Western Digital Reworks Enterprise Lineup, Launches 8TB Gold Datacenter HDD

Subject: Storage | April 19, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: Xe, western digital, wdc, WD, se, RE, Media Cache, hgst, HelioSeal, gold, 8TB

Western Digital rolled out their Se / Re / Xe branding back in mid-2013. Since that time, a lot has changed in the rapidly evolving enterprise storage industry. SSDs are encroaching into more of the data center rack space out there, and the need for small capacity 10k and 15k RPM drives is dropping substantially in favor of more power efficient (in power and capacity per dollar), larger spinning disks.

With these winds of change comes today’s announcement from Western Digital:

WD_Datacenter_PRN_graphic.jpg

The new Gold lineup appears to be a merging of old and new product lines. The 6TB and below Re series are essentially being absorbed under the new Gold label, but 6TB will no longer be the top capacity offered to WD enterprise customers. A new 8TB capacity will be offered in the form of a HelioSeal drive. The 8TB model will share more parts with the HGST He8 than WD’s previously released 8TB Red, including HGST’s Media Cache architecture, which should yield a nice boost to sustained random write performance over drives lacking this technology.

The press release does not state this, but I suspect WD will be phasing out their Se and Xe product lines over the coming months in favor of Helium-filled drives of the 5400 (Red) and 7200 (Gold) RPM variety. Fewer lines to manage should help them tighten things up a bit and reduce costs even further over time.

We’ll be reviewing the new 8TB Gold just as soon as samples arrive for testing, so stay tuned!

Full press blast appears after the break.

Sony's Optical Disc Archive Storage Reaches 3.3 TB

Subject: Storage | April 18, 2016 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: storage, sony, optical disc archive, optical disc, ODA, hard drives, backup, Archival

Sony has developed a higher-capacity version of their Optical Disc Archive (ODA), which now allows up to 3.3 TB of archival storage with the promise of 100-year retention.

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Sony ODS-D280U (Image credit: Sony via Computer Base)

Of course the viability of such a system in the next century is unknown, and a working cartridge (which is similar to the multi-CD systems found in cars a few years ago) would be needed to access the data. The idea is certainly interesting considering the potential for failure with traditional hard drives, though hard drives are relatively inexpensive and offer more utility, unlike the write-once Sony ODA cartridges.

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Cartridge exploded view (Image credit: Sony via Computer Base)

For those seeking pure read-only archival storage, the higher capacity of the second-generation Sony ODA at least brings it closer to parity with current hard drive storage.

IDF Shenzhen: Intel Demos 3D XPoint Optane File Copy at 2 GB/s

Subject: Storage | April 14, 2016 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: Optane, NVMe, Intel, idf

At IDF Shenzhen, Intel talked more about 3D XPoint (spoken cross-point). Initially launched in July of last year, 3D XPoint is essentially a form of phase change memory which has speeds closer to that of DRAM.

XPoint.png

It can be addressed at the byte level, unlike flash which transfers in pages (~8KB) and erases in blocks (~6MB). There have been a few demos since the initial launch, and this morning there was another:

Optane demo.png

It is great to see XPoint / Optane technology being demonstrated again, but as far as demos go, this was not the best / fairest example that Intel could have put together. First of all, the 'NAND SSD' they are using is a Thunderbolt 3 connected external, which was clearly bottlenecked badly somewhere else in the chain (when was the last time you saw a 6 Gbit SATA SSD limited to only 283 MB/s?). Also, using SATA for the NAND example while using PCIe x4 NVMe for the Optane example seems a bit extreme to me.

The Optane side of the demo is seen going 1.94 GB/s. That is an impressive figure for sure, but it is important to note that a faster Intel 'NAND SSD' product has already been shipping for over a year:

DSC00947.JPG

Yes, the P3700 (reviewed by us here), can reach the speeds seen in this demo, as evidenced by this ATTO run on one of our 1.6TB samples:

Intel DC3700 800GB - atto-4 (driver)--.png

Looking at the P3700 specs, we can see that the 2TB model performs even better and would likely beat the Optane SSD used in today's demo:

P3700 spec.png

Further, in the IDF 2015 demo (where they launched the Optane brand), Intel showed off Optane's random IO performance:

P1020333-.JPG

This demo showed 464,300 4K random IOPS, and if you do the math, that works out to 1.9 GB/s *worth of random IO*, which is far more impressive than sequentials that basically match that of the current generation NVMe product of the same form factor and interface.

I'm still happy to see these demos happen, as it means we are absolutely going to see 3D XPoint in our hands sooner than later. That said, I'd also like to see demos that better demonstrate the strengths of the technology, because if today's demo was comparing apples to apples, it would have shown a P3700 matching the speed of Optane, which does not make the previously stated 1000x speed improvement nearly as obvious as it should be presented.

SanDisk's X400 series brings security as well as a more efficient controller

Subject: Storage | April 13, 2016 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: sandisk, x400, tlc, M.2 SATA, 88SS1074-BSW2

SanDisk have updated their SSD lineup with the X400 family, available in sizes of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB all of which are available in 2.5" and M.2 form factors.  They have continued their tradition of adding a small SLC flash cache to the drive, with the majority of storage being TLC.  Inside you will find Marvell's 88SS1074-BSW2 four channel controller and 256MB of DDR3L-1600 and as you can see, a lot of extra space.  SanDisk also united their SSDs lines in the 400, with 256-bit AES on these drives there is unlikely to be a new generation of the 300s.  Check out KitGuru for the full performance numbers of this consumer level SSD.

DSC_1042.jpg

"The X400 family features SanDisk’s 6th generation 15nm Triple Level Cell TLC NAND and just like the previous X300 uses SanDisk’s nCache technology where some of the NAND runs in SLC mode to bolster performance."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: KitGuru

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!

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...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

Adata's XPG SX930, JMicron on the outside, Micron on the inside

Subject: Storage | March 31, 2016 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: adata, XPG SX930, JMF670H, mlc

Now that Adata's XPG SX930 240GB SSD has been out for a while it is worth revisiting for enthusiasts on a budget.  It is currently $80 on Amazon, short of Ryan's pricing goals as it is just over $0.33/GB but still an attractive price for a drive with JMicron's JMF670H controller.  Also worth noting is the lifespan of the drive, when The Tech Report reached out to ADATA they were told it was 280TB, more than enough for most users.  Check out their review to see how it performs as there are many drives only $30-40 more that have very impressive performance, such as the Trion and 850 EVO.

insides.jpg

"Adata's XPG SX930 combines a JMicron controller and Micron MLC flash into an enthusiast-oriented 240GB SSD. We put it to the test to see whether it's worth its cost of admission."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Synology Launches Portable DS416slim 4-Bay 2.5" Drive NAS

Subject: Storage | March 31, 2016 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: synology, SOHO, network storage, NAS, media streaming, DSM, ds416slim

Synology recently revealed a new small and lightweight NAS for home and small business users. The DS416slim is a small networked attached storage device that uses up to four 2.5" SATA drives to offer up to 8TB of storage that can be used for backups, media streaming, file synchronization, and offsite storage thanks to its dual core ARM processor and DiskStation Manager 6.0 operating system.

Synology DS416slim Portable NAS.jpg

This new NAS is fairly compact at 7.24" x 6.61" x 9.05" (18.4cm x 16.8cm x 23cm) and weighing just over one and a half pounds (700 grams). It is roughly rectangular with the front decked out in status LEDs and a single USB 3.0 port. The laptop-sized hard drives (up to 12.5mm so basically any 2.5" SATA drive will work) are loaded vertically into the unit using snap-in drive trays that slide into the back. The back panel also holds dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and a second USB 3.0 port.

Interestingly, the DS416slim supports link aggregation as well as failover and load balance modes depending on your settings. Using link aggregation to connect to a Windows PC, Synology rates transfer speeds at up to 177 MB/s reads and 77 MB/s writes. Using a single Gigabit link the NAS can hit read speeds up to 112.77 MB/s.

With all four drives installed, users can choose from all the usual RAID suspects including RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10. Of course, single volumes and JBOD are also options with the total raw storage capacity being 8TB (4 x 2TB hard drives or solid state drives). A bottom-mounted removable 60mm fan module keeps the drives running cool and reportedly the Synology NAS has noise levels of 20.3 dBA.

Internally, the NAS is powered by a dual core Armada 385 processor clocked at 1.0 GHz with dedicated hardware encryption engine and 512 MB of DDR3 memory. The also recently released DSM 6.0 OS allows the NAS to be a backup destination for multiple PCs, a media server, file synchronization hub, and a source to sync files to all the various cloud storage providers for offsite backup. Synology's browser-accessed OS GUI also lets you add various services and features using downloadable applications to expand its out-of-the-box functionality (e.g. torrent box).

Synology DS416slim 4-bay NAS.jpg

The front and rear USB 3.0 ports can be used to easily transfer data to or from external hard drives to make offsite backups easy. The DS416slim is interesting in that its small size makes it a nice portable option for video editors, photographers, or other small business users that need on site access to lots of fast file storage at various job sites. The use of laptop hard drives means that storage is going to be a bit more expensive per GB and not quite as fast, but the drives are built a bit more robustly when it comes to moving them around versus your standard desktop drive. I do wonder about the reliability versus 3.5-inch drives over time, but the difference is likely marginal today and the lower power usage is much more suited to SOHO NAS duties. I would like to see this decked out with RAIDed SSDs though!

Synology rates the laptop-drive inspired NAS at 17.17W during disk access and 11.63W power usage while the drives are hibernating.

The Synology DS416slim comes with a 2 year warranty and with be avaialable early next month and retail (without drives) for around $290 (Amazon lists it at $289+shipping though once more units are available I would expect it to drop a smidge in price).

Source: Synology

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

Helium-filled Drobo B810i Packs 64TB into a Compact 8-bay Package

Subject: Storage | March 17, 2016 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: 64TB, western digital, wdc, red, 8TB, He8

We've got a lot of storage testing cooking at the PC Perspective offices, and while I usually hold off on publishing things until all testing is complete, I found myself merging two new products in a way that just begged for a photo and quick status update post:

DSC00233.jpg

This is a Drobo B810i on our test bench being loaded with 64TB of Helium-filled Western Digital Red 8TB goodness. I made it a point to evaluate this capability since Drobos have historically been limited to 16TB (or 32TB) maximum volume sizes. Drobo has been rolling out firmware updates enabling the new 64TB volume size in units with sufficient performance and bay count to support it (starting with the B1200i last year, and most recently with the 5N). This test was mainly to confirm the B810i's 64TB maximum volume size. The end result looks something like this:

64TB Drobo-9.png

64TB Drobo-10.png

64TB Drobo-11.png

With single drive redundancy (a minimum requirement for any Drobo array), the available capacity comes in at just under 50TB.

64TB Drobo-12.png

Dual redundancy mode drops available capacity down to just over 43TB. Not too shabby considering the Drobo can sustain two drive failures in this mode.

Drobo testing is still in progress and will take a bit more time, but I've completed the initial round on an individual 8TB WD Red and will be posting that review up shortly. Speaking of which, I'm off to get back to it!

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."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

OCZ is Trion harder to get your pennies with the new 150 models

Subject: Storage | March 8, 2016 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: ocz, Trion 150, tlc, 15nm

The big difference between the Trion 100 and the new 150 is the NAND, it moves from 19nm TLC from Toshiba to the new 15nm TLC but apart from that the drives are essentially the same.  Using TLC and making a minimum amount of changes gives a pricing benefit, The Tech Report saw the 480GB model for sale at $130, impressive pricing even for an entry level SSD such as this one.  Their testing shows performance improvements across the board compared to the Trion 100 in real life testing; though not enough to challenge the higher priced performance SSDs.  Check out the full review if you are in the market for a low cost SSD that will still net you some serious improvements over a HDD.

guts.jpg

"With its Trion 150 SSD, OCZ takes another stab at a low-cost TLC drive by putting Toshiba's 15-nm NAND under the hood. We tested out this drive to see if it fares better than the Trion 100, OCZ's first TLC SSD."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

 Storage

Seagate to Show 10 GB/s PCIe x16 Flash Drive at OCP Summit

Subject: Storage | March 8, 2016 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Seagate, pcie, NVMe, flash drive

Today Seagate announced that they are production ready on a couple of NVMe PCIe SSD models. These are data-center tailored units that focus on getting as much parallel flash into as small of a space as possible. From engineering drawings, the first appears to be a half height (HHHL) device, communicates over a PCIe 3.0 x8 link, and reaches a claimed 6.7GB/s:

Seagate-6.7GB-Sec-Production-Ready.png

The second model is a bit more interesting for a few reasons. This is a PCIe 3.0 x16 unit (same lane configuration as a high end GPU) that claims 10 GB/s:

Seagate-10GB-Sec-Production-Ready.png

10 GB/s, hmm, where have I seen that before? :)

The second image gives away a bit of what may be going on under that heatsink. There appears to be four M.2 form factor SSDs in there, which would imply that it would appear as four separate NVMe devices. This is no big deal for enterprise data applications that can be pointed at multiple physical devices, but that 10 GB/s does start to make more sense (as a combined total) as we know of no single SSD controller capable of that sort of throughput. It took four Intel SSD 750’s for us to reach that same 10 GB/s figure, so it stands to reason that Seagate would use that same trick, only with M.2 SSDs they can fit everything onto a single slot card.

That’s all we have on this release so far, but we may see some real product pics sneak out of the Open Compute Project Summit, running over the next couple of days.

Full press blast after the break!

Source: Businesswire

Western Digital Infuses Consumer HDDs with HGST HelioSeal Tech - Increases Capacity to 8TB

Subject: Storage | March 1, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: WD, hgst, HelioSeal, He8, He6, He10, 8TB

Helium-filled HDD technology has been around for a few years, but since HGST launched their He series a couple of years ago, Helium has been stuck in the enterprise sector. Western Digital has been in a lengthy merger process with HGST, and I figured (hoped) that it would be only a matter of time before we saw Helium-filled consumer HDDs. I’m happy to report that time is now:

He_8TB_timesquare_RR.jpg

The first product lines to see this expansion will be WD’s external offerings (My Book / My Book Duo / My Cloud / My Cloud Mirror / My Cloud EX2 Ultra) and a few internal lines (Purple / Red / Red Pro). Taking a look at the new housing for the 8TB Red:

WDRed8TB.jpg

…we can tell that it appears to be the same HelioSeal tech used by HGST, right down to the external housing design. Here is an HGST He8 housing for reference / comparison:

HGST-8TB-Ultrastar-He8-Enterprise-HDD-ecomm.png

I’m excited to see He making its way down the product chains, as a sealed HDD enclosure significantly reduces environmental effects on HDD reliability and performance. Helium also means less air friction, causing less heat production and therefore less power consumption. While the capacities are higher, we suspect performance won’t be taking any large leaps with WD’s first generation of Helium filled Hard Disk Drives. We will be testing a few of these once samples arrive and will deliver a full review as soon as possible. Since it appears that Western Digital was holding off on their 8TB capacity point until HelioSeal was integrated, it's a safe bet that their other product lines will receive the same technology and capability in the future.

Full press blast after the break!

Drobo Launches B810i 8-Bay Dual iSCSI SAN

Subject: Storage | February 23, 2016 - 08:05 AM |
Tagged: DroboPro, drobo, B810i, B800i

Today Drobo (makers of the original DroboPro and newer Drobo 4-bay Gen3) have launched an update to their B800i iSCSI SAN device:

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The B810i comes with several improvements over preceding products in the line:

  • Performance
    • 180MB/s reads / 110 MB/s writes (across a pair of iSCSI enabled Gigabit Ethernet ports).
  • New 64TB max volume size
    • Drobos previously were limited by a 16TB maximum volume size, meaning that additional volumes were required to fully utilize >16TB of HDD storage present.
    • This volume size is being backported to some of the previous Drobo models, first with the 5D and most recently the 5N.
  • Data Tiering
    • SSDs installed as part of the array are automatically assigned to caching duties.
    • Cache performance is claimed 5-10x faster than the 'cold' HDD tier.
  • Cache Pre-heat
    • Metadata describing the contents / duplicated data in the cache is also saved to the array, meaning the cache can survive a reboot of the device.
  • Accelerated self-healing
    • Drobo claims rebuilds are now 8x faster. This is due to increased parallelism taking place during that process.
    • This is in addition to Drobo rebuilds that have only ever needed to re-duplicate the data present (and not all disks front to back as with traditional RAID).
  • BeyondRAID

Along with this launch, Drobo is running a promotion where sales by 4/30/2016 will receive two free 2TB HDDs as part of the $1699 purchase of a B810i.

The B810i replaces the B800i in the current Drobo lineup:

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We're working on a round of NAS / SAN pieces here...

IMG_9970.JPG

...along with an ioSafe 1515+, which would have collapsed the desk if I had it tried to fit it into this picture. That 75 lb beast will have to stay on the floor :).

Source: Drobo

A new Trion appears, is it still a good choice for an entry level SSD?

Subject: Storage | February 18, 2016 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: Trion 150, toshiba, tlc, ssd, slc, sata, ocz, A15nm

As you may remember from Al's post, the OCZ Trion 150 is essentially the same as the previous Trion 100, except for the use of 15nm TLC flash from Toshiba and a lower initial price.  Hardware Canucks got their paws on two of the drives from this series to benchmark, the 480GB and 960GB models.  The 480GB model retains the 256MB DDR3 cache, the 960 doubles that to 512MB but there is one thing missing from this new series; instead of relying on capacitors to prevent lost data from a power failure they rely on OCZ's firmware based Power Failure Management Plus.  Read Hardware Canucks full review to see if the new Trion can match the price to performance of the original.

board1_sm.jpg

"With the budget-focused SSD market exploding, OCZ is launching the Trion 150, a refresh of their original Trion 100 series which should offer better performance and an even lower price."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

What Micron's Upcoming 3D NAND Means for SSD Capacity, Performance, and Cost

Subject: Storage | February 14, 2016 - 02:51 PM |
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.

progression-3-.png

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.

schiltron-IMFT-edit.jpg

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.

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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.

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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.

The BayTrail powered lASUSTOR AS5002T 2-Bay NAS

Subject: Systems, Storage | February 10, 2016 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: asustor, AS5002T, NAS, htpc, baytrail

Being in the market for a Plex server and running low on patience and spare hardware I have been sniffing around NAS servers, which is why you are now reading about the ASUSTOR AS5002T.  Missing Remote just picked this NAS up for review, powered by a dual core Celeron J1800 clocked at 2.4GHz instead of an ARM processor.  The reason that matters is the inclusion of Intel HD Graphics onboard for real time encoding when streaming to remote devices.  On the other hand it is not the most modern of processors and the AS5002T also showed some peculiarity with drive sizes.  The processor is not going to be able to push 4k over some interfaces but HDMI 1.4a, IR control capability and broad support for the usual selection of HTPC programs does make this NAS a good fit for many.  Read the full review to get a better idea of the capabilities of the ASUSTOR AS5002T.

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"The ASUSTOR AS5002T is the first Intel based network attached storage (NAS) device tested at Missing Remote. So, I was very curious to see how its dual-core 2.4GHz Celeron J1800 would stack up against the strong showing we’ve seen from ARM Cortex-A15 based systems recently."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

OCZ Launches Trion 150, Successor to Trion 100 SATA SSD, Now Using 15nm Flash

Subject: Storage | February 3, 2016 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: Trion 150, toshiba, tlc, ssd, slc, sata, ocz, A15nm

*Note* This piece originally stated 'A15nm', however this was an error in the Trion 150 spec sheet at OCZ. It has been corrected in this article (as well as at the OCZ web site).

2015 was a bit of a rough year for OCZ, as their integration with parent company Toshiba ran into a few performance bumps in the road. First was the Vector 180 launch, which saw some particularly troublesome stalls during writes and TRIM operations. The Trion 100 launch went a bit smoother, but we did note some inconsistencies in caching performance of those TLC/SLC caching SSDs.

OCZ hopes to turn things around by kicking off 2016 with some updates to their product lines. First up is the just announced Trion 150:

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Looking at the spec sheets of the Trion 100 and 150, it may be difficult to spot any differences. I’ll save you the trouble and say that only *one digit* changes, but it is an important one. The Trion 150 will use Toshiba 15nm TLC flash (the Trion 100 used A19nm). What is interesting about this is that the Trion 150 carries the same endurance rating as its predecessor. A flash memory die shrink typically comes with a corresponding reduction in endurance, so it is good to see Toshiba squeeze this likely last die shrink to their planar flash for all of the endurance they can. Further backing up that endurance claim, the Trion 150 will carry OCZ’s ShieldPlus warranty, which offers shipping-paid advance-RMA (without receipt) of this product line for three years!

OCZ has Trion 150 samples on the way to us, and we will get a full performance review of them up as soon as we can! Full press blast follows after the break.

Source: OCZ

PNY updates its XLR8 lineup with the CS2211 SSD

Subject: Storage | January 29, 2016 - 04:49 PM |
Tagged: pny, CS2211, CS1311, tlc, mlc, phison, xlr8

Over at the SSD Review you can check out PNY's newest SSDs, the TLC based CS1311 and the faster MLC based CS2211 which offers ECC RAM and extra data security features as well as a copy of Acronis.  Inside the CS2211 which is the drive featured in this review, you will find an 8-channel Phison PS3110-S10-X controller and 15nm Toshiba MLC, the cache is DDR3L-800, 256MB on the 240GB model and 512MB on the 480GB.  This replaces PNY's original Silicon Motion powered XLR8 and it improves upon performance as well as offering a 4 year warranty. Check out all the benchmarks right here.

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"Just last week we announced PNY's latest SSD products for the new year, the CS1311 and CS2211. It just so happens that today we have some in our hands for review."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Not the USB thumb drive of the 00's; Kingston's HyperX Savage 128GB USB drive

Subject: Storage | January 26, 2016 - 04:41 PM |
Tagged: kingston, HyperX Savage, 128GB USB drive, usb 3.1

Once USB drives were everywhere, they weren't particularly fast nor large but they were more portable that HDDs and much more durable.  With the arrival of SSDs, flash storage moved from slower thumb drives to SATA which has now become the bottleneck for speed as the drives themselves can actually exceed the transfer capabilities of SATA.  That leaves the USB drive out in the cold, with prices matching or even exceeding lower end SSDs and a form factor only slightly more portable than an SSD in an enclosure.

Kingston's Digital HyperX Savage 128GB USB drive is $86 and Kitguru saw sequential reads topping 400MB/s and writes around 200MB/s which comes close to the limits of the USB 3 connection it uses.  The question is, does the smaller size and admittedly attractive packaging draw you to choose this over a low cost SSD and enclosure?

Kingston-USB-Bundle.jpg

"Kingston has earned a reputation with its HyperX brand over the last few years. Today, we are taking a look at the HyperX Savage 128GB USB drive, which supports first-generation USB 3.1 technology and promises ‘blazing fast’ read and write speeds. How does it hold up? Let’s find out!"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage
MyDigitalSSD BP5e Bullet Proof 5 Eco 240GB SSD @ eTeknix

Source: Kitguru