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Intel 730 480GB 6-Drive SSD RAID Report

By: Jon Coulter | RAID in Storage | Posted: Jun 20, 2014 10:12 pm

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test


Heavy Usage Model


We consider PCMark 8's consistency test to be 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 the degradation tendency of a storage system.


The Storage test workloads are repeated. Between each repetition, the storage system is bombarded with a 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, and the recovered state, as well as 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 it writes somewhere between 450GB and 13,600GB 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/arrays performance.




We consider steady state bandwidth (the blue bar) our test that carries the most weight in ranking a drive/arrays 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/arrays performance. Trace based consistency testing is where true high performing SSDs are separated from the rest of the pack.


This is where we get down to the heart of the matter. Our 730 arrays, despite being bandwidth handicapped, do not max out at 3 drives like most arrays we have tested. A 2-drive 730 array is faster than any other 2-drive SATA array, or PCIe drive in an OS environment to begin with and performance still keeps climbing as we move beyond a 3-drive array.




We chart our test subject's 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 a great visual representation of what RAID brings to the table. A single 730 is very fast, but the real magic happens when you RAID 2 or more 730 drives together. The 730's enterprise DNA really shines in RAID.



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 tests 18 trace iterations.




When latency is low, disk busy time is low as well. In a steady state, a 730 array spends up to seven times less time working than a single 730 with the exact same workload.



Data Written


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




This data shows an aspect of performance that typical benchmarks simply cannot. Even though we are handicapped by our Lynx Point chipset's limited sequential bandwidth, we observe perfect scaling from 1-6 drives, culminating in our 6-drive 3-terabyte array delivering a massive thirteen thousand six hundred gigabytes of random data written in 470 minutes.


Gratuitous Benchmarking


This is where we show you what our arrays performance looks like when powered by the fastest operating system for SATA based storage ever made; Windows Server 2008. This is the exact same hardware just an OS change. This is our 6 drive array with 32K stripes.












You can't get performance like this from Windows 8 or 8.1 you can get very close with Windows 7, but nothing performs quite as good as Server 2008 when it comes to SATA based storage. 4K write performance is vastly superior on Server 2008 and Windows 7 in comparison to Windows 8 or 8.1. It's really no wonder that a lot of review sites have stuck with Windows 7, it makes their benchmarks look better.

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