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Intel 730 480GB SSD Two-Drive RAID Report

By: Jon Coulter | RAID in Storage | Posted: May 7, 2014 2:02 pm

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test


Heavy Usage Model


We consider PCMark 8's consistency test our heavy usage model test. This is the usage model most enthusiasts, heavy duty gamers, and professionals fall into. If you do a lot of gaming, audio/video processing, rendering, or have workloads of this nature, then this test will be most relevant to you.


PCMark 8 has built-in, command-line executed storage testing. The PCMark 8 Consistency test measures the performance consistency and degradation tendency of a storage system.


The Storage test workloads are repeated. Between each repetition, the storage system is bombarded with usage that causes degraded drive performance. In the first part of the test, the cycle continues until a steady degraded level of performance has been reached (Steady State).


In the second part, the recovery of the system is tested by allowing the system to idle and measuring the performance with long intervals (TRIM).


The test reports the performance level at the start, the degraded steady-state, the recovered state, and the number of iterations required to reach the degraded state and the recovered state.


We feel Futuremark's Consistency Test is the best test ever devised to show the true performance of solid state storage in a heavy usage scenario. This test takes on average 13 to 17 hours to complete and writes somewhere between 450GB and 7000GB of test data depending on the drive(s) being tested. If you want to know what an SSD's performance is going to look like after a few months or years of heavy usage, this test will show you.


Here's a breakdown of Futuremark's Consistency Test:


Precondition phase:


1. Write to the drive sequentially through up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).


Degradation phase:


1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 10 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 8 times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by 5 minutes.


Steady state phase:


1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.


Recovery phase:


1. Idle for 5 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.



Storage Bandwidth


PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we can use to judge a drive's performance.




We consider steady state bandwidth (the blue bar) as our test that carries the most weight in ranking a drive's performance. The reason we consider steady state performance more important than TRIM is that when you are running a heavy-duty workload, TRIM will not be occurring while that workload is being executed. TRIM performance (the orange and red bars) is what we consider the second most important consideration when ranking a drive's performance. Trace based consistency testing is where true high performing SSDs are separated from the rest of the pack.


Like I stated earlier, IMFT Flash scales far better than Toshiba Flash does. You heard it here first. Our two-drive 730 series array manages to scale OVER 100 percent (write caching takes it over 100 percent); the best I've ever seen Toshiba Flash scale is 67 percent in an OS environment and in a steady state. What this means is that while Toshiba Flash based drives can outperform a single 730 series SSD, superior scaling gives our two-drive 730 array more performance than our Toshiba Flash based arrays. In case you are wondering, it is the flash, not magic firmware or the controller, that's producing the scaling we are seeing here.


How do I know? Because every IMFT Flash equipped array I've tested scales right about 100 percent, regardless of controller, brand, or BGA or TSOP packages; it simply doesn't matter. Here's the thing: the 730 is the first IMFT Flash based drive with enough base horsepower to defeat our Toshiba Flash based arrays. Our 730 series array soundly defeats the competition, becoming TweakTown's RAID performance champion.


We retired our 840 Pro array from this testing due to its inferior performance. In its place, I thought it would be interesting to see how a much-celebrated PCIe SSD would fair against our top arrays. As you can see, the Revo 350 480GB PCIe card with its 1800MB/s sequential performance, 4 controllers, and PCIe interface is no match for any of our arrays. In fact, the Revo 350 can't even muster enough performance to beat one 730, despite its nearly $2/gigabyte price tag.


I feel it is going to be quite a while before any consumer based PCIe card is going to be able to outperform a properly configured, high-quality two-drive SATA array. I believe it's going to take NVMe drives that can be put in RAID to defeat our SATA based arrays in an OS environment.




We chart our test subjects' storage bandwidth as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations. This gives us a good visual perspective of how our test subjects perform as testing progresses.



Total Access Time (Latency)


Access time is the time delay or latency between a request to an electronic system and the access being completed or the requested data returned. Access time is how long it takes to get data back from the disk. We chart the total time the disk is accessed as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations.




This is our clearest example of the benefits of RAID write caching. Latency improves on an order of magnitude in comparison to a single drive. This is not a function of scaling; this is a function of write caching that's not available for a single drive.



Disk Busy Time


Disk Busy Time is how long the disk is busy working. We chart the total time the disk is working as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations.




When latency is low, disk busy time is low as well. Our 730 array is able to spend up to six times less time working than a single 730.



Data Written


We measure the total amount of random data that the drives are capable of writing during the degradation phases of the consistency test. The total combined time that degradation data is written to the drives is 470 minutes. This can be very telling. The better the drives can process a continuous stream of random data, the more data will be written.




Our 730 array is able to write 5200 gigabytes of random data in 470 minutes. The 730's enterprise pedigree delivers great performance in this test; however, our heavily overprovisioned 600 Series Pro array can write more random data in the same amount of time. Again, the Revo 350 displays inferior performance in an OS environment; just keep that in mind when you hear how the Revo "breaks the SATA bottleneck."

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