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  1. #1
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    Default Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Introduction

    Greetings,

    There has been tons of debate on the merits of Sony's new dual, tri and quad-SSD configurations in the second generation Sony VAIO Z11 laptops. Sony's decisions on the drive's size, the implications that RAID 0 has on reliability, the drive's physical dimentions, the storage configuration arrangements and total storage size has caused a flurry of posts and caused much confusion.

    For the uninitiated, Sony's new Z11 series has been equiped with several variations of a Sony-designed, sub-1.8" SSD that is comprised of Samsung NAND chips and controllers. These drives are exclusively configured in RAID 0 arrays in models with 2, 3 and 4 drive configurations. Sony is the first and only company to ship a consumer laptop product with this configuration.

    EDIT 3/28/2010:
    Sunfox has compiled a list of the SSD drives and their specific configurations:
    128gb SSD (64gb x 2)
    192gb SSD (64gb x 3)
    256gb SSD (128gb x 2)*
    384gb SSD (128gb x 3)
    512gb SSD (128gb x 4)
    * SSD configurations are shown with LOGICAL drives, or the total number of hard drives that the system will see. For the 256gb SSD option, International versions of the Z use 64gb x 4 LOGICAL drives, which is a quad RAID comprised of two PHYSICAL 128gb "dual" drives. However, North American models differ in that they use 256gb x 1 PHYSICAL "dual" drive, which results in dual RAID with 128gb x 2 LOGICAL drives. This has been confirmed by multiple forum members who have received the 256gb option. So, the only way to get quad RAID in North America is with the 512gb option.
    My main concern, and the reason for this thread, is the fact that ALL current generation SSD drives have an intrinsic flaw; they loose performance over time. Now granted, storage and software companies have implemented mechanisms and procedures that mitigate the problem to a high degree. The problem here is that nobody truely knows how this is done on Sony's newest laptops and what impact it has on SSD performance over time.

    I want to know the following:
    1. Do the new Sony SSD's become slower over time?
    2. Is there a mechanism being used to prevent performance degradation?
    3. If there is a slowdown, how much and how quickly?
    4. What does this mean to user's long-term experience?
    5. What can users do on their end to maintain the drives for peak performance?


    Disclaimer:
    I'm not proclaiming myself to be an expert in storage technology, flash memory design or in anything related to this. I'm sure some of the things I've said or am going to say are false. I'm just a computer enthusiast with quite a bad case gizmo addiction. I find this stuff fun.

    I'm looking to this community support. Please correct me where I'm wrong and give me more information to add. I'll keep these core posts up to date.
    ________________________________________________________________


    SSD Drives vs Traditional Drives

    Now, on to the issue at hand. Why are SSD's different? What is garbage collection? Why is it necessary?

    Let's let Intel start us off...
    Unlike traditional hard disk drives, it is advantageous to tell an SSD when you delete files. At some point every 4KB page has been written to once, and you have to start overwriting old existing data. Unlike spinning media, Flash media can not simply overwrite existing data and must first perform a 512KB block erase. To overwrite existing data, an SSD requires a longer read-modify-write operation which is the basis for slowing write performance as the drive fills. - Intel


    To summarize, SSD's have an extra requirement when writing data that magnetic systems do not. It first needs to read the block before it can determine if it can be erased, and then written (read-modify-write). This is easy when the drive is new and mostly empty. It gets harder to do as files are added and deleted.

    NBR Forum Member Psyang wrote a fantastic analology to describe this behaviour and introduces us to the concept of garbage collection.
    Quote Originally Posted by psyang View Post
    Since we're all talking analogies today, here's mine: think of your drive as a large bucket. Every time you write, say, 1k of data to the drive, you add a white marble to the bucket. When you delete 1k of data, you color that white marble black, but don't remove it. Eventually, your bucket will be full, and in order to write more, you will need to search through the bucket and remove enough black marbles to make space for your white marble. This searching/removing takes a long time - and remember, this will happen from now on since the bucket is full.
    So the key to sustained SSD performance is the proper maintenance of your marbles (sorry Peter). This maintenance is called garbage collection. Garbage collection is the act of seeking out eraseable blocks that were not processed when the data contained within them was moved or deleted. THis is, of course, an very intensive operation best accomplished when the drive is idle but SSD's have a lot of work to do.

    There are two other factors that need to added to this ongoing maintenance nightmare and are the ones I know the least about.
    1. Erase block size - They range from 128K to 1 megabyte. This means a 4k single write can force the SSD write up to 40x more data to fill the block. This is known as write amplificication. This also has an impact on how partitions should be aligned.
    2. Wear Leveling - NAND memory has millions of individually erasable segments. Each of these segments can be used a limited number of times before becoming unreliable. These are called erase cycles and vary from 1,000 or over 100,000 cycles. Wear levelling allows a drive to rearrange its data so the writes are not concentrated in one area, prolonging the life of the entire drive. Some SSDs will move data around to exercise all of the blocks in the drive more evenly.

    Hopefully this has explained why SSD's do what they do to function.
    ________________________________________________________________


    The Introduction of TRIM

    The next question is why is garbage collection even necessary? Shouldn't the SSD know the state of each block, making the extra work unneccessary?

    This sounds like an easy question until you understand that until very recently, there was no mechanism to update the SSD's mapping of which blocks are used or unerased.

    Since traditional HDD's didn't require the extra command to mark a block as eraseable, there was no ATA command necessary for it to complete it's disk activities. ATA Commands are low-level instructions that are part of the "PC/AT Attachment" standard used or emulated by all hard drives.

    This is, in a nutshell, what the advent of the TRIM command was designed to do for SSD drives.

    Back to Psyang's analogy:
    The issue with GC is that GC is blind - it can't see whether a marble is white or black. So how can GC do its job? Sometimes, it can't. When it can, GC must use additional information to find those black balls (sorry - this is just an analogy! I can only stretch it so far).

    TRIM means that, instead of just coloring a white marble black during a delete, you also tell GC which marble has been colored black so that it can do its job perfectly.
    ________________________________________________________________


    TRIM and RAID on the Sony Z11

    Currently, there isn't a way for TRIM commands to pass through RAID controllers/drivers. This means that even if the SSD drives support the commands, they will not be sent to the drives due to the RAID drivers or BIOS config. Additionally, since there isn't a way to change the Sony BIOS's setting from RAID to IDE or AHCI, configuring the SSD's in JBOD doesn't have an impact. TRIM commands are still not passed to the individual disks.

    Rumor has it that this may be fixed in future versions of the Intel RST (v 9.6).

    EDIT 3/21/2010: Intel has released the Rapid Storage Technology driver v 9.6. Initial testing is showing positive results.

    From the Intel help file:


    EDIT 3/28/2010: There have been reports that 9.6 DOES NOT ALLOW TRIM.

    EDIT 4/1/2010: I'm confused why Intel would have information in the help files of two different install packages released at different times.
    Here's the problem I have with the SSD RAID + TRIM issue. Intel hasn't removed the text saying that it is supported from the original installer package released on 3/19 or the other installer released on 3/23.

    I know I'm taking a leap thinking that Intel is organized enough to know this statement is in the help file, but this is the only repeatable confirmation we have.

    We all know this one:
    RAID: Intel® Rapid Storage Technology Driver for Intel Desktop Boards
    STOR_allOS_9.6.0.1014_PV.exe - Ver:9.6.0.1014 - Date:3/19/2010 - Size:11431 (KB)


    This one has it as well
    Intel Rapid Storage Technology
    iata96enu.exe - Ver:9.6.0.1014 - Date:3/23/2010 - Size:6618 (KB)


    I've installed the iata96enu.exe package and it works as expected. The smaller install package size is because they are English only. The international package size is identical to STOR_allOS_9.6.0.1014_PV.exe.
    EDIT 4/4/2010: Intel has posted that the help files are incorrect. TRIM does not function in RAID with RST 9.6.
    http://www.intel.com/support/chipset.../CS-031491.htm
    ________________________________________________________________


    Performance Testing

    Test tools
    To collect perfomance information on the Sony SSD drives, we need to look over a common set of tools. I'm open to any other recommendations like WEI or the like.

    1. ATTO Disk Benchmark v 2.41 - Default settings
    2. HD Tach v3.0.4.0 - Long Bench, Windows XP (SP3) Compatability mode
    3. HD Tune Pro 4.01 - Benchmark, default settings
    4. HD Tune Pro 4.01 - File benchmark, default settings
    5. CrystalMark v2.2 - All tests, default settings
    6. CrystalInfo v 3.5.2 - Informational only


    Iterative Data Collection Procedure
    This is how I'm running my tests 99% of the time. If we are going to compare stats, please try to do the same. I chose the number of passes based on my experience running the tools. CrystalMark, for example, can change dramatically from the first pass to the second. It becomes more predictable after three passes.
    1. Reboot device
    2. Wait 5 minutes
    3. Execute CrystalMark, three full passes
    4. Execute ATTO, default settings, two passes
    5. Execute HD Tach, default settings, "Long bench" option,two passes
    6. Execute HD Tune "Benchmark" tab test, default settings, one pass
    7. Execute HD Tune "File Benchmark" tab test, default settings, one pass
    8. If a raw partition is available, execute HD Tune "Benchmark" tab test with the "Write" option, default settings, one pass
    Last edited by ZoinksS2k; 4th April 2010 at 08:49 AM. Reason: RST 9.6 = Does TRIM work or doesn't it??
    Sony Pro 11 (daily driver) | Sony Pro 13 | Sony Duo 13 | Sony Z2 | MacBook Air 11"

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Here is an example of the output from the test tools.

    Sony VPCZ112GX/S
    RAID 0 - 2x 64GB


    Sony Pro 11 (daily driver) | Sony Pro 13 | Sony Duo 13 | Sony Z2 | MacBook Air 11"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Intel released version 9.6 of the RST. I've installed it and here is an initial pass.



    Sony Pro 11 (daily driver) | Sony Pro 13 | Sony Duo 13 | Sony Z2 | MacBook Air 11"

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Awesome thread you have created here Zoinks.

    What benefits are offered by ver 9.6? Do you recommend the upgrade?

    Edit: Oop! never mind. Already answered in the other thread

    Also: What magic are you employing to get 30MB/sec on small block writes for a 64x2?
    Even The raid 4 folks are only getting 20, and all the other raid 2's are 10.
    Last edited by Oscar2; 20th March 2010 at 06:58 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Here is an image I had created when people were just getting their machines and posting them on the original thread:

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails ssdComparisons2.jpg  

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Quote Originally Posted by Oscar2 View Post
    Awesome thread you have created here Zoinks.


    Also: What magic are you employing to get 30MB/sec on small block writes for a 64x2?
    Even The raid 4 folks are only getting 20, and all the other raid 2's are 10.
    I noticed that too; i think that's related to setting write-back cache to enabled. My Z came with that set to disabled.

    also - I can't get crystaldiskinfo to give me a valid report - just get 'disk not found' can't find out what i'm doing wrong yet.....

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Correct, turn on write-back cache in the RST console.
    Sony Pro 11 (daily driver) | Sony Pro 13 | Sony Duo 13 | Sony Z2 | MacBook Air 11"

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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Quote Originally Posted by ZoinksS2k View Post
    Correct, turn on write-back cache in the RST console.
    What exactly does enabling write-back cache mean? I tried looking up that particular function and found out that it increases performance at the cost of an increased data loss risk (in case of a power failure). Is it safe to turn it on then? What is the trade-off here?

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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Quote Originally Posted by ZoinksS2k View Post
    Correct, turn on write-back cache in the RST console.
    Hi zoinks,

    any diff you have noticed after installing 9.6 version? is TRIM supported now?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Sony Z11 - Long Term SSD Performance - Post your results

    Before turn on write cache back:

    After turn it on:

    OMG Look at the 4k random write
    PS: My Z is running RAID 0 64GBX4
    Last edited by finalforever; 20th March 2010 at 08:06 PM.

 

 
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