SSDs, Linux and alternate file systems

Subject: Storage | November 14, 2014 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: btrfs, EXT4, XFS, F2FS, 530 series, Intel, raid, unix humour, linux

When you use Linux you have a choice as to which file system you wish to use, a choice that never occurs to most Windows users but can spark an argument every bit as vicious as the eternal debate over EMACS versus VIM versus whichever text editor you prefer.  There has not been much SSD benchmarking done on alternate files systems until now, Phoronix has benchmarked the Intel 530 series SSD in numerous configurations on Btrfs, EXT4, XFS, and F2FS. With four of the 120GB model available they were able to test the speed of the drives in RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and 1+0.  There is obviously still some compatibility issues as some tests failed to run in certain configurations but overall these drives performed as expected.  While the results did not vary widely it is worth reading through their article if you plan on building a high speed storage machine which will run Linux.

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"Following the recent Btrfs RAID: Native vs. Mdadm comparison, the dual-HDD Btrfs RAID benchmarks, and four-SSD RAID 0/1/5/6/10 Btrfs benchmarks are RAID Linux benchmarks on these four Intel SATA 3.0 solid state drives using other file-systems -- including EXT4, XFS, and Btrfs with Linux 3.18."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: Phoronix

The Intel SSD DC P3500 is coming sooner than we thought

Subject: Storage | November 12, 2014 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: ssd, pcie, NVMe, Intel, DC P3500

Since we reviewed the Intel SSD DC P3700, many of you have been drooling over the idea of an 18-channel NVMe PCIe SSD, even more so given that the P3500 variant was to launch at a $1.50/GB target price. It appears we are getting closer to that release, as the P3500 has been appearing on some web sites in pre-order or out of stock status.

P3500.jpg

ShopBLT lists the 400GB part at $629 ($1.57/GB), while Antares Pro has an out of stock listing at $611 ($1.53/GB).  The other two capacities are available at a similar cost/GB. We were hoping to see an 800GB variant, but it appears Intel has stuck to their initial plan. Here are the part numbers we’ve gathered, for your Googling pleasure:

Half-height PCIe:

  • 400GB: SSDPEDMX400G401
  • 1.2TB: SSDPEDMX012T401
  • 2TB: SSDPEDMX020T401

2.5” SFF-8639 (*not SATA*):

  • 400GB: SSDPE2MX400G401
  • 1.2TB: SSDPE2MX012T401
  • 2TB: SSDPE2MX020T401

We did spot a date of December 12th in an Amazon listing, but I wouldn't count that as a solid date, as many of the listings there had errors (like 10 packs for the price of one).

Intel refreshes SSD DC S3500 Series to include larger capacities, M.2 form factor

Subject: Storage | November 11, 2014 - 05:32 PM |
Tagged: Intel, ssd, dc s3500, M.2

Today Intel refreshed their Datacenter Series of SSDs, specifically their DC S3500. We have reviewed this model in the past. It uses the same controller that is present in the S3700, as well as the SSD 730 Series (though it is overclocked in that series).

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The full line of Intel Datacenter SSDs (minus the P3700). DC S3500 is just right of center.

Todays refresh includes higher capacities to the S3500, which now include 1.2TB and 1.6TB on the hign end of capacity. This suggests that Intel is stacking 20nm dies as many as 8 to a package. IOPS performance sees a slight penalty at these new higher capacities, while maximum sequentials are a bit higher due to the increased die count.

Intel SSD DC S3500 Series - M.2.png

Also announced was an M.2 version of the S3500. This packaging is limited to only a few capacity points (80GB, 120GB, 340GB), and is p;rimarily meant for applications where data integrity is critical (i.e. ATM's, server boot partitions, etc).

A standard press blast was unavailable, but full specs are listed after the break.

Source: Intel

Toshiba Launches New 4TB and 5TB 7200 RPM Desktop Hard Drives

Subject: Storage | November 1, 2014 - 08:10 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, sata 3, hdd, Hard Drive, 7200 rpm, 5TB, 4TB

This week, Toshiba introduced 4TB and 5TB hard drives to the consumer space. Coming from Toshiba's Digital Products Division, the new drives are part of the company's PH3*00U-1I72 series and are the first four and five Terabyte 3.5" consumer hard drives sporting 7200 RPM spindle speeds (though enterprise and NAS focused drives have been available prior to these new drives).

The new 4TB and 5TB HDDs are 3.5-inch desktop drives with four and five platters respectively. Toshiba is using Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) and Tunnel Magneto-Resistive (TMR) technologies to hit 1TB per platter. The 7,200 RPM spindle speed allows Toshiba to hit an average seek time of 10.5ms, and the 128MB of cache stores frequently accessed data. The new drives are paired with a SATA 3 6Gbps interface. Toshiba has included NCQ (Native Command Queuing) support along with shock sensors and ramp on/off loading safety features.

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The new drives are compatible with Linux, Mac OSX 10.6, and Windows 7 or newer. Both the 4TB PH3400U-1I72 and 5TB PH3500U-1I72 come with a three year manufacturer warranty.

The 4TB drive has an MSRP of $299 while the 5TB model has an MSRP of $399. Fortunately for digital hoarders, the drives are currently selling at prices below the MSRP. The 5TB model is being priced around $320 while the 4TB model is priced between $220 and $240 at the time of writing depending on your retailer of choice.

Source: Toshiba

Samsung Germany acknowledges '840 Basic' performance slow down, promises fix

Subject: Storage | October 29, 2014 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: tlc, Samsung, firmware, 840

If you own a Samsung 840 SSD, it appears that after much repeated and vocal pressure, Samsung has acknowledged the slow down also affects your drive. We're not talking about the EVO or the Pro, this is the original pure TLC model that launched (the EVO is a TLC+SLC cache hybrid while the Pro is all MLC). Here's the quote from Samsung, via Computer Base:

Uns ist durch das Feedback, das uns erreicht hat, bekannt, dass es auch beim Zugriff auf bestimmte Daten bei Modellen der SSD 840 zu niedrigeren Leseleistungen als angegeben kommen kann.

Im Moment untersuchen unsere Produktexperten systematisch die betreffenden SSD-Modelle innerhalb verschiedener Systemumgebungen und arbeiten an einer schnellstmöglichen Lösung.

Aufgrund der unterschiedlichen Technologien sind die Modelle der PRO-Serie (840 PRO und 850 PRO) nicht betroffen.

Samsung

What? You can't read German? Neither can we, but paraphrasing from the poor quality translation from several online tools, we deduce that Samsung has acknowledged the issue on the 840, and is working on a solution as quickly as possible. This is similar verbiage to the statement issued for the 840 EVO acknowledgement.

** Update **

Thanks to Zyhmet, who commented shortly after posting, here's a human translation:

Because of the feedback we got, we realized that, accessing specific data with units of SSD 840 could lead to lower reading performance.

For the moment our experts are systematically examining the SSD-units with different system environments and we are working on a solution as fast as possible.

Due to different technologies the PRO-series (840 PRO and 850 PRO) are not affected.

Samsung

** End update **

Side note - of those who have used the 840 EVO Performance Restoration Tool, a few have reported an issue cropping up. The error manifests as a SMART data misreporting error:

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What's odd about this error is that it was present on some of our pre-production test samples (firmware EXT0AB0Q), and was corrected once we updated those samples to the first retail build (EXT0BB0Q). The image above was an actual screen shot taken during our temperature-dependency testing of the slow down issue. While none of our samples had the issue return when updating all the way to the performance restored firmware, one of those updates did corrupt the Master File Table, rendering the majority of the SSD inaccessible. While we have seen no other reports of corrupted partitions, several users noticed the SMART reporting issue after updating. It's odd to see this sort of a regression with firmware updates, in that a bug fixed in the initial shipping firmware has returned (for some) in a subsequent update. If you've updated your 840 EVO with their Performance Restoration Tool, it may be a good time to check your SMART attributes. If you see the error above, please leave us a note in the comments.

Circling back to the slow down issue - given that it is present in two TLC-based SSDs from Samsung, one has to wonder if this issue exists in other Samsung TLC SSDs as well. Here's the list of potentials (thanks to an anonymous comment on a prior story):

  • 840 EVO - 19nm TLC
  • 840 - 21nm TLC
  • PM841 - 21nm TLC
  • PM851 - 21nm TLC (some SKUs)
  • 845DC EVO - 19nm TLC
  • PM843 - 21nm TLC
  • PM853T - 21nm TLC

We have several questions out to Samsung on these issues, but to date they have not been answered. More to follow as we wait for an official (English) response.

LiteOn announces EP1 Series Enterprise M.2 PCIe SSDs

Subject: Storage | October 28, 2014 - 04:49 PM |
Tagged: ssd, pcie, M.2, LiteOn

In conjunction with Dell World, LiteOn has announced their new EP1 M.2 PCIe SSD:

EP1 pic.png

Designed primarily for enterprise workloads and usage, the EP1 sports impressive specs for such a small device. Capacities are 480 and 960GB, random 4k IO is rated at 150k/44k (R/W), sequentials are as high as 1.5GB/sec, and max latencies are in the 30-40 us range (this spec is particularly important for enterprise OLTP / transactional database workloads). Given the enterprise specs, power loss protection is a given (and you can see the capacitors in the upper right of the above photo). Here are the full specs:

EP1 specs.png

It should be noted that larger PCIe-based SSDs are rated for greater than the 1 drive write per day of the EP1, but they are also considerably larger (physically) when compared to the M.2 EP1. As an additional aside, the 960GB capacity is a bit longer than you might have seen so far in the M.2 form factor. While the 480GB model is a familiar 2280 (80mm long), the 960GB model follows the 22110 form factor (110mm long). The idle power consumption seems a bit high, but enterprise devices are typically tuned for instantaneous response over idle wattage.

Full press blast after the break.

Source: LiteOn

Samsung 850 EVO SKUs leaked, leads to initial pricing, specs

Subject: Storage | October 28, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, Samsung, 850 EVO

Thanks to an updated SKU list and some searching, we've come across some initial photos, specs, and pricing for the upcoming Samsung 850 EVO.

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You may have heard of an 850 EVO 1TB listing over at Frys, but there's actually more information out there. Here's a quick digest:

Specs:

  • Memory: 3D VNAND
  • Read: 550MB/sec
  • Write: 520MB/sec
  • Weight: 0.29 lbs

Pricing (via Antares Pro listings at time of writing):

  • 120GB (MZ-75E120B/AM): $100 ($0.83 / GB)
  • 250GB (MZ-75E250B/AM): $146 ($0.58 / GB)
  • 500GB (MZ-75E500B/AM): $258 ($0.52 / GB)
  • 1TB     (MZ-75E1T0B/AM): $477 ($0.48 / GB)

In addition to the above, we saw the 1TB model listed for $500 at Frys, and also found the 500GB for $264 at ProVantage. The shipping date on the Frys listing was initially November 3rd, but that has since shifted to November 24th, presumably due to an influx of orders.

We'll be publishing a full capacity roundup on the 850 Pro in anticipation of the 850 EVO launch, which based on these leaks is imminent.

Connected Data announces Transporter Genesis Private Cloud Appliance

Subject: Storage | October 27, 2014 - 04:17 PM |
Tagged: Transporter Genesis, transporter, connected data

Connected Data (whose members are merged with Drobo), have really been pushing their new Transporter line. When we saw them this past CES, there was only a small desktop appliance meant to connect and sync files between homes or small offices. Now they are stepping up their Transporter game by scaling all the way up to 24TB rack mount devices!

Transporter Genesis_AG_L.jpg

For those unaware, Transporter is a personal cloud solution, but with software and mobile app support akin to that of Dropbox. Their desktop software tool has seen rapid addition of features, and the company has even rolled out version history support. Features are nice, but what will now set Transporter apart from competing options is scalability:

Transporter.png

The base level Transporter (right) is a relatively simple device with a single 2.5" HDD installed. These devices scale through the '5' and '15' models, which appear to be built on Drobo hardware. The 'Genesis' models (left) are not simply Drobo 1200i's with blue stickers on them, they are full blown Xeon systems with redundant power supplies, an 80GB SSD, up to 32GB or RAM and 24TB of raw storage capacity. Here is what a typical business rollout of Transporter might look like with these new additions at play:

Transporter2.png

Features currently supported across the line:

  • 256 Bit AES communication
  • Transporter Desktop software solution (Windows and Mac)
  • Transporter mobile app (iOS and Android)
  • Redundancy within each node ('5' and above)
  • Redundancy across nodes (via sync)
  • Active Directory support
  • No recurring fees

The 12TB Genesis 75 comes in at $9,999, but the '15' and '5' should prove to be lower cost options. The base model single bay Transporter can be found for just over $100 (BYOHDD). Full press blast after the break.

Trancend's new M.2 SSD, the MTS800

Subject: Storage | October 27, 2014 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: M.2, ssd, transcend, MTS800

M.2 is quickly gaining popularity thanks to its small size and power requirements as well as the possible speed increase and other features.  Transcend's 128GB MTS800 drive features fill AES encryption, wear levelling and garbage collection as well as something new, StaticDataRefresh Technology.  That is their name for a process which automatically restores the charge levels in the NAND cells which both prevents errors from accumulating as well as performance reduction over time.  M.2 drives do come with a price premium, the 128GB model is available for $76 on Amazon but the performance is impressive, the lowest transfer speed The SSD Review saw during their testing was 265.61MB/s.

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"We have been seeing more M.2 SSDs lately, a lot of which are companies’ first steps into the market since the form factor is so new. They have been designed to meet strict size requirements and allow for greater flexibility in product development. They are the perfect fit for mobile devices with their compact size and light weight."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Samsung updates 840 EVO Performance Restoration Tool

Subject: Storage | October 27, 2014 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, firmware, 840 evo

Over the weekend Samsung silently updated their 840 EVO Performance Restoration Tool. The incremental update improved support for some system configurations that were previously not recognizing an installed 840 EVO. Samsung also improved how the GUI progress bar responds during the update process, presumably to correct the near silent failure that occurred when the tool was unable to update the drive's firmware. Previously, the tool would halt at 15% without any clear indication that the firmware could not be updated (this would occur if the tool was unable to issue the necessary commands to the SSD, mainly due to the motherboard being in the wrong storage controller mode or using an incompatible storage driver).

DSC05837.JPG

Still no word on relief for those owners of the original 840 (non EVO or Pro). We've also heard from some users with Samsung OEM TLC-based SSDs that showed the same type of slow down (some variants of the PM851 apparently used TLC flash). More to follow there.

We evaluated the Samsung 840 EVO Performance Restoration Tool here. If you've already successfully run the 1.0 version of the tool, there is no need to re-run the 1.1 version, as it will not do anything additional to an EVO that has been updated and restored.

Source: Samsung

ICY DOCK on display with a nice array of drive accessories

Subject: Storage | October 17, 2014 - 05:06 PM |
Tagged: icy dock, ICY CUBE MB561U3S-4S, MB662U3-2S, external drive

Techgage has an assortment of Icy Dock products that they examined to make up this review. The ICY CUBE MB561U3S-4S is a 4-bay external drive enclosure, which will take all of the installed drives and create a single volume out of them.  This happens automatically, there are no other RAID options available when you use this particular dock but it does simplify the setup process.  The MB662U3-2S is a two bay enclosure which offers more choices for setup, you can set the drives to Large, JBOD, RAID 1 or RAID 0.  If you just have a single drive, they also have an external 3.5” SATA HDD enclosure and finally two HDD caddies which slide into a 5.25" drive bay. The first can be set up to fit a pair of 2.5" drives and the second is for hotswapping.  Check them out if you are in need of storage accessories.

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"It has been quite some time since we have looked to see what ICY DOCK has been up to. This is a company that established its reputation by making some very good hard drive accessories through the years. In this article we are going to take a look at several offerings from the company – from mobile to desktop. Let’s see what it has to offer."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: Techgage

Another look at Micron's M600 series; the SSD that swings both ways

Subject: Storage | October 6, 2014 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: ssd, slc, mlc, micron, M600, Dynamic Write Acceleration

The Tech Report took a different look at Micron's M600 SSD than Al did in his review.  Their benchmarks were focused more on a performance comparison versus the rest of the market, with over two dozen SSDs listed in their charts.  As you would expect the 1TB model outperformed the 256GB model but it was interesting to note that the 256GB MX100 outperformed the newer M600 in many tests.  In the final tally the new caching technology helped the 256GB model perform quite well but it was the 1TB model, which supposedly lacks that technology proved to be one of the fastest they have tested.

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"Micron's new M600 SSD has a dynamic write cache that can treat any block on the drive as high-speed SLC NAND. This unique feature is designed to help lower-capacity SSDs keep up with larger drives that have more NAND-level parallelism, and we've tested the 256GB and 1TB versions to see how well it works."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Son of Voyager, Corsair's second wireless HDD enclosure

Subject: Storage | September 25, 2014 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: corsair, Voyager Air 2, wireless hdd

The Corsair Voyager Air 2 is the second iteration of wireless drive, this years model coming with a 1TB drive, a totally redesigned shell and a $20 drop in price.  Legit Reviews warns that while the price drop is appreciated it no longer comes with the charging kit which will cost you extra.  It supports USB 3.0 and 802.11 b/g/n transfers as well as Internet passthrough, keep in mind that WiFi is disabled once the USB plug is connected.  The overall speeds were in line with what was expected and the battery life is impressive for 720p streaming, though 1080p streaming drains it much more quickly.  See the Voyager in action right here.

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"Last year we took a look at Corsair’s first wireless hard drive, called Voyager Air, which was a very sleek and impressive unit that we really liked. Today, we’re going to take a look at the more recently revamped version, conveniently called Voyager Air 2. We’ll take a look and see what this drive all has to offer and if there is anything new brought to the table."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Tech Report's SSD Endurance Test Is Down to Two

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 21, 2014 - 08:41 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, kingston hyper x, kingston, endurance, corsair neutron gtx, corsair, 840 pro

Many drives have died over the last year and a bit. The Tech Report has been torturing SSDs with writes until they drop. Before a full petabyte of data was written, three of the six drives kicked the bucket. They are now at 1500TB of total writes and one of the three survivors, the 240GB Corsair Neutron GTX, dropped out. This was a bit surprising as it was reporting fairly high health when it entered "the petabyte club" aside from a dip in read speeds.

The two remaining drives are the Samsung 840 Pro (256GB) and Kingston HyperX 3K (240GB).

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Two stand, one fell (Image Credit: Tech Report)

Between those two, the Samsung 840 Pro is given the nod as the Kingston drive lived through uncorrectable errors; meanwhile, the Samsung has yet to report any true errors (only reallocations). Since the test considers a failure to be a whole drive failure, though, the lashings will persist until the final drive gives out (or until Scott Wasson gives up in a glorious sledgehammer apocalypse -- could you imagine if one of them lasted a decade? :3).

Of course, with just one unit from each model, it is difficult to faithfully compare brands with this marathon. While each lasted a ridiculously long time, the worst of the bunch putting up with a whole 2800 full-drive writes, it would not be fair to determine an average lifespan for a given model with one data point each. It is good to suggest that your SSD probably did not die from a defrag run -- but it is still a complete waste of your time and you should never do it.

Source: Tech Report

Micron's M600 SSD, SLC in the front MLC in the back

Subject: Storage | September 18, 2014 - 07:10 PM |
Tagged: micron, M600, SLC. MLC, DWA

Micron's M600 SSD has a new trick up its sleeve, called dynamic write acceleration which is somewhat similar to the HDDs with an NAND cache to accelerate the speed frequently accessed data can be read but with a brand new trick.  In this case SLC NAND acts as the cache for MLC NAND but it does so dynamically, the NAND can switch from SLC to MLC and back depending on the amount of usage.  There is a cost, the SLC storage capacity is 50% lower than MLC so the larger the cache the lower the total amount of storage is available.  As well the endurance rating is also higher than previous drives, not because of better NAND but because of new trim techniques being used.  This is not yet a retail product so The Tech Report does not have benchmarks but this goes to show you there are plenty more tricks we can teach SSDs.

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"Micron's new M600 SSD can flip its NAND cells between SLC and MLC modes on the fly, enabling a dynamic write cache that scales with the drive's unused capacity. We've outlined how this dynamic write acceleration is supposed to impact performance, power consumption, and endurance."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Micron launches M600 SATA SSD with innovative SLC/MLC Dynamic Write Acceleration

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2014 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: ssd, slc, sata, mlc, micron, M600, crucial

You may already be familiar with the Micron Crucial M550 line of SSDs (if not, familiarize yourself with our full capacity roundup here). Today Micron is pushing their tech further by releasing a new M600 line. The M600's are the first full lineup from Micron to use their 16nm flash (previously only in their MX100 line). Aside from the die shrink, Micron has addressed the glaring issue we noted in our M550 review - that issue being the sharp falloff in write speeds in lower capacities of that line. Their solution is rather innovative, to say the least.

Recall the Samsung 840 EVO's 'TurboWrite' cache, which gave that drive a burst of write speed during short sustained write periods. The 840 EVO accomplished this by each TLC die having a small SLC section of flash memory. All data written passed through this cache, and once full (a few GB, varying with drive capacity), write speed slowed to TLC levels until the host system stopped writing for long enough for the SSD to flush the cached data from SLC to TLC.

high_res_M600D_form_factors_1.jpg

The Micron M600 SSD in 2.5" SATA, MSATA, and M.2 form factors.

Micron flips the 'typical' concept of caching methods on its head. It does employ two different types of flash writing (SLC and MLC), but the first big difference is that the SLC is not really cache at all - not in the traditional sense, at least. The M600 controller, coupled with some changes made to Micron's 16nm flash, is able to dynamically change the mode of each flash memory die *on the fly*. For example, the M600 can place most of the individual 16GB (MLC) dies into SLC mode when the SSD is empty. This halves the capacity of each die, but with the added benefit of much faster and more power efficient writes. This means the M600 would really perform more like an SLC-only SSD so long as it was kept less than half full.

M600-1.png

As you fill the SSD towards (and beyond) half capacity, the controller incrementally clears the SLC-written data, moving that data onto dies configured to MLC mode. Once empty, the SLC die is switched over to MLC mode, effectively clearing more flash area for the increasing amount of user data to be stored on the SSD. This process repeats over time as the drive is filled, meaning you will see less SLC area available for accelerated writing (see chart above). Writing to the SLC area is also advantageous in mobile devices, as those writes not only occur more quickly, they consume less power in the process:

M600-2.png

For those worst case / power user scenarios, here is a graph of what a sustained sequential write to the entire drive area would look like:

M600-3.png

Realize this is not typical usage, but if it happened, you would see SLC speeds for the first ~45% of the drive, followed by MLC speeds for another 10%. After the 65% point, the drive is forced to initiate the process of clearing SLC and flipping dies over to MLC, doing so while the host write is still in progress, and therefore resulting in the relatively slow write speed (~50 MB/sec) seen above. Realize that in normal use (i.e. not filling the entire drive at full speed in one go), garbage collection would be able to rearrange data in the background during idle time, meaning write speeds should be near full SLC speed for the majority of the time. Even with the SSD nearly full, there should be at least a few GB of SLC-mode flash available for short bursts of SLC speed writes.

This caching has enabled some increased specs over the prior generation models:

M600-4.png

M600-5.png

Note the differences in write speeds, particularly in the lower capacity models. The 128GB M550 was limited to 190MB/sec, while the M600 can write at 400MB/sec in SLC mode (which is where it should sit most of the time).

We'll be testing the M600 shortly and will come back with a full evaluation of the SSD as a whole and more specifically how it handles this new tech under real usage scenarios.

Full press blast after the break.

Source: Micron

IDF 2014 Storage Roundup - RAM and NVMe and IOPS! Oh my!

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2014 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: ram, NVMe, IOPS, idf 2014, idf, ddr4, DDR

The Intel Developer Forum was last week, and there were many things to be seen for sure. Mixed in with all of the wearable and miniature technology news, there was a sprinkling of storage goodness. Kicking off the show, we saw new cold storage announcements from both HGST and Western Digital, but that was about it for HDD news, as the growing trend these days is with solid state storage technologies. I'll start with RAM:

First up was ADATA, who were showing off 64GB DDR3 (!) DIMMs:

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Next up were various manufacturers pushing DDR4 technology quite far. First was SK Hynix's TSV 128GB DIMMs (covered in much greater depth last week):

DSC05415.JPG

Next up is Kingston, who were showing a server chassis equipped with 256GB of DDR4:

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If you look closer at the stats, you'll note there is more RAM in this system than flash:

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Next up is IDT, who were showing off their LRDIMM technology:

DSC05454.JPG

This technology adds special data buffers to the DIMM modules, enabling significantly higher amounts of installed RAM into a single system, with a 1-2 step de-rating of clock speeds as you take capacities to the far extremes. The above server has 768GB of DDR4 installed and running!:

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Moving onto flash memory type stuff, Scott covered Intel's new 40 Gbit Ethernet technology last week. At IDF, Intel had a demo showing off some of the potential of these new faster links:

DSC05430.JPG

This demo used a custom network stack that allowed a P3700 in a local system to be matched in IOPS by an identical P3700 *being accessed over the network*. Both local and networked storage turned in the same 450k IOPS, with the remote link adding only 8ms of latency. Here's a close-up of one of the SFF-8639 (2.5" PCIe 3.0 x4) SSDs and the 40 Gbit network card above it (low speed fans were installed in these demo systems to keep some air flowing across the cards):

DSC05438.JPG

Stepping up the IOPS a bit further, Microsoft was showing off the capabilities of their 'Inbox AHCI driver', shown here driving a pair of P3700's at a total of 1.5 million IOPS:

DSC05445.JPG

...for those who want to get their hands on this 'Inbox driver', guess what? You already have it! "Inbox" is Microsoft's way of saying the driver is 'in the box', meaning it comes with Windows 8. Bear in bind you may get better performance with manufacturer specific drivers, but it's still a decent showing for a default driver.

Now for even more IOPS:

DSC05441.JPG

Yes, you are reading that correctly. That screen is showing a system running over 11 million IOPS. Think it's RAM? Wrong. This is flash memory pulling those numbers. Remember the 2.5" P3700 from a few pics back? How about 24 of them:

DSC05443.JPG

The above photo shows three 2U systems (bottom), which are all connected to a single 2U flash memory chassis (top). The top chassis supports three submodules, each with eight SFF-8639 SSDs. The system, assembled by Newisys, demonstrates just how much high speed flash you can fit within an 8U space. The main reason for connecting three systems to one flash chassis is because it takes those three systems to process the full IOPS capability of 24 low latency NVMe SSDs (that's 96 total lanes of PCIe 3.0!)!

So there you have it, IDF storage tech in a nutshell. More to come as we follow these emerging technologies to their maturity.

Apotop S3C SSD, Silicon Motion's new controller for less than $0.50/GB

Subject: Storage | September 12, 2014 - 05:30 PM |
Tagged: SM2246EN, S3C, mlc, Apotop

The Apotop S3C SSD uses the same controller as the Angelbird drive Al reviewed recently.  It uses synchronous MLC NAND with the 4 channel present on the Silicon Motion controller and is able to provide more than the specified 490 MB/s read and 275 MB/s write in some benchmarks.  It can often read faster than the wrk SSD but the writes cannot always keep up though it is not something likely to be noticeable in real usage scenarios.  The MSRP is very attractive with the 512GB model expected to be released at $200.  Silicon Motion is likely to start appearing in a lot more SSDs in the near future with this mix of price and performance.  Read the full review at Kitguru.

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"The new Apotop S3C SSD features the Silicon Motion 2246EN controller which we first reviewed in the Angelbird 512GB wrk SSD back in August this year. The controller impressed us, so we have already high hopes for the Apotop S3C."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: KitGuru

SanDisk Launches 512GB SDXC Card for $799.99

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 12, 2014 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: sandisk, sdxc, sdhc, sd card, 512GB

Assuming your camera, card reader, or other device fully conforms to the SDXC standard, Sandisk has developed a half-terabyte (512GB) memory card. Beyond being gigantic, it can be read at up to 95 MB/s and written at up to 90 MB/s, which should be enough to stream 4K video. Sandisk claims that it is temperature proof, shock proof, water proof, and x-ray proof. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and "RescuePRO Deluxe" recovery software but, honestly, I expect people would just use PhotoRec or something.

It should be noted that the SDXC standard covers memory cards up to 2TB so it will probably not be too long before we see another standard get ratified. What is next? SDUC? SDYC? SDALLTHEC? Blah! This is why IEEE assigns names sequentially.

The SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I SDHC/SDXC 512GB memory card should be available now, although I cannot yet find them online, for $799.99 MSRP.

Source: SanDisk

IDF 2014: Through Silicon Via - Connecting memory dies without wires

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | September 10, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: TSV, Through Silicon Via, memory, idf 2014, idf

If you're a general computer user, you might have never heard the term "Through Silicon Via". If you geek out on photos of chip dies and wafers, and how chips are assembled and packaged, you might have heard about it. Regardless of your current knowledge of TSV, it's about to be a thing that impacts all of you in the near future.

Let's go into a bit of background first. We're going to talk about how chips are packaged. Micron has an excellent video on the process here:

The part we are going to focus on appears at 1:31 in the above video:

die wiring.png

This is how chip dies are currently connected to the outside world. The dies are stacked (four high in the above pic) and a machine has to individually wire them to a substrate, which in turn communicates with the rest of the system. As you might imagine, things get more complex with this process as you stack more and more dies on top of each other:

chip stacking.png

16 layer die stack, pic courtesy NovaChips

...so we have these microchips with extremely small features, but to connect them we are limited to a relatively bulky process (called package-on-package). Stacking these flat planes of storage is a tricky thing to do, and one would naturally want to limit how many of those wires you need to connect. The catch is that those wires also equate to available throughput from the device (i.e. one wire per bit of a data bus). So, just how can we improve this method and increase data bus widths, throughput, etc?

Before I answer that, let me lead up to it by showing how flash memory has just taken a leap in performance. Samsung has recently made the jump to VNAND:

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By stacking flash memory cells vertically within a die, Samsung was able to make many advances in flash memory, simply because they had more room within each die. Because of the complexity of the process, they also had to revert back to an older (larger) feature size. That compromise meant that the capacity of each die is similar to current 2D NAND tech, but the bonus is speed, longevity, and power reduction advantages by using this new process.

I showed you the VNAND example because it bears a striking resemblance to what is now happening in the area of die stacking and packaging. Imagine if you could stack dies by punching holes straight through them and making the connections directly through the bottom of each die. As it turns out, that's actually a thing:

tsv cross section.png

Read on for more info about TSV!