Micron's M600 SSD, SLC in the front MLC in the back

Subject: Storage | September 18, 2014 - 04:10 PM |
Tagged: micron, M600, SLC. MLC, DWA

Micron's M600 SSD has a new trick up its sleeve, called dynamic write acceleration which is somewhat similar to the HDDs with an NAND cache to accelerate the speed frequently accessed data can be read but with a brand new trick.  In this case SLC NAND acts as the cache for MLC NAND but it does so dynamically, the NAND can switch from SLC to MLC and back depending on the amount of usage.  There is a cost, the SLC storage capacity is 50% lower than MLC so the larger the cache the lower the total amount of storage is available.  As well the endurance rating is also higher than previous drives, not because of better NAND but because of new trim techniques being used.  This is not yet a retail product so The Tech Report does not have benchmarks but this goes to show you there are plenty more tricks we can teach SSDs.

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"Micron's new M600 SSD can flip its NAND cells between SLC and MLC modes on the fly, enabling a dynamic write cache that scales with the drive's unused capacity. We've outlined how this dynamic write acceleration is supposed to impact performance, power consumption, and endurance."

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Micron launches M600 SATA SSD with innovative SLC/MLC Dynamic Write Acceleration

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2014 - 11:29 AM |
Tagged: ssd, slc, sata, mlc, micron, M600, crucial

You may already be familiar with the Micron Crucial M550 line of SSDs (if not, familiarize yourself with our full capacity roundup here). Today Micron is pushing their tech further by releasing a new M600 line. The M600's are the first full lineup from Micron to use their 16nm flash (previously only in their MX100 line). Aside from the die shrink, Micron has addressed the glaring issue we noted in our M550 review - that issue being the sharp falloff in write speeds in lower capacities of that line. Their solution is rather innovative, to say the least.

Recall the Samsung 840 EVO's 'TurboWrite' cache, which gave that drive a burst of write speed during short sustained write periods. The 840 EVO accomplished this by each TLC die having a small SLC section of flash memory. All data written passed through this cache, and once full (a few GB, varying with drive capacity), write speed slowed to TLC levels until the host system stopped writing for long enough for the SSD to flush the cached data from SLC to TLC.

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The Micron M600 SSD in 2.5" SATA, MSATA, and M.2 form factors.

Micron flips the 'typical' concept of caching methods on its head. It does employ two different types of flash writing (SLC and MLC), but the first big difference is that the SLC is not really cache at all - not in the traditional sense, at least. The M600 controller, coupled with some changes made to Micron's 16nm flash, is able to dynamically change the mode of each flash memory die *on the fly*. For example, the M600 can place most of the individual 16GB (MLC) dies into SLC mode when the SSD is empty. This halves the capacity of each die, but with the added benefit of much faster and more power efficient writes. This means the M600 would really perform more like an SLC-only SSD so long as it was kept less than half full.

M600-1.png

As you fill the SSD towards (and beyond) half capacity, the controller incrementally clears the SLC-written data, moving that data onto dies configured to MLC mode. Once empty, the SLC die is switched over to MLC mode, effectively clearing more flash area for the increasing amount of user data to be stored on the SSD. This process repeats over time as the drive is filled, meaning you will see less SLC area available for accelerated writing (see chart above). Writing to the SLC area is also advantageous in mobile devices, as those writes not only occur more quickly, they consume less power in the process:

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For those worst case / power user scenarios, here is a graph of what a sustained sequential write to the entire drive area would look like:

M600-3.png

Realize this is not typical usage, but if it happened, you would see SLC speeds for the first ~45% of the drive, followed by MLC speeds for another 10%. After the 65% point, the drive is forced to initiate the process of clearing SLC and flipping dies over to MLC, doing so while the host write is still in progress, and therefore resulting in the relatively slow write speed (~50 MB/sec) seen above. Realize that in normal use (i.e. not filling the entire drive at full speed in one go), garbage collection would be able to rearrange data in the background during idle time, meaning write speeds should be near full SLC speed for the majority of the time. Even with the SSD nearly full, there should be at least a few GB of SLC-mode flash available for short bursts of SLC speed writes.

This caching has enabled some increased specs over the prior generation models:

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Note the differences in write speeds, particularly in the lower capacity models. The 128GB M550 was limited to 190MB/sec, while the M600 can write at 400MB/sec in SLC mode (which is where it should sit most of the time).

We'll be testing the M600 shortly and will come back with a full evaluation of the SSD as a whole and more specifically how it handles this new tech under real usage scenarios.

Full press blast after the break.

Source: Micron

Crucial Launching MX100 Mainstream SSD Series in June

Subject: Storage | May 22, 2014 - 09:23 AM |
Tagged: micron, crucial, mx100, ssd

You probably saw some news floating around yesterday that leaked out about an upcoming Crucial MX100 SSD using 16nm flash with an eye towards the mainstream price segment. While we are waiting for our samples of these units to arrive, we did get this comment from Crucial on the matter.

The word is out that Crucial will be launching a new SSD in the early June 2014 timeframe called the Crucial MX100 SSD. The new MX100 will be a competitively-priced, 2.5" SSD based on Micron’s new 16nm chips, and will be the successor to the Crucial M500 drive. The high-performance Crucial M550 drive will also remain part of the Crucial SSD product line-up.

We’re excited to share that PC Perspective has been fully briefed on the new Crucial MX100 by the Crucial SSD product marketing team and have a review sample in hand that we’re now rigorously testing. Once the MX100 drive is officially announced, we’ll have a complete product overview and benchmarks to share with you directly. Stay tuned for the full scoop here!

crucial-mx100ssd.jpg

Image source: Hardware.info

As a replacement for the Crucial M500 line, we expect the MX100 to be a big seller. Just look at the M500 price on Amazon.com today: 960GB for $459 or 480 GB for $219! That's really all we know for now, check back for Allyn's testing very soon!

The fix was in, hope you saved those 14 year old receipts

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2014 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, micron, Hynix, infineon, nec, toshiba, ram, dirty pool

If you bought RAM between 1998 and 2002 from Samsung, Micron, Hynix, Infineon, NEC, and Toshiba in the USA, you are entitled to a small payout, assuming you have proof of purchase.  The DRAM makers never admitted guilt and chose to settle out of court and you have until August 1st to follow the link in The Inquirer's story to put in a claim.  If you wish to opt out and sue them yourself you have until May 5th to do so but you might be better off taking the $10.

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"Remember getting hosed on those 128MB DIMM RAM sticks back in Y2K? Well, it's time to exact your revenge: with a $10 payout."

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Source: The Inquirer

CES 2014: Micron makes further advances in DDR4 memory

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 7, 2014 - 09:57 PM |
Tagged: ram, micron, memory, ddr4, CES 2014, CES

While the Crucial did not have much in the way of new flash memory product launches this year, Micron as a whole has been busily churning out further revisions of DDR4 memory. While our visit last year only revealed a single prototype for us to look at, now we have all of the typical form factors covered:

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From top down we have enterprise, enthusiast, OEM, and SO-DIMM form factors, all populated with DDR4 parts. All that needs to happen now is for motherboard and portable manufacturers to get on board with the new technology. As with all chicken-and-egg launches, someone needs to take the first plunge, and here we can see Micron has certainly been on the leading edge of things. That enterprise part above is a full 16GB (not bits!) of DDR4 capacity.

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

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

Source: Micron DRAM

That RAM is stacked

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2013 - 10:48 AM |
Tagged: DRAM, HMC, hybrid memory cubes, micron, TSV

Hybrid Memory Cubes are DRAM stacked in layers with logic on the bottom layer to decide which memory layer to address commands to whic is being developed by a team that includes Altera, ARM, IBM, SK Hynix, Micron, Open-Silicon, Samsung and Xilinix.  This is intended to give DRAM enhanced parallelization which will help it keep up with today's multi-cored processors.  Micron's example which the Register takes a look at here claims up to 10 GB/sec (80 Gb/sec) of bandwidth from each of the 16 vaults present on the chip, a vault being an area of memory on a layer.  That compares favourably to the maximum theoretical JEDEC speed of DDR3-1333 which is just a hair over 10GB/s.  Read more here.

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"Dratted multi-core CPUs. DRAM is running into a bandwidth problem. More powerful CPUs has meant that more cores are trying to access a server’s memory and the bandwidth is running out.

One solution is to stack DRAM in layers above a logic base layer and increase access speed to the resulting hybrid memory cubes (HMC), and Micron has done just that."

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Source: The Register

Dell Unveils New T3610, T5610, and T7610 Workstations

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 9, 2013 - 06:00 AM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, workstation, quadro, micron, LSI, k6000, Ivy Bridge-EP, firepro, dell

Along with the release of new mobile workstations, Dell announced three new desktop workstations. Specifically, Dell is launching the T3610, T5610, and T7610 PC workstations under its Precision series. The new systems reside in redesigned cases with improved cable management, removable power supplies (tool-less, removable by sliding out from rear panel), and in the case of the T7610 removable hard drives. All of the new Precision workstations have been outfitted with Intel's latest Ivy Bridge-EP based Xeon processors, ECC memory, workstation-class graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA, Xeon Phi accelerator card options, LSI hardware RAID controllers, and updated software solutions from Intel and Dell.

Dell Precision T3610 T5610 T7610.jpg

The new Precision workstations side-by-side. From left to right: T3610, T5610, and T7610.

Dell's Precision T3610 is a the mid-tower system of the group powered by single socket Xeon E5-2600 v2 hardware that further supports up to 128GB DDR3 ECC memory, two graphics cards, three 3.5” hard drives, and four 2.5” SSDs.

Dell Precision T3610 Single Xeon Ivy Bridge-EP Workstation.jpg

The Precision T3610, a new single socket, mid-range workstation.

The Precision T5610 ups the ante to a dual socket IVB-EP processor system that can be configured with up to 128GB DDR3 ECC memory, two AMD FirePro or NVIDIA Quadro (e.g. Quadro K5000) graphics cards, a Tesla K20C accelerator card, three 3.5” hard drives, and four 2.5” solid state drives.

Finally, the T7610 workstation supports dual Intel Ivy Bridge-EP Xeon E5-2600 v2 series processors (up to 24 cores per system), up to 512GB DDR3 ECC memory, three graphics cards (including two NVIDIA Quadro K6000 cards), four 3.5” hard drives, and eight 2.5” SSDs.

Dell Precision T5610 Dual Xeon Ivy Bridge-EP Workstation.jpg

Dell's Precision T5610 dual socket workstation.

The new Precision workstations can also be configured with an Intel Xeon Phi 3120A accelerator card in lieu of a Tesla card. The choice will mainly depend on the applications being used and the development resources and expertise available. Both options are designed to accelerate highly parallel workloads in applications that have been compiled to support them. Further, users can add an LSI hardware RAID card with 1GB of onboard memory to the systems. Dell further offers a Micron P320h PCI-E SSD that, while not bootable, offers up 350GB of high performance storage that excels at high sequential reads and writes.

On the software front, Dell is including the Dell Precision Performance Optimizer and the Intel Cache Acceleration Software. The former automatically configures and optimizes the workstation for specific applications based on profiles that are reportedly regularly updated. The other bit of software works to optimize systems that use both hard drives and SSDs with the SSDs as a cache for the mechanical storage. The Intel Cache Acceleration Software configures the caching algorithms to favor caching very large files on the solid state storage. It is a different approach to consumer caching strategies, but one that works well with businesses that use these workstations to process large data sets.

Dell Precision T7610 Dual Xeon Ivy Bridge-EP Workstation.jpg

The Dell Precision T7610 workstation.

The Dell workstations are aimed at businesses doing scientific analysis, professional engineering, and complex 3D modeling. The T7610 in particular is aimed at the oil and gas industry for use in simulations and modeling as companies search for new oil deposits.

All three systems will be available for purchase worldwide beginning September 12th. Some of the options, such as 512GB of ECC and the NVIDIA Quadro K6000 on the T7610 will not be available until next month, however. The T3610 has a starting price of $1,099 while the T5610 and T7610 have starting prices of $2,729 and $3,059 respectively.

What are your thoughts on Dell's new mid-tower workstations?

Source: Dell

Micron Is Now Sampling 16nm NAND Flash, And Drives Using the Smaller Chips Are Expected in 2014

Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 17, 2013 - 11:29 PM |
Tagged: nand, micron, flash, 16nm

Micron recently announced that is has begun sampling 16nm NAND flash to select partners. Micron expects to begin full production of the NAND chips using the smaller flash manufacturing process in the fourth quarter of this year (Q4 2013). Drives based on its new 16nm MLC NAND flash are expected to arrive as early as next year. (PC Perspective's own storage expert is currently overseas, but I managed to reach out over email to get some clarification, and his thoughts, on the Micron annuoncement.)

The announcement relates to new NAND flash that is smaller, but not necessarily faster, than the existing 20nm and 25nm flash chips used in current solid state drives. In the end, Micron is still delivering 128Gb (Gigabit) per die, but using a 16nm process. The 16nm flash is a pure shrink of 20nm which is, in turn, a shrink of 25nm flash. In fact, Micron is able to get just under 6 Terabytes of storage out of a single 300mm wafer. These wafers are then broken down into dies in individual flash chips that are used in all manner of solid state storage devices from smartphone embedded storage to desktop SSDs. This 16nm flash still delivers 128Gb --which is 16GB-- per die allowing for a 128GB SSD using as few as eight chips.

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A single 16nm NAND flash die with a SSD in the background

Micron expects the 16nm MLC (multi-level cell) flash to be used in consumer SSDs, USB thumb drives, mobile devices, and cloud storage.

The 16nm process will allow Micron to get more storage out of the same sized wafer (300mm) used for current processes, which in theory should mean flash memory that is not only smaller, but (in theory) cheaper.

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A single wafer of 16nm NAND flash (just under 6TBs)

As Allyn further notes, the downside to the new 16nm NAND flash is a reduction in the number of supported PE cycles. Micron has not released specific information on this, but the new 16nm MLC flash is expected to have fewer than 1,000 P/E cycles. For comparison, 25nm and 20nm flash has P/E cycles of 3,000 and 1,000 respectively.

In simple terms, P/E (program-erase) cycles relate to the number of times that a specific portion of flash memory can be written to before wearing out. SSD manufacturers were able to work around this with the transition from 25nm to 20nm and still deliver acceptable endurance on consumer drives, and I expect that similar techniques will be used to do the same for 16nm flash. For example, manufactuers could enable compression that is used prior to writing out the data to the physical flash or over-provisioning the actual hardware versus the reported software capacity (ie a drive sold as a 100GB model that actually has 128GB of physical flash).

I don't think it will be a big enough jump that typical consumers wil have to worry too much about this, considering the vast majority of operations will be read operations and not writes. Despite the reduction in P/E cycles, SSDs with 16nm NAND MLC flash will still likely out-last a typical mechanical hard drive.

What do you think about the Micron announcement?

The full press release can be found below:

Source: Micron

Micron puts a suit and tie on its newest PCIe SSD

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2013 - 09:38 AM |
Tagged: micron, PCIe SSD, P420m, 25nm, mlc

Soon to be available in 350GB, 700GB and 1.4TB capacities, the Micron P420m PCIe SSD will be in a half-height and half-length form factor perfect for use in racks.  DigiTimes mentions it will use a custom ASIC controller from Micron but does not specify the model.  As will it will use 25nm MLC flash and XPERT, which is Micron's eXtended Performance and Enhanced Reliability Technology which should guarantee a decent lifespan for your storage.  Production will not start until June so it will be a while before we finally see performance results.

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"The new Micron P420m combines consistent performance with the inherent power efficiency of an all-flash system to deliver improved economics for enterprise data centers. The drive accelerates performance of today's demanding data center applications, including online transaction processing (OLTP), data warehousing and virtualization, Micron said."

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Source: DigiTimes

Is there a Flash flood coming?

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2013 - 09:50 AM |
Tagged: spintronics, racetrack, pram, molybdenum, micron, memristor, IBM, hp, graphene, flash

Over the past several years we have seen actual production of phase change memory from Micron, though no benchmarks yet, transistors whose resistance can be altered to be used as non-volatile storage which HP has dubbed Memristors and IBM's Spintronic Racetrack Memory; all of which claim to be the replacement for NAND.  There is no question we need a new type of flash, preferably non-volatile, as it is likely that there will be a limit on effective speed and density reached with traditional NAND.  It is also true that the path to our current flash technology is littered with the carcasses of failed technology standards, whether RAMBUS is willing to admit it or not. 

Now there is more details available on yet another possible contender based on molybdenum disulfide which sports a charge-trapping layer to make it non-volatile.  The Register was told that by layering MoS2 between layers of graphene they get a NAND cell smaller than traditional cells but unfortunately there was no report of the speed of these cells.  We may soon be living in interesting times, with process shrunk traditional flash and these four technologies competing for market share.  You can bet that they will not be compatible and that each will likely spawn their own breeds of controllers and make purchasing SSDs and other flash storage devices much more complicated, at least until one standard can claim victory over the others.

elreg_mos2_graphene_nvm_cell.jpg

"A Swiss government research lab has reinvented flash memory using graphene and molybdenite in a way that should be faster, scale smaller, use less energy and yet more flexible than boring old NAND.

Molybdenite is MoS2, molybdenum disulfide, which is similar to graphite and also has a lubricating effect. Atomically it is a layer of molybdenum atoms between top and bottom layers of sulfide atoms. It is a semiconductor and can be used to create transistor."

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Source: The Register