A SSD Technology a Day (1) – Static Data Rotation

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series One SSD Technology a Day

One of the main drawbacks of SSD  has been reliability. Every NAND cell has a certain prescribed number of Program/Erase (P/E) cycles and as data is being written to disk, chances are it will remain unchanged for weeks or months. That means that the cells that are being used to store that data will have the same wear level (used P/E cycles) for the weeks or months that data was unchanged. This becomes a problem because the remaining free cells are going to be taxed even more and could reach their end of life and make the entire drive read only or even fail it completely.
I discovered this technology while I was trying to explain the degraded performance on my  new OCZ Vertex 3 SSD drive. I ran a bunch of tests using SQLIO based on Jonathan Kehayias (Blog|Twitter) post about Parsing SQLIO Output to Excel Charts using Regex in PowerShell with a 6GB file and I got some good results. I started using the drive and installed a few VMs until 50% of the drive was full. At that point I kept running SQLIO and Crystal Disk Mark test only to see the performance sinking more and more.

Little did I know that OCZ Vertex 3 which is based on SandForce 2281 chipset implements an intelligent Static Data Rotation algorithm as part of   Duraclass (Sandforce’s set of technologies to increase the reliability of the drive). This means that the SSD controller  actively rotates static data  from cells intensively used to other cells that were least used during  idle periods  to allow the drives wear leveling to work  at it’s best. But what happens when you stress test the disk and you run the about  3 times the size of the drive worth of data in a couple hours while half of the drive is full. The Sandforce  Duraclass algorithm will kick in and start moving data around even when the drive is not idle and the user will see a decrease in performance until the wear level is stabilized.

Essentially Static Data Rotation is there to make sure that you can use the drive for the MTTF prescribed by the manufacturer and prevents premature wear on the cells that store hot data.

There is an interesting post on the OCZ Technology Forum about this

UPDATE: Nitin Salgar (b|t) Has asked avery good question on Twitter after reading my post:

“Is Static Data Rotation in SSD a common phenomenon across all manufacturers?”

The answer is no, this is one of the strong selling points for the newer Sandforce SSD controllers that implement Duraclass. Newer Intel controllers have this technology as well but older ones do not have it. I would like to think that any Enterprise class controller has its own implementation of  a Static Data Rotation algorithm.

 

Series Navigation<< New blog series: One SSD Technology a DayA SSD Technology a Day (2) – What’s the difference between SLC and MLC? >>

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