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


View All Comments

  • JDG1980 - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Personally, I'd be reluctant to go with any brand except Intel and Samsung for SSDs. There have just been too many issues with the other vendors. Maybe Crucial's Marvell-based products, but absolutely not anything based on SandForce - they seem to have more reliability problems than all the other controllers put together. Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Well, Intel's current consumer-grade SSDs are all based on SandForce. In the beginning SandForce definitely had a ton of issues but keep in mind that the SF-2281 is a two-year-old controller - a lot has happened in that time.

    Then again, I agree that going with something non-SF is better choice because the pricing of SF SSDs isn't exceptionally good (e.g. Samsung SSD 840 is often the cheapest choice). I wouldn't rule out Plextor from the list of good candidates though.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    Assuming no problems turn up in the next few months I'm probably going to buy a Crucial M500 - 1TB model. I've gone from a $280 120GB SSD to a $330 256GB one and filled both in about 18 months. Skipping the 500GB class entirely should let me go 3 or 4 years before running out of space while also giving enough flash capacity that I can pull my ~200GB of media onto my SSD. As an added bonus this will save ~$100 by allowing me to avoid a precautionary replacement the 5 year old HDD in my system. Overall it's an extra $150 upfront; but will avoid probably spending $300 in 2 years when I'd overflow the smaller SSD and having everything located on a single drive keeps things simpler to admin. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - link

    Not true. If you look at slickdeals you'll see SF drives for the same or less than the TLC 840 drives. Reply
  • Shark321 - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    The Destroyer rocks! The first really meaningful SSD test for power users! Reply
  • hp79 - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    For the Seagate 600, did they mistakenly swap the "idle power" usage (1.1W) with the "operating power" usage (0.75W) on the chart? Reply
  • melgross - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    There's really no need for Seagate and WD to be first, or even early. Right now, HDD's are still the main storage component of the industry. Let them observe the mistakes made by others and come up with better products, as this one seems to be. They've got time. Reply
  • James5mith - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    I would still love to see either the older "Optimus" series or the latest 2TB SAS series of SSD's from Smart put through the Anandtech wringer to see how they compare. If it's true that the new 2TB SAS drives are going to be $4000, that's $2/GB for enterprise grade MLC SAS ssds. That's something to take notice of. Reply
  • rms - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    'indirection tablets' this phrase makes no sense to me; a typo? If not, please add an explanatory ellipsis for it! Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - link

    It should be "tables", not "tablets". Reply

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