Leaked Intel Roadmap Details Upcoming Optane XPoint SSDs and Storage Accelerators

Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 03:46 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.

3D-NAND-32-Layer-Stack.png

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).

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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...

Computex 2016: Corsair Announces Neutron XTI SSDs

Subject: Storage | June 6, 2016 - 03:40 AM |
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.

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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 |
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!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Casper!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 2:02:07
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Casper!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 1:12:09 Aftermarket GTX 1080s are here!
    2. 1:27:25 ASUS Computex 2016
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: Break down and organize / lookup all of those Amazon boxes.
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Patriot at Computex, a new SODIMM and SSD

Subject: Memory, Storage, Shows and Expos | May 31, 2016 - 04:19 PM |
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.

viper.jpg

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.

spark.jpg

You can read more below the fold.

Source: Patriot

Another look at the OCZ RD400 NVMe SSD

Subject: Storage | May 27, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
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.

OCZ-RD400-SSD-Front-Side.jpg

"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!"

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Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Toshiba (OCZ)

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

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.

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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!

DSC00772.jpg

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.

Read on for our full review of the new OCZ RD400!

Micron and Intel Launch a Wave of Enterprise Storage Products

Subject: Storage | April 12, 2016 - 11:30 AM |
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).

9100.jpg

The workhorse of the lineup is the 9100, which will be available in HHHL and U.2 2.5” 15mm form factors.

7100.jpg

Lighter workloads are handled by the 7100 series, which is available in U.2 2.5” 7mm and M.2 22110. The slower serial bus remains covered by their S600DC SAS SSDs.

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.

**Update**

Apparently we are going to see consumer IMFT 3D TLC NAND *this month* in the form of a Crucial MX300!

DSC00512.jpg

...and in a couple of months we will see Crucial M.2 PCIe SSDs:

DSC00513.jpg

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:

DSC00531.jpg

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:

DSC03304.JPG

**End update**

Here is a quick breakdown of the products launched by both Intel and Micron over the last two weeks:

Intel:

  • 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
    • 450GB-2TB
  • 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.
    • 800GB-1.6TB
  • SSD DC S3100
    • SATA 2.5” SLC+TLC hybrid for enterprise
      • Intended for boot OS / caching / index storage duties
    • 120GB-1TB
  • 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
    • 120GB-1TB
  • SSD E 5400s and E 5410s
    • Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix flash
    • Small capacity M.2 2280 and 2.5” SATA
    • 48GB-180GB

Micron:

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.

Source: Micron

Hello, Canadians! Interested in a Relatively Cheap 1TB SSD?

Subject: Storage | March 23, 2016 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: newegg, Mushkin, silicon motion, micron, ssd

Here's a brief post for our Canadian fans. If you have been interested in a decent, large SSD, then you might want to check out Newegg Canada. The Mushkin Enhanced Reactor 1TB is currently $100 off, which puts it at a price of $299.99 CDN plus tax and shipping. While 30c/GB might sound mundane to our neighbours to the south, the currency conversion works out to about 23c/GB USD.

mushkin-2016-reactor-cheapnewegg.jpg

Sure, it's not the fastest SSD on the market, but it's a solid, mainstream one. A 2TB version also exists, but you will be paying about $60 more than just getting two, 1TB SKUs. This version uses the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller and Micron flash. We might end up with better or cheaper drives coming in the future, I have no idea, but this should be good for cheap, decent, and now.

Source: Newegg

Samsung's tiny BGA based SSD, destined for your tablet and smartphone

Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 12:10 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, ssd, BGA

Instead of the standard pin grid array, Samsung's PM971 SSD uses BGA which allows them to for a much smaller overall size, albeit at the cost of it being permanently soldered to a circuit motherboard.  The three models, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB, will each be smaller than an SD card which is why these SSDs will be able to be used in future generations of small mobile devices.  This not only foretells of a significantly higher storage capacity for your phone but also a faster one as Samsung's PR describes sequential read speeds of up to 1500MBps and sequential writes at 600MBps, or if you prefer, 190K random read IOPS and 150K random write IOPS.  They haven't really given any details beyond those stats but you can try to glean some more information from the Japanese language article which The Inquirer links to in their story here.

index.png

"SAMSUNG HAS been showing off what it believes is the answer to the question of how to squeeze even more out of smartphone and tablet form factors. And with blazing speeds of 1500MBps it's hard to argue."

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Source: The Inquirer

Zotac is also slinging SSDs, check out the ZOTAC Premium Edition 480GB

Subject: Storage | March 17, 2016 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: zotac, Premium Edition 480GB, ssd, Phison PS3110

That's right, ZOTAC offers a number of SSDs, including a PCIe based one, but today Hardware Canucks examines the Premium Edition 480GB.  It uses the Phison PS3110 controller, 256MB NANYA DDR3 for cache and the slightly older 19nm Toshiba Toggle MLC NAND.  This is similar to other lower cost SSDs and so you would expect the performance to be similar as well.  This is indeed the case, performance is similar to the PNY XLR8 and the Crucial MX200 drives and the price is attractive, Hardware Canucks saw it on sale for $65US for the 240GB model and less than $140 for the 480GB.  If you are looking for a lower cost SSD you should check out the full review.

board2_sm.jpg

"The mid-tier SSD market is a crowded place these days but Zotac may have a standout contender with their affordable yet fast Premium Edition."

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