Network Gaming Storage Testing
Square Enix recently released a new game-focused benchmark that builds on the Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood test. The new test is quite similar in both function and name, Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers.
Like the former benchmark, Shadowbringers includes a level loading test that is excellent for testing the storage subsystem performance.
Game Load Time
For the test today, we have five results. The first is the gold standard, a Samsung 850 Pro SSD with the operating system and the game on the disk. The second result is a Seagate IronWolf Pro 12TB drive inside the local PC. The last three results are with remote storage with the game on the NAS. The middle test uses eight Seagate IronWolf Pro 12TB SSDs in RAID 6 over a 1-gigabit network. Then we have the same configuration except we moved the network to 10-gigabit. Finally, we have two SanDisk Extreme Pro SATA SSDs in a read + write cache configuration, also over a 10-gigabit network.
The performance scales exactly how we expect it to as we move from the internal drives to the network storage. The test is with a single PC, but all PCs connected to the NAS see similar performance with SSD cache and a 10GbE network.
You don't need to attach 20+ PCs to network storage for games to make iSCSI gaming worthwhile. Clearly for a single system, as long as you have the space to add enough drives to hold your games, local storage is cheaper and easier to maintain. When you have more than one PC that needs a lot of capacity network storage starts to make more sense.
The ideal setup is a smaller SSD in the local PC for your operating system and some frequently used files. The NAS then takes up the role of mass storage for your applications, movies, music and other multimedia files. This helps to keep the OS SSD clutter free thus keeping it faster (SSDs slow as you put more data on the drive).
The NAS makes financial sense as well when you have a handful of gaming PCs. You still have the cost of HDDs but you save on SSDs. Two smaller SSDs (we used two 240GB models) do a very good job of caching data. You could run a similar HDD + SSD cache configuration in every PC but then you lose the NAS benefits.
The NAS you use plays an important role in the performance. We like Asustor systems for iSCSI and running applications across the network. The Asustor NAS use some system memory for cache and that helps with latency.
Asustor also has a good assortment of applications that run right on the NAS. This is the most talked about feature after people buy a NAS; "I can do so much stuff I never thought about before." You will likely start by using a NAS to hold your games and other applications but quickly move to using the system for so much more.