Why using an old SSD for Intel Smart Response Technology RAID0 caching might not be a great idea

Posted by Paul Braren on Sep 24 2011 (updated on Nov 15 2011) in
  • Motherboard
  • Storage
  • It would appear to be a bad idea to use an older SSD if you're trying to speed up a 3x1TB RAID0 array.  Let me explain/demonstrate.

    I recently looked for an SSD for RAID caching, on my Z68 mobo with Intel Smart Response Technology (SRT), and/or LSI 9265-8i RAID.  I already had the three 1TB Hitachi drives, and cost for this gaming system I call gZilla was definitely a concern.

    I had noticed that only the Corsair models have BGC (Background Garbage Collection), when comparing 4 relevant ~60GB capacity 6Gbps (SATA 3) models over at newegg.com which all use the SandForce SF-2200 controller.  Not sure how important that feature is, but given RAID controllers don't support TRIM currently, figured if the price was about the same, I'd give a 3rd generation 6Gbps model a shot, after reading many reviews, including these:

    Wow, Max Sequential Read Up to 555MB/s, Max Sequential Write Up to 495MB/s, 4KB Random Write Up to 80,000 IOPS

    Testing the first two is pretty simple, takes about 2 minutes to run freeware ATTO Disk Benchmark 2.47, I like to see things with my own eyes.  But I also saw warnings about flashing to the latest firmware, so I took care of that before these tests, buying the Corsair Force GT 60GB, then flashing it with the latest Corsair Force GT 1.3 firmware,  followed by the recommended clearing.  Actually, this was the 2nd identicall Corsair, the first was a dud on 1.2 and 1.3, couldn't even install Windows on it.  Corsair tech support agreed it was bad, and Newegg kindly cross-shipped me a new one.  Rough first impression, buy hey, it happens, kept an open mind.

    Then, now that I had a stable and fast new SSD, I decided to check on the performance with my first generation Intel SSD I already owned, the Intel X-25M 80GB (no TRIM support):

    Z68 RST 10.6 active but this D drive test is on standalone Intel X-25M 60GB SSD

    Of course it's fun to pit it against a 3rd generation SATA3 (6Gbps) SSD, the 60GB Corsair Force GT, here's those results:

    Z68 RST 10.6 active but this D drive test is on standalone Crucial Force GT 60GB SSD at 6Gbps

    Here's the best part, check out the difference the SSD speed makes for SRT caching.  First, here's the baseline, the 3x1TB RAID0 using the built-in Intel based RAID that the Z68 chipset offers:

    Z68 RST 10.6 with SSD caching disabled of 3x1TB RAID0 Hitachi HUA721010KLA330

    Next, here's how that same array performs with the 1st generation Intel X-25M SSD installed, considerably worse:

    Z68 RST 10.6 with SSD caching of 3x1TB RAID0 using Intel 80GB X-25M 1st Gen SSD

    Finally, here's how the array performs with the 3rd generation 6Gbps Corsair Force GT SSD installed:

    .png caption: Z68 RST 10.6 with SSD caching of 3x1TB RAID0 using Corsair Force GT 60GB SSD at 6Gbps) Yep, pretty much doubled the performance of the 3x1TB RAID0, compared to the speed with no SSD. More important, using this Windows 7 installed on this array, I've already been feeling a major speed up in day to day use. Programs that took 15 seconds to start now take about 10 seconds on first use, and about 5 on the second use.  Nice!