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:

M600-2.png

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:

M600-4.png

M600-5.png

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

Apotop S3C SSD, Silicon Motion's new controller for less than $0.50/GB

Subject: Storage | September 12, 2014 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: SM2246EN, S3C, mlc, Apotop

The Apotop S3C SSD uses the same controller as the Angelbird drive Al reviewed recently.  It uses synchronous MLC NAND with the 4 channel present on the Silicon Motion controller and is able to provide more than the specified 490 MB/s read and 275 MB/s write in some benchmarks.  It can often read faster than the wrk SSD but the writes cannot always keep up though it is not something likely to be noticeable in real usage scenarios.  The MSRP is very attractive with the 512GB model expected to be released at $200.  Silicon Motion is likely to start appearing in a lot more SSDs in the near future with this mix of price and performance.  Read the full review at Kitguru.

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"The new Apotop S3C SSD features the Silicon Motion 2246EN controller which we first reviewed in the Angelbird 512GB wrk SSD back in August this year. The controller impressed us, so we have already high hopes for the Apotop S3C."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: KitGuru

Corsair Brings Blazing Performance to the Masses with Budget-Friendly Force Series LX SSDs

Subject: Storage | May 28, 2014 - 10:43 AM |
Tagged: corsair, Force Series LX, mlc, toggle NAND, SM2246EN

Are you attracted to MLC SSDs with a price under $0.50/GB?  Corsair's new Force Series LX uses Silicon Motion's SM2246EN controller and is rated at speeds of  up to 560MB/s
sequential write and up to 300MB/s sequential read when tested by ATTO and both the 128GB and 256GB models are available on NewEgg now for just a bit over the recommended price.

SSD_forceLX_angle_256GB.png

FREMONT, California — May 27, 2014 — Corsair, a worldwide designer of high-perform­­­­­­ance components to the PC hardware market, today announced the release of the Force Series LX solid-state drives (SSD). Available in either 256GB or 128GB capacities, Force Series LX SSDs bring the amazing performance benefits of an SSD to new lower price point – making it easier than ever to move your PC into the SSD fast lane.

The speedy benefits of solid-state drives have long attracted PC enthusiasts, but high prices may have put off some users from making the switch to this faster storage technology. In response to this dilemma, Corsair is bringing all the perks of an SSD to a new, even more budget-friendly price point so everyone can feel the rush. With the Force LX 256GB costing $129.99 and the 128GB just $74.99, there’s never been a better time to upgrade to faster SSD technology.

Powered by a Silicon Motion SSD controller, the Force Series LX SSDs offer fantastic performance up to 10 times faster than that of a conventional spinning-disk hard drive. Force LX’s SATA 3 file transfer speeds of up to 560MB/sec read and 300MB/sec write can massively improve system performance. Operating system start-up and application load times accelerate to mere seconds, anti-virus scans complete far faster, and navigating your PC’s files feels much more responsive thanks to near-instant access times.

A slim-line 7mm aluminum housing makes it easy to install the Force LX into almost every desktop or notebook PC with a 2.5 inch drive bay -- an ideal upgrade to breathe new life into an notebook, ultrabook or PC in need of a boost. Corsair’s bundled SSD Toolbox software utility is also included as a free download, allowing you to easily optimize your SSD’s performance, clone your existing hard drive, or securely erase all data on a drive. TRIM, NCQ and S.M.A.R.T. technologies automatically maintain drive performance for years to come, and Corsair tops off the package with a 3 year warranty and legendary customer service for total peace of mind.

Source: Corsair

SanDisk's Extreme II, the neopolitan SSD

Subject: Storage | July 15, 2013 - 01:05 PM |
Tagged: sandisk, Extreme II series, ssd, mlc, slc

SanDisk has done something interesting with their new Extreme II SSD series, they have used both SLC and MLC flash in the drive to attempt to give users the best of both worlds.  The drive still has a DDR cache sitting between the flash storage and the controller, but there is an nCache between the MLC flash and the DDR comprised of ~1GB of SLC flash.  The idea is that the SLC can quickly accumulate a number of small writes into a larger single write block which can then be passed to the MLC flash for storage.  Don't think of it as a traditional cache in which entire programs are stored for quick access but more as a write buffer which fills up and then passes its self to the long term storage media once it is full.  The Tech Report put this drive through their tests and found it to be a great all around performer, not the fastest nor the best value but very good in almost any usage scenario.

TR_ncache.jpg

"With MLC main storage and an SLC flash cache, the SanDisk Extreme II is unlike any other SSD we've encountered. We explore the drive's unique design and see whether it can keep up with the fastest SSDs on the market."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

SanDisk pairs Marvell and MLC in their new Extreme II series

Subject: Storage | June 7, 2013 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: sandisk, Extreme II series, marvell 9187, 19nm, mlc

SanDisk claims their Extreme II can run at 550/510 MB/s sequential read/write, and 95,000/78,000 for random read/write IOPS, a claim which [H]ard|OCP just put to the test.  The two major changes to this drive that will contribute to the difference in speed are the switch from a Sandforce controller to the Marvell 9187 controller and the MLC flash which is 19nm in this drive.  Testing shows that the drive does live up to expectations though they did point out the lack of encryption as a weakness.  Prices for the drives are around the magic $1/GB mark, making this drive a solid contender in a very populous market.

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"SanDisk releases its Extreme II series SSD, which features the Marvell 9187 controller in concert with 19nm eX2 ABL MLC NAND. The competition is heating up as another manufacturer with massive foundry capabilities releases a new SSD. Will the Extreme II "blaze through your day" and "keep you ahead of deadlines?"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Crucial's inexpensive M500 makes MLC NAND affordable

Subject: Storage | May 28, 2013 - 10:47 AM |
Tagged: ssd, crucial m500, mlc, marvell 9187, RAIN

Before discussing the impressive price point of Crucial's M500 drive their are two features worth mentioning about this drive, RAIN and the Marvell 9187 controller.  RAIN is Redundant Array of Independent NAND which offers data parity which will allow you to successfully recreate data after an uncorrectable error, something which might put the minds of those still leery of SSDs to rest.  The new Marvell controller is the secret to the pricing of this drive, it allows the usage of 128Gbit (16GB) NAND dies as opposed to the more common 64GBit dies and is produced at a lower cost than other controllers.  [H]ard|OCP tested the 512GB drive and does warn that the specifications of the two smaller capacity drives are different enough to require individual testing.  However as you can pick up the 512GB drive for $400 you might simply opt for the largest drive which offers competitive performance at an amazing $0.78/GB.

H_m500.jpg

"Crucial's M500 offers the lowest price per gigabyte for an MLC SSD with enterprise-class features not seen on typical consumer SSD data drives. With new 128Gbit MLC NAND paired with the Marvell 9187 controller the M500 should deliver great performance at a historically low price point. Is the Crucial M500's performance up to par?"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

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.

micron-p420.jpg

"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."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

New Flash based products coming to a server near you

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2013 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: memristor, non-volitle RAM, mlc, PCIe SSD, hitachi, hp, dell

The Register assembled a brief look at the near future of flash storage products from HP, Hitachi, Dell and NetApp.  HP expects to be shipping memristor based storage devices by the end of the year as well as photonic inter-node backplanes which will offer much faster transfer than copper based solutions.  Hitachi Data Systems believes they have made a breakthrough in MLC flash and controller technology which will not only extend the usable life of the memory but they expect price parity with high end SAS HDDs by the end of 2015.  Check out those stories as well as Dell's server plans and NetApp's new OS right here.

rcjMemristor.jpg

"In every minute;

  • More than 600 videos are uploaded to YouTube
  • More than 13,000 hours of music are streamed via Pandora
  • 168 million emails are transmitted
  • 695,000 status updates are added to Facebook
  • 695,000 Google searches are also made."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register
Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: Various
Tagged: tlc, ssd, slc, mlc, endurance

Taking an Accurate Look at SSD Write Endurance

Last year, I posted a rebuttal to a paper describing the future of flash memory as ‘bleak’. The paper went through great (and convoluted) lengths to paint a tragic picture of flash memory endurance moving forward. Yesterday a newer paper hit Slashdotthis one doing just the opposite, and going as far as to assume production flash memory handling up to 1 Million erase cycles. You’d think that since I’m constantly pushing flash memory as a viable, reliable, and super-fast successor to Hard Disks (aka 'Spinning Rust'), that I’d just sit back on this one and let it fly. After all, it helps make my argument! Well, I can’t, because if there are errors published on a topic so important to me, it’s in the interest of journalistic integrity that I must now post an equal and opposite rebuttal to this one – even if it works against my case.

First I’m going to invite you to read through the paper in question. After doing so, I’m now going to pick it apart. Unfortunately I’m crunched for time today, so I’m going to reduce my dissertation into the form of some simple bulleted points:

  • Max data write speed did not take into account 8/10 encoding, meaning 6Gb/sec = 600MB/sec, not 750MB/sec.
  • The flash *page* size (8KB) and block sizes (2MB) chosen more closely resemble that of MLC parts (not SLC – see below for why this is important).
  • The paper makes no reference to Write Amplification.

Perhaps the most glaring and significant is that all of the formulas, while correct, fail to consider the most important factor when dealing with flash memory writes – Write Amplification.

Before geting into it, I'll reference the excellent graphic that Anand put in his SSD Relapse piece:

writeamplification2.png

SSD controllers combine smaller writes into larger ones in an attempt to speed up the effective write speed. This falls flat once all flash blocks have been written to at least once. From that point forward, the SSD must play musical chairs with the data on each and every small write. In a bad case, a single 4KB write turns into a 2MB write. For that example, Write Amplification would be a factor of 500, meaning the flash memory is cycled at 500x the rate calculated in the paper. Sure that’s an extreme example, but the point is that without referencing amplification at all, it is assumed to be a factor of 1, which would only be the case if you were only writing 2MB blocks of data to the SSD. This is almost never the case, regardless of Operating System.

After posters on Slashdot called out the author on his assumptions of rated P/E cycles, he went back and added two links to justify his figures. The problem is that the first links to a 2005 data sheet for 90nm SLC flash. Samsung’s 90nm flash was 1Gb per die (128MB). The packages were available with up to 4 dies each, and scaling up to a typical 16-chip SSD, that only gives you an 8GB SSD. Not very practical. That’s not to say 100k is an inaccurate figure for SLC endurance. It’s just a really bad reference to use is all. Here's a better one from the Flash Memory Summit a couple of years back:

flash-1.png

The second link was a 2008 PR blast from Micron, based on their proposed pushing of the 34nm process to its limits. “One Million Write Cycles” was nothing more than a tag line for an achievement accomplished in a lab under ideal conditions. That figure was never reached in anything you could actually buy in a SATA SSD. A better reference would be from that same presentation at the Summit:

flash-2.png

This shows larger process nodes hitting even beyond 1 million cycles (given sufficient additional error bits used for error correction), but remember it has to be something that is available and in a usable capacity to be practical for real world use, and that’s just not the case for the flash in the above chart.

At the end of the day, manufacturers must balance cost, capacity, and longevity. This forces a push towards smaller processes (for more capacity per cost), with the limit being how much endurance they are willing to give up in the process. In the end they choose based on what the customer needs. Enterprise use leans towards SLC or eMLC, as they are willing to spend more for the gain in endurance. Typical PC users get standard MLC and now even TLC, which are *good enough* for that application. It's worth noting that most SSD failures are not due to burning out all of the available flash P/E cycles. The vast majority are due to infant mortality failures of the controller or even due to buggy firmware. I've never written enough to any single consumer SSD (in normal operation) to wear out all of the flash. The closest I've come to a flash-related failure was when I had an ioDrive fail during testing by excessive heat causing a solder pad to lift on one of the flash chips.

All of this said, I’d love to see a revisit to the author’s well-structured paper – only based on the corrected assumptions I’ve outlined above. *That* is the type of paper I would reference when attempting to make *accurate* arguments for SSD endurance.

OCZ Technology Delivers Vertex 3 with 20 Nanometer Flash

Subject: Storage | February 19, 2013 - 11:47 AM |
Tagged: ocz, vertex 3, 20nm, mlc

SAN JOSE, CA—February 19, 2012—OCZ Technology Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:OCZ), a leading provider of high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs) for computing devices and systems, today announced a new 20 nanometer (nm) NAND flash version of its award-winning Vertex 3 SSD Series. The new Vertex 3.20 SSD is a 2.5-inch, 6Gbps SATA III-based Multi-Level Cell (MLC) drive that implements the feature-set of the Vertex 3 Series but is built around smaller, state-of-the-art NAND flash process geometry.

Being that the Vertex 3 Series is one of OCZ’s most popular SSDs to date, and has received numerous accolades from media reviewers globally, the implementation of 20nm NAND flash will extend its availability and enable mainstream users of mobile and desktop platforms to improve gaming, multimedia, and the overall computing experience over traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and other competing SSDs. The Vertex 3.20 SSD will be available in 120GB and 240GB storage capacities, with 480GB capacities to follow soon.

Utilizing the proven and effective LSI SandForce® SF-2200 processor, the Vertex 3.20 SSD delivers exceptional performance of synchronous 20nm NAND flash supporting read bandwidth up to 550MB/s, write bandwidth up to 520MB/s, random read performance up to 35,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS), and random write performance up to 65,000 IOPS. It is also optimized to provide excellent endurance and reliability coupled with power efficiency.

“OCZ is always looking for ways to deliver superior solid state drive storage performance and features, as well as making this technology more accessible to the complete range of customers,” said Daryl Lang, Senior Vice President of Product Management for OCZ Technology. “The Vertex 3 has been a popular SSD series among consumers and implementing the newer, smaller process geometry will not only extend its life, but enables mainstream users with an excellent computing experience at a competitive price point.”

The Vertex 3.20 SSD is supported by a 3-year warranty to ensure customer satisfaction and will be available shortly through OCZ’s global channel in 120GB and 240GB storage capacities.

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