April 19, 2010

HDD / SSD Battle

The Problem

You know, the laptop I'm using for my daily work job is not the fastest one. In contrast, it's more than 5 years old and pretty slow. Yeah I know, hardware can never be fast enought, but it's really slow considering the things I have to work on.

For instance, we are using xtext modeling and hence usually have a couple of Eclipse instances running at the same time (outer & inner workbench), additionally to using m2eclipse to build the projects with Maven in Eclipse. Moreover, we have some quite big workspaces with tens of thousands of class files.

All of this is probably not unusual, but unfortunately too much for my poor old laptop. It takes minutes to start or end Eclipse, not to mention the times required for cleaning all projects. However, my company currently does not really like the idea to buy new laptops so we have to find ways to speed things up without spending too much money. I have blogged before about some ways to speeding up your system.

The Solution?

It's pretty clear that the bottleneck is the hard drive currently. We have proven this by some inspection tools, the drive is working hard all the time when executing some build, for instance. Now we managed to get a solid state drive (SSD) to test the performance improvements it would offer. Well, fasten your seatbelt...

We have measured some typical tasks with real data and projects on a developer's laptop – first with the built-in hard disk, then after installing the SSD and copying the harddrive content over. Note that we have tried to make a fair comparison, keeping the setup indentical in both scenarios. These are the results.

The Battle

Working With Eclipse:

  • Start Eclipse 3.5.1 with an empty workspace until Welcome screen is displayed: 52 s → 12 s (factor 4.3)
  • Start Eclipse with a medium-size workspace: 125 s → 30 s (factor 4.2)
  • Clean all projects in that workspace: 445 s → 115 s (factor 3.9)
  • Exit Eclipse and wait until workspace is saved: 28 s → 7 s (factor 4.0)

Working With Maven:

  • Maven "clean install" in mdium-size project: 668 s → 336 s (factor 2.0)

Booting Windows:

  • Turn on computer and wait for login screen: 62 s → 33 s (factor 1.9)
  • After login, until Windows is ready (autostart applications are loaded): 135 s → 44 s (factor 3.1)

The Bottom Line

As you can see, the SSD is speeding up boot time by factor 2-3, which already is impressive. Maven build usually gets executed 2 times faster. Eclipse speed-up is even more, namely around factor 4. That's pretty cool! You really feel the performance difference!

Additionally, after some more weeks of testing, what we like most is that the whole system feels much more reactive; that is, when executing some big job like rebuild a huge workspace, you can switch context and nicely work in another instance of Eclipse, for instance – a single tasks is not blocking the whole system any more.

All in all, that's an incredible speed-up considering the prices of SSD! Now, go and tell your boss ;-)