I am moving forward with a disk storage speed improvement plan using my Dell Precision T5400 workstation as the test bed.
Specifically, my goal is to create a super fast 2 TB drive C: from four OCZ Vertex 3 480GB SATA3 SSD drives in RAID 0 configuration. This will replace an already fast RAID 0 array made from two Western Digital 1TB RE4 drives.
So far I have ordered two of these fast SSD drives, along with what is touted to be a very good value in high performance SATA3 RAID controllers, a Highpoint 2420SGL. I'll get started with this combination and get to know it first as a data drive before trying to make it bootable.
Getting any kind of hard information online about putting SSDs into RAID is a bit like pulling teeth, so I'm not 100% confident that these parts will work perfectly together, but I think the choice of SSD drives is the right one. I had briefly considered a PCIe RevoDrive SSD card made by OCZ, but was just too esoteric... I'm actually getting double the storage this way for the same price, I can swap to a different RAID controller if need be, and these drives can easily be ported to any new workstation I may get in the future.
Notably, some early concerns with using SSD in RAID configurations (and things like TRIM commands) have already been alleviated, as the drives are now quite intelligent in their internal "garbage collection" processes. I've verified this with the engineers at OCZ. They have said that with these modern SSD drives you really don't have to worry about them being special - just use them as you would a normal drive.
Once I get the first two SSDs set up in RAID 0 I'll specifically do some comparisons with saving large files and also using the array as the Photoshop scratch drive, vs. the spinning 1 TB drive I have in that role now.
Assuming all goes well, I'll then add the additional two SSDs to complete the four drive array. After a quick test of that, I'll see if I can restore a Windows System Image backup made from my 2 TB C: (spinning drive) array, which (if it works) will let me hit the ground running using the same exact Windows setup, just faster.
My current C: drive, made from two Western Digital 1 TB RE4 drives, delivers about 210 MB/sec throughput with very large files, with 400 MB/sec bursts with small files (these drives have big caches). Where they fall down dismally (by comparison to SSD) is operations involving seeking... The PassMark advanced "Workstation" benchmark generates random small accesses such as what you might see during real work (and I can hear the drives seeking like crazy) results in a meager 4 MB/sec result.
My current D: drive, a single Hitachi 1 TB spinning drive, clocks in at about 100 MB/sec for large reads/writes.
The SSD array should push the throughput up at least 5x as compared to my current drive C: array, to over 1 GB/sec, but the biggest gain should be with random small accesses (no seek time in an SSD), where I'm hoping to see at leasdt a 25x improvement to over 100 MB/second. That last part is what's going to speed things up from an every day usage perspective.
I imagine that when the dust settles on this build-up, I'll end up pointing virtually everything at drive C:, including the Photoshop scratch file, since it will have such a massively fast access capability. It will be interesting to experiment. I suppose I'll have to come up with some gargantuan panoramas to stitch in order to force Photoshop to go heavily to the scratch drive for testing.
I'll let you all know how it works out, and I'll be sure and do before/after comparisons of real use scenarios (big files in Photoshop, and various other things). Perhaps fully my "real world" results can help others looking to get more Photoshop performance out of their systems understand what SSD can and can't do for them.
I welcome your thoughts and experiences.