The SSD Anthology: Understanding SSDs and New Drives from OCZby Anand Lal Shimpi on March 18, 2009 12:00 AM EST
- Posted in
Hey, There’s an Elephant in the Room
When the first X25-M reviews went live a few people discovered something very important, something many of us (myself included) missed and should’ve addressed: the drive got slower the more you filled it up. It’s no great mystery why this happened, but it seemed odd at the time because it went against conventional thinking.
LegitReviews was one of the first to spot the SSD slowdown phenomenon, good work Nate.
It’s worth mentioning that hard drives suffer from the same problem; just for a different reason.
Hard drives store data on platters; the platters rotate while an arm with read/write heads on it hovers over the surface of the platter and reads data while the platter spins. The diameter of the platter is greater the further out on the platter you go, that’s just how circles work. The side effect is that for the same amount of rotation, the heads can cover more area on the outside of the platter than on the inside.
The result is that transfer speeds are greater on the outer sectors of the platter than on the inner ones. OSes thus try to write as much data to the outer sectors as possible, but like beachfront property - there’s only a limited amount of space. Eventually you have to write to the slower parts of the drive and thus the more full your drive is, the slower your transfer rates will be for data stored in the innermost sectors.
Fragmentation also hurts hard drive performance. While modern day hard drives have gotten pretty quick at transferring large amounts of data stored sequentially, spread the data out all around the platter and things get real slow, real fast.
Randomness is the enemy of rotational storage.
Solid state drives aren’t supposed to have these issues. Data is stored in flash, so it doesn’t matter where it’s located, you get to it at the same speed. SSDs have +5 armor immunity to random access latency (that’s got to be the single most geeky-sounding thing I’ve ever written, and I use words like latency a lot).
So why is it that when you fill up a SSD like Intel’s X25-M that its performance goes down? Even more worrisome, why is it that when you delete data from the drive that its performance doesn’t go back up?
While SSDs are truly immune to the same problems that plague HDDs, they do also get slower over time. How can both be true? It’s time for another lesson in flash.
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Luddite - Friday, March 20, 2009 - linkSo even with the TRIM command, when working with large files, say, in photoshop and saving multiple layers, the performance will stil drop off?
proviewIT - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkI bought a Vertex 120GB and it is NOT working on my Nvidia chipsets motherboard. Anyone met the same problem? I tried intel chipsets motherboard and seems ok.
I used HDtach to test the read/write performance 4 days ago, wow, it was amazing. 160MB/s in write. But today I felt it slower and used HDtach to test again, it downs to single digit MB per second. Can I recover it or I need to return it?
kmmatney - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkBased on the results and price, I would say that the OCZ Vertex deserves a Editor's choice of some sort (Gold, Silver)...
Tattered87 - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkWhile I must admit I skipped over some of the more technical bits where SSD was explained in detail, I read the summaries and I've gotta admit this article was extremely helpful. I've been wanting to get one of these for a long time now but they've seemed too infantile in technological terms to put such a hefty investment in, until now.
After reading about OCZ's response to you and how they've stepped it up and are willing to cut unimportant statistics in favor of lower latencies, I actually decided to purchase one myself. Figured I might as well show my appreciation to OCZ by grabbing up a 60GB SSD, not to mention it looks like it's by far the best purchase I can make SSD-wise for $200.
Thanks for the awesome article, was a fun read, that's for sure.
bsoft16384 - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkAnand, I don't want to sound too negative in my comments. While I wouldn't call them unusable, there's no doubt that the random write performance of the JMicron SSDs sucks. I'm glad that you're actually running random I/O tests when so many other websites just run HDTune and call it a day.
That X25-M for $340 is looking mighty tempting, though.
MrSpadge - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkHi,
first: great article, thanks to Anand and OCZ!
Something crossed my mind when I saw the firmware-based trade-off between random writes and sequential transfer rates: couldn't that be adjusted dynamically to get the best of both worlds? Default to the current behaviour but switch into something resembling te old one when extensive sequential transfers are detected?
Of course this neccesiates that the processor would be able to handle additional load and that the firmware changes don't involve permanent changes in the organization of the data.
Maybe the OCZ-Team already thought about this and maybe nobody's going to read this post, buried deep within the comments..
Per Hansson - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkGreat work on the review Anand
I really enjoyed reading it and learning from it
Will there be any tests of the old timers like Mtron etc?
tomoyo - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkThat was kind of strange to me too. But I assume Anand really means the desktop market, not the server storage/business market. Since it's highly doubtful that the general consumer will spend many times as much money for 15k SAS drives.
Gary Key - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkThe intent was based it being the fastest for a consumer based desktop drive, the text has been updated to reflect that fact.
tomoyo - Thursday, March 19, 2009 - linkI've always been someone who wants real clarify and truth to the information on the internet. That's a problem because probably 90% of things are not. But Anand is one man I feel a lot of trust for because of great and complete articles such as this. This is truly the first time that I feel like I really understand what goes into ssd performance and why it can be good or bad. Thank you so much for being the most inciteful voice in the hardware community. And keep fighting those damn manufacturers who are scared of the facts getting in the way of their 200MB/s marketing bs.