AnandTech Storage Bench 2013

When Anand built the AnandTech Heavy and Light Storage Bench suites in 2011 he did so because we did not 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 we'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, we've shifted focus from simply triggering GC routines to really looking at worst-case scenario performance after prolonged random IO.

For years we'd felt the negative impacts of inconsistent IO performance with all SSDs, but until the S3700 showed up we didn't think to actually measure and visualize IO consistency. The problem with our IO consistency tests is that 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.

We 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. We think we have that test. The new benchmark doesn't even have a name, we'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–we record all IO requests made to a test system, then play them back on the drive we're measuring and run statistical analysis on the drive's responses.

Imitating most modern benchmarks Anand crafted the Destroyer out of a series of scenarios. For this benchmark we 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 we'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 we 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 we 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 we've seen it go is 10 hours. Most high performance SSDs we'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 we just needed something that had a ton of writes so we could start separating the good from the bad. Now that the drives have matured, we felt a test that was a bit more balanced would be a better idea.

Despite the balance recalibration, there is 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, we wanted a test that would give us a bit more of what we're interested in these days. As Anand 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.

We are 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 we've been reporting in our enterprise benchmarks for a while now. With the client tests maturing, the time was right for a little convergence.

AT Storage Bench 2013 - The Destroyer (Data Rate)

The Vertex 460 is only a hair slower than the Vector 150 in our Storage Bench 2013. The difference actually falls into the margin of error, so it seems that in spite of the lower clock speed, the performance is essentially the same.

AT Storage Bench 2013 - The Destroyer (Service Time)

Performance Consistency & TRIM Validation Random & Sequential Performance
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  • Hrel - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    Seems to me Mushkin is the SSD to get right now. Only one rated at 2Million MTBF that I've seen as well as having very high sequential and random IOPS.
  • dcollins - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    Sorry, I don't take chances with storage. Samsung SSDs can't be beaten right now, and have proven rock solid over the last year. My family has 5 in total and most of my teammates at work have 500GB drives. Zero problems, great performance. Going with OCZ just seems needlessly risky.
  • blanarahul - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    And that sums up the review. Samsung is like the Goku of SSDs. Try hard as you might. You can't beat them in long term.
  • LB-ID - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    They have new corporate overlords, but it's still the same OCZ. That's really all I needed to know. I simply cannot trust the people at OCZ for any of the things I care about in a product: reliability, accountability, and service.
  • ezridah - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    The Newegg prices are different for the 2 lower capacity drives today. They are now $120 for the 120GB and $140 for the 240GB. Not a bad price for the 240GB drive. An extra $20 for double the storage is a no-brainer.
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - link

    They've also got the 240GB Crucial M500 for $130 right now...
  • BlakKW - Thursday, January 23, 2014 - link

    "By doing additional validation, OCZ is able to pick the highest endurance parts and use them..."
    I don't understand this and it makes me curious: how can NAND be tested for endurance, and then used in an SSD? It seems to me that any extensive testing would use up a significant portion of the NAND's finite lifespan?
    And if testing the identical parts, how does a test differentiate good vs bad when it comes to endurance?
  • lmcd - Friday, January 24, 2014 - link

    I'm sure the endurance testing doesn't come from simply wearing it out and testing. There may be some extrapolation methods or some different tools altogether.
  • LordConrad - Thursday, January 23, 2014 - link

    I have never had any issues with OCZ SSDs. I think this Vertex 460 looks like a decent drive, although I would go for the Vector due to the longer warranty.
  • chris81 - Thursday, January 23, 2014 - link

    Typo: 4KB Random Read is written twice in the first table. The second one should be Random Write

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