As a teaser, how would you like Notes 8.5.1 FP3 Standard to start in 10 seconds? How about 10 seconds on 4 year old hardware? Read on.......

It is no secret that solid state drives give a phenomenal performance increase to OS and Lotus Notes start up times. Indeed I blogged about my experience back in December. SSDs offer performance, but at a high price. Another issue is the restricted storage capacity of these drive, ranging from 32GB to 128GB. Even a 128GB Torx drive (what I have and was the subject of the previous post) is currently $370 at Newegg and that ain't cheap. Anything higher than 128GB and you're in mega bucks area, north of $600 and higher.

So while the world waits for SSD prices to drop, Seagate have created the Momentus XT "hybrid" SSD hard drive. Basically is a "classic" 7200 RPM mechanical drive with 4GB of SSD bolted on as a really, really fast "read" cache.

The XT comes in 250, 320 and 500GB sizes. One big plus for the XT over "pure" SSDs. What about price? Well we just got two 500GB XTs and they cost $129 each from Tigerdirect. Another massive plus over pure SSDs.

So with almost 4 times more storage and one third of the cost over a pure SSD drive this approach looks like a winner on paper. Ah, but what about in the real world? Well good news. Using a computer with an XT inside of it really does feel like a SSD drive. I know, I use the Torx SSD everyday in my ThinkPad T500. But you don't just want my word, right? So....

Still one of the most popular posts on this blog is the 8.0.2 relative performance post, so I decided to get the stop watch out again and test the XT. But first things first, go read the AnandTech review of the drive to find out how it works.

OK, so you are back....basically a fast read cache right? And once the drive is used once "some" files are cached on the SSD portion. This allows for much, much faster read access for subsequent access to the files stored on the SSD portion of the drive.

So I did two tests, one was a 12 month old Dell desktop (to be posted after this), the other a 4 year old Dell laptop that was mine before we made the switch back to Lenovo 9 months ago. This was to get a feel for the performance across the board. As the drive needs to build the cache I booted to Windows, started Notes (aka pass 1) then rebooted and repeated (aka pass 2). Both set of times were recorded together with the original drive for the same task.

I recorded the time from BIOS to Windows desktop being loaded and timed until all hard drive activity ceased (this was to even out any timing issues with password entry at the Windows login). Then I recorded time for Notes so start with Shared Login enabled (so no password to enter).

Test 1 - Dell Inspiron E1405 Laptop

Approx 4 years old

Specs:
Intel Core Duo 2 T5500 @ 1.66Gbz
1GB RAM
Windows XP Pro SP3
Notes 8.5.1 FP3

Original drive was a 60GB 5400 RPM 8MB hard drive with SATA 150.

All times in seconds
Old Drive New Drive pass 1 New Drive pass 2 Difference old vs pass 2
From BIOS to Windows being loaded and drive activity ceasing
210
102
42
80% reduction
Lotus Notes 8.5.1 FP3 loaded to home screen
40
20
10
75% reduction



Admittedly, some of this increase is the jump from a 5400 drive to a 7200 drive. That's why I show pass 1 and pass 2. If you look at pass 1 vs pass 2 you'll see in this test the SSD cache basically doubles the drive performance. You could also read this as the performance increase over a standard 7200 RPM drive.

The XT makes this 4 year old laptop feel like a new one, and it feels like it has a SSD drive installed (after pass 2). All this and it only has 1GB RAM in it. Amazing stuff! In fact it is such a difference I wrote this entire post on the test laptop. It really does feel like a SSD. Have I said that before? ;)

While I have yet to see any laptops shipping with these "hybrid" drives it can only be a matter of time. Once they do start appearing as options, the laptop buying public (including corporations) would be insane not to add $30-50 to the price and get on of these puppies added to it. You can also add the XT to a desktop PC with the addition of a 2.5" caddy's, and that will be the subject of the next post.
At STS we'll be rolling these out now we know the benefit. Both laptops and desktops (old and new) will be getting new XT drives over the next few months! I'm sure the STS folks are looking forward to eventually rolling these out to their existing machines.  Each time I log on to a "classic" hard drive machine, I lament (rather loudly) that it feels like they're using a floppy drive after being spoiled with my SSD.

From a computer point of view, just adding one of these, even to a 4-5 year old computer, will breath new life into your computer using experience. Oh, and Notes gets a pretty good boost too.

P.S. Don't all us SSD owners feel pretty stupid now. I do ;)

Update : Desktop performance is now available here.
Darren Duke   |   June 27 2010 06:23:00 AM   |    lotus notes  performance  ssd  storage    |  
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Comments (9)

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1 - Eric Mack    http://www.EricMackOnline.com    06/27/2010 4:03:59 PM

Hi Darren, I know it's harder to measure objectively, but can you share a subjective evaluation of the performance gain during operation -- once the system has booted?

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2 - Flemming Riis       06/27/2010 4:37:46 PM

its my understanding that the new hybrids are very fast for boot and starting the first few apps then its "normal" 7200 speed after that.

if you run mutple vm's of a test laptop with a hybrid performance will drop fast vs a good SSD

personally i have then intel x25m160 in all my machines its not insane fast but good value for money

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3 - Ulrich Krause    http://www.eknori.de    06/28/2010 5:40:34 AM

unfortunately, this drive seems to be available only on amazon.com. It is not listed at amazon.de. Only the 250GB drive which is overpriced ( in EURO) compared to the 500GB.

And amazon.com is not willing to ship the drive to Germany ...

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4 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    06/28/2010 5:58:27 AM

@1, to me once the SSD cache took effect it absolutely flew. Tomorrow we should have 2 STS employees converted over to them and I'll hopefully have Lisa do a guest blog post on her perceptions by the of the week.

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5 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    06/28/2010 6:01:21 AM

@2, Flemming you are correct. I guess this is a function of the SSD size (in this case 4GB and some magic algorithm) and that is exactly what it is targeted at. To be honest I thought that the hybrid would in no way be fast enough for me so I was surprised. It comes down to a cost vs performance call for each individual, but running several VMs would make me look at a pure SSD. My feeling on the hybrid for VMs is that it would behave just as a fast 7200 RPM drive would.

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6 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    06/28/2010 6:06:01 AM

@3, huh, thats the exact opposite in the channel in the USA. 250GB ones are hard to find and don't look like they have shipped in bulk to the distributors. I got mine retail just to see what the delivery would be like and it took over 2 weeks from order to ship, even on the 500GB model.

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7 - Steve Dickson       07/19/2010 6:01:58 AM

Have you run any tests on encrypted drives? In the financial industry, we have to encrypt all of our drives, which saps performance. I have a full SSD drive, and while it seems faster than my older drive, it is not a LOT faster. So... is the cache on these hybrid drives encrypted?

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8 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    07/19/2010 6:51:42 AM

No I have not tested WDE (whole drive encryption). WDE would be far better on SSD I would think. As all of my "test" drives are now in real computers I have no way to test right now. Sorry.

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9 - Vitaly       11/01/2010 11:51:12 AM

do we need some support from OS in order to use this drive optimally?

AFAIK, for SSD disks OS should know to use it "in right way".