Archive Home arrow Reviews: arrow Storage arrow SandForce SF1200 RAID-0 SSD Performance
SandForce SF1200 RAID-0 SSD Performance E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage
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 SSD Controller

The SandForce SF-1200 SATA-3GBps controller is new to the industry, but many manufacturers are already hailing it as the replacement for Indilinx's industry-leading Barefoot processor. Both are second-generation SATA products limited to 3.0 GB/s transfer speeds, and both offer similar specifications. SandForce adds DuraClass technology to their SF-1200 processor, which claims to provide best-in-class endurance, performance, and lower power consumption. DuraWrite technology extends the endurance of MLC-NAND memory by providing at least five year lifecycles measured with 3000-5000 cycle MLC flash. Additionally, SandForce RAISE technology provides RAID-like protection for single SSD computer systems, and data is secured with AES-128 automatic encryption.

SandForce has hit the 2010 SSD industry with full force, much the same way that Indilinx did back in 2009. Finished-goods companies can utilize the SandForce SF1200 processor in their own product line, which then receives a "SandForce Driven" badge. The SandForce SF-1222 processor is presently available in the ADATA S599, Corsair Force, RunCore Pro-V, Patriot Inferno, OWC Mercury Extreme Pro-RE, G.Skill Phoenix Pro, OCZ Vertex-2, PhotoFast G-Monster 2, OCZ Agility-2, and Mach Xtreme SSD series.

SandForce_SF-1200_SSD_Processor_Top.jpg

From the view above the printed circuit board (PCB), it doesn't look like there's anything dramatically innovative on the SandForce Solid State Drive. Eight flash NAND modules make a horseshoe around the SandForce SF-1200 SSD processor, and plenty of electronics fill in the remaining space atop the printed circuit board. But once the SandForce SSD board is turned to expose the underside, the difference is obvious: SandForce has used their DuraClass technology to remove the DRAM buffer.

SandForce_SF-1200_SSD_Processor_Bottom.jpg

The 2nd-generation SATA-3.0GBps SandForce SF-1222TA3-SBH processor is part of their SF-1200 family of SSD controller chips, and SSDs will utilize either the SF-1200 processor for retail consumers or SF-1500 for enterprise devices. All SandForce SSD controllers offer native TRIM support in Microsoft Windows-7, Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with 32 command slots, and Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) command set. While not directly important to transfer speeds or operational performance, SandForce utilizes a Tensilica Diamond Core DC_570T CPU inside the SF-1200 processor.

SandForce_SF-1222TA3-SBH_Processor.jpg

Another benefit of SandForce's SF-1200 architecture is that the SSD keeps all information on the NAND grid and removes the need for a separate cache buffer DRAM module. The result is a faster transaction, albeit at the expense of total storage capacity. SandForce SSDs utilize over-provisioning technology, which allocates a portion of NAND for data storage and the remainder reserved for transaction and cache buffer space. SandForce has also marketing custom firmware to the finished-goods companies that sell their SSDs, which remove performance restrictions.

The SF-1200 SSD processor provides ECC data protection and includes SandForce's unique RAISE (Redundant Array of Independent Silicon Elements) technology. RAISE provides the protection and reliability of RAID on a single SSD drive, thanks to flash architecture, without the significant write overhead of parity. The SandForce DuraClass technology automatically stores data in AES-128 encrypted format, preventing data extraction directly from the physical flash memory modules.

Micron-Intel_DRAM_29F64G08CAMDB.jpg

Sixteen multi-layer cell Intel 29F64G08CAMDB flash NAND modules are joined to the SandForce SF-1200 controller. On professional-level 28% over-provisioned SandForce SSDs, these NAND modules may combine for 128GB of physical storage space yet only 100GB of this capacity is designated for data. Consumer-level SandForce SSDs receive 7% over-provisioning and 128GB devices will yield 120GB of usable storage space.

Because the SandForce SF-1200 SSD processor inside the many SSDs is a non-exclusive component available market-wide, Benchmark Reviews expects to see many new solid state storage products using this controller in the near future. Please continue on for details and performance results for this Solid State Drive...



 

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!
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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!
Report Comment
 
 
# 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
Report Comment
 
 
# 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?
Report Comment
 
 
# 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
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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.
Report Comment
 
 
# 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
Report Comment
 

Comments have been disabled by the administrator.

Search Benchmark Reviews
QNAP Network Storage Servers

Follow Benchmark Reviews on FacebookReceive Tweets from Benchmark Reviews on Twitter