AnandTech 2015 Enterprise SSD Suite

It's been close to a year since our last enterprise SSD review and to be honest the last year has just been crazy busy. When Anand retired last year, SSDs became solely my responsibility. I was more or less already running the SSD show, but Anand still covered some of the substantial launches (like the Intel P3700) and most importantly he was always around to help in case there was a tight deadline on a launch or another obstacle. I also quickly realized that the second year at university wasn't going to be as laid-back as the first one was, so in order to graduate on time I decided to prioritize my studies and not let work take over my life just yet. 

This all led to me making the executive decision to hold off on enterprise testing until I have enough time to perform both client and enterprise testing properly. I could have continued enterprise testing, but since I thought our enterprise test suite needed an overhaul and I knew extensive testing would have jeopardized our client coverage, I wanted to give 110% to our new 2015 Client SSD Suite and then get back to the enterprise drives when the time is right. While enterprise SSDs are certainly intriguing, especially all the PCIe/NVMe ones, I believe our core competence lies in the client space because of our deep understanding and experience in that field. The enterprise segment is far more complex and testing wise it's simply impossible for me to do what I would ideally like to do because gaining access to real world enterprise workloads is very difficult and I don't think AnandTech server workloads are enough to give an accurate picture of all the different workloads there are. 

That said, I think our new tests still do a good job of characterizing performance. I'm not going to overhype and say that the way we test is somehow special because it mostly isn't. All our new tests are based on custom Iometer 1.1.0 settings and results, rather than base sequentials and 4Ks that many other sites do. I think where we distinguish ourselves from other sites is the way we present our test data as a result of our custom design. I find it important to present both easily understandable and comparable data as well as more in-depth graphs for those who really have specific requirements, so in the new 2015 Enterprise Suite I'm trying to cover both grounds as well as possible. 

AnandTech 2015 SSD Test System
CPU Intel Core i7-4770K running at 3.5GHz (Turbo & EIST enabled, C-states disabled)
Motherboard ASUS Z97 Deluxe (BIOS 2205)
Chipset Intel Z97
Chipset Drivers Intel 10.0.24
AHCI Driver Windows Native
NVMe Driver Vendor Specific
Memory Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866 2x8GB (9-10-9-27 2T)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4600
Graphics Drivers
Desktop Resolution 1920 x 1080
OS Windows Server 2012 R2 x64

The test platform is essentially our client SSD testbed. I know some will argue that the system is not suitable for enterprise testing, but in my experience as long we are testing a single drive the CPU won't become a bottleneck. If we were testing a multi-drive RAID array, then I would agree that a more powerful CPU or a dual-CPU setup is needed for maximum performance, but since we aren't the i7-4770K delivers more than enough crunching power to max out the SSD. 

For SATA drive testing, I've decided to stick with the native Windows AHCI driver. The reason for this is that in a real server the drive will most likely be connected to a RAID card, meaning that it won't be utilizing the normal Microsoft or Intel AHCI driver anyway. Since Intel RST drivers have some level of performance variation, I decided to just use the native driver to eliminate any driver anomalies. In the end, what matters is that all drives are tested using the same system and settings because it's not really the absolute performance that matters, but how drives compare with each other.

For NVMe and other PCIe SSD testing, I will be using vendor-specific drivers because the native Windows NVMe driver lacks some crucial management features (such as secure erase) that are vital for accurate testing. For now I'm only testing SATA drives anyway because I still need to figure out PCIe power measurement, and to be honest it's not fair to compare SATA and PCIe drives given that they are aimed at totally different market segments.

Introduction, The Drive & The Test 4KB Random Write
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  • boe - Saturday, July 25, 2015 - link

    Bring on the 10TB SSDs. The 512GB-2TB models have lost all interest for me.
  • thulasiram.valleru - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    In 4KB IOPS category, Samsung beats against most of its competitors and I am surprised no SSD delivers the speed in category 4KB read and writes as this company with this price range. Any body has a reasonable answer. I am not sure whether in house design and manufacturing of components made it possible for Samsung to achieve the difference.

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