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Hard drive to use SSD vs standard drive

Posted on 2011-09-02
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Anyone have input on hard drives? I have a need to for the drive to be very fast and also hold up under heavy constant data crunching. I run charts and use live data feed all day and that seems to kill standard hard drives. Am thinking of using a SSD drive, but am not sure about speeds and the sizes throw me off. I see alot of 2.5 SSD's.  Can you share what to look for in speed, size and how does that compare to my typical Western Digital Green 3.5 HD?
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Question by:rodynetwork
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pony10us earned 125 total points
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Computer World did a comparison a couple of years ago and their write up can be found here: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9134468/Review_Hard_disk_vs._solid_state_drive_is_an_SSD_worth_the_money_

And of course there is the wiki for SSD's that I think answeres the questions that you put forth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid-state_drive
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
ID: 36476311
Well the WD Green is a desktop-grade drive not known for performance.  In my opinion no "green" drive is a good choice for deployment in a heavy-duty environment as you describe.  They're just not a robust drive.

If you stick with a hard drive, switch to an enterprise-grade drive.  Consider switching from standard SATA to SAS.  This will not guaranty against failure, but these drives are designed for heavy access.

My experience with SSD is not very positive, except that when they're working, they're VERY fast.  I had one in my home system as the boot drive, had lots of ongoing intermittent problems, ended up replacing it with a hybrid hard drive with some SSD (Seagate Momentus XT).  That drive boots faster than a conventional hard drive (after it's been trained).  So far it's very solid (2 months).  We've deployed a few SSDs at work, and believe it or not, they're all sitting unused on a shelf due to suspicions of "issues" with them.
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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36476319
Ok. Those were helpful. Still wondering about read/write availability. The SSD seems to be limited and the HDD seems to be unlimited. Before I jump into a SSD, how should I consider the write limitations?  I don't know how to get my head around that.  From what I read, it seems the SSD will eventually not be able to write any more data.  I don't understand how to figure that into my use plan over the next 2-3 years. I am using this as a trading computer, running charts that are driven be a live data feed. That data feed stores in a database and that becomes quite large. How should I factor that into my thinking or does it matter?
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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36476327
Hey Dave,

Reading your reply now.  Speed is important in trading and if I can get a SSD to work, that would be a big advantage.  The thing that led me to look at SSD's is my trading has killed two drives already. Something about the data feed and the charts churning that data for 8-10 hours a day.  If I can get a SSD to run my stuff, do I need to consider or factor in anything about database read and write over time as far running out of write space?  Any other input as well on the finickyness of SSD's and how to address it? Windows 7 is probably the OS I would use.
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
ID: 36476385
My experience with SSDs may not be typical.  Just throwing that out.

SSDs are usually rated for a maximum number of write cycles to the same cell in the drive's flash memory.  Here's a link to a very lengthy thread by someone who's trying to determine exactly how much write abuse various SSDs can take. Anyway the reason SSDs have not (historically) been widely deployed in servers is their write endurance is a well-known weakness.  Hard drives do not have this issue.

http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?271063-SSD-Write-Endurance-25nm-Vs-34nm
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by:garycase
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ID: 36476390
As long as you're running an OS that supports TRIM (e.g. Windows 7) you don't need to be concerned about the write cycles with modern SSDs.    They're vastly improved over those of just a few years ago.

Use an Intel 320 series, an OCZ Vertex-2 or 3, or a Crucial M4 series drive and you'll be fine.

Of course SSDs with relatively large capacities tend to get a bit pricey ... a 300GB Intel 320 is ~ $600, and a 240GB OCZ Vertex-III is ~ $500.

If the cost is prohibitive, I'd switch from the low-performance green series drives to WD Blacks (7200 rpm) or VelociRaptors (10,000 rpm) ... both of which are much higher performing and designed for higher duty cycles.   You could also move to SAS drives, as suggested above.

As for physical size -- don't worry about that.    Most SSDs are 2.5" these days, so they can be used in either laptops or desktops.   Many come with 3.5" adapters to mount in a standard 3.5" bay -- but if not, the adapters are readily available and inexpensive.
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
ID: 36476397
Consider the lowly Tivo DVR.  The drive in that box is being written to constantly.  It never stops.  Makes no difference whether you're watching a show or recording something.  It's always writing (buffering) content.  That drive is pounded on 24/7.  I had a first generation Tivo that I used for several years and never had any drive hiccups.  I cannot imagine that an SSD would hold up to that.  But I'm not claiming to be an expert on SSD write endurance.  I'm sure the current generation of SSDs have improved in that area, but it's still an issue of concern.
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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36476414
I think I'll try a 180 gb or 240 gb as those are priced in a range thats good for me.  But first, what is a SAS?  The thing that is appealing about the SSD is the speed.  I think that can make a big difference with the markets are moving and the data feed it running high volume of data. But, I know nothing, basically, so if I am barknig up the wrong tree, please let me know.  My current set up is a quad core with 4gb ram and a 7200 rpm Western Digital drive.  I am assuming moving to a SSD will make the data display faster on my screens.
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
ID: 36476429
I don't see how the drive performance would significantly affect the speed of data being displayed, UNLESS the drive is unable to keep up with the load, in which case you have a disk i/o bottleneck to deal with.  You might want to evaluate the load on your current drive.  I guess with a fast drive the data points might appear on the screen a few milliseconds sooner, but as long as the drive can keep up with the load being put on it, the drive's raw speed shouldn't materially affect the displayed information.
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
ID: 36476441
SAS = Serial Attached SCSI.  SAS drives are designed for heavy duty applications and fast performance.

If you go SSD, pay close attention to both the read AND write speed specifications.  There can be quite a lot of difference between makes/models.
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by:garycase
ID: 36476449
IF your bottleneck is disk speed, an SSD will make a BIG difference.

If the bottleneck is simply the processing and display of the data, then it won't appreciably help.

In general, high data volume likely means a lot of disk I/O -- so an SSD will make a BIG difference.    In fact, most small I/O will be DONE long before it would have started with a traditional rotating platter drive.


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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36476472
THis is all really helpful input. Thank you. I hope to ask a few more questions, as your responses are making think or clarify.  Is there anything I should do or plan to do in setting up with a SSD? I am about to start a build and plan on using 8gb ram, two video cards and an Athlon quad core and Windows 7 Pro.  I don't really know much, can plug parts in a load software, but don't relly know what I am doing.  I keep hearing SSD are stupid fast, but can be finicky and am hoping that once I get it to work, it will just work, as I don't need to be constantly fiddling with a hot rod.
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
ID: 36476493
The OP's scenario is continuous writing to the drive at some more or less constant rate. Not a "batch" write of fixed size. Under constant writing, isnt the important issue iwhether the drive can keep up with what you're feeding it. If it can't, you may need a faster drive. If it can keep up, how would an SSD help?
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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36476532
How can I figure that out?  Is there a test or some method of determining what is causing charts to lag?  When the stock market is in a free fall, for example, there is a ton of price data coming into the computer and the charts tend to lag, or update out of sync with the live price action.  How would I figure out if that is the hard drive read/write causing the lag or if it is the data feed coming over my cable modem? I don't think it is the feed, as I am running two different software packages and they rarely lag simultaneously. It is always the main set of charts that lag and sometimes it is the other chart provider that lags.  But not both at the same time.  
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by:IT-Monkey-Dave
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Windows 7 has plenty of tools you can use to track performance to help figure out if you have a bottleneck somewhere.  It's kind of a broad topic and not very exciting.  lol.  However you might take a look at this Microsoft TechNet article "Performance Monitoring Getting Started Guide".

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd744567(WS.10).aspx

Sometimes you can just observe a few crucial things like CPU % load in Task Manager and other stats available in Task Mgr and realize immediately, hey, I'm out of memory, or the CPU is running at 99% continuously, or there's too much swapping to disk going on.
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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36476569
so you don't think a faster HD is the key.  Is there any validity to my assumption that constant accessing of the data to chart caused the two previous drives to fail?  That is the other main reason I started thinking of SDD. Also one of the chart providers had recommended, well, actually now taht I think about it, they may have recommened solid state and I thought they were saying SSD. That is SSD, right?
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by:garycase
ID: 36476604
From what you've described, it's almost certain that your incoming data stream is being saved in a database;  then analyzed and displayed.    If that's the case, an SSD will give you a BIG performance improvement.

You can see the performance of an SSD by running HDTune against your current drive(s), and then against an SSD.    You'll notice 3 things:  (a) DRAMATICALLY better access time (< 0.5ms vs 12-18ms);  (b) a MUCH higher data transfer rate (~ 300MB/s or higher vs. 60-110MB/s); and (c) consistent transfer rate throughout the drive, whereas a rotating platter drive will taper down to less than 1/2 its original speed as the head moves inward on the drive (due to zoned sectoring).

One other thought since you're going to build your own system and want SPEED as a prime consideration:   Use an Intel Z68-based motherboard and an i5-2500k or i7-2600k rather than an AMD ... you'll get FAR better performance.
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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36477685
Hey Garycase, thanks for the input.  Is there anything special I should do in setting up with a SSD?  I have read about some funkiness, but have also read that there have been many improvements
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 125 total points
ID: 36477764
I've been using an OCZ Vertex2 SSD for about a year now with no problems - running Win7 64-bit.  You should make sure Win7 has the AHCI driver enabled (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/922976/en), the motherboard BIOS has the controller running in AHCI mode, and then check if TRIM is enabled with this command:

fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify

0 means TRIM is enabled.

The SSDs with the best performance seem to be those with SandForce controllers, partly due to the compression they use internally.
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/ssd-charts-2011/AS-SSD-Overall-Read-Score,2790.html
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/ssd-charts-2011/AS-SSD-Overall-Write-Score,2791.html
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by:garycase
ID: 36478184
Since you're going to be running Windows 7, there's nothing special to do -- just be sure the BIOS is set to AHCI mode (as Callandor noted) and install the OS.    Windows will automatically activate TRIM on the drive -- but you can check it as Callandor noted ["fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify"]

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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36484758
Ugh, the SSD pricing is killing me. What is the minimum size I can go with for Win7pro 64 bit OS and my apps and stuff, considering the non essential photos, music and wahtever is on a regular HD?  Will a 120GB SSD work for OS and apps and the database?  From what I can see, the database is 5gb.  Apps I use most, other than the trading apps are MS Office 2007 apps which don't have to be on the SSD, right?  I can go with just my charting program and the OS on the SSD?  I can spend up to about 120-200GB, but above that  and it just gets stupid expensive.
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by:garycase
ID: 36484835
A 120GB is a good size for MOST systems.     With Windows 7 and a typical set of apps installed you'll still have over half the drive for data (or more apps).    As I noted earlier, use either an Intel 320 series drive or an OCZ Vertex 2 or 3, or a Crucial M4 series and you'll be fine.    I think the best drive for the money right now is the Vertex 2 -- the Vertex 3 units are a touch faster, but on two otherwise identical systems I can't tell the difference (except in drive benchmarks).

One simple way to see just how much space you need ==> look at your current C: drive and see how much space is actually being used.   Then subtract things that you have on the drive but could locate elsewhere (music, photos, video).    

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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36484904
C drive/Docs and Settings/myuser has 28 GB of stuff, where 15GB of that is in the Local Settings folder and 13GB of that is on my Desktop. Can that be on the other HD or does that need to be on the SSD?  Program files folder only has 5.86 GB
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by:garycase
ID: 36489043
How much space is used on C: overall?    Sounds like it's well under 120GB ... so a 120GB drive will be PLENTY for your system, including your database.     Moving up to a Core i7-2600k CPU, giving the system 8GB of RAM to work with; and switching to an SSD will collectively give you a "rather nice" (BIG understatement) boost in performance :-)
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by:rodynetwork
ID: 36489714
Yes, I can hardly wait. It's supposed to be here tomorrow! AHHHH!
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