AnandTech Storage Bench 2011

Two years ago 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.

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.

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 in 2010.

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.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

The old VelociRaptor remained the fastest mechanical drive we'd tested using our heavy workload, and the new one pushed the bar up by another 31%. It's the SSD comparison that makes the VR a tough choice for a primary drive, but if you need a really fast hard drive to augment your SSD the VelociRaptor is quick. Note that the Momentus XT lacks write caching at this point, which hurts its chances in our write intensive heavy workload.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload

Our new light workload actually has more write operations than read operations. The split is as follows: 372,630 reads and 459,709 writes. The relatively close read/write ratio does better mimic a typical light workload (although even lighter workloads would be far more read centric).

The I/O breakdown is similar to the heavy workload at small IOs, however you'll notice that there are far fewer large IO transfers:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload IO Breakdown
IO Size % of Total
4KB 27%
16KB 8%
32KB 6%
64KB 5%

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload

Once again we see a significant step forward compared to the old VelociRaptor, and any other hard drive for that matter. The new VR distances itself from its predecessor by 39% and from the fastest 7200RPM 3.5" drive we've tested by 55%. It's the almighty SSD that the VelociRaptor can't beat.


Random & Sequential Read/Write Speed PCMark 7 Performance & Power Consumption
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  • Stuka87 - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Seagate would disagree. As they Hybrid drives are nearly as fast as an SSD but have a terabyte of storage.
  • kmmatney - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I'm pretty surprised at how far behind the Seagate Momentus XT is in these benchmarks, though. This review doesn't make the Seagate look very good at all.
  • exordis - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    IIRC from the Momentus XT review it's performance on the first run through of a given benchmark was basically the same as any other HDD of the same specs. Because of the way it learns common tasks and caches the things you do often it requires a couple of runs of a given task before it's extra performance shows.
  • Samus - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I not only disagree as well with Makaveli, but can't help but think what a failure it is on WD's part to ignore making this drive a hybrid like the Momentus XT.

    Remember, the Momentus XT isn't tweaked for performance, it's an extremely low power (5-watt) drive that needs to meet the cooling envelope of a laptop drivebay.

    The Raptor doesn't have those restrictions. If this drive were paired with 8 or 16GB NAND, it would have been a monster, essentially a 1TB SSD for <$400.

    The problem must be WD knows nothing about hybrid technology. They can't possibly be foolish enough to ignore the fact that SSD's are the future and hard disks can't survive by only having superior capacity and lower prices. They need to have high performance and reliability as well.

    This launch is a complete disaster. This could have been exceptional if adapted to the times. A 10k performance-oriented drive using Hybrid-NAND technology could have been amazing.
  • kyuu - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link


    The only problem is that they'd have been starting from scratch with the caching algorithms and other things that go along with a hybrid HDD. Remember how much of a disaster Seagate's 1st gen hybrid HDDs were? Part of what makes the Momentus XT great is the experience Seagate has with the hybrid HDD platform, which no other manufacturer really has.
  • TeXWiller - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    I'd prefer to keep those SSD caches directly attached to the PCIe bus and have a more knowledgeable operating system.

    The reliability numbers are quite good, so on paper this would be the most reliable 1 TB consumer oriented rotating hard drive. This way the launch is not a disaster as drives with equivalent theoretical reliability are hard, or much more expensive to buy from the online store near you.
  • Samus - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    I've replaced a number of Raptors through almost every generation in mail servers and SQL servers that receive a lot of constant traffic within warranty.

    That would never happen with an SSD, where you can do 20GB/day for 5+ years.
  • mercutiouk - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    One thing you COULD do with this is throw it in the intel rapid storage raid 5 setup. Sit the fastest 40GB SSD you can find (or a partition of a larger SSD of course) with 4 of these behind it.

    While not cheap (you'd need to drop about 1k on your storage alone) you'd be looking at 3TB of "rather quick" storage that could suffer a drive failure and keep things together.

    4x 200MB sustained (so about 550/600MB once the raid 5 etc has dampened performance a bit) with an SSD doing all the responsive bits of access the raid had to deal with would make an impressive setup.

    I run a hardware raid-5 with an SSD for boot at the moment and it's rather nice for most things.
  • GreenEnergy - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Microsoft actually got a fine picture on my HDs are such a huge bottleneck in todays PCs.
  • glasspelican - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I am supprised that thy dont have any flash on this drive. I got the momnentus xt in my laptop and it makes a huge difference

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