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Battle of the Titans: Promise SuperTrak 100 vs. 3Ware Escalade 6400


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Battle of the Titans: Promise SuperTrak 100 vs. 3Ware Escalade 6400
  February 14, 2001 Author: Terry Baranski  

Confused? The StorageReview.com RAID Guide explains all!


WinBench Results...

Let's start out with some base scores utilizing a single drive... this gives us something to compare RAID results against. The table below presents WinBench scores for a single DiamondMax 80 on the following controllers: the Abit SL6's on-board ATA controller, a Promise Ultra66, the SuperTrak-100, and the Escalade 6400:

Jump To Analysis Ziff Davis WinBench 99 under Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS Jump To Analysis
Benchmark Single-Drive Base Scores
Abit's SL6 on-board ATAPromise Ultra66SuperTrak-100Escalade 6400
Business Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 6484 5820 4872 4454
High-End Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 16220 14460 13580 15200
AVS/Express 3.4 (KB/sec) 13600 13160 11560 15300
FrontPage 98 (KB/sec) 65860 50980 58400 62480
MicroStation SE (KB/sec) 21480 18320 17480 19580
Photoshop 4.0 (KB/sec) 8534 8668 7154 8502
Premiere 4.2 (KB/sec) 14760 12440 10676 13460
Sound Forge 4.0 (KB/sec) 18540 16040 19480 14820
Visual C++ (KB/sec) 17000 14200 14460 14520
Disk/Read Transfer RateStorageReview.com
Beginning (KB/sec) 29800 29733 20200 29800
End (KB/sec) 17500 17500 17500 17500
Disk Access Time (ms) 15.22 15.26 16.12 15.04
Disk CPU Utilization (%) 2.91 3.04 2.89 3.11

With a single drive, both the SuperTrak and Escalade turn in a Business Disk Winmark score lower than that of the Ultra66. The SuperTrak's High-End score is also significantly lower. These scores seem reasonable for the SuperTrak since its sustained transfer rate is limited to about 20MB/sec when read cache is enabled. For the Escalade however, there's logical reason why its base Business score would be lower than that of the Ultra66 - its sustained transfer rate is the same, and WinBench claims its base seek time is lower.

Why is the SuperTrak limited to a sustained transfer rate of just 20MB/sec? Promise tells us it's due to both the cache and the ASICs themselves. Caches in general are bad for sustained transfer rate, Promise says, and the SuperTrak's ASICs were not optimized for STR. This limit will undoubtedly be a disappointment to anyone requiring high STR for optimal performance.

Jump To Analysis Ziff Davis WinBench 99 under Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS - RAID 0 Jump To Analysis
Benchmark 2 Drives, RAID 0 3 Drives, RAID 0 4 Drives, RAID 0
SuperTrak-100 Escalade 6400 SuperTrak-100 Escalade 6400 SuperTrak-100 Escalade 6400
Business Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 4948 3944 4956 3992 5020 4372
High-End Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 14620 13540 15100 14820 14840 15080
AVS/Express 3.4 (KB/sec) 11480 15660 12920 17160 11420 16360
FrontPage 98 (KB/sec) 59180 31360 59720 30560 59260 33380
MicroStation SE (KB/sec) 16100 16500 14920 15820 15340 16040
Photoshop 4.0 (KB/sec) 8572 10532 8974 12460 9172 13740
Premiere 4.2 (KB/sec) 11880 12020 12000 14680 11920 13640
Sound Forge 4.0 (KB/sec) 21460 14300 21980 14920 21640 14780
Visual C++ (KB/sec) 15980 8910 16260 9744 16340 10328
Disk/Read Transfer RateStorageReview.com
Beginning (KB/sec) 20133 59600 20100 85833 20200 102667
End (KB/sec) 20200 35000 20133 52300 17500 69600
Disk Access Time (ms) 16.22 15.24 16.06 15.18 15.94 15.40
Disk CPU Utilization (%) 2.86 3.07 2.85 3.20 88.50 88.80

RAID 0 scores from both controllers are rather unimpressive. Generally speaking, each card's Disk Winmark scores are no better than that of a single drive.

In the STR arena, the SuperTrak's 20MB/sec causes it to pale in comparison with what the Escalade achieves as more drives are added. As shown above, the Escalade manages an amazing 103MB/sec with a four drive RAID 0 array. Had we not seen it with our own eyes, we probably wouldn't believe such a score: We simply didn't think that the PCI bus's overhead would allow for anything over 90MB/sec or so.

It's also interesting to note that average access times for both cards seem to increase somewhat in RAID 0. This phenomenon is fairly consistent in RAID 0 configs, though we're not sure why. Indeed, RAID 0 should yield some positioning benefit in addition to increases in STR.

Finally, note the ridiculously high CPU utilization scores for both controllers was in a four drive RAID 0 array. We believe this to be a quirk in WinBench because, as we'll see, IOMeter shows no such CPU utilization increase.

Jump To Analysis Ziff Davis WinBench 99 under Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS - RAID 1 Jump To Analysis
Benchmark 2 Drives, RAID 1
SuperTrak-100 Escalade 6400
Business Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 4912 3608
High-End Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 12960 11660
AVS/Express 3.4 (KB/sec) 11540 16180
FrontPage 98 (KB/sec) 58980 27300
MicroStation SE (KB/sec) 17800 17560
Photoshop 4.0 (KB/sec) 6686 8100
Premiere 4.2 (KB/sec) 9880 9530
Sound Forge 4.0 (KB/sec) 16820 11760
Visual C++ (KB/sec) 14300 7646
Disk/Read Transfer RateStorageReview.com
Beginning (KB/sec) 20100 47600
End (KB/sec) 17500 27467
Disk Access Time (ms) 14.30 13.10
Disk CPU Utilization (%) 2.87 3.10

As was the case with RAID 0 scores, the above RAID 1 Disk Winmark scores don't seem to reflect reality. Despite the fact that each card's access time in RAID 1 is significantly lower than that recorded using single drive, and despite the fact that STR is either much better (Escalade) or equal (SuperTrak) to a single drive, RAID 1 Disk Winmark scores are significantly worse. We have a very, very difficult time believing that these scores represent actual performance.

As mentioned above, average access time decreases significantly under RAID 1 for both cards. This indicates that both cards perform some type of intelligent load balancing between the two drives. For example, when an I/O request is made to a RAID 1 array, there are always two drives available to service the request since each drive has the exact same data. Therefore, an intelligent RAID card can judge which drive's actuator is closer to the needed data and direct the request accordingly. This tends to result in lower average access times and better performance.

The Escalade's STR of 50MB/sec is about 2/3 higher than that of a single drive due to 3ware's TwinStor architecture. Needless to say, it's a significant improvement.

Note: Although there are fault tolerance-related differences between RAID 01 and RAID 10, there isn't a theoretical reason for performance differences between these two array levels. Therefore, we feel it's fair to compare the SuperTrak's RAID 01 performance to the Escalade's RAID 10 performance.

Jump To Analysis Ziff Davis WinBench 99 under Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS - RAID 01/10 Jump To Analysis
Benchmark 4 Drives, SuperTrack-100 in RAID 01, Escalade 6400 in RAID 10
SuperTrak-100 Escalade 6400
Business Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 4924 3892
High-End Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 13500 13000
AVS/Express 3.4 (KB/sec) 11660 14980
FrontPage 98 (KB/sec) 58300 32200
MicroStation SE (KB/sec) 16380 16600
Photoshop 4.0 (KB/sec) 7388 10400
Premiere 4.2 (KB/sec) 10480 10584
Sound Forge 4.0 (KB/sec) 18160 13280
Visual C++ (KB/sec) 14580 8862
Disk/Read Transfer RateStorageReview.com
Beginning (KB/sec) 20067 59933
End (KB/sec) 20100 46633
Disk Access Time (ms) 14.36 13.46
Disk CPU Utilization (%) 2.85 3.04

Again we face with seemingly illogical Disk Winmark scores. There's no reason why Disk Winmark scores should be so poor here, especially given the fact that both cards enjoy significantly decreased access times in RAID 01/10 (relative to a single drive). In addition, the Escalade's STR doubles in RAID 10; even so, Disk Winmark scores don't appear to reflect this.

Jump To Analysis Ziff Davis WinBench 99 under Windows 2000 Professional using NTFS - RAID 5 Jump To Analysis
Benchmark 3 Drives, RAID 5 4 Drives, RAID 5
SuperTrak-100 Escalade 6400 SuperTrak-100 Escalade 6400
Business Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 2542 2120 3998 2378
High-End Disk WinMark 99 (KB/sec) 1856 4792 9266 6488
AVS/Express 3.4 (KB/sec) 10018 13580 11420 14320
FrontPage 98 (KB/sec) 27880 12200 56760 12480
MicroStation SE (KB/sec) 10642 10644 13680 11880
Photoshop 4.0 (KB/sec) 675 1884 4148 1988
Premiere 4.2 (KB/sec) 1020 2304 6688 2522
Sound Forge 4.0 (KB/sec) 1560 3728 12520 4070
Visual C++ (KB/sec) 2290 3328 10060 3590
Disk/Read Transfer RateStorageReview.com
Beginning (KB/sec) 11767 58833 12533 81900
End (KB/sec) 9647 34933 10933 52233
Disk Access Time (ms) 16.48 15.20 16.46 15.30
Disk CPU Utilization (%) 2.85 3.11 2.85 3.10

Much to our dismay, horrendous WinBench results continued under RAID 5. Note the Disk WinMark scores for both cards: they are not typos. With the SuperTrak, the benchmark would consistently "freeze" 39% through the High-End test for half an hour or more, only to then start up again, and eventually finish. It's certainly not typical behavior... and it's certainly something that can botch up a timed test. This behavior was repeatable on both the testbed and on another machine; we simply don't know if it's an issue with WinBench itself, or the SuperTrak. Regardless, the results are obviously not representative of performance.

With the Escalade, there was no "freeze" during the High-End test. However, the results are nonetheless obviously unrepresentative. Once again, the inaccurate results were repeatable on a separate system.

Aside from the problems with Disk Winmark scores, it's worth noting that the SuperTrak's RAID 5 access time is higher than that of a single drive configuration as well as any other supported RAID level. This is disappointing, as the SuperTrak is marketed as a RAID 5 controller.

The SuperTrak's sustained transfer rate graph is somewhat odd, but we're not sure why. The overall appearance of the graph is very consistent- the dips and peaks in STR always occur in about the same locations. The Escalade's graph is much more "normal", however.

 SuperTrak vs Escalade Base IOMeter Performance...


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