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Storage Performance In Entertainment And Content Creation

Content Creation Means Lots Of Sequential Data

We've now come full circle, having explored gaming, productivity, and media. In the games, we saw a wide variation of storage patterns. Battlefield 3, for example, turned out to consist mostly of sequential reads. Meanwhile, World of Warcraft involved a lot of random writes. Office productivity demonstrated a lot of mostly random reads unified by very low queue depths.

Content creation, on the other hand, heavily favors sequential transfers and tends to emphasize higher queue depths. Is using a hard drive in this environment going to hurt you? That depends. But we're still counting on the fact that, for storing media data, you can't beat the value of a conventional disk. The performance of SSDs is best leveraged on a temporary basis, whether you're capturing video or creating scratch space for an editing app.

We can use the information presented in this story to create a graph that sums up our findings. Transcoding a single video file is a lightweight-enough job that a hard drive can handle it just fine, for example. Once you start working with multiple format conversions or running an application where a handful of video clips are active simultaneously, though, the ability to almost saturate a 6 Gb/s SATA link and deftly handle higher queue depths swings the advantage definitively in favor of solid-state technology.

SSDs let you run multiple demanding tasks simultaneously without the I/O bottleneck that would otherwise hammer a mechanical disk. As we saw in our previous gaming exploration, running a virus scan in the background as you play a first-person shooter results in measurably lower frame rates. That's not a problem with an SSD installed. You can type in Word, transcode a full-length Blu-ray, and burn a DVD, all at the same time, without worrying that a performance hiccup will turn into a buffer underrun and spit back a coaster.

The advantage is quite tangible, as you're no longer tied down to just one storage-intensive operation. Naturally, we still recognize the cost premium associated with SSDs, so we still recommend a tiered storage strategy. Use an SSD as your boot and system drive. Install your most performance-sensitive applications to it, and dedicate a little space for apps like Premiere Pro to work. Then, pile all of your documents, videos, music, and pictures onto a hard drive.