Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: Various
Tagged: ssd, Future, flash, Bleak, 2012

Overcoming Hurdles

A paper, titled “The Bleak Future of NAND Flash Memory” was recently jointly published by the University of California and Microsoft Research. It has been picked up by many media outlets who all seem to be beating the same morbid drum, spinning tales of a seemingly apocalyptic end to the reign of flash-based storage devices. While I agree with some of what these authors have to say, I have reservations about the methods upon which the paper is based.

TLC and beyond?

The paper kicks off by declaring steep increases in latency and drops in lifetime associated with increases in bits-per-cell. While this is true, flash memory manufacturers are not making large pushes to increase bits-per-cell beyond the standard MLC (2 bits per cell) tech. Sure some have dabbled in 3-bit MLC, also called Triple Level Cell (TLC) which is a bit of a misnomer since storing three bits in a cell actually requires eight voltage level bands, not three as the name implies. Moving from SLC to MLC doubles density, but the diminishing returns increase sharply after that – MLC to TLC only increases capacity by a another 1.5x, but sees a 2-4x reduction in performance and endurance. In light of this, there is little demand for TLC flash, and where there is, it’s clear by the usage cases that it is not meant for anything beyond light usage. There's nothing wrong with the paper going down this road, but the reality is that increasing bits per cell is not the envelope being pushed by the flash memory industry.

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Wait a second – where is 25nm MLC?

Looking at the above we see a glaring omission – 25nm MLC flash, which has been around for close to two years now, and constitutes the majority of shipping flash memory parts currently in production. SLC was also omitted, but I can see the reason for this – it’s hard to get your hands on 25nm SLC these days. Why? Because MLC technology has been improved upon to the point where ‘enterprise MLC’ (eMLC) is rapidly replacing SLC even despite the supposed reduction in reliability and endurance over SLC. The reasons for this are simple, and are completely sidestepped or otherwise overlooked by the paper:

  • SSD controllers employ write combination and wear leveling techniques.
  • Some controllers even compress data on-the-fly as to further reduce writes and provisioning.
  • Controller-level Error Correction (ECC) has improved dramatically with each process shrink.
  • SSD controllers can be programmed to compensate for the drift of data stored in a cell (eMLC).

Continue reading our editorial on the not-so-bleak future of NAND Flash Memory!!!

CES Storage Roundup Part 4 - Sandisk, PQI

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2012 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sandisk, PQI, memory, flash, CES

Sandisk

Sandisk had a booth with a large array of small nand flash storage devices, though most of it appeared to be SD, CF, or for embedded mobile applications:

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One of the more interesting pieces was a 64GB e.MMC nand flash part that fit *within* the dimensions of a penny! This is not a plug-in module - it's the type that would be soldered onto the mainboard of a cell phone or other small mobile device:

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While the booth was generally light on SSD's, there were a couple on display, namely the U100, in both 7mm (left) and 9.5mm (right) form factors:

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The U100 is also available in even smaller form factor. We're currently taking a look at an Ultrabook equipped with the same Sandisk U100 SSD - mounted to an even smaller PCB.

PQI

PQI has been a favorite of mine for years. They were among the first to make a really tiny thumb drive, and I'm glad to see they continue to make a versatile line of products:

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A little known fact is that PQI also has a line of SATA SSD's:

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The S525 Series (also available as the S518 - 1.8" form factor), is a bit long in the tooth and uses a dated JMicron controller, but PQI made the extra effort to include the optional USB 2.0 interface that most other manufacturers chose to omit.

More to follow

I've still got some pics to sift through, so stay tuned for more CES Storage goodies!

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES Storage Roundup Part 3 - Intel Cherryville and IMFT 20nm flash die spotted!

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2012 - 05:33 PM |
Tagged: ssd, micron, Intel, imft, flash, cherryville, CES, 20nm

CES is sort of like a Where's Waldo book. There are thousands of places to look, with new technology spread around all over the place. Some of that unreleased tech shows up right in front of you and you don't even realize what you were looking at until later on. It's how we caught a look at prototype Light Peak (now Thunderbolt) two years ago, and this year we saw some more goodies not previously seen in the wild. I tend to be a bit of a shutterbug, and I take seemingly random pics of things as the PCPer gang runs around the various vendor booths and hotel suites. While going through the pics from my phone, I ran across this shot of what I thought was an Intel 320 Series SSD:

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Definitely not a 320, that's an Intel 520 Series (Cherryville) SSD. While Intel had their 520 Series locked up tight at their Storage Visions booth, this one was powering another motherboard makers product elsewhere in Vegas. Unfortunately this system was only to demo the motherboard itself, without a connected display, so it would not have been possible to run our own benches.

At storage visions, we also saw this display at the Micron booth. It's interesting to see how 16GB of flash memory has shrunk over the past few years. We've certainly come a long way from the good old X25-M:

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Some of you may know that I'm a sucker for a good die shot, so I snuck back out to Micron's suite later on to get my own macro shot of the 20nm IMFT flash die:

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Micron is, like many other vendors, working on their own SSD solution specifically for SSD caching applications. It's currently unreleased, so more to follow on this.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES Storage Roundup Part 2 - Corsair, Patriot

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 12, 2012 - 12:29 AM |
Tagged: ssd, patriot, memory, flash, corsair, CES

While roaming Vegas, we came across lots of storage goodies. Here are a few:

Corsair

Corsair showed their line of SSD's, with a new addition:

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The new addition is on the right. This is the 'Accelerator' series, an SSD primarily meant for caching duties:

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The Accelerator series will be available in 30, 45, and 60GB capacities, and will be packaged with caching driver software for those not running a Z68 or better caching capable Intel board.

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Also on display was a refresh to the Voyager, Voyager GT, and Survivor series, bringing their interface up to USB 3.0 speeds.

Patriot

We also saw Patriot's lineup:

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Pictured above, from top down, is the following:

  • Wildfire (Sandforce 6Gb/sec / Toshiba Toggle-mode flash)
  • Pyro SE (Sandforce 6Gb/sec / IMFT Sync flash)
  • Pyro (Sandforce 6Gb/sec / IMFT Async flash)
  • Magma (Phison / Async flash)
  • Mac Series (identical Pyro SE, but Apple certified)

Next is the USB lineup, with many new USB 3.0 models replacing the older 2.0 units. The Transporter series is a bit shorter than it used to be, which is a welcome bonus.

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Here are Patriot's portable flash offerings, consisting of high capacity SD cards and Phison-driven mSATA and smaller (!) form factors:

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This is 'mSATA mini', which is about half the length of a standard mSATA SSD. On the other end of that spectrum is a 240GB Macbook Air unit (just off camera in the above pic).

Stay Tuned!

...I've got a few more goodies to post!

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES Storage Roundup Part 1 - Toshiba, Kingston

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 11, 2012 - 09:26 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, memory, kingston, flash, CES

While roaming Vegas, we came across lots of storage goodies. Here are a few:

Toshiba

Toshiba was showing a 19nm flash memory wafer and all of their products containing them.

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They seem to be taking their SATA SSD lines less seriously, as there were none on display. While there were no SSD's to speak of, there were USB devices:

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There was also plenty of SDHC, including their own SD WiFi card - used to upload photos as they are taken.

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They were also showing an SDXC card. While the shown card was a functioning 64GB unit, the SDXC format is capable of taking to cards up to 1TB in capacity.

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Kingston

We saw some cool stuff over at the Kingston booth:

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If you look inside that case, you'll see they are now making an mSATA SSD:

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They also showed their ever expanding line of USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices:

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...and this really tiny model, which packs 8GB of storage into something barely big enough to unplug without the use of needle nose pliers:

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Stay Tuned!

...more storage stuff is coming soon!

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Kingston Digital Launches its Fastest USB Flash Drive

Subject: Storage | November 17, 2011 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: usb 2.0, usb 3.0, kingston, hyperx, flash

Fountain Valley, CA -- November 17, 2011 -- Kingston Digital, Inc., the Flash memory affiliate of Kingston Technology Company, Inc., the independent world leader in memory products, today announced the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX 3.0. The DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 is designed for enthusiasts and gamers, and features the fastest speeds and largest capacities that Kingston has to offer in a USB Flash drive.

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Its high-speed eight-channel architecture provides USB 3.0 data transfer rates of up to 225MB/s read and 135MB/s write. Users can save time associated with opening, editing and copying large files and applications between devices. The fast write speeds also allow users to work on large files or applications directly from the USB 3.0 drive without performance lag.

"Enthusiasts have long known HyperX as the memory of choice for overclockers and power users who need the most performance from system memory," said Andrew Ewing, Flash memory business manager, Kingston. "The new DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 USB Flash drive continues this tradition. With the fastest speeds and largest capacity, this storage device is the perfect solution for users who require high performance and carry a lot of data."

The DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 is available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB capacities. The 256GB capacity can store approximately 10 Blu-ray Discs (25GB each), 54 DVDs (4.7GB each), 48,640 MP3s (4MB each) or 13,473,684 Microsoft Word files pages with various formatting and basic graphics.

With a durable and sleek design, the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 is a terrific portable storage solution for gamers, enthusiasts, early adopters and high-end consumers who require the best performance and highest capacities to carry their digital library. Faster speeds and higher capacities enable users to quickly store their digital files and keep it with them at all times, in HyperX style.

DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 features a metal and rubberized casing with a reinforced key ring hole for daily use. It allows users to keep it with them at all times, as it can be easily attached to a key ring or lanyard.

A video of the device can be found here.

DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 is backed by a five-year warranty, 24/7 tech support and legendary Kingston reliability. For more information visit www.kingston.com.

Kingston DataTraveler HyperX 3.0 Features and Specifications:

  • Capacities: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
  • Speed:
    • USB 3.0: up to 225MB/s read and 135MB/s write
    • USB 2.0: up to 30 MB/s read/write
  • 8-Channel Architecture Backwards Compatible: with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 ports
  • Solid/rugged design: durable metal and rubberized casing provides increased protection
  • ReadyBoost Support
  • Dimensions: 2.952" x 0.916" x 0.626" (74.99mm x 23.29mm x 15.9mm)
  • Operating Temperature: 32°F to 140°F (0°C to 60°C)
  • Storage Temperature: -4°F to 185°F (-20°C to 85°C)
  • Simple: just plug into any USB port
  • Practical: durable casing with a solid lanyard loop
  • Warranty: 5 Years

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How about a battery free RAMdrive? The Viking ArxCis-NV writes to flash if it loses power

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2011 - 11:35 AM |
Tagged: Viking, ramdisk, DRAM to SLC, flash, super cap

Move over Fusion-io and RAMdisks with battery back up, Viking Technology has a surprise in store for you.  Their DDR3 ArxCis-NV works as a standard DIMM in your machine, making installation and compatibility a snap.  The difference is the super capacitor, available in a variety of sizes, which provides power long enough for the entire contents of the DIMM to be dumped to SLC flash for non-volatile storage in the case of a power outage or expected shut down.  Once power is restored the contents of the SLC flash is dumped back to the DIMM and once again your storage media is back to running at DDR3 speeds.  The slowest part of your storage will be the flash drive!  If that sounds like something you'd like to know more about head to The Register.

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"Viking Technology is a division of Sanmina-SCI, and its DDR3 ArxCis-NV is a DIMM that comes in 2, 4 and 8GB capacity points and operates at DRAM speed. It integrates into industry-standard x86 motherboards and functions in the host environment as a JEDEC standard DDR3 registered DIMM. If there is a power failure, or a host driven command, the ArxCis-NV will save all data in the DRAM to SLC (single-level cell) flash; upon power being restored, the data is written back to the DRAM ready for the system to access immediately following boot-up, provided there's sufficient operating system-level support for such a restore."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

FeTRAM is higher and lower; gives the best of both worlds

Subject: General Tech | September 28, 2011 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: ram, FeTRAM, low power, flash

There's a new type of Flash RAM looking to make its name on the street called FeTRAM, which sounds as interesting as the phase change memory that we've been hearing about.  It is an improved version of Ferrous RAM, which is very fast and uses very low power but uses a destructive reading technique.  The T in the new RAM stands for transistor, so instead of the charge on the memory cell being negated by a read, the transistor will hold onto the charge so that the data can be held long term.  That spells the difference between a memory module good only for RAM and a module that can be used in an SSD.  The Register points to an article citing a 99% reduction in power usage when compared to current flash memory technology.

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"Nanotechnology boffins are exploring a new type of nonvolatile memory that not only has the potential of being faster than today's flash RAM, but also requires 99 per cent less energy.

Called ferroelectric transistor random access memory – FeTRAM, for short – the scheme is based on a new type of transistor that combines silicon nanowires with an organic ferroelectric polymer – P(VDF-TrFE) – that switches polarity when an electric field is applied to it."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

64 Bit Flash Support Returns To Linux With Flash Player 11

Subject: General Tech | July 15, 2011 - 02:50 AM |
Tagged: linux, flash, Adobe

Linux, once the beholder of 64 bit versions of the Adobe Flash plug-in, has been without any form of 64 bit support for the past few iterations (since version 10.1 to be more specific); however, Adobe has finally reinstated support for the 64 bit Linux version with the newly announced Adobe Flash Player 11 Beta. Currently only available on the desktop (Adobe claims the mobile version is coming soon), the new beta brings a new method of 2D and 3D rendering dubbed the Stage 3D API. This new API uses GPU-acceleration to speed up rendering across “multiple screens and devices.” Support for H.264/AVC SW camera encoding and Native JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) are also features of the beta.

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The announcement also briefly covers the improved security measures, specifically those that relate to GPU-acceleration. The new Stage 3D rendering API includes a new simple shader language dubbed AGAL (Adobe Graphics Assembly Language) that prohibits loops or functions inside shaders. Further, Adobe has added restrictions to the API to limit the number of calls per frame in an attempt to mitigate DDoS attacks.

The new desktop beta is available now for download. 64 bit Linux users rejoice, for the necessary evil that is Flash has returned to you.

Source: Adobe

Next gen SSD controllers pushing for TLC flash

Subject: Storage | April 27, 2011 - 10:06 PM |
Tagged: tlc, ssd, slc, ocz, mlc, flash

A while back, Intel and Micron jointly announced the beginnings of 20nm flash memory production, promising a 50% increase in die count per wafer (or a 50% reduction in per die production cost, depending on how you slice it). This shrink only did just that - shrink the die. Capacity remained at 64Gbit (8GB).

A few days ago IMFT also announced another way to shrink that die, but this time keeping with the now 'old' 25nm process. It turns out they have refined 25nm to the point where consumer-grade TLC flash can be produced. TLC is Triple-Level-Cell. While SLC (Single) holds 1 bit per cell, and MLC (Multi) holds two, TLC holds 3 bits per cell. Compared to the MLC 25nm dies, this gives a capacity increase without changing much else. IMFT, however, is happy with the 8GB 'sweet spot', so instead of jumping to a 12GB die of the same physical size, they are opting to instead shrink the current 25nm die to 131mm^2.

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25nm TLC die, same 8GB capacity, but less area than the 25nm MLC die.

This gives Intel and Micron two options for ultimately reducing the price of flash - either by shrinking the process and getting more 8GB MLC dies out of a 20nm wafer, or by squeezing more bits into each cell of existing 25nm flash.

This is good stuff. Let's hope it gets even more SSD's into even more machines this holiday season.