5 billion years for the Sun to fade out, at which point all RAM (or whatever has replaced it by then) will have the same cost ($0...since no one will be around to buy or sell it)...but I don't think you need to worry about that.
    Reply
  • Ferrari_Freak - Friday, April 20, 2018 - link

    You didn't write anything about price there... All you've said is that relative pricing for things is the same it has always been, and that's no surprise.

    The $$$ cost of any give stick is more than it was a year or two ago. 2x8gb DDR4-3200 G.Skill Ripjaws V is $180 on Newegg today. It was $80 two years ago. Clearly not the way they've always been...
    Reply
  • James5mith - Friday, April 20, 2018 - link

    2x16GB Crucial DDR4-2400 SO-DIMM kit.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B019FRCV9G/

    November 29th 2016 (when I purchased): $172

    Current Amazon price for exact same kit: $329
    Reply

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