Leaked Intel Roadmap Details Upcoming Optane XPoint SSDs and Storage Accelerators

Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 07:46 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, tlc, Stony Beach, ssd, pcie, Optane, NVMe, mlc, Mansion Beach, M.2, kaby lake, Intel, imft, Brighton Beach, 3DNAND, 3d nand

A recent post over at benchlife.info included a slide of some significant interest to those who have been drooling over XPoint technology:

intel-octane-ssd-roadmap.jpg

For those unaware, XPoint (spoken 'cross-point') is a new type of storage technology that is persistent like NAND Flash but with speeds closer to that of RAM. Intel's brand name for devices implementing XPoint are called Optane.

Starting at the bottom of the slide, we see a new 'System Acceleration' segment with a 'Stony Beach PCIe/NVMe m.2 System Accelerator'. This is likely a new take on Larson Creek, which was a 20GB SLC SSD launched in 2011. This small yet very fast SLC flash was tied into the storage subsystem via Intel's Rapid Storage Technology and acted as a caching tier for HDDs, which comprised most of the storage market at that time. Since Optane excels at random access, even a PCIe 3.0 x2 part could outmaneuver the fastest available NAND, meaning these new System Accelerators could act as a caching tier for Flash-based SSDs or even HDDs. These accelerators can also be good for boosting the performance of mobile products, potentially enabling the use of cheaper / lower performing Flash / HDD for bulk storage.

XPoint.png

Skipping past the mainstream parts for now, enthusiasts can expect to see Brighton Beach and Mansion Beach, which are Optane SSDs linked via PCIe 3x2 or x4, respectively. Not just accelerators, these products should have considerably more storage capacity, which may bring costs fairly high unless either XPoint production is very efficient or if there is also NAND Flash present on those parts for bulk storage (think XPoint cache for NAND Flash all in one product).

We're not sure if or how the recent delays to Kaby Lake will impact the other blocks on the above slide, but we do know that many of the other blocks present are on-track. The SSD 540s and 5400s were in fact announced in Q2, and are Intel's first shipping products using IMFT 3D NAND. Parts not yet seen announced are the Pro 6000p and 600p, which are long overdue m.2 SSDs that may compete against Samsung's 950 Pro. Do note that those are marked as TLC products (purple), though I suspect they may actually be a hybrid TLC+SLC cache solution.

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Going further out on the timeline we naturally see refreshes to all of the Optane parts, but we also see the first mention of second-generation IMFT 3DNAND. As I hinted at in an article back in February, second-gen 3D NAND will very likely *double* the per-die capacity to 512Gbit (64GB) for MLC and 768Gbit (96GB) for TLC. While die counts will be cut in half for a given total SSD capacity, speed reductions will be partially mitigated by this flash having at least four planes per die (most previous flash was double-plane). A plane is an effective partitioning of flash within the die, with each section having its own buffer. Each plane can perform erase/program/read operations independently, and for operations where the Flash is more limiting than the interface (writes), doubling the number of planes also doubles the throughput. In short, doubling planes roughly negates the speed drop caused by halving the die count on an SSD (until you reach the point where controller-to-NAND channels become the bottleneck, of course).

DSC03304.JPG

IMFT XPoint Die shot I caught at the Intel / Micron launch event.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm excited to see that XPoint is making its way into consumer products (and Storage Accelerators) within the next year's time. I certainly look forward to testing these products, and I hope to show them running faster than they did back at that IDF demo...

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

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2016 - 04:26 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

Mushkin's Reactor 1TB SSD, great performance and price

Subject: Storage | May 13, 2016 - 07:30 PM |
Tagged: Mushkin, Reactor, 1TB, jmicron, JMF612, mlc

While not quite within Ryan's Law, the Mushkin Reactor 1TB model usually sells for around $240.  As the price implies this drive uses MLC flash but the three year warranty should be enough to see you to your next upgrade.  The Tech Report decided to test out the drive to ensure users were getting performance as well as a great value. The results speak for themselves, with better performance than expected.

internals.jpg

"Mushkin's Reactor 1TB SSD is a frequent star of our weekly deals posts. We put it to the test to see whether it offers high performance along with its low price tag."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Yes it's Apple but OWC does good work, meet the Aura 1TB PCIe SSD

Subject: Storage | April 20, 2016 - 09:40 PM |
Tagged: owc, apple, PCIe SSD, Aura, 1TB, mlc

It has been a while since we heard from OWC, over a year since Al saw their offerings at Storage Vision, so it is interesting to see a new PCIe SSD from them.  Their days of Sandforce are over, two SMI 2246 XT 4-channel controllers are paired with a Marvell 9230 RAID controller which allows the four unbranded 256GB MLC flash chips to act as a 1TB RAID 0 drive.  The SSD Reviews found the Macbook Air upgrade drive to run slightly slower than the original 256GB SSD but with quadruple the storage the slight slow down is offset by the extra space.  Check out the Aura drive if you have a Mac in need of upgrade, or if you are simply interested in a tiny 1TB SSD.

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"Because of its limited storage capacity and Apples horrendous cost for upgrades, it was very close to being replaced, at least until OWC contacted me a week ago asking if we might like to review their latest 1TB Aura PCIe SSD replacement for mid-2013 and later MacBooks."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Adata's XPG SX930, JMicron on the outside, Micron on the inside

Subject: Storage | March 31, 2016 - 07:10 PM |
Tagged: adata, XPG SX930, JMF670H, mlc

Now that Adata's XPG SX930 240GB SSD has been out for a while it is worth revisiting for enthusiasts on a budget.  It is currently $80 on Amazon, short of Ryan's pricing goals as it is just over $0.33/GB but still an attractive price for a drive with JMicron's JMF670H controller.  Also worth noting is the lifespan of the drive, when The Tech Report reached out to ADATA they were told it was 280TB, more than enough for most users.  Check out their review to see how it performs as there are many drives only $30-40 more that have very impressive performance, such as the Trion and 850 EVO.

insides.jpg

"Adata's XPG SX930 combines a JMicron controller and Micron MLC flash into an enthusiast-oriented 240GB SSD. We put it to the test to see whether it's worth its cost of admission."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

PNY updates its XLR8 lineup with the CS2211 SSD

Subject: Storage | January 29, 2016 - 09:49 PM |
Tagged: pny, CS2211, CS1311, tlc, mlc, phison, xlr8

Over at the SSD Review you can check out PNY's newest SSDs, the TLC based CS1311 and the faster MLC based CS2211 which offers ECC RAM and extra data security features as well as a copy of Acronis.  Inside the CS2211 which is the drive featured in this review, you will find an 8-channel Phison PS3110-S10-X controller and 15nm Toshiba MLC, the cache is DDR3L-800, 256MB on the 240GB model and 512MB on the 480GB.  This replaces PNY's original Silicon Motion powered XLR8 and it improves upon performance as well as offering a 4 year warranty. Check out all the benchmarks right here.

PNY-XLR8-CS2211-SSD-PCB-Front.jpg

"Just last week we announced PNY's latest SSD products for the new year, the CS1311 and CS2211. It just so happens that today we have some in our hands for review."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

CES 2016: Patriot Launches Hellfire Series of PCI-E Solid State Drives

Subject: Storage | January 7, 2016 - 01:44 AM |
Tagged: patriot, pci-e ssd, phison, mlc, CES 2016

Patriot is launching into PCI-E based storage with its new Hellfire line of solid state drives. While Patriot is more commonly known for its flash memory (USB drives and SD cards) and RAM DIMMs, it is not new to SSDs. This will be its first line of PCI-E=based SSDs, however. Two drives in the Hellfire series are currently planned for a release later this year and will come in M.2 NVME and PCI-E add-in-card (AIC) versions.

Patriot Logo.png

The company is not talking specifics yet, and we will not know full speeds and feeds or pricing for a few months. They did reveal a few scraps of information with the press release though. Both versions of the Hellfire drives (M.2 and AIC) will be powered by a Phison 5007 controller and will use MLC NAND flash. Further, the drives will come in 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB capacities. The drives do differ greatly in performance with the Add-In-Card version having significantly better write and slightly improved read performance. Specifically, the M.2 NVME drive is rated at 2,500 MB/s reads and a mere 600 MB/s writes while the AIC version can hit 3,000 MB/s reads and 2,200 MB/s writes.

Patriot expects the Hellfire SSDs to be available by the end of Q1 2016. I welcome the increased PCI-E SSD competition which should help drive prices down further. Hopefully Patriot will release more details soon!

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CES 2016: Silicon Motion Updates SM2246EN for 3D NAND, Teases TLC and PCIe

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: tlc, SM2260, SM2258, SM2256, SM2246EN, slc, SK Hynix, silicon motion, mlc, micron, Intel, imft, CES 2016, CES, 3d nand

Silicon Motion has updated their popular SM2246EN controller to support MLC 3D NAND from IMFT and SK Hynix:

160105-215942.jpg

The SM2246EN acts as a gateway for third parties to make their own SSDs. Adding support for 3D NAND is good news, as it means we will be able to see third party SSDs launch with 3D flash sourced from Intel, Micron, or SK Hynix. Another cool tidbit is the fact that those demo units in the above photo were equipped and operating with actual 3D NAND from Intel, Micron, and SK Hynix. Yes, this is the first time seeing packaged MLC 3D NAND from a company other than Samsung. Here are some close-ups for those who want to read part numbers:

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Another question on non-Samsung 3D NAND is how does its performance stack up against planar (2D) NAND? Silicon Motion had a bit of an answer to that question for us:

benches.png

Keep in mind those are results from pre-production firmware, but I was happy to see that my prediction of IMFT 3D NAND speeds being effectively equal to their previous 2D flash was correct.

To knock out some other info overheard at our briefing, Silicon Motion will also be making an SM2258, which will be a TLC 3D NAND variant of the SM2256. In addition, we saw the unreleased SM2260:

160105-215637.jpg

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...which is Silicon Motion's PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD controller. This one is expected to surface towards the middle of 2016, and it is currently in the OEM testing stage.

Lots more storage goodies coming later today, so stay tuned! Full press blast for the updates SM2246EN after the break.

Coverage of CES 2016 is brought to you by Logitech!

PC Perspective's CES 2016 coverage is sponsored by Logitech.

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

Transcend to run MLC Flash in SLC Mode for 'SuperMLC' Speed Boost

Subject: Storage | December 30, 2015 - 07:21 PM |
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.

slc-mlc.png

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

Source: Transcend
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction

Given that we are anticipating a launch of the Samsung 850 EVO very shortly, it is a good time to back fill on the complete performance picture of the 850 Pro series. We have done several full capacity roundups of various SSD models over the past months, and the common theme with all of them is that as the die count is reduced in lower capacity models, so is the parallelism that can be achieved. This effect varies based on what type of flash memory die is used, but the end result is mostly an apparent reduction in write performance. Fueling this issue is the increase in flash memory die capacity over time.

progression-2.png

There are two different ways to counteract the effects of write speed reductions caused by larger capacity / fewer dies:

  • Reduce die capacity.
  • Increase write performance per die.

Recently there has been a trend towards *lower* capacity dies. Micron makes their 16nm flash in both 128Gbit and 64Gbit. Shifting back towards the 64Gbit dies in lower capacity SSD models helps them keep the die count up, increasing overall parallelism, and therefore keeping write speeds and random IO performance relatively high.

Read on for the results of our full capacity roundup!