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HighPoint SSD6540 Kit Review - Full Speed External 4x NVMe

By Chris Ramseyer from Sep 13, 2018 @ 10:00 CDT

DAS Performance Testing


We loaded the system with four 280GB Intel Optane SSD 900P drives. The software was easy to configure and provided enough options to tune the storage array for the type of data we are working with.


In hindsight, the Optane SSDs were not the best option for large block size sequential workloads. The drives perform well, but other products can deliver higher sequential read and write performance. That said, if your application is data dependent, Optane technology delivers the lowest transaction time in the industry.


For our test today, we configured the HighPoint SSD6540 system in RAID 0. We ran two stripe sizes, 16KB and 512KB to see if the larger stripe delivered higher sequential performance.


There really isn't anything on the market quite like the SSD6540 enclosure. There are a number of Thunderbolt 3 systems, like the LaCie 12big, but they only provide a quarter of the bandwidth to the external enclose. The SSD6540 is more like a PCIe-attached storage solution. The company makes an add-in card version that allows you to install M.2 drives and keep the array inside the system.


We reached for our LaCie 12big and 8big systems to compare to the HighPoint SSD6540. These systems utilize Thunderbolt technology and hard disk drives to accelerate direct-attached storage through RAID.



Sequential Read Performance








We have three difference sequential read measurements. The first is a line chart using a single stream coming from the target appliances. We tested the SSD6540 with two stripe sizes, 16KB and 512KB. The 16KB delivers a more consistent read from the HighPoint with Optane 900P SSDs.


The second chart shows a simple queue depth 1 read at increasing block sizes. This shows the SSD6540's superior performance between 64KB to 512KB blocks.


The third chart shows sequential 128KB blocks at increasing queue depths. As we mentioned previously, Intel designed Optane SSDs for high random performance and low transaction times. The 900P lacks high sequential read performance at higher queue depths compared to many other NVMe SSDs. The Optane SSDs do deliver superior low queue depth performance in every workload. Most creative workflows fall between queue depth 1 and 4 in a DAS, single user, environment.



Sequential Write Performance








We use the same three measurements for the sequential write tests. The first with a single queue depth and worker write across the entire user range of the storage. The SSD6540 system with a 16KB stripe size is more consistent than with a 512KB array stripe. The 16KB stripe is also faster.


The block size test shows the Optane array with the HighPoint external system outperforms the three LaCie disk-based arrays. We expected to see similar results in the read tests but the LaCie systems have a cache in place to increase performance. The cache isn't as effective when writing data to the arrays.


In the third test, we write 128KB data sequentially to the arrays. The Optane SSDs prove again to deliver superior low queue depth performance and that shouldn't change in any of the synthetic tests today.




Sequential Mixed Performance




Before we analyze the sequential mixed workload performance, we want to talk about what this test actually does. In your creative workflow, you may simply read data, write data or do both. Let's say you read two video streams from a storage device with Adobe Premier and write a new stream back to the array. If the streams are all at the same bit rate, which would be a 66% read workload. We call these mixed workloads. Hard drives and even SATA SSDs often have a difficult time reading and writing data at the same time. SATA simply can't read and write at the same time, so native command queuing will prioritize the data. Anytime you have the data waiting, you introduce latency.


On the chart, we see the mixed workloads latency slowing performance on the LaCie systems, but the Optane array with NVMe over the PCIe bus increases performance as you ask the system to manage more IO tasks.


In our Adobe Premier example, you may have the fastest, highest core count processor with a dedicated GPU to accelerate rendering but your storage can limit the performance of the system. This is the exact type of workflow LaCie's Big series is for, but without a massive cache, these systems are not comparable to the HighPoint SSD6540. It important to remember we didn't use SSDs optimized for high sequential performance at high queue depths. In an array with other drives, the sequential performance would likely be much higher.



Random Read Performance






If your workflow includes running applications directly from the DAS, nothing is better than 3D XPoint found in Optane products. The two charts in the random read test are similar to those found above except we use smaller block sizes in the first and full random 4KB in the second.



Random Write Performance






The random write test results with the SSD6540 dwarf the LaCie 12big and 8big results. To be fair, these systems are a better fit for sequential workloads, but you can choose components, and tune the HighPoint kit to get favorable random performance as well.



Random Mixed Performance




Meltdown and other vulnerability fixes have limited random performance with flash and 3D XPoint with a single CPU worker, but it is still possible to reach very high levels. Mixing random reads and writes are hell on hard disk drives. Generally, storage systems must employ large DRAM buffers to meet acceptable performance levels, but it's difficult to compete with flash and 3D XPoint media for disk-based systems.



Application Performance




PCMark 8's Standard Storage Test uses ten application traces to measure performance across a wide workload range. We've included more products and array types in this chart to better show how powerful the HighPoint SSD6540 kit is with NVMe connected drives.

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