Initial CrystalDiskMark Results for Intel Optane 900p

I have been building a new desktop workstation based on an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X processor (which I will be describing in much more detail in a subsequent blog post). I am planning on using one of the brand new 480GB Intel Optane SSD 900p PCIe cards as my boot drive. Initially, I installed Windows 10 Professional, Version 1709 on a pretty lackluster OEM 256GB Toshiba M.2 NVMe drive that I had lying around. My plan is to clone that drive to the Intel Optane 900p.

I also have a couple of 1TB Samsung 960 PRO M.2 NVMe cards in this machine, so I thought I would run a couple of quick CrystalDiskMark tests on the two drives. One thing to keep in mind is that CrystalDiskMark is not the best synthetic benchmark to use to show off the strengths of the Optane 900p.

Traditional NAND-based SSDs excel at very high queue depths that are not usually encountered outside of synthetic benchmarks (especially for random read performance). Optane 900p SSDs perform extremely well for random reads at low queue depths. This gives you outstanding responsiveness and performance where it is going to be most noticeable in daily usage.

You can see part of this effect in the bottom row of CDM test results for reads, where the Optane 900p is doing about 4.3X more 4K IOPS than the Samsung 960 PRO at a queue depth of 1. A better test for this will be Microsoft DiskSpd, which can also measure the latency during the test run.

Here are some of the primary advantages of the Intel Optane 900p compared to current NAND flash storage.

 

    • High random read and write performance
    • High performance at low queue depths
    • High simultaneous read and write performance
    • High read and write performance at small capacity points
    • High performance maintained as the drive fills with data
    • Higher endurance than current NAND technology

 

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Figure 1: 1TB Samsung 960 PRO with Samsung NVMe driver

 

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Figure 2: 480GB Intel Optane 900p with Intel NVMe driver

 

Upgrading a SATA III SSD

Back in April of 2012, I built an Intel Z77 workstation that used a 512GB OCZ Vertex 4 SATA III SSD, plugged into a SATA III port for it’s Windows 7 boot drive. Back then, this was arguably the fastest consumer SSD available, with an MSRP of $699.99. This drive has soldiered on for over three and a half years, with no problems. It was getting a little low on disk space though, so I decided it was time for an upgrade to a larger, faster SSD.

I ended up getting a 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SATA III SSD, for $329.99 at my local Micro Center. The 850 EVO line has been around for about a year now, and prices have come down quite a bit since they were introduced. It is pretty amazing to get double the size (and better performance) at less than half the price, compared to what was available back in 2012.

Before I cloned the existing drive, I ran CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2 on it with a 4GB test file. The results are shown in Figure 1.

 

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Figure 1: 512GB OCZ Vertex 4 SATA III SSD Benchmark results

 

I used the free Samsung Data Migration software (which only works with Samsung SSDs as the cloning target) to clone the old OCZ drive to the new Samsung drive. I used an Apricorn SATA Wire 3.0 plugged into a front-panel USB 3.0 port to connect the new Samsung drive for the cloning process. I could have shut down the system, and plugged the new Samsung drive into a native SATA III port to get better copy performance, but I was too lazy to do that… As it was, I was seeing about 125MB/sec during the cloning copy process, which was fast enough. If you are cloning/upgrading a drive in a laptop, you pretty much have to use a USB port to do it.

After the cloning process was complete, I shut down the system and swapped the drives. Windows 7 booted up without any problems, although it wanted a reboot once it realized that the drive had been changed. I also noticed that Windows 7 had lost it’s recollection of ever checking for Windows and Microsoft Updates, but asking it to check for updates fixed that issue.

Next, I fired up the Samsung Magician 4.9 software, which informed me that the new Samsung 850 EVO needed a firmware update. Before I ran the firmware update, I ran CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2 with the same settings as the previous test. The results are shown in Figure 2.

 

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Figure 2: 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SATA III SSD Benchmark results (before firmware update)

 

After the drive firmware update, Windows 7 booted up without any problems, although it wanted another reboot once it realized that the drive firmware had been updated. I ran CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2 once again with the same settings as the previous test. The results are shown in Figure 3.

 

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Figure 3: 1TB Samsung 850 EVO SATA III SSD Benchmark results (after firmware update)

As you can see, the benchmark results improved after the firmware update. I have not found any release notes for the firmware update (and it is not even listed on their web page), but at least the latest version of Samsung Magician knew about it.

 

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Figure 4: Samsung Magician 4.9

I have not enabled RAPID Mode on the drive yet, but I know from prior experience that it can have a nice positive effect on performance. It does make it harder to analyze your storage performance when SQL Server is running on your workstation though. All in all, a pretty easy, trouble-free installation.

Some Quick Comparative CrystalDiskMark Results

A few weeks ago, I built a new Intel Skylake desktop system that I am going to start using as my primary workstation in the near future. I have some details about this system as described in Building a Z170 Desktop System with a Core i7-6700K Skylake Processor. By design, this system has several different types of storage devices, so I can take advantage of the extra PCIe bandwidth in the latest Intel Z170 Express chipset, and do some comparative testing.

The latest addition to the storage family is a brand new 512GB Samsung 950 PRO M.2 PCIe NVMe card that just arrived from Amazon yesterday afternoon. As of now, here is the available storage in this system:

  1. (2) 512GB Samsung 850 PRO SATA III SSDs in RAID 1 (using the chipset RAID controller)
  2. (1) 512GB Samsung 950 PRO M.2 PCIe 3.0 NVMe card in an Ultra M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 slot
  3. (1) 400GB Intel 750 PCIe NVMe card in a PCIe 3.0 x16 slot
  4. (1) 6TB Western Digital SATA III hard drive in a SATA III port

Since I have an NVidia GeForce GTX 960 video card in one of the PCI 3.0 x16 slots, both that slot and the PCI 3.0 x16 slot that the Intel 750 is using will go down to x8 (which means 8 lanes instead of 16 lanes). The Intel Z170 Express chipset supports 26 PCIe 3.0 lanes, so you need to think about what devices you are trying to use. This system has Windows 10 Professional installed, so it has native NVMe drivers available from Microsoft.

I did some quick and dirty I/O testing today with CrystalDiskMark 5.02. The two NVMe devices are both using the native Microsoft NVMe drivers from Windows 10. As you can see below, both the Samsung 950 PRO and the Intel 750 PCIe NVMe cards have tremendous sequential and random I/O performance!

 

DeviceSequential ReadsSequential WritesRandom ReadsRandom Writes
512GB Samsung 950 Pro2595 MB/s1526 MB/s171755.6 IOPS104801.3 IOPS
400GB Intel 7502369 MB/s1081 MB/s177938.0 IOPS151642.1 IOPS
512GB Samsung 850 Pro1104 MB/s532 MB/s100420.4 IOPS60765.1 IOPS
6TB WD Red HD176 MB/s170 MB/s386.7 IOPS448.2 IOPS

Table 1: Sequential and Random Results (Queue Depth 32, 1 Thread)

Keep in mind that the two Samsung 850 PRO SSDs are using hardware RAID1, which seems to help their sequential read performance, and that the two NVMe devices are both using the native Microsoft NVMe drivers, which may be hurting their performance somewhat.

 

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Figure 1: 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 PCIe NVMe Results

 

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Figure 2: 400GB Intel 750 PCIe NVMe Results

 

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Figure 3: 512GB Samsung 850 Pro SATA 3 (RAID 1) Results

 

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Figure 4: 6TB Western Digital Red Results