Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 01:47 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: western digital, VR, vnand, vive, video, Samsung, podcast, Oculus, hgst, He8, CRYORIG C7, 8tb red, 850 EVO
PC Perspective Podcast #392 - 03/24/2016
Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung 850 EVO V2, VR Build Guides, the End of Tick-Tock, and more!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:33:37
Week in Review:
0:28:00 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintreepayments.com/pcper
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Ryan: Sony A6300 4K Camera
Subject: Storage | February 14, 2016 - 02:51 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, ssd, Samsung, nand, micron, Intel, imft, 768Gb, 512GB, 3d nand, 384Gb, 32 Layer, 256GB
You may have seen a wave of Micron 3D NAND news posts these past few days, and while many are repeating the 11-month old news with talks of 10TB/3.5TB on a 2.5"/M.2 form factor SSDs, I'm here to dive into the bigger implications of what the upcoming (and future) generation of Intel / Micron flash will mean for SSD performance and pricing.
Remember that with the way these capacity increases are going, the only way to get a high performance and high capacity SSD on-the-cheap in the future will be to actually get those higher capacity models. With such a large per-die capacity, smaller SSDs (like 128GB / 256GB) will suffer significantly slower write speeds. Taking this upcoming Micron flash as an example, a 128GB SSD will contain only four flash memory dies, and as I wrote about back in 2014, such an SSD would likely see HDD-level sequential write speeds of 160MB/sec. Other SSD manufacturers already recognize this issue and are taking steps to correct it. At Storage Visions 2016, Samsung briefed me on the upcoming SSD 750 Series that will use planar 16nm NAND to produce 120GB and 250GB capacities. The smaller die capacities of these models will enable respectable write performance and will also enable them to discontinue their 120GB 850 EVO as they transition that line to higher capacity 48-layer VNAND. Getting back to this Micron announcement, we have some new info that bears analysis, and that pertains to the now announced page and block size:
256Gb MLC: 16KB Page / 16MB Block / 1024 Pages per Block
384Gb TLC: 16KB Page / 24MB Block / 1536 Pages per Block
To understand what these numbers mean, using the MLC line above, imagine a 16MB CD-RW (Block) that can write 1024 individual 16KB 'sessions' (Page). Each 16KB can be added individually over time, and just like how files on a CD-RW could be modified by writing a new copy in the remaining space, flash can do so by writing a new Page and ignoring the out of date copy. Where the rub comes in is when that CD-RW (Block) is completely full. The process at this point is very similar actually, in that the Block must be completely emptied before the erase command (which wipes the entire Block) is issued. The data has to go somewhere, which typically means writing to empty blocks elsewhere on the SSD (and in worst case scenarios, those too may need clearing before that is possible), and this moving and erasing takes time for the die to accomplish. Just like how wiping a CD-RW took a much longer than writing a single file to it, erasing a Block takes typically 3-4x as much time as it does to program a page.
With that explained, of significance here are the growing page and block sizes in this higher capacity flash. Modern OS file systems have a minimum bulk access size of 4KB, and Windows versions since Vista align their partitions by rounding up to the next 2MB increment from the start of the disk. These changes are what enabled HDDs to transition to Advanced Format, which made data storage more efficient by bringing the increment up from the 512 Byte sector up to 4KB. While most storage devices still use 512B addressing, it is assumed that 4KB should be the minimum random access seen most of the time. Wrapping this all together, the Page size (minimum read or write) is 16KB for this new flash, and that is 4x the accepted 4KB minimum OS transfer size. This means that power users heavy on their page file, or running VMs, or any other random-write-heavy operations being performed over time will have a more amplified effect of wear of this flash. That additional shuffling of data that must take place for each 4KB write translates to lower host random write speeds when compared to lower capacity flash that has smaller Page sizes closer to that 4KB figure.
A rendition of 3D IMFT Floating Gate flash, with inset pulling back some of the tunnel oxide layer to show the location of the floating gate. Pic courtesy Schiltron.
Fortunately for Micron, their choice to carry Floating Gate technology into their 3D flash has netted them some impressive endurance benefits over competing Charge Trap Flash. One such benefit is a claimed 30,000 P/E (Program / Erase) cycle endurance rating. Planar NAND had dropped to the 3,000 range at its lowest shrinks, mainly because there was such a small channel which could only store so few electrons, amplifying the (negative) effects of electron leakage. Even back in the 50nm days, MLC ran at ~10,000 cycle endurance, so 30,000 is no small feat here. The key is that by using that same Floating Gate tech so good at controlling leakage for planar NAND on a new 3D channel that can store way more electrons enables excellent endurance that may actually exceed Samsung's Charge Trap Flash equipped 3D VNAND. This should effectively negate the endurance hit on the larger Page sizes discussed above, but the potential small random write performance hit still stands, with a possible remedy being to crank up the Over-Provisioning of SSDs (AKA throwing flash at the problem). Higher OP means less active pages per block and a reduction in the data shuffling forced by smaller writes.
A 25nm flash memory die. Note the support logic (CMOS) along the upper left edge.
One final thing helping out Micron here is that their Floating Gate design also enables a shift of 75% of the CMOS circuitry to a layer *underneath* the flash storage array. This logic is typically part of what you see 'off to the side' of a flash memory die. Layering CMOS logic in such a way is likely thanks to Intel's partnership and CPU development knowledge. Moving this support circuitry to the bottom layer of the die makes for less area per die dedicated to non-storage, more dies per wafer, and ultimately lower cost per chip/GB.
Samsung's Charge Trap Flash, shown in both planar and 3D VNAND forms.
One final thing before we go. If we know anything about how the Intel / Micron duo function, it is that once they get that freight train rolling, it leads to relatively rapid advances. In this case, the changeover to 3D has taken them a while to perfect, but once production gains steam, we can expect to see some *big* advances. Since Samsung launched their 3D VNAND their gains have been mostly iterative in nature (24, 32, and most recently 48). I'm not yet at liberty to say how the second generation of IMFT 3D NAND will achieve it, but I can say that it appears the next iteration after this 32-layer 256Gb (MLC) /384Gb (TLC) per die will *double* to 512Gb/768Gb (you are free to do the math on what that means for layer count). Remember back in the day where Intel launched new SSDs at a fraction of the cost/GB of the previous generation? That might just be happening again within the next year or two.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 01:39 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Fasetto, Link, wifi, NAS, ssd, Samsung, vnand, 802.11ac
Fasetto is a company previously known as one of those cross-platform file-sharing web apps, but I was shocked to see them with a space at CES Unveiled. Companies without physical products tend to fall flat at this type of venue, but as I walked past, boy was I mistaken!
To give the size a bit of perspective here, that's a business card sitting in front of the 'Link', which only measures 1.9x1.9x0.9" and weighs just under 4 ounces. That's a belt clip to the right of it. Ok, now that we have the tiny size and low weight described, what has Fasetto packed into that space?
- Aluminum + ABS construction
- Waterproof to 45 feet (and it floats!)
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE
- 802.11AC dual band WiFi (reportedly 4x4)
- 4GB RAM
- Quad core ARM CPU
- 9-axis compass/accelerometer/gyro
- 1350 mAh Li battery
- Wireless charging (Chi style)
- Up to 2TB SSD
For a portable storage device, that is just an absolutely outstanding spec sheet! The Link is going to run an OS designed specifically for this device, and will have plugin support (simple add-on apps that can access the accelerometer and log movement, for example).
The BIG deal with this device is of course the ability to act as a portable wireless storage device. In that respect it can handle 20 simultaneous devices, stream to seven simultaneously, and can also do the expected functions like wireless internet pass-through. Claimed standby power is two weeks and active streaming is rated at up to 8 hours. Even more interesting is that I was told the internal storage will be Samsung 48-layer VNAND borrowed from their T3 (which explains why the Fasetto Link will not be available until late 2016). This is sure to be a hit with photographers, as WiFi compatible cameras should be able to stream photos to the Link as the photos are being taken, eliminating the need to offload cameras at the end of a shoot.
We will definitely be working with Fasetto to help shake out any bugs prior to the release of this little gem. I suspect it might just be the most groundbreaking storage product that we see come out of this CES.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
This is it. This is the day we have been waiting for. Ever since we feasted our eyes on the NVMe version of the Samsung SM951, we’ve been begging Samsung to release this as a consumer product. Bonus points if it was powered by their 3D VNAND technology. It took them a while, but they came through, officially announcing the 950 PRO exactly one month ago, and launching them today! Not only will we dive into the performance of this new model, we will also include its results in our new Latency Distribution and Percentile testing.
Nothing has changed since the announcement. All specs remain the same very impressive 2.2-2.5 GB/s reads, 0.9-1.5 GB/s writes, and upwards of 300k IOPS, all from an M.2 2280 SSD consuming only 7 Watts!
While the 950 PROs will work with the built-in Microsoft NVMe driver (present in Windows 8 and up), Samsung has also provided their own driver, which will increase performance. The same was true for the Intel SSD 750 Series.
There’s really not much to this packaging, but it’s the most ‘retail’ we’ve seen for packaging of a simple M.2 SSD.
Subject: General Tech | September 24, 2015 - 03:22 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Jim Keller, Zen, Samsung, 950 PRO, NVMe, M.2, vnand, Thrustmaster, tx f458, Lenovo, Thinkpad, x1 carbon, x250, t450s, helix
PC Perspective Podcast #368 - 09/24/2015
Join us this week as we discuss full GTX 980s in notebooks, Samsung's NVMe 950 Pro, Jim Keller leaving AMD and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Morry Teitelman
Program length: 1:24:13
Week in Review:
0:46:10 This episode of PC Perspective is brought to you by…Zumper, the quick and easy way to find your next apartment or home rental. To get started and to find your new home go to http://zumper.com/PCP
News item of interest:
0:49:05 Jim Keller Leaves AMD
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Jeremy: Origin unbuggered C&C 2
Subject: Storage | September 22, 2015 - 06:10 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, V-NAND, Samsumg, 4TB, 48-layer, 2TB, 1TB
During yesterday's SSD Summit, obscured by their 950 PRO launch was new branding for their 32 (and now 48) layer Vertical NAND technology:
This new branding is more in line with what folks were calling their NAND anyway (Samsung was previously using the term '3D VNAND'. Dropping the 3D made sense, as it was implied with the 'V').
Also of interest were some announcements of upcoming higher capacities of their existing models:
4TB 850 EVO and PRO? Yes please.
1TB in the 850 EVO M.2 edition, and while there is no slide for this, the 950 PRO is also expected to be updated with a 1TB model within the same time frame as well.
How is all of this expansion possible? The answer is their third generation V-NAND, which is 48 layers and 256 GBit (32 GB) capacity per die. Samsung intends to roll this flash out and update all model lines currently using V-NAND technology. This decision was made by Samsung's Senior VP of Marketing, UnSoo Kim:
...now before you get out the pitchforks and form up the 'don't change the flash without a new model' lynch mob, I'd like to point out a few things that make this change different than what you might have seen in the past.
- Samsung is trying to prevent confusion by adding product lines with nearly identical specs.
- Samsung is being very open about this change (others were secretive / deceptive).
- Samsung has promised that they will only implement this change in a way that *increases* the performance and *decreases* the power consumption of these products.
I did leave the Q+A with some further questions about this change. The lower capacities of the 850 EVO still see slower write performance when writing straight to TLC flash (SLC cache is full). This is because there are fewer dies available to write the data, and each die can only write so fast in TLC mode. Since the 48-layer V-NAND is to have double the capacity per die, that would mean half the dies per SSD and possibly slower write speeds in the overall product.
I approached UnSoo Kim after the Q+A and asked this specific question, and his answer was both interesting and refreshing. First, he understood my question immediately and assured me that they will not roll out 256Gbit 48-layer V-NAND into their smaller capacity models - in order to prevent any performance reduction over their current 32-layer equipped parts. Second, he told me that they also intend to produce a 128Gbit variant of 48-layer V-NAND at some point in the future, and use *that* part to substitute the 128Gbit 32-layer V-NAND in those smaller capacity models, keeping the die counts (and therefore sequential write speeds) equal. That additional variant of their third generation V-NAND is the only way (in my mind) that they could update their smaller capacity parts without losing performance, and it was great to see that Samsung has thought out the execution of this rollout in such a proper manner.
Subject: Storage | September 22, 2015 - 02:39 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, V-NAND, ssd, Samsung, pcie, NVMe, M.2 2280, M.2, 950 PRO, 512GB, 256GB
Samsung’s new product launching will be called the 950 PRO. This will be an M.2 2280 form factor product running at PCIe 3.0 x4. Equipped with Samsung’s 32-layer V-NAND and using the NVMe protocol enabled by a new UBX controller, the 950 PRO will be capable of up to an impressive 300,000 random read IOPS. Random writes come in at 110,000 IOPS and sequential throughputs are expected to be 2.5 GB/sec reads and 1.5 GB/sec for writes. Available capacities will be 256GB and 512GB.
- 256GB - $199.99 ($0.78/GB)
- 512GB - $349.99 ($0.68/GB)
- 1TB - (early next year with the switch to 48-layer V-NAND)
The 950 PRO will be shipping with a 5-year warranty rated at 200 terabytes written for the 256GB model and 400 TBW for the 512GB. That works out to just over 100GB per day for both capacities.
These hit retail in October and we currently have samples in hand for testing.
(for those curious, both capacities only have components on the front side of the PCB)
Subject: Storage | September 21, 2015 - 11:32 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, Summit, ssd, Seoul, Samsung, M.2, Korea, Global, 2015
As I hinted during last week's podcast, I am in Seoul, Korea to cover an upcoming press conference.
..and with a Samsung SSD Global Summit comes product announcements. Those don't happen until tomorrow (late tonight for you folks back in the states), but I did notice a clue on the cover of our itinerary folder:
See it? Here, let me help:
A VNAND powered M.2 (presumably NVMe) SSD is *exactly* the thing I have been waiting for Samsung to unleash into the wild ever since we reviewed their NVMe SM951. Given that Samsung's prior M.2 offerings gave the Intel SSD 750 a run for its money all while consuming half the power, and did so with Samsung's older 2D Planar NAND, you can bet a VNAND version will be something to behold. Let's hope this new model is released as a consumer product and doesn't end up as OEM-channel unobtanium like the NVMe SM951 was!
Keep an eye out for additional posts from our coverage of the 2015 Samsung SSD Global Summit!
Subject: Storage | August 11, 2015 - 04:59 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: Samsung, vnand, 48-layer, tlc, 16TB, FMS 2015
I get these emails and comments all the time - "I want a larger capacity SSD". Ok, here ya go:
Samsung's earlier 48-layer VNAND announcement was exciting, but we already knew about it going into the keynote. What we did not know was that Samsung was going to blew the doors off of their keynote when they dropped this little gem. It's not just the largest capacity SSD, as this thing is more dense than any HDD's available today as well. That's 16TB of 48-layer TLC VNAND packed into a 2.5" form factor SAS-connected SSD.
...now what do you do once you have such a high density device? Well, you figure out how many you can cram into a 2U chassis of course!
Yup, that's 48 of those new SSDs, making for a capacity of 768TB in a 2U chassis. Samsung described this as a "JBOF" (Just a Bunch Of Flash), so processing the 2 million IOPS this array is capable of will have to be left to the connected system.
No word on pricing, but I'd think we are in 'mortgage the house' territory if you want to put this into your home PC.
There is more to follow from Flash Memory Summit, but for now I've got to run to another meeting!
FMS 2015: *UPDATED* Samsung Adds Layers to its 3D VNAND, Doubling Capacity While Reducing Power Consumption
Subject: Storage | August 11, 2015 - 04:39 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, tlc, Samsung, FMS 2015, 48-layer, 32GB, 32-layer, 256Gbit
FMS 2015: Samsung Adds Layers to its 3D VNAND, Doubling Capacity While Reducing Power Consumption
Samsung recently added 2TB capacity parts to their 850 EVO SATA SSDs, but today’s announcement may double that. Today at Flash Memory Summit, Samsung has announced a new iteration on their 3D VNAND technology.
Cross section of Samsung 32-layer VNAND. (TechInsights)
The announcement is a new TLC 3D VNAND (the type present in the 850 EVO Series). The new parts consist of an updated die with the following improvements:
- 48 layer VNAND - up from 32 layers of the previous generation
- 256Gbit (32GB) capacity - up from 128Gbit (16GB) capacity of 32-layer VNAND
- 30% reduction in power consumption over 32-layer VNAND
Samsung’s new 48-layer VNAND.
I suspected Samsung would go this route in order to compete with the recent announcements from Intel/Micron and SanDisk. Larger die capacities may not be the best thing for keeping performance high in smaller capacity SSDs (a higher number of smaller capacity dies helps there), but it is definitely a good capability to have since higher capacity per die translates to more efficient flash die production.
The Samsung keynote is at noon today (Pacific), and I will update this piece with any photos relevant to the announcement after that keynote.
I just got out of the Samsung keynote. There were some additional slides with data relevant to this post:
This image simply shows the additional vertical stacking, but adds that Samsung has this new flash in production right now.
The new higher capacity dies enable 1.4x greater density per wafer (realize that this does not mean more dies per wafer, as the image incorrectly suggests).
The power consumption improvements (right) were in the press release, however the speed improvements (left) were not. A 2x improvement in per-die speeds means that Samsung should not see a performance hit if they migrate their existing 128Gbit TLC VNAND SSDs over to these new 256Gbit parts. Speaking of which...
Not only is this new VNAND being produced *this month*, Samsung is retrofitting their 850 EVO line with the new parts. Again, we expect no performance delta but will likely retest these new versions just to double check for any outliers.
There was some more great info from the keynote, but that will appear in another post later today.