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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  • JarredWalton - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    15K drives are exclusively SAS/SCSI, and capacities are lower than WD while prices are higher. In fact, the 15k drives are right in SSD territory for price per GB. Looking at Newegg, they range from as low as $1/GB to around $2.50/GB, with maximum capacity topping out at 600GB. A 512GB Crucial m4 will only cost around $550, for example. Still, for enterprise workloads you'd need an enterprise HDD most likely. Anyway, I've clarified the statement to say "mainstream 10k" -- we know 15k has been around for enterprise for ages. One might argue that the reason WD even came out with the Raptor is that they didn't have a 15k enterprise offering to protect. Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Name them.

    The only 10-15k hard drives to exist before the VR were SAS drives; if you think these are expensive, check out the price of SAS drives. (They are quite a bit cheaper than they used to be, too.)

    ;)
    Reply
  • jabber - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    My old Mk2 75GB Raptor sit as the OS drive for my gaming rig. Noisy but still surprises me now and then.

    I have moved my Gf over to SSD tech but I haven't as yet. If I got SSD in one machine I'll want them in all my machines and I just cant afford that.

    Would like to see some testing of this with a 40GB cache drive just for giggles.
    Reply
  • Denithor - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Actually, this is a fantastic suggestion.

    Look at whether there's any advantage to a VR + 40GB cache SSD versus a typical 1TB 7200 with the same cache drive.
    Reply
  • Golgatha - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    2x500GB or 1TB in RAID0

    Faster, cheaper, but somewhat less reliable due to RAID0. If you have space for 2 drives, I think the RE4 line is a much, much better value.
    Reply
  • marraco - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    And a 100 Gb partition for OS would use the 5% faster sectors, which runs around 210 Mb/s (more than 400 Mb/s in RAID0). That partition would also be short stroked, so 4kb random should give good numbers for an HDD Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I dont care if it is just one 8GB MLC chip, with 67% of the chip reserved for wear leveling. Even just 2GB of flash would make the poor random I/O performance much more bearable, and bring this close to Momentus XT type performance. Reply
  • magreen - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    "The advantage of the NAND equipped Seagate Momentus XT is just as large."

    That should read the "advantage over the NAND equipped...," correct? It seems to say the opposite of what you mean right now.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    "If users are able to fit all of their program, apps and data into a 128GB SSD, I have to believe that a well managed cache can deliver compelling performance with half that space."

    It definitely does. Using an Agility 3 60 GB as cache with SRT.
    Reply
  • sixmoon - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Hi, I enjoyed the review, I somehow got tired of all the SSD reviews lately. I somehow expected this drive was going to be compared with SSD's and this is fair, however if you compare it to the new generation of 3-4TB, this HDD really doesn't find its place anymore. It's more expensive and smaller, and in the HDD world, being smaller also affects performance.

    I find the new Hitachi 7k4000 drive to be on par with the new Velociraptor, take a look here: http://macperformanceguide.com/Storage-Drive-Hitac...
    Reply

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