New Linux Kernel 3.9 Adds New Features Including KVM on ARM and SSD Caching Support

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2013 - 06:46 AM |
Tagged: ssd caching, operating system, linux, kernel 3.9, kernel, arm, 802.11ac

Linus Torvalds recently released a new version of the Linux kernel -- version 3.9 -- that advances the core of the GNU/Linux operating system with a number of new features. Among other tweaks, the new kernel rolls in new drivers, improves virtualization support, adds new hardware sleep modes, and tweaks file system and storage support.

The new kernel has added quite a few new experimental features, but developers/enthusiasts will no longer have to employ the CONFIG_EXPERIMENTAL flag when compiling the kernel in order to enable them. The kernel development team has decided to remove that option, enable the features by default, and merely tag those experimental features in the documentation. One of the experimental features is SSD caching that allows a solid state drive to cache both reads and writes. The SSD can cache frequently accessed data on the faster solid state drive as well as take the write cached data and write it to the hard drive when the IO subsystem isn’t being heavily utilized. The feature is not new to Linux distributions, but the caching support has now been moved to the kernel. Furthermore, the kernel is now RAID-aware when using the btrfs file system and RAID 5 or RAID 6.

Tux.jpg

On the driver front, Linux Kernel 3.9 now supports Intel’s upcoming 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapters, improved HD audio codec, AMD’s Oland (8500/8600) and Richland GPUs, and additional NVIDIA GPU support. The new kernel also rolls in a power-optimized driver for Intel’s Haswell GPU and several more track pads.

Kernel 3.9 also adds a new suspend/sleep mode. It will use more power than the traditional S3 (suspend to memory) sleep mode because components are not completely powered down (merely at their lowest sleep mode), but the system will be almost-instantly accessible upon exiting the new suspend mode as a result. According to H-Online, this "lightweight suspend" mode would be ideal for mobile devices or hardware used in network appliances. Also interesting is support for a KVM hypervisor on ARM Cortex A15 SoCs as well as some software tweaks to the kernel to improve web server workloads by allowing multiple networking sockets (and associated CPU processes) to listen on the same network port.

In all, version 3.9 looks to be a worthy upgrade, and one that I hope Linux distro makers will opt for in upcoming releases. I think the new drivers and the SSD caching being rolled into the kernel are the most important features for desktop users, though the networking stack improvements also sound interesting.

For more details, Thorsten Leemhuis has written up an extensive article on the new kernel.

Source: H-Online

Western Digital Hybrid Hard Drives: 5mm 500GB Sampling

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | September 10, 2012 - 02:50 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd caching, ssd, Hard Drive

Western Digital has been sampling 5mm-thin 2.5” hard drives designed for Ultrabooks. They have currently announced partnerships with Acer and ASUS to include these drives in future ultrathin laptops. Western Digital has currently only listed capacities of 500GB for the spindle portion of the drive but no word how much MLC flash will be included to cache most used files. The product will be discussed during the company’s investor day on the 13th of this month.

At this stage SSDs are pretty much the missing link to a fast and responsive computer.

Prices have dropped to under one dollar per gigabyte ($1/GB) a few months ago with some models reaching 70c/GB – and those are the good ones too. The massive drop in price is still about an order of magnitude more expensive than spindle hard drives and consumers are using whatever space they can get. Several solutions exist to balance the speed of SSDs with the storage effectiveness of HDDs.

One solution is to include both in a single drive and keep the most used data in the SSD cache. Western Digital has just released samples of 5mm-thin hybrid hard drives for OEMs to put in extremely thin laptops.

I wonder if they're feeling chip-er...

Users who purchase laptops often have the mistaken assumption that a faster processor directly leads to increased response. That is certainly the case when comparing an Intel Atom to an i5 – but an i3 will probably spend just as much time idle and awaiting instructions from the hard drive as an i5 would.

Western Digital has not broken the SSD market despite their long success with spindle storage. It makes sense that Western Digital will push into the market with the starting point from which they are most comfortable. Western Digital has been shipping SSDs for over two-and-a-half years at this point but never really gained any traction.

It looks like Western Digital is realizing that they need to mix SSDs with what they know best and do something innovative to get a unique hook in the market – buying just a little more time.

The drive which has been announced today will contain a storage capacity of 500GB with an undisclosed amount of MLC NAND flash memory caching the most used data. The hook to differentiate themselves from other hybrid hard drives is its size: 5mm compared to the more common 9.5mm.

The Ultrabook market could be a lucrative wave to ride for the time being and give them even more capital to invest future SSDs. Hopefully they will not wait for solid state storage to creep up on them twice. Fool you once…

Western Digital is expected to discuss and showcase this product more at their Western Digital Investor Day on this Thursday, September 13th, 2012.

More on the Z68's love affair with SSDs

Subject: Motherboards, Storage | April 28, 2011 - 03:49 PM |
Tagged: z68, ssd, ssd caching, Intel

Since it would be cruel to leave you only with the leaked SSD family from Intel and a few hints from ASRock about the performance increase from even a 20GB SSD, here is some more information from VR-Zone.  Bear in mind we are still in the territory of leaked info and informed guessing but the topic is one worth keeping up with.

VRZ_Z68.png

"Intel plans to officially launch Z68 Express chipset on May 18th but you will be able to see reviews online from 12th onwards. Of course, those who can't wait for the official launch can already purchase the Gigabyte Z68X-UD7-B3 board from the retail market, first available in Taiwan and then the rest of the world in the coming weeks. Other brands like ASUS and ASRock are set to hit the retail next. Those enthusiasts hoping they can overclock their Sandy Bridge better on Z68 than the P67 will probably be disappointed but there is one important feature of Z68 that matters, and that is the SSD caching."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: VR-Zone