Subject: Storage | August 14, 2015 - 08:44 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: FMS 2015, silicon motion, SM2260, SM2256, SM2246EN, pcie, NVMe, ssd, controller
We’ve reviewed a few Silicon Motion SSDs in the past (Angelbird | Corsair Force LX | Crucial BX100), and I have always been impressed with their advances in SSD controller technology. Their SM2246EN SATA controller was launched two years ago, and strived to be a very efficient and performant unit. Based on our reviews that turned out to be true, and this allowed Silicon Motion to slide into the void left by SandForce, who repeatedly delayed their newer developments and forced the many companies who were sourcing their parts to look elsewhere.
The many SSDs using Silicon Motion’s SM2246EN controller.
Silicon motion pushed this further with their SM2256, which we first saw at the 2014 Flash Memory Summit and later saw driving SLC/TLC hybrid flash at this past Consumer Electronics Show. While the SM2256 makes its way into more and more products, I was glad to see an important addition to their lineup at this year’s FMS:
Finally we see Silicon Motion doing a PCIe controller! This is the SM2260, seen here in the M.2 form factor…
…and here in SATA Express. While the latter will likely not be as popular due to the more limited PCIe lanes present in SATA Express, I’m sure we will see this controller appearing in many PCIe devices very soon. The stated performance figures may be a bit shy of currently comparing SSDs like the Intel SSD 750 and Samsung SM951, but with the recent introduction of Z170 motherboards and RST PCIe RAID, it is now easier to RAID a smaller capacity pair of these devices, increasing the performance of slower units. Further, the point of the SM2260 is likely to get a low cost NVMe PCIe SSD controller into the hands of SSD makers, which can only mean good things for those looking to make the move away from SATA.
I’ve included Silicon Motion’s FMS press blast after the break.
Subject: Storage | August 14, 2015 - 12:12 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: FMS 2015, ssd, sata, SAS, pcie, NVMe, novachips, HLNAND, flash
It turns out Samsung wasn’t the only company to have 16TB SSDs at Flash Memory Summit after all:
Now that I’ve got your attention, Novachips is an SSD company that does not make their own flash, but I would argue that they make other peoples flash better. They source flash memory wafers and dies from other companies, but they package it in a unique way that enables very large numbers of flash dies per controller. This is handy for situations where very large capacities per controller are needed (either physically or logically).
Normally there is a limit to the number of dies that can communicate on a common bus (similar limits apply to DRAM, which is why some motherboards are picky with large numbers of DIMMs installed). Novachips gets around this with an innovative flash packaging method:
The 16-die stack in the above picture would normally just connect out the bottom of the package, but in the Novachips parts, those connections are made to a microcontroller die also present within the package. This part acts as an interface back to the main SSD controller, but it does so over a ring bus architecture.
To clarify, those 800 or 1600 MB/sec figures on the above slide are the transfer rates *per ring*, and Novachips controller is 8-channels, meaning the flash side of the controller can handle massive throughputs. Ring busses are not limited by the same fanout requirements seen on parallel addressed devices, which means there is no practical limit to the number of flash packages connected on a single controller channel, making for some outrageous amounts of flash hanging off of a single controller:
That’s a lot of flash on a single card (and yes, the other side was full as well).
The above pic was taken at last years Flash Memory Summit. Novachips has been making steady progress on controller development as well. Here is a prototype controller seen last year running on an FPGA test system:
…and this year that same controller had been migrated to an ASIC:
It’s interesting to see the physical differences between those two parts. Note that both new and old platforms were connected to the same banks of flash. The newer photo showed two complete systems – one on ONFi flash (IMFT Intel / Micron) and the other on Toggle Mode (Toshiba). This was done to demonstrate that Novachips HLNAND hardware is compatible with both types.
Novachips also had NVMe PCIe hardware up and running at the show.
Novachips was also showing some impressive packaging in their SATA devices:
At the right was a 2TB SATA SSD, and at the left was a 4TB unit. Both were in the 7mm form factor. 4TB is the largest capacity SSD I have seen in that form factor to date.
Novachips also makes an 8TB variant, though the added PCB requires 15mm packaging.
All of this means that it is not always necessary to have huge capacity per die to achieve a huge capacity SSD. Imagine very high capacity flash arrays using this technology, connecting a single controller to a bank of Toshiba’s new QLC archival flash or Samsung’s new 256Gbit VNAND. Then imagine a server full of those PCIe devices. Things certainly seem to be getting big in the world of flash memory, that’s for sure.
Even more Flash Memory Summit posts to follow!
Subject: Storage | August 6, 2015 - 10:37 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: SSD 750, ssd, pcie, NVMe, Intel
A new 800GB SKU of the Intel SSD 750 Series of PCIe SSDs was hinted at with the Skylake launch press materials, and it appears to have been a reality:
They may not be on the shelves yet, but appearing on ARK is a pretty good indicator that these are coming soon. We don't have pricing yet, but I would suspect a cost/GB closer to the 1.2TB model than to the 400GB model, which should come in at around $700. Performance sees a slight hit for the 800GB model, likely since this is an 'uneven' number of dies for the design of the SSD DC P3500 line it was based on.
Which would you prefer - a single 800GB or a pair of 400GB SSD 750's in a RAID (now that it is possible)?
Subject: Storage | June 8, 2015 - 08:04 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: U.2, ssd, SFF-8639, pcie, NVMe, Intel, computex 2015, computex
Intel has announced that the SSD Form Factor Working Group has finally come up with a name to replace the long winded SFF-8639 label currently applied to 2.5" devices that connect via PCIe.
As Hardwarezone peeked in the above photo, the SFF-8639 connector will now be called U.2 (spoken 'U dot 2'). This appropriately corresponds with the M.2 connector currently used in portable and small form factor devices today, just with a new letter before the dot.
An M.2 NVMe PCIe device placed on top of a U.2 NVMe PCIe device.
Just as how the M.2 connector can carry SATA and PCIe signaling, the U.2 connector is an extension of the SATA / SAS standard connectors:
Not only are there an additional 7 pins between the repurposed SATA data and power pins, there are an additional 40 pins on the back side. These can carry up to PCIe 3.0 x4 to the connected device. Here is what those pins look like on a connector itself:
Further details about the SFF-8639 / U.2 connector can be seen in the below slide, taken from the P3700 press briefing:
With throughputs of up to 4 GB/sec and the ability to employ the new low latency NVMe protocol, the U.2 and M.2 standards are expected to quickly overtake the need for SATA Express. An additional look at the U.2 standard (then called SFF-8639), as well as a means of adapting from M.2 to U.2, can be found in our Intel SSD 750 Review.
It's been a while since we reviewed Intel's SSD 750 PCIe NVMe fire-breathing SSD, and since that launch we more recently had some giveaways and contests. We got the prizes in to be sent out to the winners, but before that happened, we had this stack of hardware sitting here. It just kept staring down at me (literally - this is the view from my chair):
That stack of 5 Intel SSD 750’s was burning itself into my periphery as I worked on an upcoming review of the new Seiki Pro 40” 4K display. A few feet in the other direction was our CPU testbed machine, an ASUS X99-Deluxe with a 40-lane Intel Core i7-5960 CPU installed. I just couldn't live with myself if we sent these prizes out without properly ‘testing’ them first, so then this happened:
This will not be a typical complete review, as this much hardware in parallel is not realistically comparable to even the craziest power user setup. It is more just a couple of hours of playing with an insane hardware configuration and exploring the various limits and bottlenecks we were sure to run into. We’ll do a few tests in a some different configurations and let you know what we found out.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2015 - 03:18 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: Z-Drive 6300, Z-Drive 6000, Trion, ssd, pcie, OCZ Technology, ocz, NVMe, computex 2015, computex
OCZ is showing off some new goodies at Computex 2015 in the form of a completely new SSD model – the Trion:
The Trion is based on an in-house Toshiba ‘Alishan’ controller – the first internal design from that company. Since it is sourced from within Toshiba, the new SSD controller is to be tuned for consumer workloads and should employ lower power states than prior OCZ / Indilinx SSD controllers, as well as Toshiba’s own proprietary QSBC (Quadruple Swing-By Code) error correction technology, which should squeeze a bit more usable life out of the A19nm TLC flash. This is what QSBC looks like compared to competing BCH and LDPC technologies:
We suspect Toshiba dialed back the algorithm a bit for client usage, but it should still be far superior to BCH. We don’t have many more details as the Trion has not yet been officially launched, but we do have this shot of a round of benchmark results from a pre-production 960GB model:
From what we can see, it appears to be a good performer (by modern SATA 6Gb/sec SSD standards), but we naturally can't tell anything for sure until we get samples in for local testing, as we have no idea of the state of preconditioning of the Trion in those tests.
Also on display were the recently launched Z-Drive 6000 and 6300 Series parts:
These are OCZ’s enterprise-grade NVMe devices, available in 800GB, 1.6TB, and 3.2TB. The 6000 series is a 2.5” 15mm SFF-8639 device aimed at lighter workloads with a rating of 1 Drive Write Per Day (DWPD) over a 5-year period, while the 6300 series brings that figure up to 3 DWPD and offers an HHHL PCIe card as an optional form factor. The higher writes per day are facilitated by the move to A19nm eMLC flash.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on these new developments from OCZ and we are eager to get these in the shop for some thorough testing!
Press blast for the Trion and Z-Drive 6300 Series after the break!
Subject: Storage | May 20, 2015 - 06:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: XP941, SSD 750, ssd, SM951, pcie, NVMe, MZVPV512HDGL, AHCI
For owners of Z97 or X99 boards with updated UEFIs or a rare SFF-8643 connector for the 2.5" version, booting from NVMe is possible, for the rest the Intel SSD 750 will have to be a storage drive. Al recently looked at this more than impressive PCIe SSD and now [H]ard|OCP has had a bash at it. The review is certainly worth checking out as some of their tests, especially the real world ones, differ from the benchmarks that Al used. This will give you more information about how the new SSD will handle your workloads, research worth it if you are thinking of spending $1055 for the 1.2TB model.
"Intel is set to be the catalyst for a long-awaited leap forward in storage technology with the new SSD 750 bringing NVMe storage to client PCs for the first time, and turning the high end SSD space upside-down. We are expecting blinding IOPs and we dig in to find out what it can mean to the hardware enthusiast."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung SM951 M.2 NVME 256GB @ The SSD Review
- Samsung SM951 M.2 512GB @ The SSD Review
- OCZ ARC 100 240GB SSD Review @ Madshrimps
- Silicon Power S80 480GB @ Bjorn3d
- Kingston HyperX Savage 240 GB @ techPowerUp
- SanDisk CloudSpeed Eco SSD @ The SSD Review
- Synology DiskStation DS415+ NAS Review @ Madshrimps
- Inateck FD1005 Top-Loading HDD Docking Station
- Toshiba MQ02ABF075 2.5'' Mobile Thin HDD Review @ Madshrimps
- Silicon Power Armor A60: Rugged, Portable, and Affordable @ Bjorn3d
- Samsung Portable SSD T1 250GB USB 3.0 Drive Review @ NikKTech
- Toshiba TransMemory-EX II 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review @ NikKTech
Don't be afraid of PCIe or NVMe
In very early April, Intel put a shot across the bow of the storage world with the release of the SSD 750 Series of storage devices. Using the PCI Express bus but taking advantage of the new NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) protocol, it drastically upgrades the capabilities of storage within modern PC platforms. In Allyn's review, for example, we saw read data transfer rates cross into the 2.6 GB/s range in sequential workloads and write rates over 1.2 GB/s sequentially. Even more impressive is the random I/O performance where the SSD 750 is literally 2x the speed of previous PCIe SSD options.
A couple of weeks later we posted a story looking into the compatibility of the SSD 750 with different motherboards and chipsets. We found that booting from the SSD 750 Series products is indeed going to require specific motherboards and platforms simply due to the "new-ness" of the NVMe protocol. Officially, Intel is only going to support Z97 and X99 chipsets today but obviously you can expect all future chipsets to have proper NVMe integration. We did find a couple of outliers that allowed for bootability with the SSD 750, but I wouldn't count on it.
Assuming you have a Z97/X99 motherboard that properly supports NVMe drives, of which ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte seem to be on top of, what are the steps and processes necessary to get your system up and running on the Intel SSD 750? As it turns out, it's incredibly simple.
Make sure you have enabled NVMe in the latest BIOS/UEFI. The screenshot below shows our ASUS X99-Deluxe motherboard used during testing and that it is properly recognizing the device. There was no specific option to ENABLED NVMe here though we have seen instances where that is required.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
There's been a lot of recent talk about the Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe SSD. It was supposed to launch as an NVMe product, but ended up coming out in AHCI form. We can only assume that Samsung chose to hold back on their NVMe-capable iteration because many devices are unable to boot fron an NVMe SSD. Sitting back for a few months was a wise choice in this case, as an NVMe-only version would limit the OEM products that could equip it. That new variant did finally end up launching, and we have rounded it and the other Samsung M.2 PCIe SSDs up for some much awaited testing:
I'll be comparing the three above units against some other PCIe SSDs, including the Intel SSD 750, Kingston HyperX Predator, G.Skill Phoenix Blade, Plextor M6e Black, and more!
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Editor's note: We are hosting a live stream event with our friends at Intel's SSD group today to discuss the new SSD 750 Series launch and to giveaway a couple of the 400GB units as well! Be sure you stop by to ask quesitons, learn about the technology and have a chance to win some hardware!!
Intel has a habit of overlapping their enterprise and consumer product lines. Their initial X25-M was marketed to both consumer and enterprise, with heavier workloads reserved for the X25-E. Their SSD 320 Series was also spec'd for both consumer and enterprise usage. Their most recent SSD 730 Series was actually an overclocked version of their SSD DC S3500 units. Clearly this is an established trend for Intel, so when they dominated flash memory performance with the SSD DC P3700 launch last year, pretty much everyone following these sorts of things eagerly waited in anticipation of a consumer release.
While they were hard to find outside of enterprise supply chains, some dedicated users picked up that enterprise part for their enthusiast systems, but many were disappointed as the P3700's enterprise hardware and firmware conflicted with many consumer motherboards' BIOS, rendering it unbootable for some and causing address space conflicts for others. In short, the P3700 was a great product that simply did not function properly with most consumer motherboards. All anyone could do was wait for Intel to spin a consumer product from this enterprise part, and that day is today:
This is the add-in card version of the new Intel SSD 750 Series that brings NVMe technology and insane performance levels to consumers at a cost that is more affordable than you might think.
As with the enterprise variant, Intel chose to launch the SSD 750 Series in the familiar HHHL PCIe x4 form factor as well as a 2.5" SFF-8639 packaging. The 2.5" model contains the exact same set of components, just rearranged into a smaller device.
Despite being 2.5", this is not a SATA device. While the connector may look similar, it is *very* different:
As you can see above, SFF-8639 further extends on the familiar SATA power and data connections, which had already been extended a few times to add additional SAS data lines. The new spec adds a complete row of pins on the back side of the connector to support four lanes of PCIe. This means the SFF variant of the SSD 750 will perform identically to the PCIe half-height card version. Since SFF-8639 was born as an enterprise spec, one question remains - how do you connect it to a consumer desktop motherboard? Well, desktop motherboards are coming with M.2 ports that can support up to PCIe 3.0 x4, so all you really need is a simple way to get from point A to point B:
Pictured above (left) is the ASUS 'Hyper Kit' adapter PCB, which was sampled to us with their new Sabertooth X99 motherboard just for testing these new 2.5" devices. The connector you see at the right may look familiar, as it is an internal Mini-SAS HD (SFF-8643) cable commonly used with high end SAS RAID cards. Intel is basically borrowing the physical spec, but rewiring those four SAS lanes over to the PCIe pins of the SFF-8639 connector at the other end of the cable.