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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  • c4v3man - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Exactly. Dell offers these drives in their workstation lineup, and I think at one point offered them in their 100-300 series servers. It would be great if Anand would compare the drive to a modern 10K SAS drive, to see how close the two technologies are nowadays.

    That being said, 600GB 15K SAS drives are under $500 I believe from Dell, so it would only make sense as mass storage.
    Reply
  • dananski - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I think you're on to something there - SAS drives are getting expensive enough that you start to think about SSDs, so maybe these would fill that big price gap between standard and enterprise drives.

    Would be pretty good for some other situations too. Games, video editing, music production and image editing need space and sequential speed and this gives both those things at a lower budget than an SSD.
    Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    What surprised me about this is that they didnt try pushing it to 15k rpm. Some nand would have helped too but as you said in the opening paragraphs... about the only way you can increase speed in a spindle disk is to increase rotational speed or area density. So why not do both? Not sure if they use perpendicular recording on these or not but that would be another way to increase the density and the speed.

    Of course the down side is that not only is nand still MUCH faster and getting cheaper by the day but, we also have PCM drives coming (hopefully) soon which is 100x faster than flash and lasts for millions of write cycles rather than thousands... Unless its $1000 per gig for the next 10 years who's going to buy a spinning disk when its 10,000X slower than a pcm drive?
    Reply
  • Stahn Aileron - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Last I recall, bumping up the spindle speed would counteract the areal density increase. Every time I see a spindle speed bump across drives in a similar price bracket, the capacity goes down. I'm guessing it has to do with how quickly the heads can actually read the data under them before its move out from under them. (Perhaps ECC as well.)

    Still, the last time I saw a 15k RPM drive, the max capacity I think was around 320GB or so. I can't say for certain now as I don't track 15k RPM drives. I don't have the need for enterprise-grade HDDs of that performance. (And to be honest, most storage coverage these days is about SSDs. HDDs don't get into the news much except for the ocassional model revision, if that.)
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I have some 600GB 15K SAS drives right here. Reply
  • Stahn Aileron - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Well, like I said, it;s been a while since I bother to look at 15k drives, even in passing, much less recall the numbers. On the other hand, 15k 600GB SAS drives do sound/look familiar. Still, that's the upper end of the capacity spectrum for 15k drives right now, no? Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    actually I feel you on the not paying attention to 15k drives. That's kinda why I was hoping WD was going to push their Vraptors faster and maybe keep the size around 300-500gb... They are usually so expensive that individuals arent even aware they exist. WD could have changed that but they didnt. They could have made huge changes to the slowly dying spinning disk market... but they didnt. They just increased the size of their current 10krpm drive.

    Dont get me wrong a 10krpm 1tb drive is cool (especially for the price) but no one needs this drive in their home. A gamer will have an SSD and a plain old drive for storage to keep their files on. A graphic designer might do the same. And people who dont need the performance of an SSD (like lets say my dad) just throw in a 7200rpm drive and call it close.

    But yeah no one does reviews of spinning disk anymore because they are becoming obsolete pretty quickly with the falling costs of SSDs (even in the enterprise market) and like I said originally PCM drives.
    Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - link

    http://gizmodo.com/5808353/solid-state-drives-are-... Reply
  • Arnulf - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    "... the only 3.5" hard drive with a 10,000 RPM spindle speed ..."

    There have been many real 3.5" drives with 10K (and higher) spindle speed before WD's (Veloci)raptors. It wasn't WD who changed anything, they merely copied what other manufacturers have done years before them.

    While others manufacturers went to 15K for performance drives WD is still stuck in 1990s with everything but recording density.
    Reply
  • Stahn Aileron - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I think Anand means at the consumer level. All 10k and 15k drive other than the VR from WD are aimed solely at enterprise. They are engineered/marketed as such from what little exposure I have of that market space. In all the time I've been into computer news (about a decade), the WD Raptor and VelociRaptor line were/are the only consumer-level 10k RPM drives. All other high performance drives in the consumer space have been 7200RPM drives. I don't ever recall seeing another 10k or 15k drive from any other manufacturer aimed at the consumer space (even if just at the enthusiast level.) Reply

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