Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Everyone expects SSD makers to keep pushing out higher and higher capacity SSDs, but the thing holding them back is sufficient market demand for that capacity. With that, it appears Samsung has decided it was high time for a 4TB model of their 850 EVO. Today we will be looking at this huge capacity point, and paying close attention to any performance dips that sometimes result in pushing a given SSD controller / architecture to extreme capacities.
This new 4TB model benefits from the higher density of Samsung’s 48-layer V-NAND. We performed a side-by-side comparison of 32 and 48 layer products back in March, and found the newer flash to reduce Latency Percentile profiles closer to MLC-equipped Pro model than the 32-layer (TLC) EVO:
Latency Percentile showing reduced latency of Samsung’s new 48-layer V-NAND
We’ll be looking into all of this in today’s review, along with trying our hand at some new mixed paced workload testing, so let’s get to it!
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
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:
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 :).
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.
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.
Pre and Post Update Testing
Samsung launched their 840 Series SSDs back in May of 2013, which is over three years ago as of this writing. They were well-received as a budget unit but rapidly eclipsed by the follow-on release of the 840 EVO.
A quick check of our test 840 revealed inconsistent read speeds.
We broke news of Samsung’s TLC SSDs being effected by a time-based degrading of read speeds in September of 2014, and since then we have seen nearly every affected product patched by Samsung, with one glaring exception - the original 840 SSD. While the 840 EVO was a TLC SSD with a built-in SLC static data cache, the preceding 840 was a pure TLC drive. With the focus being on the newer / more popular drives, I had done only spot-check testing of our base 840 sample here at the lab, but once I heard there was finally a patch for this unit, I set out to do some pre-update testing so that I could gauge any improvements to read speed from this update.
As a refresher, ‘stale’ data on an 840 EVO would see reduced read speeds over a period of months after those files were written to the drive. This issue was properly addressed in a firmware issued back in April of 2015, but there were continued grumbles from owners of other affected drives, namely the base model 840. With the Advanced Performance Optimization patch being issued so long after others have been patched, I’m left wondering why there was such a long delay on this one? Differences in the base-840’s demonstration of this issue revealed themselves in my pre-patch testing:
Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 03:46 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XPoint, tlc, Stony Beach, ssd, pcie, Optane, NVMe, mlc, Mansion Beach, M.2, kaby lake, Intel, imft, Brighton Beach, 3DNAND, 3d nand
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.
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.
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).
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...
Subject: Storage | June 6, 2016 - 03:40 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ssd, corsair, neutron, neutron xti, Neutron XT
Corsair announced a new line of SSDs at Computex. We didn't have boots on the ground there this year, and it's not yet on Corsair's website, so we needed to go with Tom's coverage of the product. The Corsair Neutron XTI uses Toshiba's 15nm MLC flash and the Phison S10 controller “with expanded cache”. This added cache addresses some “performance consistency” issues that Corsair identified, but they didn't seem to elaborate on what that is. It is rated at up to 100,000 IOPS Read and 90,000 IOPS Write, but that obviously needs to be tested to specify when, how, and how often.
Image Credit: Tom's Hardware
Speaking of tested Corsair Neutron SSDs, Allyn reviewed the previous model, the Corsair Neutron XT, all the way back in November, 2014. He was impressed with the drive at the time, although, while it was super fast at low queue depths of about ~1-4 items, it slowed down above that. Since that time, he has been developing some interesting testing methods to figure out whether slowdowns could be related to individual hitches that would be lost in benchmarks that aggregate results and implicitly average them out. He didn't have those methods back then, though, so it's unclear whether the queue depth issue was a symptom of a latency problem, and whether the “expanded cache” will help that.
We'll see when it's launched. It will be available in 240, 480, and 960 GB varieties.
Podcast #402 - GTX 1070 Review, i7-6950X Review, AMD Radeon RX480, Aftermarket GTX 1080’s, Tiny SSDs, Computex 2016, and more!
Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2016 - 11:11 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: zenfone 3, ssd, Samsung, rx480, ROG Rampage V Edition 10, podcast, PM971-NVMe, i7-6950X, gtx1080, GTX1070, computex 2016, Broadwell, Bristol Ridge, BGA, avalon, 1080, 1070
PC Perspective Podcast #402 - 06/03/2016
Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 1070 Review, i7-6950X Review, AMD Radeon RX480, Aftermarket GTX 1080’s, Tiny SSDs, Computex 2016, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store (audio only)
- Google Play - Subscribe to our audio podcast directly through Google Play!
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader (audio only)
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Casper!
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Subject: Memory, Storage, Shows and Expos | May 31, 2016 - 04:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: patriot, sodimm, viper ddr4, spark, ssd
Patriot unveiled the Viper DDR4 SODIMM series, with frequencies ranging from 2400MHz to 2800MHz in both single and dual kits. Available in 8GB and 16GB capacities the prices start at $34.99U for a single 2400HMz 8GB SODIMM to $169.99US for dual 16GB DDR4-2800MHz kit.
They also announced a new series of SSDs called Spark which use the Phison S11 controller and TLC NAND. They will be available in Q3 and come in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities with prices of $34.99, $56.99 and $104.99US respectively.
You can read more below the fold.
Subject: Storage | May 27, 2016 - 02:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: TSV, toshiba, ssd, revodrive, RD400, pcie, ocz, NVMe, M.2, HHHL, 512GB, 2280, 15nm
If you somehow felt that there was a test that Al missed while reviewing the OCZ RD400 NVMe SSD, then you have a chance for a second look. There are several benchmarks which The SSD Review ran which were not covered and they have a different way of displaying data such as latency but the end results are the same, this drive is up there with the Samsung 950 Pro and Intel 750 Series. Read all about it here.
"With specs that rival the Samsung 950 Pro, a capacity point that nips at the heels of the Intel 750's largest model, and competitive MSRPs, the OCZ RD400 is out for blood. Read on to learn more about this latest enthusiast class NVMe SSD and see how it competes with the best of the best!"
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Toshiba OCZ RD400 NVMe PCIe SSD 512GB @ Kitguru
- OCZ Trion 150 480GB SSD Review @ OCC
- Mushkin Atom 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive Review @ NikKTech
- Kingston DataTraveler 4000 G2 64GB Encrypted USB Drive Review @ OCC
- Asustor AS6104T 4-bay NAS @ Kitguru
- Thecus N5810 PRO NAS @ Kitguru
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
The OCZ RevoDrive has been around for a good long while. We looked at the first ever RevoDrive back in 2010. It was a bold move for the time, as PCIe SSDs were both rare and very expensive at that time. OCZ's innovation was to implement a new VCA RAID controller which kept latencies low and properly scaled with increased Queue Depth. OCZ got a lot of use out of this formula, later expanding to the RevoDrive 3 x2 which expanded to four parallel SSDs, all the way to the enterprise Z-Drive R4 which further expanded that out to eight RAIDed SSDs.
OCZ's RevoDrive lineup circa 2011.
The latter was a monster of an SSD both in physical size and storage capacity. Its performance was also impressive given that it launched five years ago. After being acquired by Toshiba, OCZ re-spun the old VCA-driven SSD one last time in the form of a RevoDrive 350, but it was the same old formula and high-latency SandForce controllers (updated with in-house Toshiba flash). The RevoDrive line needed to ditch that dated tech and move into the world of NVMe, and today it has!
Here is the new 'Toshiba OCZ RD400', branded as such under the recent rebadging that took place on OCZ's site. The Trion 150 and Vertex 180 have also been relabeled as TR150 and VT180. This new RD400 has some significant changes over the previous iterations of that line. The big one is that it is now a lean M.2 part which can come on/with an optional adapter card for those not having an available M.2 slot.
Subject: Storage | April 12, 2016 - 11:30 AM | Allyn Malventano
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).
The workhorse of the lineup is the 9100, which will be available in HHHL and U.2 2.5” 15mm form factors.
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.
Apparently we are going to see consumer IMFT 3D TLC NAND *this month* in the form of a Crucial MX300!
...and in a couple of months we will see Crucial M.2 PCIe SSDs:
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:
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:
Here is a quick breakdown of the products launched by both Intel and Micron over the last two weeks:
- 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
- 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.
- PCIe 3.0 x4 2.5” U.2 dual-port design.
- SSD DC S3100
- SATA 2.5” SLC+TLC hybrid for enterprise
- Intended for boot OS / caching / index storage duties
- SATA 2.5” SLC+TLC hybrid for enterprise
- 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
- SSD E 5400s and E 5410s
- Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix flash
- Small capacity M.2 2280 and 2.5” SATA
- 9100 PCIe SSD
- PCIe 3.0 x4 HHHL and 2.5” U.2 15mm
- Up to 3.2TB capacity
- 7100 PCIe SSD
- PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 22110 and 2.5” U.2 7mm
- SAS 2.5”
- Micron Accelerated Solutions
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.