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Data Storage Hardware

Are SSD Accelerators Any Good? 331

MrSeb writes "When solid-state drives first broke into the consumer market, there were those who predicted the new storage format would supplant hard drives in a matter of years thanks to radically improved performance. In reality, the shift from hard drives (HDDs) to SSDs has thus far been confined to the upper end of the PC market. For cost-conscious buyers and OEMs, the higher performance they offer is still too expensive and the total capacity is insufficient. SSD cache drives have emerged as a means of addressing this situation. They are small, typically containing between 20-60GB of NAND flash and are paired with a standard hard drive. Once installed, drivers monitor which applications and files are accessed most often, then cache those files on the SSD. It can take the software 1-2 runs to start caching data, but once this process is complete, future access and boot times are significantly enhanced. This article compares the effect of SSD cache solutions — Intel Smart Response Technology, and Nvelo Dataplex — on the performance of a VelociRaptor, and a slow WD Caviar drive. The results are surprisingly positive."
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Are SSD Accelerators Any Good?

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  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @08:54PM (#40912621) Homepage

    > And you think a drive with actual moving parts will live forever?

    Compared to how long SSDs have been in wide use, there are plenty of hard drives with "actual moving parts" that have lived forever.

    However, the key thing is that you get some warning with a hard drive rather than it being sudden death.

    Some SSD brands make Seagate seem reliable in comparison.

  • Re:No. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @09:25PM (#40912989)

    I'd rather spend my money on RAM. Up the system memory from 8 GB to 32GB, and you eliminate the slowdown caused by hard drive accesses.

  • Re:bcache (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie@Nospam.hotmail.com> on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @09:50PM (#40913253) Homepage

    That's what I use on my laptop: I've got a 16GB class10 SDHC-card formatted as NTFS and fully dedicated to ReadyBoost and I do notice some speed-up in boot and firing up applications. Nothing spectacular and obviously an SSD would be ideal, but it is still better than nothing, especially with the prices SDHC-cards go for nowadays.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @10:03PM (#40913409)

    I assure you that there are MANY 800 GB SAS/SATA SSD's that can beat your hybrid drive, they just cost more than most people will spend on their entire computer =)

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @11:19PM (#40914111) Homepage

    SSDs have a propensity to just die like a normal HDD. Not sure why. Could be overheating, poor quality in materials making the ICs, buggy code in the firmware someplace. Who knows. But I've seen plenty OEM Samsung and OCZ Vertex 2 drives go tits up in a nanosecond. Either you can't read the data of the drives, or flat out wont enumerate SATA side (effectively bricked).

    So why SSDs look great on paper in "theory", real-world stats say otherwise above and beyond just my own experiences.

    OTOH, like the SSD crackwhore bitch that I am; once I tasted the speed of SSDs, I'll never go back. I just schedule daily backups to a standard HDD. Windows 7 Backup or Apple Time Machine for you Mac heads.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @11:25PM (#40914151) Journal

    TFA at extremetech isn't that feature rich, nor embarking on a brand new frontier that none of us had ever been

    TFA could have been made into ONE PAGE, but no, extremetech ain't gonna let us, the readers, enjoy it in one shot - we had to click through all the 5 pages

    Please, Slashdot !

    Next time you give us a link to a single TFA with multiple pages, please indicate it right upfront

    Thank you !

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @12:08AM (#40914465)

    That was true back when you were talking about MB numbers. It's definitely not true when talking in that rage of GB.

    To use windows as an example, it will try and cache what it thinks you're going to load based on I think a fairly simple algorithm. Which means it's usually wrong. If you never access more than 32 GB worth of data from your HDD then sure, 32 GB of Ram will do the trick. But, for example, if you play WoW or SWTOR (both of which flutter around 20GB), any other game + web browser + windows you could fairly easily waltz past 32 GB of data, at which point you're into 'cache misses'. And yes, this is conceptually the exact same problem as cache hit ratios, just working at a different level (logical files or directories rather than lines of memory).

    I had virtually no performance increase going from 12 to 24 GB of RAM on general disk use.

    You can get a big boost from an SSD, and especially, getting something that will actually work a SATAIII connection at full speed. My x58 board is lucky to pull more than 200MB/s from even a very good SSD, whereas the same drive on a sandy bridge board will do 450-550 range.

    Now keep in mind, a regular HDD is about 70MB/s for sustained data. Put that in a raid 1 (mobo hardware, or software) and you can see 120-130, so an SSD on a bad connection may not be that much better than much less expensive RAID.

  • Re:No. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @12:36AM (#40914655)

    I used Windows 7 Audit Mode to install the users folder and programdata onto a HDD and pointed the temp folders to also to run from there.
    I put the page file onto another HDD that only plays media files.
    Then Steam was installed to the SSD but then the main steamapps folder is symlinked back to the HDD with the users folder.
    Since I hate loading times in Skyrim (especially with stacks of mods) I copied those to the SSD and symlinked them back (Symlink inside a Symlink lol).

    Setup works wonderfully well, Steam starts up really fast while keeping a lot of space free on the SSD for other applications.

    Complete Setup:

    1x Intel 520 128GB SSD
    2x WD RE4 2TB in RAID 1 (Users, Programdata, Temp and most steam data)
    2x Seagate 1TB in RAID 1 (Media, Page File)

  • complete BS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @12:44AM (#40914695)
    SSD aren't just for high end systems. Out of my 300 or so past customers, approx 3 filled their hard drives to over 60GB total. I built several Kingston HyperX 90Gb and OCZ Agility 4 128GB drives without problems and they were all $500-600 final cost. I use an H77MA-G43 from MSI + 4GB Gskill 1333-CL7 memory and i3-2100 or 4GB 1333-CL9 and a Pentium B940-960. Put it in a decent $30-40 case, use an Antec VP450 or Basiq or other respectable but medium end PSU, and wait for a sale on Win7 64-bit OEM copies for $80 instead of $100 and you've got yourself an unbeatable, 7 year anticipated lifetime machine. Here's the kicker.

    I have an i5 (sandy) ridiculous gaming computer with a GTS450, 8GB of CL7 RAM, P67 chipset, and a pretty fast 7200 RPM 1TB Seagate main drive. It's custom built and would be around $1000 retail at my shop (at the time at least). It takes over a minute to log in and it takes forever to load games.

    I also built a system I'm selling for $520 with a Pentium B950, 4GB of pretty standard RAM, and a Maplecrest 60GB SSD. It logs into Windows in 4 seconds. The glowing balls don't even touch while loading the Windows 7 logo.

    SSDs are not for high end systems only! They're specifically exactly the opposite. They're the best way to make a really cheap budget PC seem extremely fast.
  • Re:bcache (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShoulderOfOrion ( 646118 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @12:50AM (#40914727)

    Why bother? I have an HDD mounted as /, and an SSD mounted as /usr on my Gentoo system. Using atop I consistently see the HDD receive 10-20 times the writes the SSD receives but only about 2x the reads. In other words, on Linux the SSD is already serving primarily as a read-only caching filesystem just by mounting it correctly.

  • Re:bcache (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ToasterMonkey ( 467067 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @01:35AM (#40914959) Homepage

    For Linux users: http://bcache.evilpiepirate.org/ [evilpiepirate.org]

    Lets you use any SSD as a cache in front of another filesystem.

    Solaris and Windows have been shipping with production ready L2 FS cache for years already, L2ARC/ReadyBoost. I'll give Apple a pass because their systems are mostly not designed for adding drives, and they were apparently betting on high capacity SSDs coming down in price by now. Desktops have less of a need for caches in the tens of GB anyway. Linux, as a server OS doesn't have much of a good excuse, why wasn't L2 cache worked out years ago when everyone was racing for TRIM support? Using smaller cheaper SSD drives as L2 cache almost makes too much sense. It covers up the short write cycle lifetime and poor sequential read performance. 60 some odd GB of cache starts to look pretty dang good for a lot of server workloads.

    I feel I should point this out because these cheesy Linux +1 MeToo posts are _really_ aggravating to people who use it professionally. It's a tool. We're not in love with it.

    http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=1114013 [arstechnica.com]
    The developer apparently didn't even know what the ARC algorithm is... which is just bizarre, like developing a race car without knowing what variable valve timing is. Not saying it is needed, but what level of quality do you expect out of this?

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by isorox ( 205688 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @03:46AM (#40915617) Homepage Journal

    I'm well aware of seek times. And honestly, they don't matter all that much. For a very small file they take you from 1-2 seconds to effectively instant yes, but for a significant file you're throughput limiting yourself anyway.

    The problem comes when you try to read a small file while reading the large file. If you want to preview 1,000 files (say thumbnails for a directory full of pictures), that's 1000 reads. At 10ms each (hdd), that's 10 seconds. At 10ns each (ssd), that's 10ms.

    Sure, keep your read-only media on a large hard drive, as you'll tend to be pulling it off as a single stream, with only one open file, but keep the majority of your files on an SSD.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller