Solid-State Drives: Get One Already!

There was quite a bit of variation between the three applications, where Eclipse benefited from an SSD the most, and the gains in Tomcat and TF2 were present but less noticeable.

Single-File Operations:

To test single-file I/O speed, I created a ~256MB file via time dd if=/dev/zero of=f1 bs=1048576 count=256, copied it to a new file and then read it via cat, redirecting to /dev/null. I used the time utility to capture the real elapsed time for each test.

Table 3. File I/O

Test HDD (s) SSD (s) % Faster
create 1.5 0.5 67%
copy 3.3 1.1 69%
read 2.2 0.2 63%

Figure 7. File I/O

Multiple File Operations:

First, I archived the 200k files in my 1.1GB Eclipse workspace via tar -c ~/workspace > w.tar to test archiving speed. Second, I used find -name "*.java" -exec fgrep "Foo" {} > /dev/null to simulate looking for a keyword in the 7k java files. I used the time utility to capture the real elapsed time for each test. Both tests made the HDD quite noisy, so I wasn't surprised to see a significant delta.

Table 4. Multi-File I/O

Test HDD (s) SSD (s) % Faster
tar 123.2 17.5 86%
find & fgrep 34.3 12.3 64%

Figure 8. Multi-File I/O

Summary

If you haven't considered an SSD, or were holding back for any of the reasons mentioned here, I hope this article prompts you to take the plunge and try one out.

For reliability, modern SSDs are performing on par with HDDs. (You need a good backup, either way.) If you were concerned about longevity, you can use data from your existing system to approximate how long a current generation MLC or TLC drive would last.

SSD support has been in place in Linux for a while, and it works well even if you just do a default installation of a major Linux distribution. TRIM support, some ext4 tweaks and monitoring via tune2fs and smartctl are there to help you maintain and monitor overall SSD health.

Finally, some real-world performance benchmarks illustrate how an SSD will boost performance for any operation that uses disk storage, but especially ones that involve many different files.

Because even OS-only budget-sized SSDs can provide significant performance gains, I hope if you've been on the fence, you'll now give one a try.

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