Microsoft Allegedly Overhauling SkyDrive With Increased Paid Storage, Applications, and Other Goodies

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2012 - 08:12 AM |
Tagged: storage, skydrive, paid storage, free, cloud backup, bitlocker, app integration

Update: Some of the rumors have been confirmed by Microsoft in a blog post, though the individual file size increase was a bit off.  Microsoft will be allowing files up to 2 GB in size as compared to the rumored 300 MB file sizes.

Every so often, I run across a rumor that sounds almost too good to be true. On the other hand, it sounds so good that I just can't stop myself from being excited about it. Over the weekend, I saw an article that talked about Windows Live Skydrive offering paid storage tiers and I now really want this to come to fruition.

For those curious, SkyDrive is Microsoft's "cloud storage" service that gives users 25 GB of free storage space to hold files. There are some restrictions with the individual file size (that can be worked around if you really want to backup a home movie for example), but otherwise it is a boatload of space for free and saved my butt when the, um, "formatting catastrophe" of 2010 happened by having most of my digital photos backed up!

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SkyDrive as it is now, funny old photos and all!

The service is connected to your Microsoft Live or hotmail account and can be accessed by navigating to skydrive.live.com. There are some usability issues with the service; however, including the fact that it's a pain in the rear to upload more than one or two files. The website doesn't make it easy to batch upload, say, a folder or folders only a file at a time. Further, it is not nearly as easy to manage those files once they are in the SkyDrive as it should be. Now, if you use IE, the SkyDrive website will allow you to upload multiple files easier; however, the other browsers are left without a way to do it. There is also the aforementioned individual file size limit of 100 MB per file.

The exciting bit about the rumors and (allegedly) leaked screen shots is that if they stay true the service is about to get a whole lot better by offering cheap storage and fixing many of the issues people have had with the service.

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The leaked image

On the storage front, Microsoft is allegedly adding new paid storage tiers and increasing the individual file size limit to 300 MB (from 100 MB). Among the new plans are 20 GB, 50 GB, and 100 GB offerings (which is in addition to the free 25 GB of space) for $10, $25, and $50 a year respectively. Not a bad price at all in my opinion! Assuming the pricing is accurate, they are vastly undercutting the competition. Dropbox, for example, is currently offering 50 GB for $99 a year and 100 GB for $199 per year. Granted, Dropbox has syncing functionality, no individual file size limit, and is a much easier to use service with an established user base, but at these prices the Microsoft offering is likely to win over many people who just want some cheap off site backup space!

 

Paid Storage Space SkyDrive (Price Per Year) Dropbox (Price Per Year)
20 GB $10 n/a
50 GB $25 $99
100 GB $50 $199

Dropbox pricing just for comparision.

While there are currently mobile applications for Windows Phone and Apple iOS smart phones, users must turn to third party explorer extensions (like SDExplorer) for Windows OS integration on the desktop. More leaked images seem to suggest that Microsoft will be launching applications for Windows and Mac operating systems to better integrate SkyDrive into the OS (and hopefully enable easier cloud file management). SDExplorer is a third party extension that I used to upload all my photos to SkyDrive and it allows mounting the SkyDrive account as a "hard drive" under Windows Explorer. Unfortunately, it costs money to get the full feature set, so hopefully Microsoft can provide similar (or more) features for free with their OS.

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In addition, Microsoft will allegedly be adding URL shortening for public and shared SkyDrive file links as well as the ability to share files to Twitter and Facebook from within the SkyDrive website. For the latter, there are already APIs and Microsoft is likely just leveraging them to make sharing files a bit more convenient. On the other hand, Microsoft will be using their own URL shortening service via the sdrv.ms domain instead of integrating with an existing service.

As a user of Libre Office (the fork off of what was once Open Office), I deal a lot with .odt files, which is the open document standard. For users of Microsoft's web application of Office, they have been forced to save files to the Microsoft standards; however, rumors suggest that the service will soon support creating and saving to the .odt, .odp, and .ods document formats. If you are using Office Web Apps, then you are already likely fairly integrated into the Office universe, and this feature won't mean much. On the other hand, this will help out others who may need to edit one of the Libre Office created documents backed up to their SkyDrive on the go. Better compatibility is always a step in the right direction for MS after all.

Last up on the rumor pile for SkyDrive is the ability to store BitLocker recovery keys directly to SkyDrive so that you have a backup should you ever forget your encryption password. The flip side of that convenience feature is that it provides another attack vector should someone attempt to get their hands on your encryption keys, and it is a location that you must depend on someone else to keep secure. As weird as it may sound, you might want to encrypt your encryption key before uploading it to any "cloud" service (heh), just in case. Still, it's good to have options.

More photos and information on the alleged leaks can be found here and here.

Needless to say, there was quite the leak this weekend over Microsoft SkyDrive features!  It is a lot to take in, but in my opinion it sounds like they are really giving the service special attention it needs to get it into fighting form.  And if the rumors hold true it will be much more comptetitive with other cloud storage backup options as a result of the overhaul.  I'm excited about this, obviously, but what about you?  Do you use SkyDrive?

Source: Gemind.com

VIA teams with Tensilica to roll their own SSD controller

Subject: Storage | February 16, 2012 - 06:51 PM |
Tagged: Xtensa, VIA, Tensilica, ssd, DPU, controller

VIA has always been known for the 'slow and steady' approach to computing. They might not have the quickest stuff around, but they certainly tend to have the lowest power draw. While we haven't seen many releases from VIA as of late, they appear to be gearing up for a rediscovered purpose for their mantra - Solid State Storage.

VIA has brought on a company called Tensilica, who make a System on a Chip (SoC) architecture that has been purpose built for moving data around. The system, dubbed the Xtensa dataplane processor (DPU), has some particular math strengths that would be very beneficial if applied to the realm of an SSD controller. For example, the DPU is capable of performing multiple simultaneous table lookups within a single clock cycle. This is handy for increasing the IOPS rating of an SSD, since wear leveling and write amplification are handled by remapping the LBA's (sectors) to flash memory space. Each IO results in a necessary table lookup, which the DPU can perform very quickly.

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With the DPU being so efficient at these tasks, it could be run at lower clock speeds and outmaneuver competing SSD controllers - all while consuming less power. We're going to be watching VIA closely in the coming months on this one for sure.
Source: X-bit labs

Getting vibration-less storage without having to invest in an SSD

Subject: Storage | February 14, 2012 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: vibration, Tiché PC HDD Vibration Killer, hdd

At first glance they may just look like colourful metal 3.5" to 5.25" drive bay adapters but the Tiché PC HDD Vibration Killer kit includes a rubber suspension intended to stop the noise and vibrations generated by a spinning hard disk.  It should help with cooling since the drives have more space around them in a 5.25" bay and it will help save space as three drives will fit in only two 5.25" slots.  SPCR's testing disproved the first as they saw noticeably higher temperatures from the drives once installed in the mounts, but not worryingly so.  They did see seriously positive results when they looked at the effectiveness of vibration reduction as well as noise reduction.  If you've got a drive that shakes your house when you boot this kit is worth checking out.

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"The Tiché PC HDD Vibration Killer is an aftermarket internal hard drive suspension system that is simple but effective and cost efficient."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

OCZ Launches Z-Drive R4 CloudServ 16TB Solid State Storage System

Subject: Storage | February 14, 2012 - 11:46 AM |
Tagged: z-drive R4 CloudServ, SandForce 2581, PCIe SSD, ocz

How does 6.4TB of Synchronous Mode Multi-Level Cell NAND storage sound to you?  It is still a PCIe 2.0 device but it is capable of up to 6,000 MB/s which is none too shabby.

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SAN JOSE, CA—February 14, 2012—OCZ Technology Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:OCZ), a leading provider of high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs) for computing devices and systems, today announced the Z-Drive R4 CloudServ PCI Express (PCIe) flash storage solution, designed to dramatically accelerate cloud computing applications and significantly reduce operating expenses in the data center. The new Z-Drive R4 CloudServ features monumental data throughput, and raises the bar in performance and capacity.

“The Z-Drive R4 CloudServ PCIe solid state drive delivers game-changing performance and enables clients to process massive data-sets with up to 16TB of storage capacity on a single, easy-to-deploy card,” said Ryan Petersen, CEO of OCZ Technology. “With this new solution, system architects are able to design more efficient and dynamic cloud computing infrastructures while simultaneously reducing system complexity and the high maintenance costs associated with traditional infrastructures.”

With increasing emphasis on cloud computing and the sheer growth in data, PCIe-based flash storage systems have the ability to bypass traditional storage overhead by reducing latencies, increasing throughput, and enabling efficient processing of massive quantities of data. The Z-Drive R4 CloudServ is capable of transferring multiple gigabytes per second and delivering over a million IOPS with a level of concentrated performance that enables system architects to design more productive infrastructures while lowering costs associated with hardware failure, maintenance, structural footprint, and energy consumption.

The latest evolution of the Z-Drive R4, the CloudServ, is specifically designed for the most demanding cloud computing applications with increased capacities and even greater bandwidth capabilities delivering up to 1.4 million IOPS. Melding hardware and software managed solutions with OCZ’s integrated Virtualized Controller Architecture™ (VCA) 2.0 and OCZ’s SANRAD VXL virtual acceleration caching software, the Z-Drive R4 CloudServ can be employed as a high-performing host-based flash cache that works in conjunction with the VXL to dynamically allocate flash resources to accelerate all virtual machines. This maximizes the performance of critical applications and provides a seamless migration from one host to another without the loss of cache data. As these virtual machines are migrated from one host to another, they must retain full access to the flash cache without loss of performance or interruption of service. OCZ’s SANRAD VXL software is the only software that allows for this seamless migration without loss of access to the flash cache.

The Z-Drive R4 CloudServ PCIe SSD will be available in models ranging from 300GB-16TB capacities throughout OCZ's global channel in the coming weeks. As with all OCZ enterprise products, customer-specific configurations and functionality are available upon request.

Increased Hard Drive Write Speed and Density - Using Frickin' Lasers

Subject: General Tech, Storage | February 8, 2012 - 08:34 AM |
Tagged: laser, hdd, Hard Disk

The big hoopla as of late has been wrapped around SSD's and flash memory technology, with constant die shrinks promising cheaper and faster solid state storage for your PC. Everyone seems to be slowly forgetting about good old HDD's, but spinning rust may have some life left after all.

A team of scientists formed iron and gadolinium into a series of alloy 'nanoislands'. These are basically isolated mini magnets. Each one carries a magnetic charge. Normally you would write to materials like this by hitting them with a much larger magnetic field (i.e. from your HDD write head). This team had a different trick up their sleeve - don't bother with the bigger magnet, just hit it with a burst of heat and get it to change state on its own.

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Magnetic nanoislands getting hit by a frickin' laser.

Picture a sling shot, stretched out, and frozen in a block of ice. If you melt the ice, the rubber band will just snap back to its unstretched state and stay there. The same kind of thing happens when you heat a magnet - it becomes demagnetized. Now imagine if you could melt the ice, but flash freeze it while the rubber band has extended in the opposite direction. You've reversed the direction of the sling shot. Pull off the same trick with a magnet, and you can flip its poles. The trick is finding just the right length of time to heat the magnet and catch the 'flip' on the other end of its resonance. This team appears to have figured it out, and the magic number (for their material) is 60 femtoseconds. They can heep hitting the same spot repeatedly, and each time causes another flip in the poles.

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Each pulse flips the bit.

To back this down into typical computer terms. A 1GHz CPU clock triggers every 1.00000 nanosecond, and 60 femtoseconds is 0.00006 nanoseconds. Ultrashort Pulse lasers have been around for a while. One was even used on my eyeballs a few years back. These pulses are so fast that the biggest issue would be getting information to the laser fast enough. The straight line theoretical speed of this technique ranges in the Terabytes per second, with densities limited by the capabilities of the nanotech used to create the islands.

To be clear, this isn't the first time heat or lasers has been used in magnetic media. TDK pioneered Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording tech years ago, but that tech is only heat *assisted*. This new breakthrough is writing, with heat, without the magnet at all. Now the only trick is figuring out how to read such a high density of tiny written bits. Since the laser writes much smaller than a magnetic head could accomplish, we might see a reversion back to optics for the reads.We're not sure how long before this technology appears on your desktop, but what we can say is that magnetic storage is not dead yet.

Source: Physorg.com

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em; Intel goes Sandforce

Subject: Storage | February 6, 2012 - 10:12 AM |
Tagged: ssd, SF-2281 controller, sandforce, Intel, 520 Cherryville, 25nm

While the Intel 320 Series did hold the top spot for quite a while it has been a while since Intel refreshed their SSD line and has fallen behind new controllers in performance.  As of today that changes for the 520 Cherryville series has arrived and it is using none other than SandForce's SF-2281 controller.  Using such a popular controller leaves Intel with a bit of a problem, how do they stand out in such a crowded market?  One way that they have chosen is their home made 25nm synchronous NAND flash; Intel designs and fabs their own which gives them the opportunity to ensure the best flash chips make it into their drives.  The other way they've chosen to differentiate themselves is with a 5-year warranty for owners of this new drive.  Read how they did performance-wise at The Tech Report or else head straight to Al's review right here.

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"Intel's newest solid-state drive pairs a SandForce controller with custom firmware and 25-nm NAND. We've tested the 60 and 240GB models to see how they fare against more than two dozen SSDs, hybrids, and mechanical drives."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Take your SSD to work day

Subject: Storage | January 30, 2012 - 11:35 AM |
Tagged: ssd, enterprise, eMLC, Samsung, SM825 400GB

Enterprise level storage has vastly different priorities than consumer grade storage as data that is lost is of a different level than lost pictures and home movie.  As precious as those memories are it is unlikely that family members will sue you or disown you because you lost their data, internal and external customers on the other hand are very likely to.  This places a large priority on reliability which must be considered even before the cost savings are considered.  For companies with large databases and numerous users connecting to them concurrently there is a huge time savings possible from introducing an SSD to the front end, but only if it can be guaranteed to be available and not down.

The SSD Review takes a look at Samsung's enterprise class SSD, the SM825 which has 400GB of eMLC flash storage which is rated at 7000TBW (terabytes written) before failure; consumer models are usually 60TBW.  When the SSD Review cracked the case and did some addition, they spotted 112GB being used for over-provisioning as well as four impressively sized capacitors for protection against power outages.  Check out the full review to see how it performs.

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"In reviewing the Samsung SSD SM825 Data Center Edition 400GB eMLC solid state drive, we understand that we have wandered off the beaten path of normal consumer reviews but there are some things in this SSD that will just grab your attention. Although it’s interesting to see that Samsung has chosen its own premium eMLC NAND flash memory in the SM825, we believe that it is the total write endurance that truly stands out in this enterprise class SSD."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Source: SSD Review

LaCie's Little Big Disk now comes in Thunderbolt

Subject: Storage | January 20, 2012 - 10:50 AM |
Tagged: thunderbolt, LaCie, Little Big Disk, ssd, external drive

Thunderbolts and lightning have been gracing the front page of PC Perspective for a while now, the new external interfaces are well described but there is a lack of products on the market to review.   Hopefully that will change soon as there is little point of having an interface with nothing to plug into it.  LaCie is one of the few to have actually managed to get a product to market, a Thunderbolt connected external 240GB SSD version of their Little Big Disk.  It was certainly fast in the testing that TechReviewSource performed but it does leave one with a question, who needs to back up 200GB in a big hurry and is willing to spend over $900 for the ability to do so?

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"The LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt (240GB SSD) is currently the least expensive way to obtain Thunderbolt speeds for your late-model Mac. It's half the price of the Promise Pegasus R6, the only other Thunderbolt drive on the market, but that doesn't mean it's cheap."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

CES Storage Roundup Part 4 - Sandisk, PQI

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2012 - 03:36 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sandisk, PQI, memory, flash, CES

Sandisk

Sandisk had a booth with a large array of small nand flash storage devices, though most of it appeared to be SD, CF, or for embedded mobile applications:

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One of the more interesting pieces was a 64GB e.MMC nand flash part that fit *within* the dimensions of a penny! This is not a plug-in module - it's the type that would be soldered onto the mainboard of a cell phone or other small mobile device:

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While the booth was generally light on SSD's, there were a couple on display, namely the U100, in both 7mm (left) and 9.5mm (right) form factors:

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The U100 is also available in even smaller form factor. We're currently taking a look at an Ultrabook equipped with the same Sandisk U100 SSD - mounted to an even smaller PCB.

PQI

PQI has been a favorite of mine for years. They were among the first to make a really tiny thumb drive, and I'm glad to see they continue to make a versatile line of products:

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A little known fact is that PQI also has a line of SATA SSD's:

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The S525 Series (also available as the S518 - 1.8" form factor), is a bit long in the tooth and uses a dated JMicron controller, but PQI made the extra effort to include the optional USB 2.0 interface that most other manufacturers chose to omit.

More to follow

I've still got some pics to sift through, so stay tuned for more CES Storage goodies!

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES Storage Roundup Part 3 - Intel Cherryville and IMFT 20nm flash die spotted!

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2012 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: ssd, micron, Intel, imft, flash, cherryville, CES, 20nm

CES is sort of like a Where's Waldo book. There are thousands of places to look, with new technology spread around all over the place. Some of that unreleased tech shows up right in front of you and you don't even realize what you were looking at until later on. It's how we caught a look at prototype Light Peak (now Thunderbolt) two years ago, and this year we saw some more goodies not previously seen in the wild. I tend to be a bit of a shutterbug, and I take seemingly random pics of things as the PCPer gang runs around the various vendor booths and hotel suites. While going through the pics from my phone, I ran across this shot of what I thought was an Intel 320 Series SSD:

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Definitely not a 320, that's an Intel 520 Series (Cherryville) SSD. While Intel had their 520 Series locked up tight at their Storage Visions booth, this one was powering another motherboard makers product elsewhere in Vegas. Unfortunately this system was only to demo the motherboard itself, without a connected display, so it would not have been possible to run our own benches.

At storage visions, we also saw this display at the Micron booth. It's interesting to see how 16GB of flash memory has shrunk over the past few years. We've certainly come a long way from the good old X25-M:

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Some of you may know that I'm a sucker for a good die shot, so I snuck back out to Micron's suite later on to get my own macro shot of the 20nm IMFT flash die:

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Micron is, like many other vendors, working on their own SSD solution specifically for SSD caching applications. It's currently unreleased, so more to follow on this.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

OCZ's RevoDrive Hybrid tries for the best of both worlds

Subject: Storage | January 12, 2012 - 10:24 AM |
Tagged: ocz, revodrive hybrid, PCIe SSD

Although Al polished off his review of the OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid just before Christmas it is worth revisiting this unique hybrid of PCIe SSD and HDD.   Consisting of a PCIe SSD with 100GB of usable storage and a 1TB 5400RPM HDD which uses the SSD as a cache.  The Dataplex software which is needed for the RevoDrive to function properly has a small flaw; in order to function you need to be using the Hybrid drive as your boot drive.  That complaint is the exact opposite of Al's problem with the first generation of PCIe SSD which could not be used as a boot drive.  Read how the drive performed on RealWorldLabs test bench here.

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"Aimed mostly towards professionals and enthusiasts the latest RevoDrive Hybrid 1TB PCI Express Storage Solution by OCZ combines the breathtaking read/write speeds of the RevoDrive3 PCI-E SandForce based SSD with the large capacity of a 1TB 2.5inch hard disk drive, all in one very convenient package."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

CES Storage Roundup Part 2 - Corsair, Patriot

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 11, 2012 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: ssd, patriot, memory, flash, corsair, CES

While roaming Vegas, we came across lots of storage goodies. Here are a few:

Corsair

Corsair showed their line of SSD's, with a new addition:

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The new addition is on the right. This is the 'Accelerator' series, an SSD primarily meant for caching duties:

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The Accelerator series will be available in 30, 45, and 60GB capacities, and will be packaged with caching driver software for those not running a Z68 or better caching capable Intel board.

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Also on display was a refresh to the Voyager, Voyager GT, and Survivor series, bringing their interface up to USB 3.0 speeds.

Patriot

We also saw Patriot's lineup:

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Pictured above, from top down, is the following:

  • Wildfire (Sandforce 6Gb/sec / Toshiba Toggle-mode flash)
  • Pyro SE (Sandforce 6Gb/sec / IMFT Sync flash)
  • Pyro (Sandforce 6Gb/sec / IMFT Async flash)
  • Magma (Phison / Async flash)
  • Mac Series (identical Pyro SE, but Apple certified)

Next is the USB lineup, with many new USB 3.0 models replacing the older 2.0 units. The Transporter series is a bit shorter than it used to be, which is a welcome bonus.

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Here are Patriot's portable flash offerings, consisting of high capacity SD cards and Phison-driven mSATA and smaller (!) form factors:

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This is 'mSATA mini', which is about half the length of a standard mSATA SSD. On the other end of that spectrum is a 240GB Macbook Air unit (just off camera in the above pic).

Stay Tuned!

...I've got a few more goodies to post!

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES Storage Roundup Part 1 - Toshiba, Kingston

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 11, 2012 - 06:26 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, memory, kingston, flash, CES

While roaming Vegas, we came across lots of storage goodies. Here are a few:

Toshiba

Toshiba was showing a 19nm flash memory wafer and all of their products containing them.

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They seem to be taking their SATA SSD lines less seriously, as there were none on display. While there were no SSD's to speak of, there were USB devices:

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There was also plenty of SDHC, including their own SD WiFi card - used to upload photos as they are taken.

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They were also showing an SDXC card. While the shown card was a functioning 64GB unit, the SDXC format is capable of taking to cards up to 1TB in capacity.

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Kingston

We saw some cool stuff over at the Kingston booth:

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If you look inside that case, you'll see they are now making an mSATA SSD:

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They also showed their ever expanding line of USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices:

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...and this really tiny model, which packs 8GB of storage into something barely big enough to unplug without the use of needle nose pliers:

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Stay Tuned!

...more storage stuff is coming soon!

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Victorinox SSD makes its debut at CES - 1TB thumb drive connected via USB or eSATA

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: CES, usb, ssd, eSATA

Victorinox stopped me in my tracks while walking around the Pepcom Digital Experience last night. I'd heard there was a 1TB USB drive, but assumed it would be one of those things that was purely a concept and wouldn't be out for another year or two. Then I saw this:

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That larger drive (center left) is a *working* 1TB SSD in a thumb drive form factor. Sure it's on the larger side, but it's no bigger than the typical 32GB USB 3.0 thumb drives are at present. One side of the SSD contains a user-programmable e-ink display, which persists even with power removed. The other side shows the beginnings of a thick stack of PCB's and stacked flash memory:

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Pictured above is one of flash memory packages alongside the controller. Here's a side view:

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Within this package is a sandwich of 4 thin PCB's housing a total of 4 special flash memory packages. Each package can contain an interleaved stack of 16 (!) 2xnm dies. By interleaved I mean 8 dies make up a data channel to the controller, so each package provides 2 channels. This makes the assembled device physically equivalent to an 8-channel SSD - just neatly folded and shrunk into this relatively tiny device. Since all of you know I love ripping these things apart to see what makes them tick, well, Victorinox beat me to it and had one disassembled already:

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The last really cool and unique part of the design is right here:

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This is a picture of the underside of the *top* of the USB connector. This part is normally the standard steel top of a USB connector, but here Victorinox has engineered a 7-pin eSATA connector into it. Modern laptops typically have an eSATA connector that is also physically and electrically compatible with USB - using the USB portion of the connector to provide extra power when a powered eSATA device is connected. eSATA devices have a connector that can plug into this hybrid port, but not into a standard USB port. This device switches that concept around, in that it is physically compatible with both USB 3.0 and eSATA ports - and can function in eSATA mode when connected to the latter. This yields reduced latency when compared to USB, which introduces more overhead.

 

Victorinox expects to ship these in sizes from 64GB all the way up to the 1TB capacity later this year. Estimated cost of the largest capacity? $3,000.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

OCZ shows Kilimanjaro platform in the form of mini PCIe through Z-Drive R5

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 01:32 AM |
Tagged: CES, ssd, r5, r4, ocz, cloudserv

Earlier today we got our first hands-on of OCZ's new Kilimanjaro platform. This is the result of a joint venture between OCZ and Micron. The premise is simple: Most SSD and even PCIe storage devices use SATA as the primary or intermediate interface. This adds latency to the connection, and eventually limits the ultimate IOPS a given device can achieve. Kilimanjaro employs a new type of controller that takes commands directly from the host system via a single lane of PCIe 2.0, and in turn directly drives 4 channels of flash. This is all done without any SATA or SAS communications whatsoever. Here is what the simplest form of this platform looks like:

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This may be a bit confusing to some. The above pic is *not* of an mSATA device. Recall that mSATA borrowed the physical specification of mini PCIe (like the Wi-Fi adapter in most laptops). This device could plug into one of those slots (or even a hybrid mini-PCIe/mSATA port), and would link to the system via a PCIe 2.0 x1 link. This makes it capable of 50,000 IOPS and 500MB/sec - speeds similar to that of a good SATA 6Gb/sec SSD. The advantage of this platform is twofold. First is the lower latency achieved by getting rid of the middle man (SATA). Second is the way PCIe bridged storage can scale. The current far extreme of this comes in the form of the Z-Drive R5:
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This is essentially the same as the mini-PCIe device we just looked at, except there are 16 of them. The 16 PCIe 2.0 1x devices are interleaved evenly through a special PHY to a PCIe 3.0 x8 link to the host system. This makes for some insane bandwidth and IOPS possibilities. I'm fairly certain that the placard in the above pic was meant for the half-height (8 channel) R5, since the platform is capable of up to 7GB/sec and 2.5 million IOPS in the full height form factor. Marvell and OCZ still have a little ways to go on driver and firmware development for this new platform, so it may be a few months before we see it in the wild. Once that happens, we might see mid-point models with 2-4 controllers replacing the RevoDrive series shortly thereafter.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

OCZ Continues to Push the Performance and Capacity Envelope for Cloud Optimized Solid-State Storage

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2012 - 03:05 PM |
Tagged: z-drive r5, z-drive R4 CloudServ RM1616, ssd, PCIe SSD, ocz, indilinx everest 2, chiron 4TB SSD, CES

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 9, 2012 - International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 - OCZ Technology Group, Inc. (Nasdaq:OCZ), a leading provider of high-performance solid-state drives (SSDs), today announces the debut of new and exciting SSD solutions. Using the world's most popular technology tradeshow as a platform, OCZ's latest SSDs demonstrate a commitment to advancing flash storage technology into greater realms of performance and versatility, further driving adoption in client and enterprise applications.

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"CES represents a great opportunity for us to showcase our latest storage technology, and highlight next generation cloud-optimized solid state solutions that address today's enterprise needs," said Ryan Petersen, CEO of OCZ Technology. "Once again we have been able to leverage our increased R&D strength and our understanding of client needs to change the face of solid state storage and deliver innovative new solutions far ahead of our competitors, demonstrating technology leadership across all product categories."

OCZ will introduce next generation solutions designed to deliver higher performance, reliability, and storage capacity to meet the demands of the enterprise market with industry-leading products. OCZ products to be unveiled at CES include:

Z-Drive R5 – Utilizing the OCZ and Marvell co-developed Kilimanjaro platform, the fifth generation Z-Drive R5 is designed to accelerate "big data" like never before. As the world's first PCIe x16 Gen 3 SSD, which supports up to 16GB/s of total bandwidth, the R5 will be 2012's most advanced SSD, featuring performance that reaches up to an incredible 2.52 million IOPS and 7.2GB/s sequential transfers per card, with unlimited scalability and performance aggregation capability. With optional power fail protection the R5 will be available in a range of form factors including full height, half height, and 2.5-inch PCIe. The R5's industry-leading performance and storage capacities make pure flash storage in mission-critical applications possible.

Indilinx Everest 2 – The SATA 3.0-based third generation Indilinx controller is designed specifically for I/O-intensive workloads in a wide range of applications, supporting sequential speeds of up to 550MB/s, and up to 105,000 random read and 90,000 Random Write IOPS with the newest 2xnm flash technology. The Everest 2 platform supports up to 2TB capacity in a compact 2.5-inch form factor.

Z-Drive R4 CloudServ RM1616 – Making 16TB of storage on a single PCIe card a reality, the new Z-Drive R4 CloudServ RM1616 is the newest addition to the award-winning R4 Series. With performance of up to 6.5GB/s and over 1.4 million IOPS, the Z-Drive R4 CloudServ's level of concentrated performance and capacity enables system architects to design more productive infrastructures while lowering operating costs associated with hard drive technology.

Chiron 4TB SSD – The world's fastest and highest capacity SATA SSD for the enterprise, the Chiron Series provides a staggering 4TB in a compact 3.5-inch form factor. With performance exceeding SATA 3.0 bus capabilities, Chiron delivers speeds above 560MB/s and 100,000 IOPS. Eliminating the need for high capacity HDDs as anything other than backup devices, the Chiron Series enables mass SSD storage and is capable of deploying up to 96TB of storage in a 4U rackmount server chassis.

OCZ's enterprise showcase demonstrations will include, among others, an IBM System x3650 M3 highlighting the performance potential of the new Z-Drive R5 PCIe Gen 3 in a Linux server environment, as well as a HP ProLiant DL370 G6 server equipped with two Z-Drive R4 RM1616s delivering 1,400,000 IOPS per card with Windows Server 2008. In addition, drives based on the next-generation Indilinx Everest 2 platform will be demonstrated, as well as a prototype of "Lightfoot," an external Intel Thunderbolt SSD unveiling a new generation of high-performance portable storage.

 

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

OCZ shows a new R4 - the Z-Drive R4 CloudServ, with 16 (!) SandForce 2200 SSD's!

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2012 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: z-drive, ssd, r4, pcie, ocz, CES

OCZ has a monster of a Z-Drive R4 on display at Storage Visions. We looked at the original 1.6TB R4 back in September. That one had 8 SF-2200 controllers on-board. This new R4 has 16!

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This R4 has a beast of a VCA 2.0 controller. It's cooled by heat pipes, can handle up to 16 SATA links, address up to 16TB of storage, and pass up to 1.4 million IOPS across a PCIe bus at 6.5GB/sec (yes, GigaBytes). Note: this is not the R5, it's just a *really* fast R4.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2012: OCZ Chiron is world's fastest and highest capacity SATA SSD

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2012 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: CES, ocz, chiron, sata, ssd

OCZ is taking the lid off of even more SSD products at CES 2012 and we have another pretty impressive piece of hardware called the Chiron to show.  Basically a follow up to the OCZ Colossus drive we reviewed back in November of 2009, the Chiron claims to be the fastest and highest capacity SATA-based SSD.

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The Chiron will be available in capacities of up to 4TB and will fit in the standard 3.5-in form factor of traditional hard drives.  This would enable users to finally use SSDs for their mass storage though prices will likely be the limiting factor for some time to come.  Server OEMs will be able to deploy up to 96TB of SSD-based storage in a standard 4U rackmount server. 

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Based on OCZ's upcoming Indilinx Everest II controller, the Chiron will have transfer rates as high as 560 MB/s and over 100,000 4k IOPS.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2012: OCZ shows DDR based SATA 6Gb/sec aeonDrive

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2012 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: ssd, ocz, CES, aeondrive

Today at Storage Visions we saw OCZ displaying their new aeonDrive. This is a pure RAM based SSD meant for high end database applications where thousands of random writes per second take place continuously.

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This is a multiple layer PCB, with extra connections that appear to allow even more to be stacked together. The unit pictured is only 32GB capacity, but considering it's all RAM, that's quite a bit.
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While the RAM is DDR3-1333 from Micron, we figure it's running at a lower clock rate, since all of that data passes through a single SATA 6Gb/sec interface. OCZ claims up to 140,000 4K IOPS and >500,000 single sector (512 byte) IOPS. Those figures are essentially saturating the capabilities of SATA 6Gb/sec.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

CES 2012: OCZ Shows Lightfoot, Thunderbolt External SATA Drive

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2012 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: thunderbolt, ssd, ocz, lightfoot, CES

Today at the Storage Visions conference before the start of CES 2012, OCZ was on hand to show off a few new items they have planned for the year.  First up is the Lightfoot, a successor to the OCZ Enyo external USB 3.0 SSD that we reviewed and really enjoyed our time with. 

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As you can see it looks quite a bit bigger than the original Enyo and that is on account of the increased storage capacity.  You can expect to see sizes as high as 1TB and it will also be available in 128GB, 256GB and 512GB.  

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Here is the Thunderbolt connector that many a Mac user and, hopefully soon, PC users will be able to take advantage of for improved throughput with transfer rates as high as 750 MB/s quoted by OCZ. 

OCZ claims that the one of the benefits of moving to the Thunderbolt interconnect is improved latency and highly accurate time synchronization that will allow for professional audio and video work to be done directly on the drive.  We are pretty eager to see if this is the case...

The time frame for this device is still unknown but we'll see if we can get more information this week by asking the right people. 

UPDATE: OCZ is telling us that Lightfoot will cost about $2/GB, so that 1TB model will run around $2000.  For those a bit more frugal, you can get the 128GB option for something like $250.  

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!