OCZ's Vertex 2 Pro Preview: The Fastest MLC SSD We've Ever Testedby Anand Lal Shimpi on December 31, 2009 12:00 AM EST
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Inside the Vertex 2 Pro
This time there were no stickers telling me that I’d love this SSD, just a brown ESD bag and a plain looking SSD inside.
Pop the top off and you are greeted with a 90mF capacitor. Its duty is to deliver enough power to the controller to commit any buffered data to flash if there’s ever a sudden loss of power.
I asked SandForce why they needed such a large capacitor as Intel can get away with much smaller caps. It actually has to do with the amount of data buffered. Intel’s X25-M buffers somewhere in the low hundreds of KB of data (with a 512KB L2 cache I’m guessing it’s somewhere below that). The SF controllers buffer a couple of megabytes of data, hence the much larger capacitor.
SandForce did point out that the capacitor is a feature of the SF-1500 design, despite OCZ’s use of it on the Vertex 2 Pro.
That brings us to the controller used in the Vertex 2 Pro. Ultimately SandForce is going to have two controllers - the SF-1200 and the SF-1500. Currently the two controllers have a unified firmware and feature set, which is why both OCZ and SF refer to the Vertex 2 Pro as being somewhere in between a 1200 and a 1500. It’s a SF-1200 controller with the firmware of the SF-1500 as far as I can tell. The final shipping version with be a full fledged SF-1500.
The cost of the Vertex 2 Pro is going to be high. Higher than Intel’s X25-M and any other consumer level SSD on the market today. OCZ is targeting it at the very high end desktop/workstation user or perhaps even entry level enterprise customer.
We won’t see the Vertex 2 Pro available in the channel until March. But this isn’t the only SandForced based SSD we’ll get from OCZ though. At some point in the future we’ll have an SF-1200 based SSD that’s priced around the same level as the top-bin Indilinx based Vertex drives. It’s too early to talk about timing on that one though.
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Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 1, 2010 - linkCorrect. Highly Random and highly compressed data will not work well with SandForce's current algorithm. Less than 25% of the writes you'll see on a typical desktop machine are random writes, even then they aren't random over 100% of the LBA space. I'm not sure how well the technology works for highly random server workloads (SF claims it's great), but for the desktop user it appears to be perfect.
shawkie - Friday, January 1, 2010 - linkThinking about this further I've come to the conclusion that the files must be divided into small blocks that are compressed independently. Firstly because the disk doesn't know about files (only sectors) and secondly because its the only way you could modify a small part of a compressed file quickly. I don't think 512 bytes would be big enough to acheive respectable compression ratios so I think 4KB is more likely. This might explain why Seagate are pushing to make 4KB the smallest addressable unit for storage devices. So then they take each 4KB block, compress it, and write it to the next available space in flash. If they use 64 bit pointers to store the location of each 4KB block they could easily address the entire space with single-bit granularity. Of course, every overwrite will result in a bit of irregularly sized free space. They could then just wait for a bit of compressed data that happens to fit perfectly or implement some kind of free space consolidation or a combination. I'm starting to come around to the idea.
shawkie - Friday, January 1, 2010 - linkApologies to Anand, I completely missed the page titled "SandForce's Achilles' Heel". I do think there are some scenarios that still need testing though. What happens when a small modification has to be made to a large file that the drive has decided to compress? Not an easy thing to benchmark but something I can imagine might apply when editing uncompressed audio files or some video files. The other question is what happens when the disk is made dirty by overwriting several times using a random write pattern and random data. What is the sequential write speed like after that?
lesherm - Friday, January 1, 2010 - linkwith a Seinfeld reference.
LTG - Friday, January 1, 2010 - linkDefinitely the only one with a Seinfeld and a Metallica and a StarWars reference :).
Enter the Sandforce
Use the Sandforce
GullLars - Thursday, December 31, 2009 - linkIt seems anand has a problem with identifying the 4KB random performance of the drives.
Intel x25-M has time and time again been shown to deliver 120MB/s or more 4KB random read bandwidth. x25-E delivers in the area of 150MB/s random read and 200MB/s of random write at 4KB packet sizes for queue depth of 10 and above.
I do not know if the problem is due to testing not being done in AHCI/RAID mode, or if it is because of a queue depth lower than number of internal flash channels, but these numbers are purely WRONG and misrepresentative. I probably shouldn't post while drunk :P but this upsets me enough to disregard that.
Anandtech is IMO a site too good to post nonsensical data like this, pleese fix it ASAP. If you choose to sensor my post after fixing it, pleese mail me notifying me of it in case i don't remmeber posting.
Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 1, 2010 - linkMy 4KB read/write tests are run with a queue depth of 3 to represent a desktop usage scenario. I can get much higher numbers out of the X25-M at higher queue depths but then these tests stop being useful for desktop/notebook users. I may add server-like iometer workloads in the future though.
All of our testing is done in non-member RAID mode.
GullLars - Friday, January 1, 2010 - linkThank you for the response, but i still feel the need to point out that posting 4KB random numbers for queue depth 3 should be explicitly pointed out, as this only utilizes less than 1/3 of the flash channels in the x25-M. Here is a graph i made of the 4KB random read IOPS numbers of an x25-M by queue depth: http://www.diskusjon.no/index.php?act=attach&t...">http://www.diskusjon.no/index.php?act=attach&t...
As shown in this graph, the performance scales well up to a queue depth of about 12, where the 10 internal channels get saturated with requests.
A queue depth of 3 may be representative for average light load running windows, but during operations like launching programs, booting windows, or certain operations whitin programs that read database listings, the momentary queue depths often spike to 16-64, and it is in theese circumstances you really feel the IOPS performance of a drive. This is one of the reasons why x25-M beats the competition in the application launch test in PCmark vantage despite having the same IOPS performance at queue depths 1-4 and about the same sequential performance.
The sandforce SF-1500 controller is rated for 30.000 4KB random IOPS, 120MB/s. In order to reach these read performance numbers with MLC flash, you need at least 6 channels, with corresponding outstanding IO's to make use of them. Then you also need to take into account controller overhead. The SF-1500 controller has 16 channels, and the SF-1200 controller has 8 channels.
To test IOPS performance of a drive (not enterpreted for usage but raw numbers), outstanding IOs should be at least equal to number of channels.
Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, January 1, 2010 - linkI'm not sure I agree with you here:
"A queue depth of 3 may be representative for average light load running windows, but during operations like launching programs, booting windows, or certain operations whitin programs that read database listings, the momentary queue depths often spike to 16-64,"
I did a lot of tests before arriving at the queue depth of 3 and found that even in the most ridiculous desktop usage scenarios we never saw anything in the double digits. It didn't matter whether you were launching programs in parallel or doing a lot of file copies while you were interacting with apps. Even our heavy storage bench test had an average queue depth below 4.
GullLars - Saturday, January 2, 2010 - linkI'm not out to be difficult here, so i will let it be after this, but what i and a few others who have been doing SSD benchmarking for about a year now have found using the windows performance monitor indicates Queue Depth spikes in the area of 16-64 outstanding IO's when launching apps, and certain other interactions with apps that cause reading of many database entries.
Copying files will only create 1 outstanding sequential IO-queue, and does not contribute significantly to the momentary queue depth during short high loads.
Scanning for viruses may contribute more to the queue depth, but i have not tested it this far.
At a queue depth of 1-4 for purely reads, there is little difference between JMicron, Indilinx, Samsung, Mtron, and Intel based SSDs, and the difference seen in PCmark Vantage applauch test and real world tests of "launch scripts" (a script launching all programs installed on the computer simultaneously) also indicate there is a notable difference. Some of this may be caused by different random write performance and sequential read, but queue depths above 4 in bursts help explain why x25-M with the 10-channel design beats the competing 4-channel controllers in this type of workload even when sequential read is about the same.
I also like to think Intel didn't make a complex 10-channel "M" drive optimized for 4KB random IOPS targeted at consumers only to win in benchmarks. If the queue depth truly never went above 3-5, even when counting bursts, there would have been wasted a ridiculus amount of effort and resources in making the x25-M, as a 4-channel drive would be a lot cheaper to develop and produce.
Thanks for taking the time to reply to my posts, and i hope you know i value the SSD articles posted on this site. My only concern has been the queue depths used for performance rating, and a concern for the future is that the current setup does not forward TRIM to drives supporting it.