Saturday, May 23, 2009

CRM Demos, SSD Drives and Virtual Machines

When doing a demo you never want the software to look slow, and when doing CRM development against virtual machines performance is always critical to being efficient.

The Hardware
Samsung recently released their new 256Gb SSD drive and for me this drive signals that SSD drives have become mature. Intel has had very fast SSD drives available, but they were not very large. Like most other SSD drives they suffered from a condition where over time the drive would drop dramatically in performance. Samsung’s new drive has algorithms to minimize this to the point of it being of it being much less noticeable while still performing very similarly to the Intel SSD’s in access time and throughput.

So hoping that this drive lived up to my expectations, I replaced my laptop’s 7200 rpm 160Gb drive with Samsung’s new 256Gb SSD drive. My main concern was that running my VM’s off the system drive would still be unacceptable.

Virtual Machines
Before: I have run my vhd files from separate Firewire 800 Raid 0 drives. Keeping the system drive separate from the VHD was critical to getting good virtual machine performance.

After: The MS CRM 4.0 VHD 2009 now loads up in a mere 14 seconds while still running on the system drive versus 52 seconds on my external Firewire 800 drive. VS 2008 loads up after a clean boot(nothing cached) in 17 seconds and closes in 2 seconds compared with 57 and 13 seconds on my old drive.

Developing against a VM while on battery
This allows real development work to be done while running on battery power. The new SSD drive uses less power than the original drive did, and lugging around external drives for demos is now unnecessary.

As I write this the new Samsung drive is currently available at Dell as part 341-9999 for $699.99.  For this you get 256Gb at the speed of a 10,000 rpm RAID system that fits in a laptop while sipping at your batteries. In some ways, especially average access time, it actually blows an expensive and bulky RAID system away.


Even MORE Speed Possible
I’ve seen reports twin drive laptops getting transfer rates of 300 MB/sec with two of these Samsung drives in a RAID 0 configuration. For comparison a single Samsung drive has a transfer rate of 200MB/sec which is still a lot faster than the 60Mb/sec of a 7200rpm internal laptop drive my less than a year old laptop was using.

The Installation
The replacement was easy. I used my Acronis backup software to make a complete disk backup to one of my external RAID drives. For my Dell M6300 I had to remove 4 screws, pull the drive out. Remove two more screws for the surrounding case. Screw the new drive into the case, slide it into the computer and put the 4 attaching screws back in. Boot from the Acronis CD. It recognizes all of my external drives USB and Firewire. Use the Acronis software to “add a drive” and partition it. Then restore the backup, remove the CD and reboot. The backup and restore(much faster) took me about 2.5 hours. Everything else took about 15 minutes.


Len said...

Mark - this is great information and will help me make a decision when purchasing a new laptop. Was this a Vista machine or running XP? My understanding is that XP doesn't optimize for SSD very well, but would love to know what you're running.


Mark Kovalcson said...

I'm still running 32bit XP Pro in 4Gb with the switch set to allow it to access ~3.6 Gb.

I'm expecting to go to 64 bit Windows 7 or 2008 R2 with my next laptop with at least 8Gb, and I may consider a RAID 0 SSD configuration.

Mark Kovalcson said...

5 months later the onboard DMA controller died. Interestingly enough the drive dropped into a PIO mode (limp mode) where all the IO goes through the CPU.

Granted it is only running at 1.7MB/s instead of nearly 200MB/s but it has allowed me to operate, save my files and get ready for the replacement drive.

Most drives would have just completely failed if the onboard controller died.

I'm now looking at putting a power workstation together using Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit. I'm about to hand build a computer for the first time in a long time. Wish me luck!