Hard disk drives vs. solid-state drives: Are SSDs finally worth the money?

By , Computerworld |  Storage, hard disk drives, solid state drives

Intel's specification sheet states that the 520 Series SSD sports sequential read/write speeds of 550MB/sec. and 520MB/sec., respectively. I'm guessing that those specs were attained using higher-end hardware, such as a storage array.

I also tested the Intel 520 SSD on a MacBook with a SATA 2.0 3Gbps interface. The read/write speeds dropped significantly -- in this case, the 520 Series SSD offered a maximum sequential read and write rate of 280MB/sec.

Intel's drive also took it easy on laptop batteries, sipping a maximum of 5.25 volts while operating and only 600 milliwatts when idle.

Testing the SSD using Calypso's service

Calypso Industries uses the Solid State Storage Initiative Performance Test Specification (SSS PTS) and a standardized hardware platform to evaluate and compare drive performance. Developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association, there is no more accurate method to test drives.

Slower -- but still better

The drive I currently have installed in my MacBook Pro is an Intel 510 Series SSD with 256GB of capacity. When I installed it about a year ago, the system booted in about 25 seconds and shut down in about 2 seconds. Today, it boots in 45 seconds and shuts down in 7 seconds. It's slower than it was -- but believe me, it's still a vast improvement over a hard drive.

My Outlook mailbox still loads in about 3 seconds and Word opens in 2 seconds. Near instantaneous application load times are a wonderful luxury.

I could never go back to when I used a hard drive and I would turn my computer on, go and grab a cup of coffee and come back to wait for it to continue booting up. -- Lucas Mearian

The SSS PTS method requires that drives first be "conditioned" prior to testing, meaning data is written to the SSD until its performance levels out. New SSDs perform better than used ones because their controller chips don't have to move existing data around to accommodate new data writes. They can just stick the data anywhere without "thinking" about it.

Once all the blocks of an SSD have been used, however, then operations get more complicated and drive performance slows and then levels out. So the SSS PTS methodology calls for filling a consumer-class SSD to 75% of its capacity twice before it is tested so that the results reflect real-world performance.

Calypso's throughput tests showed the Intel SSD handily outperforming both the hybrid drive and, not surprisingly, the hard drive. The SSD had a blazingly fast top random read throughput of 505MB/sec, and a random write rate of about 225MB/sec. More importantly, the Intel SSD had an average "steady state" throughput of 223MB/sec. This means that most read and write operations will be performed at 223MB/sec.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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