Friday, January 15, 2010

How fast an SSD drive do you need

If you need Intel X25-E 32G SSD for 70% of the cheapest listed price (shipping extra), please let me know.

For a long time I thaught that the bottleneck of all builds was the HDD, so when I got my new notebook, the first thing I did was to add a spiffy extra Intel X25-E SSD hard drive to it. As I expected, the builds went much faster. To my surprise, the HDD throughput stayed fairly low during the build, which suggested that the benefit of SSD drives kicks in early and buying higher grade drives doesn't make much difference as the bottleneck moves to the CPU quite quickly. All this makes sense, considering that a typical application has hundreds to thousands of files and the HDD spends a lot of its time seeking rather than reading.

When I cleared the IntelliJ IDEA caches and opened the IDEA Community project (total 900MB, 66k files), during the indexing, one of the cores stayed pegged, the HDD read throughput did not exceed 4mb/s for 4 mins then for 1 minute it rose to top 25mb/s, avg I guess around 15mb/s. The write never exceeded 10mb/s, and for most part it was bellow 4mb/s, the last minute was between 5 and 7mb/s.

During initial compilation, the 2 cores of the CPU (2.53GHz T9400) were quite busy, staying above 80% all the time, the disk utilization during compilation stayed less than 4mb/sec with the ocasional peaks at 6mb/sec. The write peaks were 5mb/sec, for the most time bellow 1mb/sec.

At the end of the compilation, the index update took 50 seconds, with average read throughput ~10mb/s, peaking at 30.5mb/s, the write peaked at 7mb/sec. During that time the CPU utilization dropped around 50%, which only shows that IDEA's indexing is not using both CPUs.

The bottomline is - it's not worth byuing expensive SSDs for consumer usage - cheaper ones are just as good for the average home and software development workflow. Most of the applications do not involve transferring huge volumes of data and the slowness of the spinning-platter HDDs is mostly because of seek times and fragmentation. Expensive SDDs are warranted if you are working extensively with media files or are processing huge amounts of data on the disk.


aperepel said...

Hi Dimitar,

I think you did wrong by putting an Intel's flagship SSD (extreme version) into a laptop. I bet your laptop simply doesn't have the pipes to showcase this drive's performance. You would probably see no difference by going with a 'standard' X-25-M.

Then, mind that the newer 160GB version has a firmware update which increases write throughput up to 30%, but there's no such update for an 80 GB drive.

Dimitar said...

Hi Andrew, yes I realized this now and I'm trying to warn others not to make the same mistake.

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