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SandForce SF1200 RAID-0 SSD Performance E-mail
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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

SSD Testing Methodology

Solid State Drives have traveled a long winding course to finally get where they are today. Up to this point in technology, there have been several key differences separating Solid State Drives from magnetic rotational Hard Disk Drives. While the DRAM-based buffer size on desktop HDDs has recently reached 32 MB and is ever-increasing, there is still a hefty delay in the initial response time. This is one key area in which flash-based Solid State Drives continually dominates because they lack moving parts to "get up to speed".

However the benefits inherent to SSDs have traditionally fallen off once the throughput begins, even though data reads or writes are executed at a high constant rate whereas the HDD tapers off in performance. This makes the average transaction speed of a SSD comparable to the data burst rate mentioned in HDD tests, albeit usually lower than the HDD's speed.

Comparing a Solid State Disk to a standard Hard Disk Drives is always relative; even if you're comparing the fastest rotational spindle speeds. One is going to be many times faster in response (SSDs), while the other is usually going to have higher throughput bandwidth (HDDs). Additionally, there are certain factors which can affect the results of a test which we do our best to avoid.

RAID-0 Stripe Mode

This article presents two opposing views: one set of results using RAID-0 configured with 4KB stripe sizes, and the other using Intel's ICH10 maximum of 128KB stripes. Many PC hardware enthusiasts ask which RAID-0 stripe size is better, without understanding the implications involved with the answer. There are countless variables that could make one size perform better than another and a magnetic hard drive, but for solid state storage products the response time is up to 450x faster and therefore has less impact on performance. More often than not, the size of files stored on the drive are the key indicator behind the appropriate RAID-0 stripe size.

Each stripe of data is a specific size. If a stripe size is set to 4KB, then a 4KB file would be written by only one drive using a single stripe. However, if that file is 8KB, then it would be split in half and written to both drives. Not many files are as small as 4KB anymore, which creates a storage processing penalty when larger files are written. For example, if a 4KB stripe is assigned and a 4MB file is written, then 500 date stripes are written to each drive. When these same drives are assigned a 128KB stripe size, each drive is written to only 31 times. This may create the illusion that larger stripe file sizes are better, but SSDs could possibly change this dynamic.

SSD Testing Disclaimer

Early on in our SSD coverage, Benchmark Reviews published an article which detailed Solid State Drive Benchmark Performance Testing. The research and discussion that went into producing that article changed the way we now test SSD products. Our previous perceptions of this technology were lost on one particular difference: the wear leveling algorithm that makes data a moving target. Without conclusive linear bandwidth testing or some other method of total-capacity testing, our previous performance results were rough estimates at best.

Our test results were obtained after each SSD had been prepared using DISKPART or Sanitary Erase tools. As a word of caution, applications such as these offer immediate but temporary restoration of original 'pristine' performance levels. In our tests, we discovered that the maximum performance results (charted) would decay as subsequent tests were performed. SSDs attached to TRIM enabled Operating Systems will benefit from continuously refreshed performance, whereas older O/S's will require a garbage collection (GC) tool to avoid 'dirty NAND' performance degradation.

It's critically important to understand that no software for the Microsoft Windows platform can accurately measure SSD performance in a comparable fashion. Synthetic benchmark tools such as HD Tach and PCMark are helpful indicators, but should not be considered the ultimate determining factor. That factor should be measured in actual user experience of real-world applications. Benchmark Reviews includes both bandwidth benchmarks and application speed tests to present a conclusive measurement of product performance.

Test System

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 (Intel X58-Express)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-920 BX80601920 @ 2.667 GHz
  • System Memory: 6GB Triple-Channel DDR3 1600MHz CL6-6-6-18
  • SATA 3Gb/s Storage HBA: Integrated Intel ICH10R Controller
    • AHCI mode - Intel Rapid Storage Technology Driver 9.6.0.1014
  • SATA 6Gb/s Storage HBA: Integrated Marvell SE9128 Controller
    • AHCI mode - Marvell Magni Driver Marvell Magni Driver 1.0.0.1036
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate Edition 64-Bit

Drive Hardware Tested

The following storage hardware has been used in our benchmark performance testing, and may be included in portions of this article:

Test Tools

  • AS SSD Benchmark 1.4.3704.27281: Multi-purpose speed and operational performance test
  • ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.34: Spot-tests static file size chunks for basic I/O bandwidth
  • Iometer 2008.06.28 by Intel Corporation: Tests IOPS performance and I/O response time
  • Lavalys EVEREST Ultimate Edition 5.50: Disk Benchmark component tests linear read and write bandwidth speeds
  • CrystalDiskMark 3.0.0b by Crystal Dew World: Sequential speed benchmark spot-tests various file size chunks

Test Results Disclaimer

This article utilizes benchmark software tools to produce operational IOPS performance and bandwidth speed results. Each test was conducted in a specific fashion, and repeated for all products. These test results are not comparable to any other benchmark application, neither on this website or another, regardless of similar IOPS or MB/s terminology in the scores. The test results in this project are only intended to be compared to the other test results conducted in identical fashion for this article.



 

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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