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Benchmarking Standard And Increased Memory Configurations

Hacking The HP EX470/475 MediaSmart Servers
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The benchmark employed for this set of measurements is from Intel and is called the NAS Performance Toolkit, aka NASPT. It’s free for downloading and use from the NASPT home page, and is a perfect tool to evaluate how the MediaSmart Server behaves. Here’s how Intel describes this toolkit: "The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit…is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable performance comparisons between network attached storage (NAS) devices. Intel NASPT focuses on user-level performance using real world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications: HD video playback and record, data backup, and restore utilities, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation, and more.”

In these benchmarks, however, instead of comparing multiple NAS systems to one another, I’ll compare the performance of the same system to itself, varying only the amount of memory available to handle the benchmarking tasks. To unmuddy the waters somewhat, I also killed all non-essential services on the Vista client from which the tests were run, and made sure to run those tests only when no scheduled tasks were active on the MediaSmart Server as well. That also means these results are best interpreted as “best case performance” (that’s okay because I want to compare different configurations to one another, but these results may not reflect what you’ll see on your own networks).

NASPT permits batch runs of its testing programs to be launched. This runs three sets of benchmarks back-to-back and presents average results for all three runs in the form of megabytes per second for throughput between client and server. Table 2 presents these results for the EX475 with the stock Sempron 3400+ processor for 512 MB, 2.0 GB, and 4.0 GB RAM (all values are MB/second; all measurements come from a Gigabit Ethernet environment).

TABLE 2: Benchmarks for Memsizes 0.5, 2.0, and 4.0 GB

Task
0.5 GB
2.0 GB
4.0 GB
Notes/Remarks
HD Video Playback
27.6
33.2
34.8
Strong linear correlation to memory size
2x HD Playback
14.2
11.7
10.9
Inverse correlation to memory size
3x HD Playback
12.1
9.9
7.4
Inverse  correlation to memory size
4x HD Playback
10.1
9.8
9.4
Inverse  correlation to memory size
HD Video Record
65.9
137.0
133.6
Strong benefit to memory boost
HD Playback and Record
34.5
39.0
41.4
Moderate Benefit to memory boost
HD 2x Playback 2x Record
20.9
20.9
21.0
No benefit to memory boost
HD Playback with Office
28.2
36.0
35 .7
Moderate benefit to memory boost
HD Playback with Backup
5.2
6.7
6.4
Small benefit to memory boost
Content Creation
22.2
23.4
21.5
Little or no benefit to memory boost
Backup
47.7
48.7
53.2
Small benefit to memory boost
Restore
19.1
18.4
18.2
Weak inverse correlation to memory size
File Copy to NAS
56.4
72.4
66.7
Moderate benefit to memory boost
File Copy from NAS
40.8
38.3
37.6
Weak inverse correlation to memory size
Dir  Copy to NAS
5.2
5.6
3.5
Weak inverse correlation to memory size
Dir Copy  from NAS
28.1
34.1
33.0
Moderate benefit to memory boost
Photo Album
20.2
23.3
22.6
Moderate benefit to memory boost


Looking over these results, three things are quite clear. First, the incremental value for spending $20 to $30 for a 2 GB module is just about what you’d expect it to be with many performance improvements in the 10-20% range at a cost of about 6.5% of the $380 base price for an EX470 refurb unit. Second, there aren’t that many dramatic improvements to Windows Home Server performance that come from memory, but HD Video Record and File Copy to NAS are the strongest players here. Third, the incremental cost to go from a 2 GB to a 4 GB DDR2 module runs from $85 to $125 and is nowhere near offset by corresponding gains in performance. Hopefully, this makes it obvious why HP chose to install 2 GB in its latest generation of MediaServer hardware. I suggest you do likewise, if you upgrade yours.

Check prices for HP's MediaSmart EX475

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