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Defining NVMe - Hands-on testing with the 1.6TB Intel P3700 SSD

By: Paul Alcorn | PCIe SSDs in IT/Datacenter | Posted: Jun 24, 2014 3:54 pm

4k Random Test Results




The Intel P3700 peaks at 467,055 IOPS with 256 OIO (Outstanding I/O), well below the 728,111 IOPS from the Micron P420m. The Virident FlashMAX II averages 350,532 IOPS. One area to note is the impressive performance from the Intel P3700 at 32, 64, and 128 OIO. The P3700 performs very well under these relatively light workloads. The FlashMAX II also demonstrates excellent performance at 8 and 16 OIO.




While the Intel P3700 trails the Micron P420m in IOPS, it outperforms the P420m in terms of latency. The FlashMAX II is competitive in this respect, but the overall advantage goes to the P3700.




Comparing IOPS to latency highlights the performance enhancements of the Intel P3700. At .2ms the P3700 delivers an astounding 435,000 IOPS, while the P420m scores 150,000 IOPS and the FlashMAX II provides 280,000 IOPS. The FlashMAX II actually provides lower latency until it reaches 180,000 IOPS, but then the P3700 dominates the remainder of the chart. The P420m delivers excellent performance and IOPS top out much higher than competing devices, but requires a high OIO load to leverage its parallelism advantage. This has the side effect of adding latency, presumably from system overhead.


The P3700 delivers lower latency until it reaches 460,000 IOPS, its effective performance limitation. The P3700 delivers almost 400,000 IOPS before it reaches the same latency the P420m begins with at 50,000 IOPS.


We also included a 6Gb/s SATA Intel DC S3700 and a 12Gb/s SAS HGST SSD800MM as reference markers for the performance of two leading traditional 2.5" SSDs. The DC S3700 and its SATA/AHCI connection do not scale well, and performance does not increase much as it adds latency. The SSD800MH and its 12Gb/s SAS connection scale well as we reach its top speed of 130,000 IOPS, but latency increases quickly as it reaches the limit of its performance.




One of the most important benefits of NVMe is the reduction in processor overhead for input/output operations. Streamlining of the I/O submission and completion process yields a performance advantage, and we describe the process in detail in the coming pages.


We measure IOPS performance for each 0.1% of CPU utilization by dividing the number of IOPS during the test window by the CPU utilization. We are testing with a dual E5-2680 v2 test system, and the high number of cores (40 logical) results in some results under 1%, forcing us to measure at greater granularity. We recorded these results without the IOPS generation overhead from our test tool.


The P3700 easily leads this test with an average of 78,843 IOPS. The P420m falls in behind at 52,937 IOPS. The Virident takes third place, and the SATA and SAS representatives lag far behind in efficiency.




The host system creates an interrupt when there is an I/O request. A high number of interrupts can affect processor performance, which leads to work processing I/O that could potentially be dedicated to applications. One of the key advantages of NVMe is interrupt coalescence, which allows the protocol to service several commands per interrupt. We cover that process in more detail later in the article. To compare processor efficiency we recorded the number of IOPS processed per interrupt for each of the competing solutions.


The Intel P3700 easily leads this test with an average of nearly four IOPS per interrupt during the measurement window. The P420m comes in a close second with just shy of 3.5 IOPS per interrupt. Micron utilizes a custom driver for their controller and is one of the leaders of NVMe development. It is important to note that Micron actually has different interrupt coalescence settings in the RealSSD Manager. We may be observing some traces of NVMe-esque interrupt coalescence from the Micron driver.


The Virident FlashMAX II handles its drive management operations, such as garbage collection and wear leveling, on the host system, likely penalizing it in this test. The 6Gb/s SATA and 12Gb/s SAS representatives also provide less than half an IOP per interrupt.




The Intel P3700 leads easily in this test, delivering nearly its maximum performance of 148,989 IOPS with only 8 OIO. The P420m also delivers performance right out of the gate and tops out at nearly 110,000 IOPS. The FlashMAX II requires more parallelism to add performance, but tops out at 120,000 IOPS at 256 OIO.




The P3700 leads across the board as expected, with superb latency performance that leads every test.




The P3700 is simply outstanding in this test. It leads the pack and delivers the absolute lowest latency at nearly full performance. The performance in this heavy write workload also outstrips competitors. This illustrates the advantages of NVMe providing superior latency, and represents Intel's impressive engineering focus on delivering performance under low load conditions. This low-load performance has a tangible impact on application performance, and we delve into that aspect in the full product evaluation.


The HGST SSD800MH deserves honorable mention; its performance of 100,000 IOPS at such low latency (nearly that of the FlashMAX II) is a testament to the performance of 12Gb/s SAS. The poor DC S3700 is far alone to the left, clearly outclassed and out of its element. While not tuned for heavy write workloads the P420m delivers solid performance, albeit at a much higher starting latency in comparison to the other entrants.




The overall processor efficiency of the NVMe protocol and the P3700 come into clear focus during our 4k random write test. The P3700 flaunts more than double the CPU efficiency in comparison to competing solutions.




The P3700 once again leads the interrupt testing, and the Micron P420m follows on its heels. The other solutions are not close to the interrupt efficiency provided by the P3700 and P420m.




The P420m delivers monstrous read performance, but as we mix in writes the P3700 overtakes it at the 30% write mixture and takes the lead for the remainder of the chart.

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