New vs Used SSD Performance

We begin our look at how the overhead of managing pages impacts SSD performance with iometer. The table below shows iometer random write performance; there are two rows for each drive, one for “new” performance after a secure erase and one for “used” performance after the drive has been well used.

4KB Random Write Speed New "Used"
Intel X25-E   31.7 MB/s
Intel X25-M 39.3 MB/s 23.1 MB/s
JMicron JMF602B MLC 0.02 MB/s 0.02 MB/s
JMicron JMF602Bx2 MLC 0.03 MB/s 0.03 MB/s
OCZ Summit 12.8 MB/s 0.77 MB/s
OCZ Vertex 8.2 MB/s 2.41 MB/s
Samsung SLC 2.61 MB/s 0.53 MB/s
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 0.81 MB/s -
Western Digital Caviar SE16 1.26 MB/s -
Western Digital VelociRaptor 1.63 MB/s -

 

Note that the “used” performance should be the slowest you’ll ever see the drive get. In theory, all of the pages are filled with some sort of data at this point.

All of the drives, with the exception of the JMicron based SSDs went down in performance in the “used” state. And the only reason the JMicron drive didn’t get any slower was because it is already bottlenecked elsewhere; you can’t get much slower than 0.03MB/s in this test.

These are pretty serious performance drops; the OCZ Vertex runs at nearly 1/4 the speed after it’s been used and Intel’s X25-M can only crunch through about 60% the IOs per second that it did when brand new.

So are SSDs doomed? Is performance going to tank over time and make these things worthless?


"Used" SSD performance vs. conventional hard drives.

Pay close attention to the average write latency in the graph above. While Intel’s X25-M pulls an extremely fast sub-0.3ms write latency normally, it levels off at 0.51ms in its used mode. The OCZ Vertex manages a 1.43ms new and 4.86ms used. There’s additional overhead for every write but a well designed SSD will still manage extremely low write latencies. To put things in perspective, look at these drives at their worst compared to Western Digital’s VelociRaptor.The degraded performance X25-M still completes write requests in around 1/8 the time of the VelociRaptor. Transfer speeds are still 8x higher as well.

Note that not all SSDs see their performance drop gracefully. The two Samsung based drives perform more like hard drives here, but I'll explain that tradeoff much later in this article.

How does this all translate into real world performance? I ran PCMark Vantage on the new and used Intel drive to see how performance changed.

PCMark Overall Score New "Used" % Drop
Intel X25-M 11902 11536 3%
OCZ Summit 10972 9916 9.6%
OCZ Vertex 11253 9836 14.4%
Samsung SLC 10143 9118 10.1%
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 6817 - -
Western Digital VelociRaptor 7500 - -

 

The real world performance hit varies from 0 - 14% depending on the drive. While the drives are still faster than a regular hard drive, performance does drop in the real world by a noticeable amount. The trim command would keep the drive’s performance closer to its peak for longer, but it would not have prevented this from happening.

PCMark Vantage HDD Test New "Used" % Drop
Intel X25-M 29879 23252 22%
JMicron JMF602Bx2 MLC 11613 11283 3%
OCZ Summit 25754 16624 36%
OCZ Vertex 20753 17854 14%
Samsung SLC 17406 12392 29%
Seagate Momentus 5400.6 3525 -  
Western Digital VelociRaptor 6313 -  

 

HDD specific tests show much more severe drops, ranging from 20 - 40% depending on the drive. Despite the performance drop, these drives are still much faster than even the fastest hard drives.

Simulating a Used Drive SSD Aging: Read Speed is Largely Unaffected
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  • wicko - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Had a really good read here, thanks for the history and info, Anand. The only thing I don't understand is what the importance of random write is? What kind of task would benefit from high random write speeds (maybe copying many files at once)? I'm tempted to pick up a vertex drive but it depends on whether or not random write will be important for me. But the price... whoa, pretty damn expensive here in Canada.. http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=36023&a...">http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?...X120G&am... - $625 for a 120GB!!! I kind of want 2, for RAID0, I have a lot of games installed (steam folder alone is 100GB lol). Might even have to raid 3 of em.. but not for $1800 lol. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    As mentioned in the article, the OS in general makes lots of random writes. Send an IM, it writes to a log. Load a website, it caches some images. Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    >I'm tempted to pick up a vertex drive but it depends on
    >whether or not random write will be important for me.
    Keep in mind, its random write is twice as fast as mechanical HDs.

    >But the price...
    It's only $110USD/32GB.
    Reply
  • OCedHrt - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Excellent article. One of the best I've seen. Reply
  • cliffa3 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I can tell a ton of work went into that, and all the history/details are greatly appreciated. I've been checking every week or so throughout February to see if it had been posted, but well worth the wait. As great as SSDs are, I can understand you not wanting to be near one for a while (-: Thanks for all the hard work...especially from the consumer standpoint. And kudos to OCZ for stepping up the way they did...that's (unfortunately) unheard of. Glad to see your no-compromise / report the facts no matter what attitude winning for the consumer. I'm glad at least one manufacturer was able to see (eventually) your intent wasn't to create a commotion, but to just plainly say what needed to be said. Reply
  • sngbrdb - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    An extremely (as always) informative article; comprehensive and no angle missed. Good stuff!

    From an enthusiast's perspective, OCZ gained 10 levels of trust as a result of Ryan Peterson's response and handling of the Vertex' firmware. Ryan accepted the harsh reality expressed to him from an outside reviewer, risked marketability to rely on Anand's expertise (Anand is *absolutely* correct that 230MB/s is worthless if it comes with stuttering write latency), and resolved the problem in record time.

    This is the rare kind of responsiveness and attitude that translate directly into sales (I'm on my way to price the Vertex now).
    Reply
  • tshen83 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    BUT, still based on Windows Vista.

    I am going to drill this into reviewer's head -> NTFS isn't designed for SSDs.

    There are three problems for properly reviewing SSDs today:

    FileSystem, RAID controller, and SSD controller.

    Each of them can compensate for the SSDs, the question is which one SHOULD be responsible for optimizing random IOs.

    It is very clear that Intel's SSDs have implemented all the nitty gritty stuff like copy on write onto the SSD controller itself. So the OS or FileSystem shouldn't be responsible for performance degradation, however the same cannot be said for other SSDs.

    I am sure results would be difference if this were conducted on Solaris/OpenSolaris ZFS with Adaptec 5405(IOP348 based RAID card). Not to pump Solaris and ZFS, but it is the primary reason why IBM wants to buy SUN, because it is the only File System on the market that can properly operate SSDs and to do so without RAID controllers.

    If Anand really wants to stick to windows still, I think benchmarking on Windows 7 Beta would be slightly better option that Vista. Windows had made a lot of optimizations for rotational based hard disks that it actually makes SSD perform worse.

    The Vertex random write 4K IOPS benchmark doesn't look right at 2.6MB/sec, that is hardly 650 IOs. It should be much higher. It could be the ICH10R controller though.
    Reply
  • hyc - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I'd expect IBM's JFS to be pretty efficient on an SSD as well. Anything that appends and avoids overwriting existing sectors will perform better here.

    Stepping back a bit, I still have a perfectly usable Dothan-based laptop with IDE. Any chance of getting an in-depth review on recent Transcend 128GB IDE SSDs? My new laptop is running fine with a G.Skill Titan 256GB SSD, but when I fire up the older laptop it's unbearable, even with that 7200rpm Hitachi 100GB drive inside.

    By the way, I paid under $2/GB for the 256GB G.Skill Titan; for the work I do with it on Linux it performs fine most of the time. (Just make sure to maximize use of the FS cache.) I don't see the value proposition for the OCZ Vertex or Summit.
    Reply
  • tshen83 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    The random write 4K benchmark isn't right for the Vertex and other SSDs because of the test procedure:

    "The write test was performed over an 8GB range on the drive, while the read test was performed across the whole drive."

    It partially disables any write optimization algorithms on the Vertex. Intel wasn't affected as much.

    Anand, your first article pumping X25-M literally screwed Samsung's SSD manufacturers big time: they lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of your blatant pumping. Yes the random write was a big problem, but so was testing it on a Windows OS with NTFS and integrated SATA controller like ICH9/10 with no ram cache and obviously lack of IO optimizations for SSDs.

    Please redo the review with a proper OS, ie Windows 7 beta or OpenSolaris.

    Reply
  • Proteusza - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - link

    Yeah, who in their right mind uses Windows and integrated SATA controllers? Oh wait, nearly everyone.

    Since its pretty obvious that you either work for Samsung or one of their partners, I think its laughable that you think this cost them hundreds of millions in sales. How big is the SSD market exactly, and how many potential buyers visit this site? Not enough to cause such an impact if you ask me.

    And the fact remains - had you guys done what OCZ did, and optimized for real world use even if it cost you e-peen in the way of benchmarks, you would have been fine. Its only because you thought you could cheat and swindle consumers that you guys got a bad rep from Anand. Run an honest business, and your customers will thank you. I know that, if I ever considered an SSD, I would either buy Intel or an OCZ Vertex, nothing else. You know why? because they do what they say on the tin. You complain that the X25-M got a glowing review? Make a product as good as it and then Anand will sing your praises, but dont be upset when he tells it like it is.
    Reply

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