AnandTech Storage Bench 2011

Two years ago we introduced our AnandTech Storage Bench, a suite of benchmarks that took traces of real OS/application usage and played them back in a repeatable manner. I assembled the traces myself out of frustration with the majority of what we have today in terms of SSD benchmarks.

Although the AnandTech Storage Bench tests did a good job of characterizing SSD performance, they weren't stressful enough. All of the tests performed less than 10GB of reads/writes and typically involved only 4GB of writes specifically. That's not even enough exceed the spare area on most SSDs. Most canned SSD benchmarks don't even come close to writing a single gigabyte of data, but that doesn't mean that simply writing 4GB is acceptable.

Originally I kept the benchmarks short enough that they wouldn't be a burden to run (~30 minutes) but long enough that they were representative of what a power user might do with their system.

Not too long ago I tweeted that I had created what I referred to as the Mother of All SSD Benchmarks (MOASB). Rather than only writing 4GB of data to the drive, this benchmark writes 106.32GB. It's the load you'd put on a drive after nearly two weeks of constant usage. And it takes a *long* time to run.

1) The MOASB, officially called AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload, mainly focuses on the times when your I/O activity is the highest. There is a lot of downloading and application installing that happens during the course of this test. My thinking was that it's during application installs, file copies, downloading and multitasking with all of this that you can really notice performance differences between drives.

2) I tried to cover as many bases as possible with the software I incorporated into this test. There's a lot of photo editing in Photoshop, HTML editing in Dreamweaver, web browsing, game playing/level loading (Starcraft II & WoW are both a part of the test) as well as general use stuff (application installing, virus scanning). I included a large amount of email downloading, document creation and editing as well. To top it all off I even use Visual Studio 2008 to build Chromium during the test.

The test has 2,168,893 read operations and 1,783,447 write operations. The IO breakdown is as follows:

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload IO Breakdown
IO Size % of Total
4KB 28%
16KB 10%
32KB 10%
64KB 4%

Only 42% of all operations are sequential, the rest range from pseudo to fully random (with most falling in the pseudo-random category). Average queue depth is 4.625 IOs, with 59% of operations taking place in an IO queue of 1.

Many of you have asked for a better way to really characterize performance. Simply looking at IOPS doesn't really say much. As a result I'm going to be presenting Storage Bench 2011 data in a slightly different way. We'll have performance represented as Average MB/s, with higher numbers being better. At the same time I'll be reporting how long the SSD was busy while running this test. These disk busy graphs will show you exactly how much time was shaved off by using a faster drive vs. a slower one during the course of this test. Finally, I will also break out performance into reads, writes and combined. The reason I do this is to help balance out the fact that this test is unusually write intensive, which can often hide the benefits of a drive with good read performance.

There's also a new light workload for 2011. This is a far more reasonable, typical every day use case benchmark. Lots of web browsing, photo editing (but with a greater focus on photo consumption), video playback as well as some application installs and gaming. This test isn't nearly as write intensive as the MOASB but it's still multiple times more write intensive than what we were running in 2010.

As always I don't believe that these two benchmarks alone are enough to characterize the performance of a drive, but hopefully along with the rest of our tests they will help provide a better idea.

The testbed for Storage Bench 2011 has changed as well. We're now using a Sandy Bridge platform with full 6Gbps support for these tests.

AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Heavy Workload

We'll start out by looking at average data rate throughout our heavy workload test:

Heavy Workload 2011 - Average Data Rate

Heavy Workload 2011 - Average Read Speed

Heavy Workload 2011 - Average Write Speed

The next three charts just represent the same data, but in a different manner. Instead of looking at average data rate, we're looking at how long the disk was busy for during this entire test. Note that disk busy time excludes any and all idles, this is just how long the SSD was busy doing something:

Heavy Workload 2011 - Disk Busy Time

Heavy Workload 2011 - Disk Busy Time (Reads)

Heavy Workload 2011 - Disk Busy Time (Writes)

Random & Sequential Read/Write Speed AnandTech Storage Bench 2011 - Light Workload
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  • UltraTech79 - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    "And in 95% of all I/O operations are random I/O."

    You're either an idiot, a liar or both. I'll take Anands' word and common techy sense over yours.
  • QChronoD - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    I think it'd be useful if you added a "standard" hard drive to the power graphs, just so people can more easily see whether it consumes less power than an old platter drive.
    Also, have you put any thought to putting up a table that lists the total energy used to complete your benchmarks? I've seen that some of the faster drives draw more power, but wouldn't it sometimes work out that it still uses less energy since it completes the test faster?
  • Demon-Xanth - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    I would honestly love to see desktop motherboards have a port for these on board, and have the form become common enough that you could just snap one on and eliminate the cables associated with it. SFF PCs could become single board affairs with cabling only for power and an optional optical drive.
  • dragonfriend0013 - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    Now imagine this attached to a modified Rasberry Pi. Ultra small computer, with storage to boot. And all powered by USB. That will be the day. And to push the envelope further, display using the Google's Project Glass. ULTIMATE!!
  • bobsmith1492 - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    Power's still a little high to go from USB; USB can deliver 4.5W, while this drive takes up to 4W while writing. That only leaves 0.5W for the rest of the mini-puter.
  • rs2 - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    So what exactly does a 36TBW mean, in useful terms?

    As in, if the drive is used for the primary OS install, then how long will it typically take to accumulate 36 TB of writes, and what happens when that number is reached? Compared to other drives of similar capacity, is 36TBW good, middling, or poor? Is there any empirical data showing a correlation between SSD longevity and "Endurance Spec"? If so, what is it?
  • Jambe - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    What was the drive hooked up to for this test? I would appreciate more upfront methodology recaps in these reviews.

    I am also curious as to whether the mSATA ports on motherboards (for example the upcoming Gigabyte Z77 ones) are 3 Gbps or 6 Gbps ports...
  • AnnonymousCoward - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    Wake me up when you decide to do a real world test. You know, the time it takes to do something, like boot up or load a program. That's more meaningful than any synthetic benchmark.
  • theSeb - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    You clearly have not been reading this site for very long and don't understand much about SSD performance.

    Anandtech used to include those exact benchmarks and they became pointless because in those types of tests the performance across SSDs is nearly the same. I suggest educating yourself before opening your mouth and looking like a luddite.
  • AnnonymousCoward - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - link

    What a foolish response. You're wrong because I have been reading the site for a long time, including the first SSD articles.

    Your own words validate my point! If *actual* performance is nearly the same, that's what we want to know!! It's stupid to only look at meaningless graphs that show alleged large differences.

    The real performance difference is all that matters. And if that's very small, then we know to buy based on price and reliability!

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