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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  • ltcommanderdata - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I admittedly only did a quick read of the article so I may have missed it, but were there any comments on noise and vibration compared to previous VelociRaptors and other mechanical drives?
  • Sabresiberian - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    My Raptors have always been smoother and quieter than other drives. I have 2 of the first-gen 2.5" mounted on the 3.5" form factor heat sink, and I can't even tell they are running, except to see the drive light on the front of the computer flicker (and, of course, the computer is running properly).

  • retrospooty - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I agree with the conclusion... "if I needed to buy a high-performance mechanical hard drive, it's the one I'd pick."

    I always had a raptor until SSD became affordable to me (about the time of the Vertex2's release). With a 120gb Vertex 3 drive currently $139 after $20 rebate at Newegg, why bother?

    Use the SSD as your OS and apps and several of your favorite games and a large cheap HDD for storage, movies MP3's old games, etc - things that don't need fast access. 120gb is plenty big for that. My Vertex3 is set up that way and has 50% space free still. Fast as hell.

    Is so fast it doesn't even allow the Win7 colors to touch on the launch screen. Before the 4 colors swirl and then come together and strobe, its it Windows. sigh...
  • mcnabney - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Anybody know how the multiple drive setups will work under Win8?

    Apparently the Drive Extender from the original Windows Home Server (which was ripped out of the sequel) is part of Windows 8. What kind of control will be available concerning which files go where when using this in Win8?
  • Sufo - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    It's irresponsible to recommend the Vertex 3.
  • LB-ID - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    It's irresponsible to recommend OCZ products, period. Their strategy of bringing products to market six months early, then using their customers for the validation phase has long since shown its true colors. Combine that with a policy of ridiculing anyone who dares question them has turned me from a customer to running away from anything they produce.
  • dananski - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I have somewhat mixed opinions about Vertex 3's since we upgraded to them at work. Probably about 50% extra cost hidden in the man hours wasted trying to sort out firmware, and we're still not completely BSOD-free. The price has come down and they're fast, but not faster than my problem-free Intel 510.

    But to generalise to all OCZ products is unfair. My reapers are still great after 4 years, and the SSD bugs are partly down to Sandforce.
  • Samus - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    LOL, it's irresponsible to recommend ANY OCZ SSD ;)
  • landerf - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Access time?
  • Scott314159 - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I think there is still a role for the raptor in the budget server market where enterprise SSDs are still too expensive. While in the consumer SSD space confidence and longevity are still not where they need to be (any disagreements or counter arguments with references??).

    I will probably use these drives in my next server build...

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