AnandTech Storage Bench 2011

I didn't expect to have to debut this so soon, but I've been working on updated benchmarks for 2011. Last year we introduced our AnandTech Storage Bench, a suite of benchmarks that took traces of real OS/application usage and played them back in a repeatable manner. I assembled the traces myself out of frustration with the majority of what we have today in terms of SSD benchmarks.

Although the AnandTech Storage Bench tests did a good job of characterizing SSD performance, they weren't stressful enough. All of the tests performed less than 10GB of reads/writes and typically involved only 4GB of writes specifically. That's not even enough exceed the spare area on most SSDs. Most canned SSD benchmarks don't even come close to writing a single gigabyte of data, but that doesn't mean that simply writing 4GB is acceptable.

Originally I kept the benchmarks short enough that they wouldn't be a burden to run (~30 minutes) but long enough that they were representative of what a power user might do with their system.

Not too long ago I tweeted that I had created what I referred to as the Mother of All SSD Benchmarks (MOASB). Rather than only writing 4GB of data to the drive, this benchmark writes 106.32GB. It's the load you'd put on a drive after nearly two weeks of constant usage. And it takes a *long* time to run.

I'll be sharing the full details of the benchmark in some upcoming SSD articles but here are some details:

1) The MOASB, officially called AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload, mainly focuses on the times when your I/O activity is the highest. There is a lot of downloading and application installing that happens during the course of this test. My thinking was that it's during application installs, file copies, downloading and multitasking with all of this that you can really notice performance differences between drives.

2) I tried to cover as many bases as possible with the software I incorporated into this test. There's a lot of photo editing in Photoshop, HTML editing in Dreamweaver, web browsing, game playing/level loading (Starcraft II & WoW are both a part of the test) as well as general use stuff (application installing, virus scanning). I included a large amount of email downloading, document creation and editing as well. To top it all off I even use Visual Studio 2008 to build Chromium during the test.

Update: As promised, some more details about our Heavy Workload for 2011.

The test has 2,168,893 read operations and 1,783,447 write operations. The IO breakdown is as follows:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload IO Breakdown
IO Size % of Total
4KB 28%
16KB 10%
32KB 10%
64KB 4%

Only 42% of all operations are sequential, the rest range from pseudo to fully random (with most falling in the pseudo-random category). Average queue depth is 4.625 IOs, with 59% of operations taking place in an IO queue of 1.

Many of you have asked for a better way to really characterize performance. Simply looking at IOPS doesn't really say much. As a result I'm going to be presenting Storage Bench 2011 data in a slightly different way. We'll have performance represented as Average MB/s, with higher numbers being better. At the same time I'll be reporting how long the SSD was busy while running this test. These disk busy graphs will show you exactly how much time was shaved off by using a faster drive vs. a slower one during the course of this test. Finally, I will also break out performance into reads, writes and combined. The reason I do this is to help balance out the fact that this test is unusually write intensive, which can often hide the benefits of a drive with good read performance.

There's also a new light workload for 2011. This is a far more reasonable, typical every day use case benchmark. Lots of web browsing, photo editing (but with a greater focus on photo consumption), video playback as well as some application installs and gaming. This test isn't nearly as write intensive as the MOASB but it's still multiple times more write intensive than what we were running last year.

As always I don't believe that these two benchmarks alone are enough to characterize the performance of a drive, but hopefully along with the rest of our tests they will help provide a better idea.

The testbed for Storage Bench 2011 has changed as well. We're now using a Sandy Bridge platform with full 6Gbps support for these tests. All of the older tests are still run on our X58 platform.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

We'll start out by looking at average data rate throughout our new heavy workload test:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

In our heavy test for 2011 the 120GB Vertex 3 is noticeably slower than the 240GB sample we tested a couple of months ago. Fewer available die are the primary explanation. We're still waiting on samples of the 120GB Intel SSD 320 and the Crucial m4 but it's looking like this round will be more competitive than we originally thought.

The breakdown of reads vs. writes tells us more of what's going on:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

Surprisingly enough it's not read speed that holds the 120GB Vertex 3 back, it's ultimately the lower (incompressible) write speed:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

The next three charts just represent the same data, but in a different manner. Instead of looking at average data rate, we're looking at how long the disk was busy for during this entire test. Note that disk busy time excludes any and all idles, this is just how long the SSD was busy doing something:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

Random & Sequential Performance AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload
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  • mpx999 - Sunday, April 10, 2011 - link

    That's a big limitation for number of total I/Os. Eg. in 300MB/s SATA-II you'd be limited to ~37.5k IOPS with 8kB transfers, less than some SSDs are capable of, while the limit with 4kB clusters is 2 times higher, which is still beyond current SSDs for random transfers.

    4kB clusters are a perfect match for x86 processors that use hardware 4kB page size, as each page size is one block on disk. This is especially important for pagefile reads, which tend to be random by nature, rather than pagefile writes that are mostly sequential dumps of memory content. Some Unix systems may use 8kB disc block sizes because it's a default page size for SPARC and Itanium processors. For Power and ARM 4kB is the default but also 64kB can be used. So I'd advice against using large (larger than hw. page size) block sizes on a system/boot partition.

    8kB disk block sizes can be useful on partitions dedicated for SQL Server as default database blocks are 8kB for SQL Server, so it's doing 8kB transfers anyway. Oracle supports multiple page sizes and their advice is:

    http://www.dba-oracle.com/t_multiple_blocksizes_su...

    "Oracle recommends smaller Oracle Database block sizes (2 KB or 4 KB) for online transaction processing (OLTP) or mixed workload environments and larger block sizes (8 KB, 16 KB, or 32 KB) for decision support system (DSS) workload environments."

    32kB cluster sizes are a default value on flash cards for digital cameras, as sequential writes of large prictures are done on them.

    BTW. The slow speed of both Hynix and Intel 25nm versions of Vertex 2 may be because it's aging controller cannot deal with 8kB flash pages.
    Reply
  • martixy - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    So... the SSD market is shaping up to the just about the most confusing and volatile market out there.
    At least that's the impression I get from the articles here. I mean you'd probably need your very own market research team if you want to get a good deal on an SSD.
    Meh...
    Reply
  • gixxer - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    So if you have read all the comments up to this point with the OCZ verus Intel debate.

    Where would you spend your money?

    A vertex 3, Intel 320, or Intel 510
    Reply
  • MamiyaOtaru - Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - link

    it's not scientific, but after looking at the newegg user review averages, not touching anything other than intel Reply
  • tech6 - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    Thank you Anand - you're a real asset to the tech community!

    While OCZ has a potentially great product, they are really proving to be their own worst enemy. Until they demonstrate some maturity I will choose an Intel 320 instead. It may not be the newest or fastest but the G1/G2/G3 series drives have so far proven to be reasonably reliable and perform as advertised.
    Reply
  • ClagMaster - Monday, April 11, 2011 - link

    Seems to me the Intel 510 offers better mainstream performance than the Vertex 3.

    And I also think Intel does a better job with balancing firmware with memory technology, and has better configuration control of what memory is used for their SSD's.

    I think suffering a 20% risk of getting a Vertex 3 SSD with slower memory is too high for what I pay for such a device
    Reply
  • qax - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    This sort of commitment can make me wanna buy OCZ next time, thats for sure.
    Although they shipped slow drives, they accept the responsability, and thats a big thing in my world.
    I´ve totaly stopped buying som vendors that are too cheap, resulting in useless/nonexisting support.
    Same reason why i allways buy from a psysical shop and never from internetshops.
    I need psysical adress not too far from my own adress, where i can turn in a faulty product.
    For me an SSD driver will allways be used for OS, programs and games. For space i would have HDD.
    So space on SSD is no concern.
    Reply
  • javishd - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    I think I'm not alone here. Waiting to buy after some real comparisons of the $300 120gb range. We look to you for help with the decision! Thanks for your long term commitment to ssd. I've been on board since the x25 g1, and I really appreciate all the info from you guys. I'll keep checking every day hoping.... Reply
  • alexb1 - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - link

    Anand, THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH!

    Honestly, there is NO ONE ELSE in the IT industry advocating for enthusiast consumers like you... kudos!

    I am A VICTIM of OCZ Marketing of Vertex2, and got a 80GB recently that basically does EXTREMELY POOR compared to ALL benchmarks. To top it all off, it is NOT part of the *recall* drives as its size hasn't been affected with the 25nm transition... so I am just about to return and take a 15% restocking fee.

    Now, my question is... should I even bother looking for a 34nm drive, or one of the newer 25nm drives would just do ok as boot drive in Win7? My MOST CONCERN is reliability and longevity.

    I can either get a F60-A (25nm), F60 (34nm), or OCZ Vertex2 (25nm)... The 25nm being $30-40 CHEAPER!
    Reply
  • faster - Thursday, April 14, 2011 - link

    Today the Intel 510 250GB drive mentioned in these benchamarks can be had at newegg for $615 (-$40 off promo until 4/19, $575).

    The Egg also has the Revo Drive X2 240GB at $570 (was $680).

    So we as consumers have the new 250 GB 6Gbps SATA3 SSD drives vs. the 240GB PCIE X4 integrated bootable RAID 0 card within $5 of the same price point.

    Certainly a bootable add in card is not a straight comparison to a single SSD drive, but at the same price point, in the cutting edge overpriced enthusiast level, it is a sensible comparison.

    Anandtech should put the RevoX2 in these benchmark charts to show how they measure up. It would be more interesting than comparing a WD Raptor represented by tiny slivers on the performance comparisons. I believe, generally speaking, that the Revo would come away with faster read speeds and be neck in neck with fastest SSD drives on write speeds. AnandTech had or has a RevoDrive that they reviewed in the past. Is that thing still laying around?
    Reply

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