Performance benefits of 10,000rpm drives

Posted on March 01, 1999

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Performance benefits of 10,000rpm drives

The Motley Fool and Compaq performed apples-to-apples tests of 10,000rpm and 7,200rpm disk drives.

Jeff Jenkins

One of the primary goals of The Motley Fool, a popular financial site on the Internet, is to ensure high levels of customer responsiveness and satisfaction. One secret of its success: The organization leverages the latest technology to respond to intense customer service demands, while maintaining the optimum price/performance ratio.

In a recent example, The Motley Fool deployed Compaq storage subsystems with 10,000rpm hard disk drives in a live production environment. These drives delivered an actual 30% performance gain over standard 7,200rpm drives, according to The Fool`s documented tests. The payoff: "Our end-users see the benefit in increased response times," says Max Keeler, The Motley Fool`s "network plumber." Increased response times translated into increased customer satisfaction and repeat customer visits--a critical element in the success of its financial web site.

Every growing organization faces similar challenges: more customers, more transactions, more information, and more and bigger applications--all of which generate vast amounts of data that must be processed, stored, and retrieved quickly, reliably, and cost-effectively if businesses are to meet customer expectations. This is fueling a seemingly insatiable demand for data storage. International Data Corp. (IDC), a market research firm in Framingham, MA, expects the total amount of installed storage worldwide to hit 3 million terabytes by 2000, more than three times the 1998 figure. How will organizations keep pace with this astounding demand for data storage?

The answer, as The Motley Fool and other organizations have discovered, lies in leveraging rapid advances in storage technology, which enable companies to pack more data onto hard disks and to find and retrieve that data more quickly.

One of the latest advances in storage per-formance is the 10,000rpm drive, which spins nearly 40% faster than a 7,200rpm drive. The 10,000rpm spindle speed minimizes seek time and rotational latency (the time it takes the head to reach the requested data following a seek), which results in quicker response times and faster data transfer rates. In addition, 10,000rpm drives, now in the second generation, include smaller high-density platters that enhance performance by reducing aver-age seek times. The net result: a perform- ance boost of 30% to 50%--or more--over 7,200rpm drives.

Compaq tested 10,000rpm drives against 7,200rpm drives in a variety of single-drive and RAID-array tests. The 10,000rpm drives demonstrated consistent performance advantages.

- Single drive test: 30% to 50% gain in throughput, depending on client load (see Fig. 1).

- RAID-0 test: 20% performance advantage in transactions per second.

- I/O performance: 45% advantage in I/Os per second.

- RAID-5 test: 30% to 50% advantage in transactions per second.

The Motley Fool also benchmarked for performance and Web traffic using two identical Compaq ProLiant 6500 servers, one with 7,200rpm drives and the other with 10,000rpm drives. The company tested the systems in a live production environment, running log transfers while tracking a full set of performance monitoring parameters. In the resulting apples-to-apples comparison, the 7,200rpm drives logged a transfer time of 2 minutes, versus 1.5 minutes for the 10,000rpm drives--a 25% improvement.

Financial services and telecommunications are among the first industry segments to benefit from the price/performance advantages of 10,000rpm drives. Faced with heavy, time-sensitive demand for large amounts of information, these industries service thousands of customers` or internal users` at a moment`s notice. Every unnecessary second a customer or user spends waiting for information translates into reduced customer satisfaction or lost productivity.

Whether users are banging away against the organization`s data warehouse containing critical information, e-commerce sites trying to handle surging volumes of traffic, or enterprise applications supporting key business operations, the organization needs to ensure maximum performance.

One of the key benefits of 10,000rpm drives is increased responsiveness, or the speed at which organizations can deliver access to information to users or customers: In recent tests, Compaq measured a 50% improvement in response time with 10,000rpm drives vs. 7,200rpm drives (see Fig. 2).

Average latency is equal to one-half the time required for one rotation of the spindle. The latency for 10,000rpm drives is 1/(10,000/30), or 3 milliseconds. For 7,200rpm drives, latency is 1/(7,200/30), or 4.17 milliseconds. So, 10,000rpm drives reduce latency times by 28% and seek times by 30%, compared to 7,200rpm drives.

An ancillary benefit of 10,000rpm drives is increased productivity. Higher performance means higher throughput, which translates into increased productivity. Customer service workers, for example, can get more information faster from 10,000rpm than 7,200rpm drives, enabling them to handle more customers in a given amount of time.

In all cases, the end result of faster data access is improved competitiveness through increased customer satisfaction and higher worker productivity. Whether the organization is upgrading existing hard drives or adding new drives, the improved price/performance of 10,000rpm drives leads to significant business benefits.

Click here to enlarge image

Fig. 1. In a single-drive comparison, 10,000rpm drives provided a 30% to 50% performance gain over 7,200rpm drives. Tests were conducted in a RAID-0 configuration running the ServerBench 4.01 benchmark code under Windows NT 4.0.

Click here to enlarge image

Fig. 2: Graph shows composite performance of 10,000rpm drives vs. 7,200rpm drives. The x-axis indicates the number of drives on the SCSI bus. The eight marks between each number indicate the number of blocks transferred in a single I/O (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and 128 blocks of data, respectively). One block is 512 bytes. Write caching was disabled. Queuing consisted of 16 tagged commands.

Jeff Jenkins is marketing director, data products unit, storage products division, at Compaq Computer Corp.

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