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Written by Olin Coles   
Monday, 03 May 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
SandForce SF1200 RAID-0 SSD Performance
Features and Specifications
SandForce SF-1200 SSD Controller
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
SSD vs Hard Disk Drive
SandForce RAID-0 Conclusion

SandForce SF-1200 RAID-0 SSD Performance

The SandForce SF-1222TA3-SBH processor is part of the SF-1200 SSD controller family, and through various new technology implementations SandForce has redefined performance expectations for the entire solid state storage landscape. Not only are bandwidth speeds extremely fast (nearly saturating the SATA-3GB/s interface), but operational IOPS performance reaches SLC-NAND levels. Additionally, SandForce RAISE technology provides redundant protection for single SSD computer systems, and data is automatically secured with AES-128 encryption. Benchmark Reviews has individually tested the ADATA S599, Corsair Force F100, and RunCore Pro-V SSDs, all which use the SandForce SF-1200 controller, but we've never experimented with these drives in a combined array. For this article, Benchmark Reviews tests two SandForce SF-1200 SSDs in a striped RAID-0 array to unleash absolute performance.

The biggest mistake PC hardware enthusiast make with SSDs is grading them by their speed. File transfer speed is important, but only so long as the operational IOPS performance can sustain that bandwidth under load. Installing a single SSD into a system that previously used a hard drive storage device will produce dramatic improvements, but for this project, two of the most powerful prosumer SSDs on the market are combined into a striped 4KB/128KB RAID-0 array to provide maximum speed and performance at the cost of data redundancy. It's true that if one disk fails in a RAID-0 array that all data is lost, but some hardcore gamers and PC hardware enthusiasts are willing to take that risk. So long as backup precautions are in place, the payoff can be worth the gamble.

In a very short time span the entire SSD market has created and recreated itself many times over. Counting the generations of SSD processors has become difficult for experienced experts, and keeping-up with controller architecture has come with its own set of challenges. Benchmark Reviews has tested many Solid State Drive products, and we've seen everything from dual-SATA controllers in RAID-0 to extremely large cache buffer modules used inside of them. While the SSD industry grows daily, only a few select manufacturers offer popularly-accepted Flash NAND SSD controllers. While the SSD industry grows daily, only a few select manufacturers offer popularly-accepted Flash NAND SSD controllers. As of May 2010 the most popular consumer SSD controllers are: Indilinx IDX110M00-FC "Barefoot", Intel PC29AS21AA0, JMicron JMF612, Toshiba T6UG1XBG, Samsung S3C29RBB01-YK40, SandForce SF-1200/1500, and the Marvell 88SS9174-BJP2 SATA 6Gb/s SSD controller.

SandForce-SF1200_RAID0_SSD-Test_Splash.jpg

For decades, the slowest component in any computer system was the hard drive. Most modern processors operate within approximately 1-ns (nanosecond = one billionth of one second) response time, while system memory responds between 30-90 ns. Traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) technology utilizes magnetic spinning media, and even the fastest spinning desktop storage products exhibit a 9,000,000 ns - or 9 ms (millisecond = one thousandth of one second) initial response time. In more relevant terms, The processor receives the command and waits for system memory to fetch related data from the storage drive. This is why any computer system is only as fast as the slowest component in the data chain; which is usually the hard drive.

The theoretical goal for achieving optimal performance is for system memory to operate as quickly as the central processor, and the storage drive to operate as fast as memory. With present technology this is an impossible task, so enthusiasts try to close the speed gaps between components as much as possible. Although system memory is up to 90x (9000%) slower than most processors, just consider that the hard drive is an added 1000x (100,000%) slower than that same memory. Essentially, these three components are as different in speed as walking is to driving and flying.

Solid State Drive technology bridges the largest gap. The difference a SSD makes to operational reaction times and program speeds is dramatic, and takes the storage drive from a slow 'walking' speed to a much faster 'driving' speed. Solid State Drive technology improves initial response times by more than 450x (45,000%) for applications and Operating System software, when compared to their HDD counterparts.

Bandwidth Speed vs Operational Performance

As we've explained in our SSD Benchmark Tests: SATA IDE vs AHCI Mode guide, Solid State Drive performance revolves around two dynamics: bandwidth speed (MB/s) and operational performance (IOPS). These two metrics work together, but one is more important than the other. Consider this analogy: operational IOPS performance determines how much cargo a ship can transport in one voyage, and the bandwidth speed is to fast the ship moves. By understanding this and applying it to SSD storage, there is a clear importance set on each variable depending on the task at hand.

For casual users, especially those with laptop or desktop computers that have been upgraded to use an SSD, the naturally quick response time is enough to automatically improve the user experience. Bandwidth speed is important, but only to the extent that operational performance meets the minimum needs of the system. If an SSD has a very high bandwidth speed but a low operational performance, it will take longer to load applications and boot the computer into Windows than if the SSD offered a higher IOPS performance.



 

Comments 

 
# Performance is there but not the priceK Gregory 2010-05-04 15:21
I'm not a SSD owner, and I had written them off as way over-hyped and exponentially over priced. I looked toward the 'PCI-e SSD' solution as the one to wait for,watch and mature. Of course the astronomical prices are completely unjustified as well.

However the SanForce controller is not over-hyped. The products are still exponentially over priced but I must now watch SSD's and view them as a product to consider when the prices reach below SAS at near offered capacities.

Great review again!
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# User experience sells the productOlin Coles 2010-05-04 15:26
Like NVIDIA's GeForce 3D-Vision technology, all you see is another tech gadget... until you try it for yourself. That's what I thought about SSDs three years ago, but when I was loaned one for testing and loaded Windows, I was immediately sold. Had I known how many SSDs I would eventually test (now nearing 50), I wouldn?t have paid money to be an early adopter.
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# Systems Development ConsultantPaul A. Mitchell 2010-05-05 05:31
SATA/3G is NOT the current standard.

Please also test with 2 x Crucial RealSSD C300 in RAID 0,
even if it's necessary to use the software RAID in Windows
+ an inexpensive 6G controller like the ASUS PCIE GEN2 SATA6G
controller.

And, comparing other host controllers would also be a good test
e.g. Highpoint 640, Intel's RS2BL040, and the integrated
6G ports on AMD's latest 890FX chipsets on motherboards by
ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte.

Until more SSDS conform to the current standard,
we will just have to wait and see what happens
to market prices for 3G and 6G products
when both are widely available.

That's why I'm waiting (for now).


MRFS
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# RE: Systems Development ConsultantOlin Coles 2010-05-05 07:22
Paul: SATA-3GB/s may not be the most current standard, but that's what the SandForce controllers are designed for, and that's what the majority of systems can support. I try to reach the largest enthusiast audience possible with my articles.

I only have one Crucial C300 SSD, and there aren't any plans to purchase a second unit. I do have a RAID-capable SATA 6Gb/s controller, if you or anyone else would like to loan one out. Comparing host controllers would be interesting, but since it would be specific to brands and drivers I'm not confident of the articles' shelf life.

In reality, a single SSD of any denomination will deliver virtually the same end-user experience as a RAID-0 array.

Also- I used Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver 9.6.0.1014 for this article.
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# software RAID?Paul A. Mitchell 2010-05-05 09:37
FYI: I've already written to Olin privately,
so the following comments are for the benefit of
other readers:

We recently added 2 cheap SATA/6G ports with this ASUS
PCIE GEN2 SATA6G controller -- only $20 at Newegg here:

##newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131610&Tpk=N82E16813131610

Yes, that card does NOT support RAID.

So, we had no trouble enabling XP's software RAID 0
with 2 x new WD 1TB SATA/6G HDDs:

##newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136533&Tpk=N82E16822136533

Just convert partitions to "dynamic disks" and you're almost there.

Can someone loan Olin one more Crucial C300 SSD, maybe Crucial,
so he can compare software RAID 0 with 2 x SATA/6G SSDs?

It might even work with Intel's latest Rapid Storage Technology
set to JBOD on both devices.

Until then ...
... keep up the good work, Olin!


MRFS
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# Suggesting software Raid 0?K Gregory 2010-05-05 15:11
Software Raid is not the reason for most SSD purchases.(only guessing from all the forums,reviews and the like) I believe most SSD's are purchased to be the boot drive. Whether its a single SSD or a Raid0 SSD boot drive(OS/System), perhaps the standard testing/reviewing should continue to reflect hardware configurations only for SSD articles.

OS Software Raid solutions can alter the testing results when compared to Hardware Raid. This is due to caching, CPU utilization(compute) , increased latency(I/O), and even performance increases in Software configured Raid benchmarks that would not appear in Hardware configured Raid benchmarks(such as queuing/scheduling and the like).

-just some thoughts, but I'm sure Benchmark Reviews will keep having thorough reviews.
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# SSDs and RAIDOlin Coles 2010-05-05 15:16
In my twelves years as an IT professional, I have never used a software-based RAID array. RAID-1/5/10 arrays have always been built and managed through a HBA controller, which removes overhead from the rest of the system. As far as SSDs go, it would be safe to say that at leat 95% of them are used in single-drive configuration... usually as the boot drive.

As for using the the PCIe-based SATA 6Gb/s add-in cards for a RAID array, or even a compatible SAS controller, the PCI-Express bus is still limited to 5GB/s bandwidth.
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# I should've guessed...K Gregory 2010-05-06 17:56
Most SSD's were only single drive configurations. Perhaps as prices decrease there will be more of a shift towards 2 drives in RAID-0.

As I posted earlier, now that controllers like this SandForce are out I am going to focus on SSD's considerably more. I'll scrutinize the prices on SSD's considerably more as well!
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# HBA controller removes overheadPaul A. Mitchell 2010-05-05 16:47
> HBA controller ... removes overhead from the rest of the system

I agree that this has been a major marketing tool
of HBA vendors, but a lot of those vendors began
their HBA marketing when CPUs had only one core.

Now, with dual and quad-core CPUs quite common,
the idle core(s) can do a lot of the same computation
that was previously done by dedicated IOPs.

Multi-cores, in turn, can make software RAID
a very cost-effective proposition, e.g.
for the 8 GB database that we manage and
update cheaply with XCOPY.


MRFS
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# Software 'storage' RAID agreementK Gregory 2010-05-06 17:51
There is full agreement here that software RAID can be both cost effective and offer fantastic performance with modern 4-Core and up CPU's. Software RAID(configured correctly)however is only risk free when its 'storage RAID' and not 'Boot RAID' -at least with Hard Drives.

But back to Olin Coles testing with HBA/Raid Controllers...

Way to go! That's the industry wide accepted standard for most RAID. Software RAID would really change the benchmarks, and probably greatly when considering SSD's. But that would be a great article right there. Since so much technology has changed, what is the performance and benching differences between Software and Hardware RAID today on SSD's and HDD's? Perhaps coming soon to Benchmark reviews?
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# PCI-Express bus is still limited to 5GB/s?Paul A. Mitchell 2010-05-05 16:49
> the PCI-Express bus is still limited to 5GB/s bandwidth

#en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_Express#PCI_Expr ess_2.0

"... a 32-lane PCI connector (x32) can support throughput up to 16 GB/s aggregate."

Thus, PCI-E 2.0 x16 lanes support 8 GB/second bandwidth.


Did you mean 5 Gigabits per second, instead of 5 Gigabytes per second?


I think you must be referring to a single PCI-E 2.0 x1 lane,
in only one direction.

PCI-E 1.0 x1 lane has a bandwidth of 2.5 Gb/sec in each direction;
PCI-E 2.0 x1 lane has a bandwidth of 5.0 Gb/sec in each direction.

Quadruple each for x4 lanes, and double that again for x8 lanes e.g.
Highpoint RocketRAID 2720 or Intel RS2BL080.

The edge connector on the add-in card is a quick indicator
of a RAID card's rated bandwidth.


MRFS
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# RE: PCI-Express bus is still limited to 5GB/s?Andre 2010-08-30 12:53
Actually, the edge connector only determines the maximum possible number of lanes, not the actual used. You could stick a x4 card into a x16 slot, and only get 4 lanes used; or you could stick a x16-sized card (with 4 actual lanes) into a x16 slot and still only use 4 lanes.
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# SSD userAdam Smith 2010-07-11 05:54
Recently bought Ocz Vertex 2 50 GB
Tech at OCZ explained overprovisioning as a MAJOR FACTOR in the usable lifespan of an MLC ssd.

I am using it as my major drive because it is bootable too.

When installing these you must install windows while the bios is set for ACHI for the best performance.

Also turn off indexing and all the "performance" enhancing options in windows.

Windows is SO MUCH FASTER. The internet on the slowest DSL is so much improved.

I have asus ma4a89gtd pro/usb3 (stock athlon II 635 4 core 2.9GHZ processor + windows 7 pro) and the drive set up to usb 6gbs - but I don't think usb3 makes any speed difference.
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# Trim not possible with Raidstw500 2011-02-14 01:58
The article states that Trim is possible...but thats not true when using Raid. Until now there is NO Controller which enables trim support using Raid. So the article lacks of testing the long behaviour of a ssd-raid without trim support...perhaps you should have read some anandtech articles to that theme.
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# RE: Trim not possible with RaidOlin Coles 2011-02-14 07:33
Yes, this article states that TRIM support is possible on SandForce-driven SSDs. But it also states "Most RAID controllers lack pass-through TRIM support" in the Cons section of the conclusion... perhaps you should have read some of this article instead of trying to point out your favorite website.
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# RE: RE: Trim not possible with Raidstw500 2011-02-14 07:53
well, on last page "SandForce RAID-0 Conclusion" there is written, "...Intel's ICH-10 SATA controller allows pass-through TRIM functionality, but only with their latest Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) software...". That means for readers, that this controller is able to pass the trim command, but isnt true. The note in the cons, "Most RAID controllers lack pass-through TRIM support" does not balance the pretence the ich10R is capable of trim in raid-mode. Anandtech is not my favourite website, i mentioned it just for an example. When an article about raid-0 with ssds is written, then one of the most important fact is, that trim is not possible. And that has to be mentioned not just as the last note. By the way, it would have been great to test the long behaviour. Some people state that Sandforce dont need trim to stay at full performance after the first slow down which happens all the time.
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# RE: RE: RE: Trim not possible with RaidOlin Coles 2011-02-14 07:57
Please also be aware that Intel originally told consumers that TRIM was supported in RAID arrays with ICH10. See here: intel.com/support/chipsets/imsm/sb/CS-031491.htm
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