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SSD RAID: Do You Want A Cheap Array Or One Larger Drive?

SSD RAID: Do You Want A Cheap Array Or One Larger Drive?
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You're on a budget. You want to know if it'd be better to stripe a couple of smaller SSDs or simply buy one larger performance-oriented drive. Today we're comparing one, two, and four 30 GB Kingston SSDNow V drives to Zalman’s new 128 GB N-series SSD.

We were recently given the opportunity to take a look at a new SSD from the Korean manufacturer Zalman. Solid state drives are new to the firm’s product lineup, which includes cooling products, cases, and storage accessories. The N-series SSD at 64 or 128 GB isn’t a game changer, but it is a strong product thanks to its SandForce controller architecture.

Therefore, we thought that it might be a nice candidate for the ultimate SSD shootout: should users go for two or four small SSDs in RAID, or select a single, higher-capacity drive? We put Zalman’s 128 GB N-series drive up against two and four Kingston SSDNow V drives that store 30 GB each.

SSDs at 120 GB or higher capacities still suffer at the hands of relatively high prices compared to mechanical hard drives, effectively making the really nice products unaffordable for a majority of users. Thus, it's logical that enthusiasts looking for performance would consider utilizing the software-based RAID controllers that can be found on the majority of today's motherboards. What has worked well with hard drives should also do the trick with SSDs, right?

Even basic, entry-level platforms come with Serial ATA storage controllers that support the elementary RAID levels 0 and 1 for striping or mirroring. The latter is useful for high reliability systems, while striping based on RAID 0 effectively multiplies throughput performance by the number of drives used.

Knowing that a Kingston SSDNow V bundle with two 30 GB SSDs costs only $150, it is worth looking into the real world performance of such a setup. To make this worthwhile, even for hardcore enthusiasts, we decided to install up to four of these 30 GB SSDs in RAID 0, as the total cost of $300 puts you into the price range of an individual 120/128 GB SSD based on SandForce hardware.

The benchmark section of this article puts two and four Kingston SSDNow 30 GB drives in RAID 0 (60, 120 GB) up against Zalman’s 128 GB N-series drive.

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  • 21 Hide
    Anonymous , December 3, 2010 4:31 AM
    How about a simple comparison of 2 of the smaller sandforce drives 2x60GB in raid vs one 120GB drive? There should be not much difference in price, which i assume people will pay (me included) if there is enough performance improvement. I see no point in comparing raid arrays of such low performing and phased out drives.
  • 20 Hide
    rossward , December 3, 2010 3:58 AM
    Why would you pick such inferior drive in the RAID array for this test? $150 for two 30GB drives isn't saving you any money. Why not get two of the Zalman N Series SSD0064N1 for $129 at a website I could name? You'd get MORE storage for LESS money. You'd also have a far superior controller in a two drive array. THAT is the best setup.
Other Comments
  • 0 Hide
    TheRockMonsi , December 3, 2010 3:18 AM
    Nice read. I didn't even consider this when looking at SSD's but I'm glad you shined some light on this. I guess for gaming it's best to go with one bigger SSD. Thanks for the article. :) 
  • 20 Hide
    rossward , December 3, 2010 3:58 AM
    Why would you pick such inferior drive in the RAID array for this test? $150 for two 30GB drives isn't saving you any money. Why not get two of the Zalman N Series SSD0064N1 for $129 at a website I could name? You'd get MORE storage for LESS money. You'd also have a far superior controller in a two drive array. THAT is the best setup.
  • 0 Hide
    juncture , December 3, 2010 4:14 AM
    rosswardWhy not get two of the Zalman N Series SSD0064N1 for $129 at a website I could name?

    Please tell me of this website! I can only find one of those SSD's for that price...

    On another note, after reading this article I think I made up my mind in a future build to have SSDs in raid for my OS and games paired with three 320gb HDDs I already own for more storage and backup. I am particularly interested in the read speeds more than anything.
  • 21 Hide
    Anonymous , December 3, 2010 4:31 AM
    How about a simple comparison of 2 of the smaller sandforce drives 2x60GB in raid vs one 120GB drive? There should be not much difference in price, which i assume people will pay (me included) if there is enough performance improvement. I see no point in comparing raid arrays of such low performing and phased out drives.
  • 8 Hide
    cangelini , December 3, 2010 4:49 AM
    EdisonmkHow about a simple comparison of 2 of the smaller sandforce drives 2x60GB in raid vs one 120GB drive? There should be not much difference in price, which i assume people will pay (me included) if there is enough performance improvement. I see no point in comparing raid arrays of such low performing and phased out drives.


    This is coming Edisonmk, just an FYI. In the same piece I'll also be comparing the dual-controller RevoDrive and quad-controller RevoDrive X2 (along with Intel's X25-M and OCZ's IBIS).

    Chris
  • 5 Hide
    physical , December 3, 2010 4:50 AM
    I agree... Apples to Oranges comparison isn't the best way to go forward with this.

    Pick a manufacturer, and a specific line of drives by that manufacturer, pick 4 low cap drives, 2 med cap drives, 1 high cap drive. Compare them! The final drive in these tests should be approx the same size.

    Test on all metrics per usual. Compare/Contrast results and provide Price/Performance analysis.
  • -4 Hide
    r_pad , December 3, 2010 5:13 AM
    I'd like to see the benchmarks on two 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300 in RAID 1.
  • 6 Hide
    DavC , December 3, 2010 5:57 AM
    r_padI'd like to see the benchmarks on two 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300 in RAID 1.

    in RAID1, i imagine the performance would be almost as good as a single 128GB Crucial RealSSD C300
  • 0 Hide
    knowom , December 3, 2010 9:18 AM
    I think raiding these would be nice and worth doing honestly most people looking for a SSD want them for the access time and sequential reads when it comes down to it and even the writes aren't horrendous for the S100 series I imagine in 2+ raid array setup they'd be very reasonable.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820139428
  • 4 Hide
    GullLars , December 3, 2010 10:58 AM
    Interresting test, but the comparisons are like comparing 4 paintball guns mounted on a stick with a common trigger to an AK-47.
    Redo the test with 1, 2, 3, and 4 SSD at 32 or 64GB compared against an SSD at 256GB using the same controller, and ffs, use a controller that is modern.
    I suggest SandForce or C300.
    I'm currently on an SSD RAID of 4x C300 64GB running on AMD SB850. I have 1150MB/s sequential read, 280MB/s sequential write, 32MB/s 4KB random read @ QD 1 (8k IOPS), 80MB/s 4KB random write at QD 1 (20k IOPS), 400MB/s 4KB random read at QD 32 (100k IOPS, maxed out at 2 drives), and 270MB/s 4KB random write at QD 32.
  • -5 Hide
    opmopadop , December 3, 2010 11:32 AM
    4x SSD = 10 to 15 watt... When most video catds use 30 watts at idle, and capable of hiting over 200 watts, it kinda seems silly to think about a measly 10 to 15 watts of power for RAID storage.

    Then again... I do have 2 rooms in the house with LED lighting...
  • 0 Hide
    nforce4max , December 3, 2010 12:03 PM
    I have one of these 30gb SSD from this brand and my results were a little better in other test than what you have gotten but I didn't get it as a os drive but as a paging drive. Modern hard drives are far to slow when it comes to random 4k and it shows up in games that have a very large memory foot print like GTA IV.
  • 7 Hide
    Scotteq , December 3, 2010 12:49 PM
    What about TRIM???

    My understanding is that although it is possible to connect a single SSD to a RAID controller and use TRIM, it is *not* possible to use TRIM on an array.

    Has this changed??????

    If not, then your RAID array's performance will inevitably decrease over time. And I would opine that end users would be better off buying a newer/faster/larger single drive.
  • 0 Hide
    scook9 , December 3, 2010 1:06 PM
    Interesting article, the take away for me is this.....maybe I would enjoy getting a 2nd Intel X25-M G2 80GB drive and do a RAID 0 hehe
  • 2 Hide
    nevertell , December 3, 2010 1:12 PM
    I don't think soft raid is good if you want speed.
  • 2 Hide
    Aoster87 , December 3, 2010 1:40 PM
    ScotteqWhat about TRIM???My understanding is that although it is possible to connect a single SSD to a RAID controller and use TRIM, it is *not* possible to use TRIM on an array.Has this changed??????If not, then your RAID array's performance will inevitably decrease over time. And I would opine that end users would be better off buying a newer/faster/larger single drive.


    Clearly explained in the last statement of the article: We'll also dive into the implications of using an SSD-based RAID array on TRIM support in an upcoming story, so stay tuned!
  • 1 Hide
    MU_Engineer , December 3, 2010 1:46 PM
    Quote:
    How about a simple comparison of 2 of the smaller sandforce drives 2x60GB in raid vs one 120GB drive? There should be not much difference in price, which i assume people will pay (me included) if there is enough performance improvement. I see no point in comparing raid arrays of such low performing and phased out drives.


    I was wondering this all along. They should have used better small drives like OCZ's 40 GB Vertex2, which use the SF-1222 controller, instead of the Kingston units. The performance of the smaller SandForce-based drives is supposedly similar to their larger variants, so that would give you the best idea of RAID vs. one big drive.
  • 1 Hide
    GullLars , December 3, 2010 2:01 PM
    Scotteqyour RAID array's performance will inevitably decrease over time. And I would opine that end users would be better off buying a newer/faster/larger single drive.

    Actually, performance degrades only to a certain point, depending on your usage patterns, and affect only write performance. With the performance level of RAIDs of decent new SSDs, you wouldn't notice it, but could meassure it after heavy usage with a benchmark.
  • 1 Hide
    MU_Engineer , December 3, 2010 2:06 PM
    Quote:
    Actually, performance degrades only to a certain point, depending on your usage patterns, and affect only write performance. With the performance level of RAIDs of decent new SSDs, you wouldn't notice it, but could meassure it after heavy usage with a benchmark.


    And if you can do so, not having write-heavy things on your SSDs helps a lot too. If you're on a desktop, you probably have a mechanical HDD for data. Putting some of the write-heavy folders on the mechanical HDD will result in very few writes to the SSD. I did this with my two-drive SSD RAID and after two months of use, the SSDs still report less than 64 GB of writes as compared to half a terabyte of reads on each SSD.
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