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Intel DC P3700 800GB NVMe vs. Intel 730 Series SATA SSD RAID Report

By: Jon Coulter | RAID in Storage | Posted: Jul 17, 2014 2:00 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.


The DC P3700 puts up a monster performance for a single drive, delivering 2.5x the performance of OCZ's newly launched Revo 350 PCIe SSD. This is a perfect example of what NVMe protocol brings to the table. The Revo 350 has the hardware specifications to be much faster than it actually is, but because it communicates through AHCI protocol, it performs like a monster engine with a tiny carburetor.


In a heavy-duty consumer based OS workload environment, there is still nothing that can defeat a SATA based array composed of three or more Intel 730 480GB SSD's. RAID is the magic sauce, and as enthusiasts, we want our RAID array to be bootable, which is not currently an option for PCIe drives when in RAID mode.


It is likely that if Intel were to tune the DC P3700 for consumer workloads, it would be able to outperform our 730 arrays. I will point out again that this result is as far as we have seen is particular to the 730. All non-730 3-6 drive arrays we have tested cannot outperform Intel's DC P3700 800GB NVMe.




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.




Our arrays have superior write latency at low queue depths where consumer workloads reside. The DC P3700 delivers the most consistent latency, however, our arrays deliver lower latency.



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.



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.




In this aspect of our testing, the DC P3700 really delivers. This is a testament to the power of NVMe. Look at the Revo 350; it is so limited by AHCI protocol that it cannot equal a single 730 480GB SSD in this test. Our DC P3700 is able to deliver random write performance that falls right in-between our 5 and 6 drive arrays.

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