|SandForce SF1200 RAID-0 SSD Performance|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 03 May 2010|
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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.
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.