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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 vs Hard Disk Drive

The last days of old technology are always better than the first days of new technology. Never has this saying been more true than with the topic of storage technology, specifically in regard to the introduction of Solid State Drive technology a few years ago. The only things standing in the way of widespread Solid State Drive (SSD) adoption are high storage capacity and affordable price of Hard Disk Drive (HDD) devices. Because NAND flash-based SSD technology costs more per gigabyte of capacity than traditional magnetic hard drives, the benefits of immediate response time, transfer speeds, and operational input/output performance often get overlooked. Like most consumer products, it wasn't a question of how much improvement was evident in the new technology, it was price. I'll discuss product costs more in just a moment, but for now consider how each new series of SSD product employs greater performance than the one before it, convincing would-be consumers into waiting for the right time to buy.

There's also a gray area surrounding SSD performance benchmarks that has me concerned. You might not know this, but SSDs can be very temperamental towards the condition of their flash NAND. My experience testing dozens of Solid State Drives is that a freshly cleaned device (using an alignment tool) will always outperform the same device once it's been formatted and used. A perfect example is Indilinx Barefoot-based SSDs, which suffers severely degraded performance when writing to 'dirty' flash NAND. The reason that all of this will matters is simple: the performance results reported to consumers in product reviews (such as this one) often report the very best performance scores, and the process used to obtain these results is not applicable to real-world usage. This is where garbage collection techniques such as TRIM become important, so that end-users will experience the same performance levels as we do in our tests.

Manufacturer Indilinx Intel JMicron Samsung Toshiba SandForce Marvell
Controller IDX110M00-FC PC29AS21AA0 JMF612 S3C29RBB01-YK40 T6UG1XBG SandForce SF-1200 88SS9174-BJP2
Max Cache 64MB 16MB 128KB+256MB 128MB 128MB Integrated 128MB
Max Capacity 256GB 160GB 256GB 256GB 512GB 512GB 256GB
Read/Write Speed 230/170 MBps 250/70 MBps 250/200 MBps 220/200 MBps 230/180 MBps 260/260 MBps 355/215 MBps
Interface SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-II 3-Gbps SATA-III 6-Gbps
Garbage Collection GC/TRIM None TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM GC/TRIM

Chart By:

BmR

Garbage Collection (GC) is the current solution for keeping flash NAND in 'clean' condition, while maintaining optimal performance. Windows 7 offers native TRIM support, and most retail SSDs also include this special GC function or at least offer a firmware update that brings the drive up-to-date. For anyone using an Operating System or SSD that does not offer Garbage Collection functionality, you'll be using 'dirty' flash NAND modules and suffering sub-optimal performance for each write-to request. A few SSD manufacturers offers free tools to help restore peak-level performance by scheduling GC to 'clean' used NAND sectors, but these tools add excessive wear to the NAND the same way disk defragmenting tools would. SLC flash modules may resist wear much better than MLC counterparts, but come at the expense of increased production cost. The best solution is a more durable NAND module that offers long-lasting SLC benefits at the cost of MLC construction. Adoption is further stalled because keen consumers aware of this dilemma further continue their delay into the SSD market.

Getting back to price, the changes in cost per gigabyte have come as often as changes to the technology itself. At their inception, high-performance models such the 32GB MemoRight GT cost $33 per gigabyte while the entry-level 32GB Mtron MOBI 3000 sold for $14 per gigabyte. While an enjoyable decline in NAND component costs forced consumer SSD prices down low in 2009, the price of SSD products has been on the rise during 2010. Nevertheless, Solid State Drives continue to fill store shelves despite price or capacity, and there are a few SSD products now costing only $2.03 per gigabyte. Although the performance may justify the price, which is getting dangerously close to the $1.00 per gigabyte WD VelociRaptor hard drive, costs may still close some buyers out of the market. Price notwithstanding, the future is in SSD technology and the day when HDDs are obsolete is nearing; but there are still a few bumps in the road to navigate.



 

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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