Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Micron
Tagged: U.2, ssd, pro, pcie, NVMe, micron, MAX, HHHL, 9100

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

It's been too long since we took a look at enterprise SSDs here at PC Perspective, so it's high time we get back to it! The delay has stemmed from some low-level re-engineering of our test suite to unlock some really cool QoS and Latency Percentile possibilities involving PACED workloads. We've also done a lot of work to distill hundreds of hours of test results into fewer yet more meaningful charts. More on that as we get into the article. For now, let's focus on today's test subject:

DSC01442.jpg

Behold the Micron 9100 MAX Series. Inside that unassuming 2.5" U.2 enclosure sits 4TB of flash and over 4GB of DRAM. It's capable of 3 GB/s reads, 2 GB/s writes, and 750,000 IOPS. All from inside that little silver box! There's not a lot more to say here because nobody is going to read much past that 3/4 MILLION IOPS figure I just slipped, so I'll just get into the rest of the article now :).

Specifications:

specs.png

The 9100's come in two flavors and form factors. The MAX series (1.2TB and 2.4TB in the above list) come with very high levels of performance and endurance, while the PRO series comes with lower overprovisioning, enabling higher capacity points for a given flash loadout (800GB, 1.6TB, 3.2TB). Those five different capacity / performance points are available in both PCIe (HHHL) and U.2 (2.5") form factors, making for 10 total available SKUs. All products are PCIe 3.0 x4, using NVMe as their protocol. They should all be bootable on systems capable of UEFI/NVMe BIOS enumeration.

Idle power consumption is a respectable 7W, while active consumption is selectable in 20W, 25W, and 'unlimited' increments. While >25W operation technically exceeds the PCIe specification for non-GPU devices, we know that the physical slot is capable of 75W for GPUs, so why can't SSDs have some more fun too! That said, even in unlimited mode, the 9100's should still stick relatively close to 25W and in our testing did not exceed 29W at any workload. Detailed power testing is coming to future enterprise articles, but for now, the extent will be what was measured and noted in this paragraph.

Packaging:

Our 9100 MAX samples came only in anti-static bags, so no fancy packaging to show here. Enterprise parts typically come in white/brown boxes with little flair.

Read on for our full review of the Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB U.2 Enterprise SSD!

NVMe testing, torturing both the drives and the reviewer

Subject: General Tech | June 28, 2016 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: NVMe, 9100, micron

Testing out twelve 9100 NVMe flash drives is not easy as it requires some interesting configurations to make the testing worth while, sticking them all in a box and running ATTO is not going to create valuable information.  Those custom configurations revealed some interesting limitations, such as Windows' RAID having an upper limit of 385K IOPS and the Linux flavours tested topped out at 400K IOPS. 

Server 2016 Technical Preview 5 turned out to be more stable than Server 2012 R2; somehow using Resource Monitor managed to crash hard enough to break the Server install in one case.  2016 also had that upper IOPS limit which was far below the drives actual capabilities.  Drop by The Inquirer for look at the work which was done to set up for testing as well as the results.

micron_9100s.jpg

"I have spent the past TWO months testing these cards, the past month of which has involved truly tormenting them. I've learned a lot of things. There's the basic "NVMe is faster" that you can get from reading about the theory behind the drives, but there have also been a lot of little practical tidbits that you only get to find out when you run face first into problems."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Crucial

Introduction, Dynamic Write Acceleration, and Packaging

Introduction

Micron joined Intel in announcing their joint venture production of IMFT 3D NAND just a bit over a year ago. The industry was naturally excited since IMFT has historically enabled relatively efficient production, ultimately resulting in reduced SSD prices over time. I suspect this time things will be no different as IMFT's 3D Flash has been aiming high die capacities since its inception, and I suspect their second generation will *double* per-die capacities while keeping speeds reasonable thanks to a quad-plane design implemented from the start of this endeavor. Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit as there are no consumer products sporting this flash just yet - well not until today at least:

DSC01068.jpg

Marketed under Micron's consumer brand Crucial, the MX300 is their first entrant into the consumer space, as well as the first consumer SSD sporting IMFT 3D NAND. Crucial is known for their budget-minded SSDs, and for the MX300 they chose to go with the best cost/GB they could manage with what they had to work with. That meant putting this new 3D NAND into TLC mode. Now there are many TLC haters out there, but remember this is 3D NAND. Samsung's 850 EVO can exceed 500 MB/sec writes to TLC at its 500GB capacity point, and this MX300 is a product that is launching with *only* a 750GB capacity, so its TLC speed should be at least reasonable.

(the return of) Dynamic Write Acceleration

M600-3.png

Dynamic Write Acceleration in action during a sequential fill - that last slowest part was my primary concern for the mX300.

TLC is not the only story here because Crucial has included their Dynamic Write Acceleration (DWA) technology into the MX300. This is a tech where the SSD controller is able to dynamically switch flash programming modes of the flash pool, doing so at the block level. This appears to be a feature unique to IMFT flash, as every other 'hybrid' SSD we have tested had a static SLC cache area. DWA's ability to switch flash modes on-the-fly has always fascinated me on paper, but I just haven't been impressed by Micron's previous attempts to implement it. The M600 was a bit all over the place on its write consistency, and that SSD was flipping blocks between SLC and MLC. With the MX300 flipping between SLC and *TLC*, there was a possibility of far more noticeable slow downs in the cases where large writes were taking place and the controller was caught trying to scavenge space in the background.

io vs latency percentile - 1.png

New Latency Percentile vs. legacy IO Percentile, shown here highlighting a performance inconsistency seen in the Toshiba OCZ RD400. Note which line more closely represents the Latency Distribution (gray) also on this plot.

Read on for our full review of the Crucial MX300 750GB SATA SSD!

One serving of Micron 3D TLC NAND, hold the NVMe

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2016 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: micron, 3d nand, tlc, mlc, DEVSLP

Micron have unveiled their new line of 3D NAND, the SATA 6Gbps TLC 1100 and the NVMe MLC 2100, although they only shared details of the former.  The 1100 will introduce DEVSLP mode, where the drives power draw will dip to less than 2mW on the smaller drives, 4mW for the 1TB with the 2TB model requiring 25mW.  The TLC used in the drive is rather impressive, the advertised speeds come very close to what their MLC based M600 drives are capable of.  Check out the full specs and more over at The Register.

micron_1100_3d_tlc_drive.jpg

"Intel, its flash foundry partner, introduced its own 3D SSDs, MLC (2bits/cell) ones, in March with the DC P3320 and P3520, with maximum capacity of 2TB. These had an NVME interface whereas Micron’s 1100 has the slower 6Gbit/s SATA interface."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Podcast #395 - AMD Driver Quality, New Intel and Micron SSDs, Corsair's SPEC-ALPHA and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 14, 2016 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: video, TMX, Thrustmaster, podcast, omega, micron, Lian-Li, Intel, game ready, crimson, catalyst, bx300, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #395 - 04/14/2016

Join us this week as we discuss AMD Driver Quality, New Intel and Micron SSDs, Corsair's SPEC-ALPHA and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Micron no longer has NVMe envy

Subject: General Tech | April 14, 2016 - 12:28 PM |
Tagged: Ryan's Law, NVMe, micron

Micron has announced their own PCIe 3.0 NVMe devices today, in HHHL, M.2 and 2.5" form factors.  The specifications are a little sparse at the moment, we do not know the flash which resides within the devices nor the endurance differences between the 7100 PRO series which is designed for read heavy scenarios or the 7100 MAX which is for mixed usage.  In addition to the 7100 series, they also announced the 9100 series which ranges in size from 800GB up to 3.2TB and has theoretical sequential reads of 3GB/s and writes of 2GB/s.  The Register was not provided with any specific pricing but Micron suggested the 7100 series could be priced similarly to SATA drives, while the 9100 series will obviously lie outside the boundaries of Ryan's Law.

You should also take a look at the information Al gathered while he was at the product launch.

micron_nvme_ssds_performance_650.jpg

"These NVMe SSDs complement Micron's existing S600DC SAS SSDs, which are now shipping in volume. The 7100 is the smaller product and the 9100 its big brother. Both have a PCIe gen 3 NVMe interface, which is faster than the 12 Gbit/s SAS interface used by the S600DC flash drives."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Micron and Intel Launch a Wave of Enterprise Storage Products

Subject: Storage | April 12, 2016 - 11:30 AM |
Tagged: vmware, ssd, S600DC, S3100, P3520, P3320, Nexenta, micron, Intel, D3700, D3600, Ceph, 9100, 7100, 5410s, 540s, 5400s

There has been a lot of recent shuffling about in the world of enterprise storage. I’m writing up this post from a Micron product launch event in Austin, Texas. Today they are launching a round of enterprise SSD products. These lines cover the full storage gamut from M.2 to U.2 to HHHL. While prior Micron SSDs were bottlenecked by AHCI and PCIe 2.0, these new lines are using Marvell controllers and are capable of PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds (plus NVMe).

9100.jpg

The workhorse of the lineup is the 9100, which will be available in HHHL and U.2 2.5” 15mm form factors.

7100.jpg

Lighter workloads are handled by the 7100 series, which is available in U.2 2.5” 7mm and M.2 22110. The slower serial bus remains covered by their S600DC SAS SSDs.

Micron is not the only company pushing further into this space. Less than two weeks ago, Intel ran their ‘Cloud Day’ event, where they launched a new Xeon CPU and a plethora of new SSDs, some of which were based on IMFT 3D NAND tech (SSD DC P3320). Intel also launched the client 540s and business 5400s product lines, which are based on Silicon Motion SM2256 controllers driving SK Hynix hybrid (SLC+TLC) flash. While these controllers and flash are coming from external sources, they must still pass Intel’s rigorous qualification and compatibility validation testing, so failure rates should be kept to a minimum.

Another aspect of this Micron launch day is their push into the production of not only SSDs, but all-flash storage devices. Dubbed ‘Micron Accelerated Solutions’, these are devices built, serviced, and supported by Micron. They naturally contain Micron SSDs, but also draw on other vendors like Supermicro and Nexenta. The products range from VMware SANs, to Ceph solutions capable of 1 million IOPS and 140 Gbps, to software-defined storage. I’ll be sitting through briefings and asking questions about these products when this post is set to go live, and I will update this space with any additional juicy tidbits once we wrap up for the day.

**Update**

Apparently we are going to see consumer IMFT 3D TLC NAND *this month* in the form of a Crucial MX300!

DSC00512.jpg

...and in a couple of months we will see Crucial M.2 PCIe SSDs:

DSC00513.jpg

There was also some discussion on XPoint (spoken 'cross point') and where Micron sees this new storage being implemented. Expected to see scaled production in 2017 and 2018, XPoint is non-volatile (like flash) but extremely fast (like DRAM). There was not much said beyond generalities, but they did have a wafer, and you know I love die shots:

DSC00531.jpg

I was not permitted to get a better die shot of the wafer at this event, as the Micron rep specifically requested that journalists only use photos that were shot from stage distance. Fortunately, this was not the only event where I have photographed a XPoint wafer. Here is a photo I caught at a prior event:

DSC03304.JPG

**End update**

Here is a quick breakdown of the products launched by both Intel and Micron over the last two weeks:

Intel:

  • SSD DC P3520 and P3320
    • First SSDs to use 256Gbit/die 32-layer IMFT 3D NAND.
    • PCIe 3.0 x4 HHHL and 2.5” U.2
    • 450GB-2TB
  • SSD DC D3700 and D3600
    • PCIe 3.0 x4 2.5” U.2 dual-port design.
      • Dual-port means two hosts can access a single SSD through the use of a special backplane that merges the PCIe lanes from two separate systems into a single U.2 connector. This is a move for increased redundancy, as one system can fail and the same flash storage will still be available to the failover system.
    • 800GB-1.6TB
  • SSD DC S3100
    • SATA 2.5” SLC+TLC hybrid for enterprise
      • Intended for boot OS / caching / index storage duties
    • 120GB-1TB
  • SSD 540s and Pro 5400s
    • Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix SLC+TLC hybrid flash
    • Pro 5200s adds Intel vPro / OPAL 2.0 and Microsoft eDrive support
    • 120GB-1TB
  • SSD E 5400s and E 5410s
    • Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix flash
    • Small capacity M.2 2280 and 2.5” SATA
    • 48GB-180GB

Micron:

That’s a whole lot of flash related product launches in a very short period of time. I’m excited to see large pushes into the enterprise because that means we will see this tech trickle down to consumers and power users that much sooner!

The Micron NVMe press release was a bit light on details, so I’ve included their Accelerated Solutions release after the break.

Source: Micron

Hello, Canadians! Interested in a Relatively Cheap 1TB SSD?

Subject: Storage | March 23, 2016 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: newegg, Mushkin, silicon motion, micron, ssd

Here's a brief post for our Canadian fans. If you have been interested in a decent, large SSD, then you might want to check out Newegg Canada. The Mushkin Enhanced Reactor 1TB is currently $100 off, which puts it at a price of $299.99 CDN plus tax and shipping. While 30c/GB might sound mundane to our neighbours to the south, the currency conversion works out to about 23c/GB USD.

mushkin-2016-reactor-cheapnewegg.jpg

Sure, it's not the fastest SSD on the market, but it's a solid, mainstream one. A 2TB version also exists, but you will be paying about $60 more than just getting two, 1TB SKUs. This version uses the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller and Micron flash. We might end up with better or cheaper drives coming in the future, I have no idea, but this should be good for cheap, decent, and now.

Source: Newegg

Podcast #387 - ASUS PB328Q, Samsung 750 EVO SSD, the release of Vulkan and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2016 - 02:16 PM |
Tagged: x16 LTE, vulkan, video, ssd, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, pb328q, opengl, nvidia, micron, Khronos, gtx 950, asus, apple, 840 evo, 750ti, 750 evo, 3d nand

PC Perspective Podcast #387 - 02/18/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS PB328Q, Samsung 750 EVO SSD, the release of Vulkan and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:34:18

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:35:00 This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Audible, the world's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 180,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature including fiction, nonfiction, and periodicals. For your free audiobook, go to audible.com/pcper
  3. News items of interest:
  4. 1:07:00 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­payments.com/pcper
  5. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  6. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

What Micron's Upcoming 3D NAND Means for SSD Capacity, Performance, and Cost

Subject: Storage | February 14, 2016 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: vnand, ssd, Samsung, nand, micron, Intel, imft, 768Gb, 512GB, 3d nand, 384Gb, 32 Layer, 256GB

You may have seen a wave of Micron 3D NAND news posts these past few days, and while many are repeating the 11-month old news with talks of 10TB/3.5TB on a 2.5"/M.2 form factor SSDs, I'm here to dive into the bigger implications of what the upcoming (and future) generation of Intel / Micron flash will mean for SSD performance and pricing.

progression-3-.png

Remember that with the way these capacity increases are going, the only way to get a high performance and high capacity SSD on-the-cheap in the future will be to actually get those higher capacity models. With such a large per-die capacity, smaller SSDs (like 128GB / 256GB) will suffer significantly slower write speeds. Taking this upcoming Micron flash as an example, a 128GB SSD will contain only four flash memory dies, and as I wrote about back in 2014, such an SSD would likely see HDD-level sequential write speeds of 160MB/sec. Other SSD manufacturers already recognize this issue and are taking steps to correct it. At Storage Visions 2016, Samsung briefed me on the upcoming SSD 750 Series that will use planar 16nm NAND to produce 120GB and 250GB capacities. The smaller die capacities of these models will enable respectable write performance and will also enable them to discontinue their 120GB 850 EVO as they transition that line to higher capacity 48-layer VNAND. Getting back to this Micron announcement, we have some new info that bears analysis, and that pertains to the now announced page and block size:

  • 256Gb MLC: 16KB Page / 16MB Block / 1024 Pages per Block

  • 384Gb TLC: 16KB Page / 24MB Block / 1536 Pages per Block

To understand what these numbers mean, using the MLC line above, imagine a 16MB CD-RW (Block) that can write 1024 individual 16KB 'sessions' (Page). Each 16KB can be added individually over time, and just like how files on a CD-RW could be modified by writing a new copy in the remaining space, flash can do so by writing a new Page and ignoring the out of date copy. Where the rub comes in is when that CD-RW (Block) is completely full. The process at this point is very similar actually, in that the Block must be completely emptied before the erase command (which wipes the entire Block) is issued. The data has to go somewhere, which typically means writing to empty blocks elsewhere on the SSD (and in worst case scenarios, those too may need clearing before that is possible), and this moving and erasing takes time for the die to accomplish. Just like how wiping a CD-RW took a much longer than writing a single file to it, erasing a Block takes typically 3-4x as much time as it does to program a page.

With that explained, of significance here are the growing page and block sizes in this higher capacity flash. Modern OS file systems have a minimum bulk access size of 4KB, and Windows versions since Vista align their partitions by rounding up to the next 2MB increment from the start of the disk. These changes are what enabled HDDs to transition to Advanced Format, which made data storage more efficient by bringing the increment up from the 512 Byte sector up to 4KB. While most storage devices still use 512B addressing, it is assumed that 4KB should be the minimum random access seen most of the time. Wrapping this all together, the Page size (minimum read or write) is 16KB for this new flash, and that is 4x the accepted 4KB minimum OS transfer size. This means that power users heavy on their page file, or running VMs, or any other random-write-heavy operations being performed over time will have a more amplified effect of wear of this flash. That additional shuffling of data that must take place for each 4KB write translates to lower host random write speeds when compared to lower capacity flash that has smaller Page sizes closer to that 4KB figure.

schiltron-IMFT-edit.jpg

A rendition of 3D IMFT Floating Gate flash, with inset pulling back some of the tunnel oxide layer to show the location of the floating gate. Pic courtesy Schiltron.

Fortunately for Micron, their choice to carry Floating Gate technology into their 3D flash has netted them some impressive endurance benefits over competing Charge Trap Flash. One such benefit is a claimed 30,000 P/E (Program / Erase) cycle endurance rating. Planar NAND had dropped to the 3,000 range at its lowest shrinks, mainly because there was such a small channel which could only store so few electrons, amplifying the (negative) effects of electron leakage. Even back in the 50nm days, MLC ran at ~10,000 cycle endurance, so 30,000 is no small feat here. The key is that by using that same Floating Gate tech so good at controlling leakage for planar NAND on a new 3D channel that can store way more electrons enables excellent endurance that may actually exceed Samsung's Charge Trap Flash equipped 3D VNAND. This should effectively negate the endurance hit on the larger Page sizes discussed above, but the potential small random write performance hit still stands, with a possible remedy being to crank up the Over-Provisioning of SSDs (AKA throwing flash at the problem). Higher OP means less active pages per block and a reduction in the data shuffling forced by smaller writes.

25nm+penny.jpg

A 25nm flash memory die. Note the support logic (CMOS) along the upper left edge.

One final thing helping out Micron here is that their Floating Gate design also enables a shift of 75% of the CMOS circuitry to a layer *underneath* the flash storage array. This logic is typically part of what you see 'off to the side' of a flash memory die. Layering CMOS logic in such a way is likely thanks to Intel's partnership and CPU development knowledge. Moving this support circuitry to the bottom layer of the die makes for less area per die dedicated to non-storage, more dies per wafer, and ultimately lower cost per chip/GB.

progression slide.png

Samsung's Charge Trap Flash, shown in both planar and 3D VNAND forms.

One final thing before we go. If we know anything about how the Intel / Micron duo function, it is that once they get that freight train rolling, it leads to relatively rapid advances. In this case, the changeover to 3D has taken them a while to perfect, but once production gains steam, we can expect to see some *big* advances. Since Samsung launched their 3D VNAND their gains have been mostly iterative in nature (24, 32, and most recently 48). I'm not yet at liberty to say how the second generation of IMFT 3D NAND will achieve it, but I can say that it appears the next iteration after this 32-layer 256Gb (MLC) /384Gb (TLC) per die will *double* to 512Gb/768Gb (you are free to do the math on what that means for layer count). Remember back in the day where Intel launched new SSDs at a fraction of the cost/GB of the previous generation? That might just be happening again within the next year or two.