AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 Preview - 'The Destroyer'

When I built the AnandTech Heavy and Light Storage Bench suites in 2011 I did so because we didn't have any good tools at the time that would begin to stress a drive's garbage collection routines. Once all blocks have a sufficient number of used pages, all further writes will inevitably trigger some sort of garbage collection/block recycling algorithm. Our Heavy 2011 test in particular was designed to do just this. By hitting the test SSD with a large enough and write intensive enough workload, we could ensure that some amount of GC would happen.

There were a couple of issues with our 2011 tests that I've been wanting to rectify however. First off, all of our 2011 tests were built using Windows 7 x64 pre-SP1, which meant there were potentially some 4K alignment issues that wouldn't exist had we built the trace on a system with SP1. This didn't really impact most SSDs but it proved to be a problem with some hard drives. Secondly, and more recently, I've shifted focus from simply triggering GC routines to really looking at worst case scenario performance after prolonged random IO. For years I'd felt the negative impacts of inconsistent IO performance with all SSDs, but until the S3700 showed up I didn't think to actually measure and visualize IO consistency. The problem with our IO consistency tests are they are very focused on 4KB random writes at high queue depths and full LBA spans, not exactly a real world client usage model. The aspects of SSD architecture that those tests stress however are very important, and none of our existing tests were doing a good job of quantifying that.

I needed an updated heavy test, one that dealt with an even larger set of data and one that somehow incorporated IO consistency into its metrics. The new benchmark doesn't have a name, I've just been calling it The Destroyer (although AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 is likely a better fit for PR reasons).

Everything about this new test is bigger and better. The test platform moves to Windows 8 Pro x64. The workload is far more realistic. Just as before, this is an application trace based test - I record all IO requests made to a test system, then play them back on the drive I'm measuring and run statistical analysis on the drive's responses.

Imitating most modern benchmarks I crafted the Destroyer out of a series of scenarios. For this benchmark I focused heavily on Photo editing, Gaming, Virtualization, General Productivity, Video Playback and Application Development. Rough descriptions of the various scenarios are in the table below:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 Preview - The Destroyer
Workload Description Applications Used
Photo Sync/Editing Import images, edit, export Adobe Photoshop CS6, Adobe Lightroom 4, Dropbox
Gaming Download/install games, play games Steam, Deus Ex, Skyrim, Starcraft 2, BioShock Infinite
Virtualization Run/manage VM, use general apps inside VM VirtualBox
General Productivity Browse the web, manage local email, copy files, encrypt/decrypt files, backup system, download content, virus/malware scan Chrome, IE10, Outlook, Windows 8, AxCrypt, uTorrent, AdAware
Video Playback Copy and watch movies Windows 8
Application Development Compile projects, check out code, download code samples Visual Studio 2012

While some tasks remained independent, many were stitched together (e.g. system backups would take place while other scenarios were taking place). The overall stats give some justification to what I've been calling this test internally:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 Preview - The Destroyer, Specs
  The Destroyer (2013) Heavy 2011
Reads 38.83 million 2.17 million
Writes 10.98 million 1.78 million
Total IO Operations 49.8 million 3.99 million
Total GB Read 1583.02 GB 48.63 GB
Total GB Written 875.62 GB 106.32 GB
Average Queue Depth ~5.5 ~4.6
Focus Worst case multitasking, IO consistency Peak IO, basic GC routines

SSDs have grown in their performance abilities over the years, so I wanted a new test that could really push high queue depths at times. The average queue depth is still realistic for a client workload, but the Destroyer has some very demanding peaks. When I first introduced the Heavy 2011 test, some drives would take multiple hours to complete it - today most high performance SSDs can finish the test in under 90 minutes. The Destroyer? So far the fastest I've seen it go is 10 hours. Most high performance I've tested seem to need around 12 - 13 hours per run, with mainstream drives taking closer to 24 hours. The read/write balance is also a lot more realistic than in the Heavy 2011 test. Back in 2011 I just needed something that had a ton of writes so I could start separating the good from the bad. Now that the drives have matured, I felt a test that was a bit more balanced would be a better idea.

Despite the balance recalibration, there's just a ton of data moving around in this test. Ultimately the sheer volume of data here and the fact that there's a good amount of random IO courtesy of all of the multitasking (e.g. background VM work, background photo exports/syncs, etc...) makes the Destroyer do a far better job of giving credit for performance consistency than the old Heavy 2011 test. Both tests are valid, they just stress/showcase different things. As the days of begging for better random IO performance and basic GC intelligence are over, I wanted a test that would give me a bit more of what I'm interested in these days. As I mentioned in the S3700 review - having good worst case IO performance and consistency matters just as much to client users as it does to enterprise users.

Given the sheer amount of time it takes to run through the Destroyer, and the fact that the test was only completed recently, I don't have many results to share. I'll be populating this database over the coming weeks/months. I'm still hunting for any issues/weirdness with the test so I'm not ready to remove the "Preview" label from it just yet. But the results thus far are very telling.

I'm reporting two primary metrics with the Destroyer: average data rate in MB/s and average service time in microseconds. The former gives you an idea of the throughput of the drive during the time that it was running the Destroyer workload. This can be a very good indication of overall performance. What average data rate doesn't do a good job of is taking into account response time of very bursty (read: high queue depth) IO. By reporting average service time we heavily weigh latency for queued IOs. You'll note that this is a metric I've been reporting in our enterprise benchmarks for a while now. With the client tests maturing, the time was right for a little convergence.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 -

Now we see what Seagate's balance of consistency and peak performance gives us: leading performance in our latest benchmark. The Destroyer does a good job of penalizing drives with poor IO consistency as the entire drive is written to more than once, but the workload is more client-like than a pure 4KB random write. The result is a test that likes both peak performance and consistent behavior. Seagate's 600 delivers both. I purposefully didn't include a 120GB Seagate 600 here. This test was really optimized for 400GB+ capacities, at lower capacities (especially on drives that don't behave well in a full state) the performance dropoff can be significant. I'm not too eager to include 240/256GB drives here either but I kept some of the original numbers I launched the test with.

OCZ's Vector actually does incredibly well here, giving us more insight into the balance of peak performance/IO consistency needed to do well in our latest test.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2013 -

The 600's average service time throughout this test is very good. OCZ's Vector does even better here, outperforming the 480GB 600 and falling short of the 400GB 600 Pro. The difference between the 600 and 600 Pro here gives you a good idea of how much performance can scale if you leave some spare area on the drive.

Performance Consistency Random & Sequential Performance
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  • StealthGhost - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - link

    To me it was always just that HDDs are vastly different than SSDs. Making SSDs when you make HDDs is like starting from scratch almost. That is why the most random companies are making SSDs, because they made flash storage before. Corsair, OCZ, Crucial harddrives? I've owned RAM from all 3 but never a harddrive, but it makes sense for them to side step over from RAM to SSD, not so much for WD to go all the way down and then back up over to SSD.

    I hope WD becomes a big name in SSDs though, I have 5 WD harddrives that I can think of off the top of my head and one is from 2003. As you can tell, they're my favorite HDD manufacturer.
    Reply
  • phillyry - Sunday, May 12, 2013 - link

    Cactusdog, "I don't understand why Seagate and WD were so slow in the SSD market."

    Because they didn't want to destroy their reputations with a the shenanigans that was going on in the first couple gens of SSDs. They wisely waited until the tech was mature so that their multibillion dollar reputations wouldn't go down the drain.
    Reply
  • Tams80 - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Same. I think around 500GB is the minimum I'd prepared to go with (for a laptop/mobile computer). They are still a bit too pricey and from my experience the hybrid drives, while good, aren't really worth it. 1TB would be great, but that will probably require waiting a few years.

    The 840 Pro looks to still be the best, but yes, it's still far too expensive for me. =(
    Reply
  • klmccaughey - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    The 240GB non Pro 840 is pretty good unless you are doing a lot of writing - very well priced.

    I have a 2TB HD and a 256GB Steam drive. With Steam Tool / or caching software that is plenty. My C drive is 2 x 128GB Vertex 3's in Raid 0.

    Don't wait to switch! Just get what you can and add more when you can - you will never look back :)
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Yeah.. just make smart use of the space you've got and you should be able to get by with much smaller SSDs than 500 GB. Personally using 64 GB to cache my 3 TB HDD - fast enough for me :) Reply
  • phillyry - Sunday, May 12, 2013 - link

    The OP is talking about a mobile computer (laptop), not a desktop solution where you can have additional hard drives. Reply
  • creed3020 - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Seagate may be late to the game but wow what an entrance! Going with the LM87800 almost guaranteed a strong performer as we already know from the Corsair Neutron's history. Their own special sauce added to the firmware shows that they are taking this market seriously.

    The HDD manufacturers, glorious duopoly and all, need to see the writing on the wall and get some products into this market vertical. There will be a need for spinning platters for years to come still as 4TB SSDs are still a good ways out.

    I'm currently on the fence for a Samsung 840 500GB but this announcement I need to wait and see how the reliability on these drives pans out as this may be the better choice.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - link

    MLC drives are generally going to be more reliable than TLC drives, unless you're dealing with firmware bugs (like the horribly buggy 1st generation Sandforce controller in the Vertex 2e) Reply
  • name99 - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - link

    "Seagate may be late to the game but wow what an entrance!"

    To me this is in the interesting point. Presumably Seagate are interested in surviving for more than the next five years. Which means they have to be in the broadly defined storage business, not just the HD business. Which in turn means: raises the question --- presumably they want to be the equivalent in the flash business of their role in the HD business?

    What would that take? If they were doing it seriously, it would take
    (a) own the controller. It seems they already own the firmware. Perhaps they don't care much about the LAMD/Hynix link because the next step is to design their own controller?
    (b) fab the flash. Until they do that, as has been said, they're just one of a dozen assemblers. Of course fabbing flash is not a completely trivial business to get into... So --- buy Hynix (or someone else)? Or not the whole company, but at least the flash division? I suspect we will see something like this.

    If they DO own the firmware, the chip, and the flash, they are at least in a rather better position.
    They can start to apply real engineering to these devices in a way we haven't yet seen, most obviously in much better power performance, both idle power and peak random writes power. There may also be scope for other innovations once you own the entire pipeline, for example you can tweak the flash being fabbed for a more precise set of specs, or you can drive it to tend to certain (known) failure modes which your firmware is set up to work around.
    Reply
  • JellyRoll - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Corsair recently released new versions of the Neutrons with a die shrink, are these Neutrons compared in the article with the new NAND? Reply

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