Subject: Storage | December 30, 2015 - 02:21 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: transcend, slc, mlc, ssd, flash, SuperMLC
Last year we saw Micron toy with the idea of dynamically flipping flash memory dies between SLC and MLC modes. Ok paper, it sounded like a great idea - get the speed of SLC flash while the SSD is up to 50% full, then start shifting dies over to MLC mode to get the higher capacity. This tech did not exist until the ability to flip dies between modes existed, which was not until shortly before the M600 SSDs were introduced. Realize this is different than other types of mixed mode flash, like that on the Samsung 'EVO' models, which have a small SLC segment present on each TLC die. That static partitioning kept those types of solutions more consistent in performance than the M600 was when we first evaluated its performance.
What if we borrowed the idea of keeping the flash mode static, but just keeping to the faster mode? Transcend has announced it will be doing just that in the coming year. These will be SSDs equipped with MLC flash, but that flash will be configured to operate in SLC mode full time. This will enable ~4x write speeds and higher endurance ~30,000 write cycles compared to ~5-10k P/E cycle figures of the same flash operating in MLC mode. This performance and endurance boost comes at a cost, as these SSDs will consume twice the flash memory for the equivalent MLC model capacity. We predict this type of substitution for standard SLC flash will be a continuing trend since SLC flash production volume is insignificant compared to MLC. This trick gets you most of the way to SLC performance and endurance for (in the current market) less cost/GB of a straight SLC SSD.
Upcoming Transcend models to include SuperMLC technology:
- SSD510K - 2.5”
- MSA510 - mSATA
- HSD510 - half slim
- MTS460 & MTS860 - M.2
Subject: Storage | October 13, 2015 - 09:24 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XQD, SD, microSD, Lexar, flash, CFast
Lexar (Micron's portable media brand) is known for their versatile flash media readers and lines of portable flash memory products. Today they have updated two of their big SD Card lines. First up is their 2000x (300MB/s) product, which now comes in a 128GB capacity:
As we pointed out in our SD Card Speed Classes, Grades, Bus Modes, and File Systems Explained piece, cameras and video recorders most likely won't use that super high 250MB/s write speed, but emptying a 128GB card at 300MB/s will take only 7 minutes (provided your destination device can write that fast)! This model comes with a small USB 3.0 reader, which makes sense as most systems can't hit 300MB/s with their built-in readers!
Next up is a HUGE capacity introduced in their 633x line:
This model may be less than half the speed of the 2000x part above, but 95 MB/s is not too shabby considering this card can store a half a TB! Write speeds are a bit more limited as well, coming in at 45MB/s. The use case for this card is as a full-time backup slot for capable SLRs, or more commonly (I believe) as a semi-permanent secondary storage addition to Ultrabooks. The cost at $0.54/GB comes in far less than the internal storage upgrade prices of many laptops.
Lexar also updated their CFast lines with faster (3500x / 3600x) models, as well as their XQD lines (1400x / 2933x). Lastly, the Professional Workflow XR2 (XQD 2.0) and UR2 (microSD UHS-II) pods are now available.
Stand by for a review of the 633x 512GB SD Card as we have one in for testing!
Subject: General Tech | August 28, 2015 - 04:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: google, chrome, flash, apple
The good news from Google is that as of next month, Flash ads will be 'Click to Play' when you are browsing in Chrome. This will be nice for the moving ads but even better for defeating those sick minded advertisers who think audio ads are acceptable. However this will hurt websites which depend on ad revenue ... as in all of the ones that are not behind a paywall which have Flash based ads. The move will make your web browsing somewhat safer as this will prevent the drive-by infections which Flash spreads like a plague infested flea and as long as advertisers switch to HTML 5 their ads will play and revenue will continue to come in.
The news of Chrome's refusal to play Flash ads is tempered somewhat by Google's decision to put advertising ahead of security for Apple devices. The new iOS 9 uses HTTPS for all connectivity, providing security and making it more difficult for websites to gather personalized data but as anyone who uses HTTPS Everywhere already knows, not all advertisements are compliant and are often completely blocked from displaying. To ensure that advertisers can display on your iOS9 device Google has provided a tool to get around Apple's App Transport Security thus rendering the protection HTTPS offers inoperative. Again, while sites do depend on advertisements to exist, sacrificing security to display those ads is hard to justify.
"The web giant has set September 1, 2015 as the date from which non-important Flash files will be click-to-play in the browser by default – effectively freezing out "many" Flash ads in the process."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- BitTorrent kills bug that turns networks into a website-slaying weapon @ The Register
- Windows 10 download Build 10532 arrives but Chrome borkage continues @ The Inquirer
- Turning a typewriter into a mechanical keyboard @ Hack a Day
Subject: Storage | August 13, 2015 - 08:12 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: FMS 2015, ssd, sata, SAS, pcie, NVMe, novachips, HLNAND, flash
It turns out Samsung wasn’t the only company to have 16TB SSDs at Flash Memory Summit after all:
Now that I’ve got your attention, Novachips is an SSD company that does not make their own flash, but I would argue that they make other peoples flash better. They source flash memory wafers and dies from other companies, but they package it in a unique way that enables very large numbers of flash dies per controller. This is handy for situations where very large capacities per controller are needed (either physically or logically).
Normally there is a limit to the number of dies that can communicate on a common bus (similar limits apply to DRAM, which is why some motherboards are picky with large numbers of DIMMs installed). Novachips gets around this with an innovative flash packaging method:
The 16-die stack in the above picture would normally just connect out the bottom of the package, but in the Novachips parts, those connections are made to a microcontroller die also present within the package. This part acts as an interface back to the main SSD controller, but it does so over a ring bus architecture.
To clarify, those 800 or 1600 MB/sec figures on the above slide are the transfer rates *per ring*, and Novachips controller is 8-channels, meaning the flash side of the controller can handle massive throughputs. Ring busses are not limited by the same fanout requirements seen on parallel addressed devices, which means there is no practical limit to the number of flash packages connected on a single controller channel, making for some outrageous amounts of flash hanging off of a single controller:
That’s a lot of flash on a single card (and yes, the other side was full as well).
The above pic was taken at last years Flash Memory Summit. Novachips has been making steady progress on controller development as well. Here is a prototype controller seen last year running on an FPGA test system:
…and this year that same controller had been migrated to an ASIC:
It’s interesting to see the physical differences between those two parts. Note that both new and old platforms were connected to the same banks of flash. The newer photo showed two complete systems – one on ONFi flash (IMFT Intel / Micron) and the other on Toggle Mode (Toshiba). This was done to demonstrate that Novachips HLNAND hardware is compatible with both types.
Novachips also had NVMe PCIe hardware up and running at the show.
Novachips was also showing some impressive packaging in their SATA devices:
At the right was a 2TB SATA SSD, and at the left was a 4TB unit. Both were in the 7mm form factor. 4TB is the largest capacity SSD I have seen in that form factor to date.
Novachips also makes an 8TB variant, though the added PCB requires 15mm packaging.
All of this means that it is not always necessary to have huge capacity per die to achieve a huge capacity SSD. Imagine very high capacity flash arrays using this technology, connecting a single controller to a bank of Toshiba’s new QLC archival flash or Samsung’s new 256Gbit VNAND. Then imagine a server full of those PCIe devices. Things certainly seem to be getting big in the world of flash memory, that’s for sure.
Even more Flash Memory Summit posts to follow!
Subject: Storage | August 11, 2015 - 08:40 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, FMS 2015, flash, BiCS, Archive, Archival, 3d
We occasionally throw around the '3-bit MLC' (Multi Level Cell) term in place of 'TLC' (Triple Level Cell) when talking about flash memory. Those terms are interchangeable, but some feel it is misleading as the former still contains the term MLC. At Toshiba's keynote today, they showed us why the former is important:
Photo source: Sam Chen of Custom PC Review
That's right - QLC (Quadruple Level Cell), which is also 4-bit MLC, has been mentioned by Toshiba. As you can see at the right of that slide, storing four bits in a single flash cell means there are *sixteen* very narrow voltage ranges representing the stored data. That is a very hard thing to do, and even harder to do with high performance (programming/writing would take a relatively long time as the circuitry nudges the voltages to such a precise level). This is why Toshiba pitched this flash as a low cost solution for archival purposes. You wouldn't want to use this type of flash in a device that was written constantly, since the channel materials wearing out would have a much more significant effect on endurance. Suiting this flash to be written only a few times would keep it in a 'newer' state that would be effective for solid state data archiving.
The 1x / 0.5x / 6x figures appearing in the slide are meant to compare relative endurance to Toshiba's own planar 15nm flash. The figures suggest that Toshiba's BiCS 3D flash is efficient enough to go to QLC (4-bit) levels and still maintain a higher margin than their current MLC (2-bit) 2D flash.
More to follow as we continue our Flash Memory Summit coverage!
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2015 - 11:47 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: tlc, ssd, micron, flash, computex 2015, computex, 16nm
While 16nm TLC was initially promised Q4 of 2014, I believe Micron distracted themselves a little with their dabbles into Dynamic Write Acceleration technology. No doubt wanting to offer ever more cost effective SSDs to their portfolio, the new TLC 16nm flash will take up less die space for the same capacity, meaning more dies per 300mm wafer, ultimately translating to lower cost/GB of consumer SSDs.
Micron's 16nm (MLC) flash
The Crucial MX200 and BX100 SSDs have already been undercutting the competition in cost/GB, so the possibility of even lower cost SSDs is a more than welcome idea - just so long as they can keep the reliability of these parts high enough. IMFT has a very solid track record in this regard, so I don't suspect any surprises in that regard.
Full press blast appears after the break.
Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 01:28 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: youtube, google, flash, html5
Youtube has finally ditched Flash as the default player for video in Chrome, Internet Explorer 11 and Safari 8. If you use the beta builds of Firefox you will also be provided HTML5 video by default but as of yet the official release will still be playing Flash videos. The adaptive bitrate which HTML5 can handle, without the use of plugins, could reduce buffering by 50% in a normal situation and up to 80% on congested networks according to the information which was given to The Inquirer. As well the VP9 Codec can provide a stream at 35% less bandwidth than Flash which makes 4K and 60fps videos start much faster. Flash is not yet dead and you can revert back to it, if you want to play Snake while your video is loading.
"GOOGLE'S YOUTUBE video portal has made the switch to HTML5 as a default renderer, marking yet another milestone in the downfall of the Adobe Flash format."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Another day, yet another emergency Adobe Flash patch. Because that's how we live now @ The Register
- Ghost in the Linux machine hits Debian, Red Hat and Ubuntu @ The Inquirer
- Horrifying iPhone sales bring Apple $18bn net profit A QUARTER @ The Register
- IBM details PowerPC microserver aimed at square kilometre array @ The Register
It has become increasingly apparent that flash memory die shrinks have hit a bit of a brick wall in recent years. The issues faced by the standard 2D Planar NAND process were apparent very early on. This was no real secret - here's a slide seen at the 2009 Flash Memory Summit:
Despite this, most flash manufacturers pushed the envelope as far as they could within the limits of 2D process technology, balancing shrinks with reliability and performance. One of the largest flash manufacturers was Intel, having joined forces with Micron in a joint venture dubbed IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technologies). Intel remained in lock-step with Micron all the way up to 20nm, but chose to hold back at the 16nm step, presumably in order to shift full focus towards alternative flash technologies. This was essentially confirmed late last week, with Intel's announcement of a shift to 3D NAND production.
Intel's press briefing seemed to focus more on cost efficiency than performance, and after reviewing the very few specs they released about this new flash, I believe we can do some theorizing as to the potential performance of this new flash memory. From the above illustration, you can see that Intel has chosen to go with the same sort of 3D technology used by Samsung - a 32 layer vertical stack of flash cells. This requires the use of an older / larger process technology, as it is too difficult to etch these holes at a 2x nm size. What keeps the die size reasonable is the fact that you get a 32x increase in bit density. Going off of a rough approximation from the above photo, imagine that 50nm die (8 Gbit), but with 32 vertical NAND layers. That would yield a 256 Gbit (32 GB) die within roughly the same footprint.
Representation of Samsung's 3D VNAND in 128Gbit and 86 Gbit variants.
20nm planar (2D) = yellow square, 16nm planar (2D) = blue square.
Image republished with permission from Schiltron Corporation.
It's likely a safe bet that IMFT flash will be going for a cost/GB far cheaper than the competing Samsung VNAND, and going with a relatively large 256 Gbit (vs. VNAND's 86 Gbit) per-die capacity is a smart move there, but let's not forget that there is a catch - write speed. Most NAND is very fast on reads, but limited on writes. Shifting from 2D to 3D NAND netted Samsung a 2x speed boost per die, and another effective 1.5x speed boost due to their choice to reduce per-die capacity from 128 Gbit to 86 Gbit. This effective speed boost came from the fact that a given VNAND SSD has 50% more dies to reach the same capacity as an SSD using 128 Gbit dies.
Now let's examine how Intel's choice of a 256 Gbit die impacts performance:
- Intel SSD 730 240GB = 16x128 Gbit 20nm dies
- 270 MB/sec writes and ~17 MB/sec/die
- Crucial MX100 128GB = 8x128Gbit 16nm dies
- 150 MB/sec writes and ~19 MB/sec/die
- Samsung 850 Pro 128GB = 12x86Gbit VNAND dies
- 470MB/sec writes and ~40 MB/sec/die
If we do some extrapolation based on the assumption that IMFT's move to 3D will net the same ~2x write speed improvement seen by Samsung, combined with their die capacity choice of 256Gbit, we get this:
- Future IMFT 128GB SSD = 4x256Gbit 3D dies
- 40 MB/sec/die x 4 dies = 160MB/sec
Even rounding up to 40 MB/sec/die, we can see that also doubling the die capacity effectively negates the performance improvement. While the IMFT flash equipped SSD will very likely be a lower cost product, it will (theoretically) see the same write speed limits seen in today's SSDs equipped with IMFT planar NAND. Now let's go one layer deeper on theoretical products and assume that Intel took the 18-channel NVMe controller from their P3700 Series and adopted it to a consumer PCIe SSD using this new 3D NAND. The larger die size limits the minimum capacity you can attain and still fully utilize their 18 channel controller, so with one die per channel, you end up with this product:
- Theoretical 18 channel IMFT PCIE 3D NAND SSD = 18x256Gbit 3D dies
- 40 MB/sec/die x 18 dies = 720 MB/sec
- 18x32GB (die capacity) = 576GB total capacity
Overprovisioning decisions aside, the above would be the lowest capacity product that could fully utilize the Intel PCIe controller. While the write performance is on the low side by PCIe SSD standards, the cost of such a product could easily be in the $0.50/GB range, or even less.
In summary, while we don't have any solid performance data, it appears that Intel's new 3D NAND is not likely to lead to a performance breakthrough in SSD speeds, but their choice on a more cost-effective per-die capacity for their new 3D NAND is likely to give them significant margins and the wiggle room to offer SSDs at a far lower cost/GB than we've seen in recent years. This may be the step that was needed to push SSD costs into a range that can truly compete with HDD technology.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2014 - 02:20 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: usb, On-The-Go, Flash Voyager GO, flash, corsair, CES 2014, CES
Earlier today, Corsair announced the Flash Voyager GO combination micro USB (OTG spec) / USB 3.0 (standard connector) drive. Being the storage nut that I am, I got a closer look while the rest of the PCPer gang were checking out the new cases, keyboards, and power supplies. Here are some more detailed pics for your viewing pleasure:
Connected to an Android smart phone:
Connected to a laptop:
Yes, you're seeing things correctly. The 'back' end opposite the micro-USB port is actually another USB port supporting USB 3.0 speeds.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!