Tying it All Together: SSD Performance Degradation

More spare area is better for random workloads, but desktop workloads aren’t random enough to justify setting aside more spare area to improve performance; most reviews don’t test in a used state, and more users would simply flock to lower price-per-GB drives with less spare area.

Drives that drop the most in performance from new to used state have the most to gain from the TRIM instruction. Depending on how you use your drive of course:

  % Performance Drop in Used State vs. New State
  4KB Random Write 2MB Sequential Write PCMark Vantage HDD Suite
Intel X25-E 64GB (SLC) 26.1% 5.4% 9.7%
Intel X25-M G1 160GB (MLC) 35.5% 3.8% 16.7%
Intel X25-M G2 160GB (MLC) 0.7% 2.2% 15.3%
OCZ Agility 128GB (Indilinx MLC) 44.8% 15.0% 4.4%
OCZ Summit 256GB (Samsung MLC) 72.4% 3.0% 23.6%
OCZ Vertex EX 128GB (Indilinx SLC) 60.5% 20.8% 0.8%
OCZ Vertex Turbo 128GB (Indilinx MLC) 44.0% 15.4% 4.5%
Patriot Torqx 128GB (Indilinx MLC) 44.6% 15.6% 3.5%

 

Depending on the scenario, all three controllers have a lot to gain from TRIM. Random write performance drops significantly for almost every single drive. The worst is the Samsung RBB controller, which lost over 70% of its performance between new and used states; Samsung needs TRIM.

Intel made some significant improvements going from the G1 to G2 drives, the new drive loses no performance in our random write test. This is thanks to firmware tweaks and having twice as much DRAM to track data in; the more data the Intel drive can keep track of, the better it is at organization, management and garbage collection. From a pure performance standpoint, the G2 might actually be better for server workloads than the X25-E. In terms of lifespan however, the X25-E has the G2 beat.

Only the Indilinx drives lose an appreciable amount of performance in the sequential write test, but they are the only drives to not lose any performance in the more real-world PCMark Vantage HDD suite. Although not displayed here, the overall PCMark Vantage score takes an even smaller hit on Indilinx drives. This could mean that in the real world, Indilinx drives stand to gain the least from TRIM support. This is possibly due to Indilinx using a largely static LBA mapping scheme; the only spare area is then the 6.25% outside of user space regardless of how used the drive is.

Both Samsung and Intel have a lot to gain from TRIM. Samsung’s performances goes from utterly unacceptable to reasonable (but not price justified) with TRIM. Intel’s performance goes from class-leading to more, er, class-leading.

The Instruction That Changes (almost) Everything: TRIM Used vs. New Performance: Revisited
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  • GourdFreeMan - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    Yes, rewriting a cell will refill the floating gate with trapped electrons to the proper voltage level unless the gate has begun to wear out, so backing up your data, secure erasing your drive and copying the data back will preserve the life (within reason) of even drives that use minimalistic wear leveling to safeguard data. Charge retention is only a problem for users if they intend to use the drive for archival storage, or operate the drive at highly elevated temperatures.

    It is a bigger problem for flash engineers, however, and one of the reasons why MLC cannot be moved easily to more bits per cell without design changes. To store n-bits in a single cell you need 2^n separate energy levels to represent them, and thus each bit is only has approximately 1/(2^(n-1)) the amount of energy difference between states when compared to SLC using similar designs and materials.
    Reply
  • Zheos - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    Man you seem to know a lot about what you're talking about :)

    Yeah now i understand why SSD for database and file storage server would be quite a bad idea.

    But for personal windows & everyday application storage, seems like a pure win to me if you can afford one :)

    I was only worried about its life-span but thankx to you and you're quick replys (and for the maths and technical stuff about how it realy work ;) im sold on the fact that i will buy one soon.

    The G2 from Intel seems like the best choice for now but I'll just wait and see how it's going when TRIM will become almost enable on every SSD and i'll make my decision there in a couple of months =)


    Reply
  • GourdFreeMan - Wednesday, September 2, 2009 - link

    It isn't so much that SSDs make a bad storage server, but rather that you can't neglect to make periodic backups, as with any type of storage, if your data has great monetary or sentimental value. In addition to backups, RAID (1-6) is also an option if cost is no object and you want to use SSDs for long term storage in a running server. Database servers are a little more complicated, but SSDs can be an intelligent choice there as well if your usage patterns aren't continuous heavy small (i.e. <= 4K) writes.

    I plan on getting a G2 myself for my laptop after Intel updates the firmware to support TRIM and Anand reviews the effects in Windows 7, and I have already been using an Indilinx-based SLC drive in my home server.

    If you do anything that stresses your hard drive(s), or just like snappy boot times and application load times you will probably be impressed by the speeds of a new SSD. The cost per GB and lack of long term reliability studies are really the only things holding them back from taking the storage market by storm now.
    Reply
  • ninevoltz - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    GourdFreeMan could you please continue your explanation? I would like to learn more. You have really dived deeply into the physical properties of these drives. Reply
  • GourdFreeMan - Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - link

    Minor correction to the second paragraph in my post above -- "each bit is only has" should read "each representation only has" in the last sentence. Reply
  • philosofool - Monday, August 31, 2009 - link

    Nice job. This has been a great series.

    I'm getting a SSD once I can get one at $1/GB. I want a system/program files drive of at least 80GB and then a conventional HDD (a tenth of the cost/GB) for user data.

    Would keeping user data on a conventional HDD affect these results? It would seem like it wouldn't, but I would like to see the evidence.

    I would really like to see more benchmarks for these drives that aren't synthetic. Have you tried things like Crysis or The Witcher load times? (Both seemed to me to have pretty slow loads for maps.) I don't know if these would be affected, but as real world applications, I think it makes sense to try them out.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, August 31, 2009 - link

    Personally I keep docs on my SSD but I keep pictures/music on a hard drive. Neither gets touched all that often in the grand scheme of things, but one is a lot smaller :)

    In The SSD Anthology I looked at Crysis load times. Performance didn't really improve when going to an SSD.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Eeqmcsq - Monday, August 31, 2009 - link

    I would have thought that the read speed of an SSD would have helped cut down some of the compile time. Is there any tool that lets you analyze disk usage vs cpu usage during the compile time, to see what percentage of the compile was spent reading/writing to disk vs CPU processing?

    Is there any way you can add a temperature test between an HDD and an SSD? I read a couple of Newegg reviews that say their SSDs got HOT after use, though I think that may have just been 1 particular brand that I don't remember. Also, there was at least one article online that tested an SSD vs an HDD and the SSD ran a little warmer than the HDD.

    Also, garbage collection does have one advantage: It's OS independent. I'm still using Ubuntu 8.04 at work, and I'm stuck on 8.04 because my development environment WORKS, and I won't risk upgrading and destabilizing it. A garbage collecting SSD would certainly be helpful for my system... though your compiling tests are now swaying me against an SSD upgrade. Doh!

    And just for fun, have you thought about running some of your benchmarks on a RAM drive? I'd like to see how far SSDs and SATA have to go before matching the speed of RAM.

    Finally, any word from JMicron and their supposed update to the much "loved" JMF602 controller? I'd like to see some non-stuttering cheapo SSDs enter the market and really bring the $$$/GB down, like the Kingston V-series. Also, I'd like to see a refresh in the PATA SSD market.

    "Am I relieved to be done with this article? You betcha." And I give you a great THANK YOU!!! for spending the time working on it. As usual, it was a great read.
    Reply
  • Per Hansson - Monday, August 31, 2009 - link

    Photofast have released Indilinx based PATA drives;
    http://www.photofastuk.com/engine/shop/category/G-...">http://www.photofastuk.com/engine/shop/category/G-...
    Reply
  • aggressor - Monday, August 31, 2009 - link

    What ever happened to the price drops that OCZ announced when the Intel G2 drives came out? I want 128GB for $280! Reply

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