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Setting up a cache drive...

Posted on 2013-01-20
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Last Modified: 2013-01-30
I recently attended a seminar that threw a lot of information at us.  While at first glance, I was immensely grateful to have attended, when the number of items discussed began to mount, I slowly stopped thinking how glad I was to be here, and started thinking, yeah... I need to check on that.  I'm going to be posting several questions on here shortly concerning SSD, Raid, Raid Controllers, and setting up a Cache Drive.  

Description:
This post is on setting up a Cache Drive.


The description for this post doesn't have to be long at all.  For those that know what an SSD cache drive is, I need your help.

I have Two Solid State Drives.  Intel SSD is 120GB, and OCZ 240GB.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820167050&nm_mc=KNC-GoogleAdwords&cm_mmc=KNC-GoogleAdwords-_-pla-_-Internal+SSD-_-N82E16820167050&gclid=CImd6IeI97QCFYLd4AodyBEA2A

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227792

I have this motherboard:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157299


The system / setup will also have two-four  WD 3TB Green Hard Drives.  
http://www.staples.com/WD-Caviar-Green-3TB-SATA-30-3-Gb-s-IntelliPower-35-Desktop/product_391828


Question:
1.  What is an SSD cache drive?
2.  What do I need to set one up?  Do I have everything I need, or do I need to purchase additional hardware / software to get this working?
3.  Is this worth doing?  I'm trying to build a build a performance machine that does a lot of photoshop and movie editing and rendering.
4.  Are there any important drawbacks I should know about?
5.  What is a good on-line guide for setup and information?
6.  Any additional comments, thoughts, suggestions, experience would be appreciated.


Thanks.
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Question by:FourthDownMage
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Expert Comment

by:dlethe
ID: 38798539
Some operating systems and file systems, notably solaris with ZFS allow you to take a RAID pool, and make part of it a SSD that can be used for cache.

The strength of a SSD drive is latency.  It can take 10 milliseconds to move mechanical heads to any arbitrary block in a rust-based disk, but that takes microseconds in a SSD. That is why a SSD can do 50,000 random IOPS when a mechanical drive might do 100 random IOPS.

Is it worth doing??    Not for what you are going to be using.  SSDs aren't much faster at throughput than a mechanical drive, and in some tests slower.  

Now if you were running an exchange database, or any database, then a SSD would make a wonderful place to store scratch tables, and tempdb.  You could simply put a file system on a SSD, and make the S:\ drive be the really fast SSD and you save files that get the most amount of random I/O on that disk.

(But you would want to mirror them, because even SSDs fail)
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dlethe earned 350 total points
ID: 38798549
Sorry, let me spell it out better

1.  What is an SSD cache drive?  (Answered above)

2.  What do I need to set one up?  Do I have everything I need, or do I need to purchase additional hardware / software to get this working?
Nothing else. Yes, you have all you need, but you should mirror if you care about data loss and don't back up regularly.


3.  Is this worth doing?  I'm trying to build a build a performance machine that does a lot of photoshop and movie editing and rendering.
No, those applications are not random I/O intensive.   You're better off buying a pair of decent SAS drives and using software RAID1.  You'll get better overall performance due to read load balancing.

4.  Are there any important drawbacks I should know about?
Yes.  They fail.  Also for the money you can get more than 4-8 mechanical drives and that will give you MUCH better performance for the intended use.   (Go RAID 10)

5.  What is a good on-line guide for setup and information?
Set them up just like any mechanical disk drive.  (But AHCI MUST be enabled or performance will suffer)

6.  Any additional comments, thoughts, suggestions, experience would be appreciated.
Not all motherboards play well with certain SSDs. You need to read the blog / support sites for your motherboard and see what people are buying and what works and doesn't work for them.
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Assisted Solution

by:edster9999
edster9999 earned 150 total points
ID: 38798648
Another thing to consider is memory.  If you spend money on getting *lots* of memory in this box - it will be far cheaper than using SSD cache and will give *far* better results for what you are using it for.
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Assisted Solution

by:dlethe
dlethe earned 350 total points
ID: 38798694
Agreed, with video editing, your money is best spent on maximizing the RAM, and even spending extra to buy a board with higher RAM capacity.  While a SSD over mechanical might get you 25% improvement in rendering, going from 8GB to 32GB could very well give you 300% improvement.

Don't even *think* about using a 32-bit O/S either.  Go to the manufacturer's web site for whatever software you will be using to render, and see what the support people say about return on investment in RAM, and to a lesser extent, how many cores you buy.  Not all products will benefit from going from 2-4 cores.
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Author Closing Comment

by:FourthDownMage
ID: 38836917
Thanks for the comments.  Although the advice is sound, the RAM for this system is already being setup at its maximum of 32GB and the Video Card is also very high end, at 2GB of DDR5.
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