Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel launched their Datacenter 'P' Series parts a little over two years ago. Since then, the P3500, P3600, and P3700 lines have seen various expansions and spinoffs. The most recent to date was the P3608, which packed two full P3600's into a single HHHL form factor. With Intel 3D XPoint / Optane parts lurking just around the corner, I had assumed there would be no further branches of the P3xxx line, but Intel had other things in mind. IMFT 3D NAND offers greater die capacities at a reduced cost/GB, apparently even in MLC form, and Intel has infused this flash into their new P3520:

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Remember the P3500 series was Intel's lowest end of the P line, and as far as performance goes, the P3520 actually takes a further step back. The play here is to get the proven quality control and reliability of Intel's datacenter parts into a lower cost product. While the P3500 launched at $1.50/GB, the P3520 pushes that cost down *well* below $1/GB for a 2TB HHHL or U.2 SSD.

Read on for our full review of the Intel DC P3520 SSD!

FMS 2016: Phison E8 Controller - NVMe Speed at SATA Cost

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2016 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: ssd, PS5008-E8/E8T, PS5008-E8, PS5007-E7, phison, PCIe 3.0 x2, NVMe, FMS 2016, FMS, E8

I visited Phison to check out their new E8 controller:

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Phsion opted to take a step back from the higher performance PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe controllers out there, offering a solution with half the lanes. PCIe 3.0 x2 can still handle 1.5 GB/s, and this controller can exceed 200,000 random IOPS. Those specs are actually in-line with what most shipping x4 solutions offer today, meaning the E8 is more effectively saturating its more limited connectivity. Reducing the number of lanes helps Phison reduce the component cost of this controller to match the cost of typical SATA controllers while tripling the performance, greatly reducing the cost to produce NVMe SSDs.

In addition to 3D Flash support, the E8 is also a DRAM-less controller, meaning it has a small internal SRAM cache and has been architected to not need external DRAM installed on the PCB. DRAM-less means even lower costs. This can only be a good thing, since high performing NVMe parts at SATA costs is going to drive down the costs of even faster NVMe solutions, which is great for future buyers.

Press blast after the break.

Source: Phison

FMS 2016: Liqid Combines Quad M.2 in to Powerful Packages

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2016 - 11:18 AM |
Tagged: FMS, FMS 2016, Liqid, kingston, toshiba, phison, U.2, HHHL, NVMe, ssd

A relative newcomer this year at Flash Memory Summit was Liqid. These guys are essentially creating an ecosystem from a subset of parts. Let's start with Toshiba:

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At Toshiba's booth, we spotted their XG3 being promoted as being part of the Liqid solution. We also saw a similar demo at the Phison booth, meaning any M.2 parts can be included as part of their design. Now let us get a closer look at the full package options and what they do:

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This demo, at the Kingston booth, showed a single U.2 device cranking out 835,000 4k IOPS. This is essentially saturating its PCIe 3.0 x4 link with random IO's, and it actually beats the Micron 9100 that we just reviewed!

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How can it pull this off? The trick is that there are actually four M.2 SSDs in that package, along with a PLX switch. The RAID must be handled on the host side, but so long as you have software that can talk to multiple drives, you'll get full speed from this part.

More throughput can be had by switching to a PCIe 3.0 x8 link on a HHHL form factor card:

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That's 1.3 million IOPS from a single HHHL device! Technically this is four SSDs, but still, that's impressively fast and is again saturating the bus, but this time it's PCIe 3.0 x8 being pegged!

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We'll be tracking Liqid's progress over the coming months, and we will definitely test these solutions as they come to market (we're not there just yet). More to follow from FMS 2016!

FMS 2016: Samsung To Announce 64-Layer 4th Gen V-NAND, 32TB 2.5" SSD

Subject: Storage | August 10, 2016 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: 2.5, V-NAND, ssd, Samsung, nand, FMS 2016, FMS, flash, 64-Layer, 32TB, SAS, datacenter

At a huge press event like Flash Memory Summit, being in the right place at the right time (and with the right camera), matters greatly. I'll just let a picture say a thousand words for me here:

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..now this picture has been corrected for extreme parallax and was taken in far from ideal conditions, but you get the point. Samsung's keynote is coming up later today, and I have a hunch this will be a big part of what they present. We did know 64-Layer was coming, as it was mentioned in Samsung's last earnings announcement, but confirmation is nice.

*edit* now that the press conference has taken place, here are a few relevant slides:

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With 48-Layer V-NAND announced last year (and still rolling out), it's good to see Samsung pushing hard into higher capacity dies. 64-Layer enables 512Gbits (64GB) per die, and 100MB/s per die maximum throughput means even lower capacity SSDs should offer impressive sequentials.

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Samsung 48-Layer V-NAND. Pic courtesy of TechInsights.

64-Layer is Samsung's 4th generation of V-NAND. We've seen 48-Layer and 32-Layer, but few know that 24-Layer was a thing (but was mainly in limited enterprise parts).

We will know more shortly, but for now, dream of even higher capacity SSDs :)

*edit* and this just happened:

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*additional edit* - here's a better picture taken after the keynote:

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The 32TB model in their 2.5" form factor displaces last years 16TB model. The drive itself is essentially identical, but the flash packages now contain 64-layer dies, doubling the available capacity of the device.

FMS 2016: Seagate Demos Facebook Lightning, 60TB 3.5" SSD!

Subject: Storage | August 10, 2016 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: FMS 2016, ssd, Seagate, Lightning, facebook, 60TB

Seagate showed off some impressive Solid State Storage at Flash Memory Summit 2016.

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First up is the Nytro XM1440. This is a 2TB M.2 22110 SSD complete with enterprise firmware and power loss protection. Nice little package, but what's it for?

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..well if you have 60 of them, you can put them into this impressive 1U chassis. This is Facebook's Lightning chassis (discussed yesterday). With Seagate's 2TB parts, this makes for 120TB of flash in a 1U footprint. Great for hyperscale datacenters.

Now onto what you came to see:

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This is the 'Seagate 60TB SAS SSD'. It really doesn't need a unique name because that capacity takes care of that for us! This is a 3.5" form factor SAS 12Gbit beast of a drive.

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They pulled this density off with a few tricks which I'll walk through. First was the stacking of three PCBs with flash packages on both sides. 80 packages in total.

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Next up is Seagate's ONFi fan-out ASIC. This is required because you can only have so many devices connected to a single channel / bus of a given SSD controller. The ASIC acts as a switch for data between the controller and flash dies.

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With so much flash present, we could use a bit of fault tolerance. You may recall RAISE from SandForce (who Seagate now owns). This is effectively RAID for flash dies, enabling greater resistance to individual errors across the array.

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Finally we have the specs. With a dual 12 Gbit SAS inteface, the 60TB SAS SSD can handle 1.5 GB/s reads, 1.0 GB/s writes, and offers 150,000 IOPS at 4KB QD32 random (SAS tops out at QD32). The idea behind drives like these is to cram as much storage into the smallest space possible, and this is certainly a step in the right direction.

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We also saw the XP7200 add-in card. I found this one interesting as it is a PCIe 3.0 x16 card with four M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs installed, but *without* a PLX switch to link them to the host system. This is possible only in server systems supporting PCIe Bifurcation, where the host can recognize that certain sets of lanes are linked to individual components.

More to follow from FMS 2016! Press blast after the break.

FMS 2016: Facebook Talks WORM QLC NAND Flash, Benchmarks XPoint

Subject: Storage | August 9, 2016 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Worm, storage, ssd, RocksDB, Optane, nand, flash, facebook

At their FMS 2016 Keynote, Facebook gave us some details on the various storage technologies that fuel their massive operation:

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In the four corners above, they covered the full spectrum of storing bits. From NVMe to Lightning (huge racks of flash (JBOF)), to AVA (quad M.2 22110 NVMe SSDs), to the new kid on the block, WORM storage. WORM stands for Write Once Read Many, and as you might imagine, Facebook has lots of archival data that they would like to be able to read quickly, so this sort of storage fits the bill nicely. How do you pull off massive capacity in flash devices? QLC. Forget MLC or TLC, QLC stores four bits per cell, meaning there are 16 individual voltage states for each cell. This requires extremely precise writing techniques and reads must appropriately compensate for cell drift over time, and while this was a near impossibility with planar NAND, 3D NAND has more volume to store those electrons. This means one can trade the endurance gains of 3D NAND for higher bit density, ultimately enabling SSDs upwards of ~100TB in capacity. The catch is that they are rated at only ~150 write cycles. This is fine for archival storage requiring WORM workloads, and you still maintain NAND speeds when it comes to reading that data later on, meaning that decade old Facebook post will appear in your browser just as quickly as the one you posted ten minutes ago.

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Next up was a look at some preliminary Intel Optane SSD results using RocksDB. Compared to a P3600, the prototype Optane part offers impressive gains in Facebook's real-world workload. Throughput jumped by 3x, and latency reduced to 1/10th of its previous value. These are impressive gains given this fairly heavy mixed workload.

More to follow from FMS 2016!

Microsemi Flashtec Controllers Offer PCIe 3.0 x8 NVMe SSDs up to 20TB

Subject: Storage | August 8, 2016 - 10:40 AM |
Tagged: storage, ssd, solid state drive, PCIe 3.0 x8, PCI-E 3.0, NVMe2032, NVMe2016, NVMe, Microsemi, Flashtec

Microsemi's Flashtec NVMe SSD controllers are now in production, and as Computer Base reports (Google-translated version of the page available here) these controllers use twice as many PCIe lanes than current offerings with a x8 PCI-E 3.0 connection, and can support up to 20 TB of flash capacity.

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Image credit: Computer Base

"The NVMe controller destined for the professional high-performance segment and work with PCIe 3.0 x8 or two x4 PCIe 3.0. The NVMe2032 has 32 memory channels (and) NVMe2016 (has) 16. When using 256-Gbit flash SSDs can be implemented with up to 20 terabytes of storage."

The 32-channel NVMe2032 boasts up to 1 million IOPS in 4K random read performance, and the controller supports DDR4 memory for faster cache performance. The announcement of the availability of these chips comes just before the start of Flash Memory Summit, which our own Allyn Malventano will be attending. Stay tuned for more flashy SSD news to come!

Samsung PM1633a: 15.36TB SSD for $10,000 USD

Subject: Storage | August 1, 2016 - 11:03 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, enterprise ssd

Allyn first mentioned this device last year, but they're apparently now shipping for a whopping $10,000 USD. To refresh, the PM1633a is an SSD from Samsung that packs 15.36TB into a 2.5-inch form factor. According to Samsung, it does this by stacking 16 dies, each containing 48 layers of flash cells, into a 512GB package. It's unclear how many packages are installed in the device, because we don't know how much over-provisioning Samsung provides, but the advertised capacity equates to exactly 30 packages. Update @ 11:30pm: Turns out I was staring right at it in the old press release. The drive has 32 packages, so 16384 GB, once you account for over-provisioning.

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Image Credit: Samsung

Down at CDW, they are selling them for $10,311.99 USD with the option to lease for $321.73 / month. That's only 2.1c/GB... per month... for probably three whole years. No Ryan, that doesn't count. The warranty period doesn't seem to be listed, but Samsung will cover up to 15.36TB per day in writes. I mean, we knew it would be expensive, given its size and performance. At least it's only ~65c/GB.

Source: CDW

Plextor's Upcoming M8Pe M.2 SSD Previewed at Computer Base

Subject: Storage | August 1, 2016 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: M8PeG, ssd, solid state drive, preview, plextor, nand, M8Pe, M.2, CES 2016, M8PeY

Plextor announced their first M.2 SSD at CES 2016, and now the M8Pe series is officially set for a release this month. Computer Base (German language) had a chance to preview the new drive, and supplied a detailed look at the M.2 version (this is model M8PeG, and the version with a riser card is M8PeY).

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The Plextor M8PeG SSD (Image credit: Computer Base)

Even the M.2 form-factor version of the SSD includes a heatsink, which Plextor warns creates incompatibility with notebooks as the M8PeG is 4.79 mm in height with the heatsink in place.

Specifications for the drives are as follows:

  Plextor M8PeG Plextor M8PeY
Controller Marvell 88SS1093 (8-Channel)
DRAM 512MB LPDDR3 (1024MB variant)
Capacity 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
NAND Toshiba 15nm Toggle 2.0 MLC
Form Factor M.2 (80 mm) PCIe card (HH, HL)
Interface PCIe 3.0 x4
Warranty 5 years

So what did Computer Base have to report with their hands-on preview of the new drive? Here's their CrystalDiskMark result:

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(Image credit: Computer Base)

Naturally we'll have to wait for a full-scale AllynReview™ to get a better idea of performance in all situations, but until then it's good to know we'll soon have another option to consider in the M.2 SSD market. As to pricing, we don't have anything just yet.

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The M8Pe SSD lineup (Image credit: Computer Base)

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: DeepSpar

Introduction, Packaging, and Internals

Introduction

Being a bit of a storage nut, I have run into my share of failed and/or corrupted hard drives over the years. I have therefore used many different data recovery tools to try to get that data back when needed. Thankfully, I now employ a backup strategy that should minimize the need for such a tool, but there will always be instances of fresh data on a drive that went down before a recent backup took place or a neighbor or friend that did not have a backup.

I’ve got a few data recovery pieces in the cooker, but this one will be focusing on ‘physical data recovery’ from drives with physically damaged or degraded sectors and/or heads. I’m not talking about so-called ‘logical data recovery’, where the drive is physically fine but has suffered some corruption that makes the data inaccessible by normal means (undelete programs also fall into this category). There are plenty of ‘hard drive recovery’ apps out there, and most if not all of them claim seemingly miraculous results on your physically failing hard drive. While there are absolutely success stories out there (most plastered all over testimonial pages at those respective sites), one must take those with an appropriate grain of salt. Someone who just got their data back with a <$100 program is going to be very vocal about it, while those who had their drive permanently fail during the process are likely to go cry quietly in a corner while saving up for a clean-room capable service to repair their drive and attempt to get their stuff back. I'll focus more on the exact issues with using software tools for hardware problems later in this article, but for now, surely there has to be some way to attempt these first few steps of data recovery without resorting to software tools that can potentially cause more damage?

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Well now there is. Enter the RapidSpar, made by DeepSpar, who hope this little box can bridge the gap between dedicated data recovery operations and home users risking software-based hardware recoveries. DeepSpar is best known for making advanced tools used by big data recovery operations, so they know a thing or two about this stuff. I could go on and on here, but I’m going to save that for after the intro page. For now let’s get into what comes in the box.

Note: In this video, I read the MFT prior to performing RapidNebula Analysis. It's optimal to reverse those steps. More on that later in this article.

Read on for our full review of the RapidSpar!