FMS 2014: Silicon Motion announces new SM2256 controller driving 1xnm TLC NAND

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | August 7, 2014 - 05:37 PM |
Tagged: ssd, SM2256, silicon motion, sata, FMS 2014, FMS

Silicon Motion has announced their SM2256 controller. We caught a glimpse of this new controller on the Flash Memory Summit show floor:

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The big deal here is the fact that this controller is a complete drop-in solution that can drive multiple different types of flash, as seen below:

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The SM2256 can drive all variants of TLC flash.

The controller itself looks to have decent specs, considering it is meant to drive 1xnm TLC flash. Just under 100k random 4k IOPS. Writes are understandably below the max saturation of SATA 6Gb/sec at 400MB/sec (writing to TLC is tricky!). There is also mention of Silicon Motion's NANDXtend Technology, which claims to add some extra ECC and DSP tech towards the end of increasing the ability to correct for bit errors in the flash (more likely as you venture into 8 bit per cell territory).

Press blast after the break:

FMS 2014: Phison announces new quad-core PS3110 SATA 6Gb/s SSD controller

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | August 7, 2014 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, PS5007, PS3110, phison, pcie, FMS 2014, FMS

At the Flash Memory Summit, Phison has updated their SSD controller lineup with a new quad-core SSD controller.

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The PS3110 is capable of handling TLC as well as MLC flash, and the added horsepower lets it push as high as 100k IOPS.

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Also seen was an upcoming PS5007 controller, capable of pushing PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs at 300k IOPS and close to 3GB/sec sequential throughputs. While there were no actual devices on display of this new controller, we did spot the full specs:

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Full press blast on the PS3110 appears after the break:

Source: Phison

FMS 2014: HGST Claims 3 Million IOPS and 1.5us Access Time SSD - updated with pics

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | August 7, 2014 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: ssd, phase change memory, PCM, hgst, FMS 2014, FMS

According to an HGST press release, the company will bring an SSD based on phase change memory to the 2014 Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California. They claim that it will actually be at their booth, on the show floor, for two days (August 6th and 7th).

The device, which is not branded, connects via PCIe 2.0 x4. It is designed for speed. It is allegedly capable of 3 million IOPS, with just 1.5 microseconds required for a single access. For comparison, the 800GB Intel SSD DC P3700, recently reviewed by Allyn, had a dominating lead over the competitors that he tested. It was just shy of 250 thousand IOPS. This is, supposedly, about twelve times faster.

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While it is based on a different technology than NAND, and thus not directly comparable, the PCM chips are apparently manufactured at 45nm. Regardless, that is significantly larger lithography than competing products. Intel is manufacturing their flash at 20nm, while Samsung managed to use a 30nm process for their recent V-NAND launch.

What does concern me is the capacity per chip. According to the press release, it is 1Gb per chip. That is about two orders of magnitude smaller than what NAND is pushing. That is, also, the only reference to capacity in the entire press release. It makes me wonder how small the total drive capacity will be, especially compared to RAM drives.

Of course, because it does not seem to be a marketed product yet, nothing about pricing or availability. It will almost definitely be aimed at the enterprise market, though (especially given HGST's track record).

*** Update from Allyn ***

I'm hijacking Scott's news post with photos of the actual PCM SSD, from the FMS show floor:

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In case you all are wondering, yes, it does in fact work:

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One of the advantages of PCM is that it is addressed at smaller sections as compared to typical flash memory. This means you can see ~700k *single sector* random IOPS at QD=1. You can only pull off that sort of figure with extremely low IO latency. They only showed this output at their display, but ramping up QD > 1 should reasonably lead to the 3 million figure claimed in their release.

Source: HGST

FMS 2014: Marvell announces new 88SS1093 PCIe SSD controller

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | August 6, 2014 - 03:03 PM |
Tagged: ssd, pcie, NVMe, Marvell, FMS 2014, FMS, controller, 88SS1093

Marvell is notorious for being the first to bring a 6Gb/sec SATA controller to market, and they continue to do very well in that area. Their very capable 88SS9189 controller powers the Crucial MX100 and M550, as well as the ADATA SP920.

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Today they have announced a newer controller, the 88SS1093. Despite the confusing numbering, the 88SS1093 has a PCIe 3.0 x4 host interface and will support the full NVMe protocol. The provided specs are on the light side, as performance of this controller will ultimately depend on the speed and parallelism of the attached flash, but its sure to be a decent performer. I suspect it would behave like their SATA part, only no longer bottlenecked by SATA 6Gb/sec speeds.

More to follow as I hope to see this controller in person on the exhibition hall (which opens to press in a few hours). Full press blast after the break.

*** Update ***

Apologies as there was no photo to be taken - Marvell had no booth at the exibition space at FMS.

Source: Marvell

FMS 2014: Samsung announces 3D TLC VNAND, Storage Intelligence initiative

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | August 5, 2014 - 04:19 PM |
Tagged: FMS, vnand, tlc, ssd, Samsung, FMS 2014, Flash Memory Summit

Just minutes ago at the Flash Memory Summit, Samsung announced the production of 32-layer TLC VNAND:

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This is the key to production of a soon-to-be-released 850 EVO, which should bring the excellent performance of the 850 Pro, with the reduced cost benefit we saw with the previous generation 840 EVO. Here's what the progression to 3D VNAND looks like:

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3D TLC VNAND will look identical to the right most image in the above slide, but the difference will be that the charge stored has more variability. Given that Samsung's VNAND tech has more volume to store electrons when compared to competing 2D planar flash technology, it's a safe bet that this new TLC will come with higher endurance ratings than those other technologies. There is much more information on Samsung's VNAND technology on page 1 of our 850 Pro review. Be sure to check that out if you haven't already!

Another announcement made was more of an initiative, but a very interesting one at that. SSDs are generally dumb when it comes to coordinating with the host - in that there is virtually no coordination. An SSD has no idea which pieces of files were meant to be grouped together, etc (top half of this slide):

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Stuff comes into the SSD and it puts it where it can based on its best guess as to how it should optimize those writes. What you'd want to have, ideally, is a more intelligent method of coordination between the host system and the SSD (more like the bottom half of the above slide). Samsung has been dabbling in the possibilities here and has seen some demonstrable gains to be made. In a system where they made the host software aware of the SSD flash space, and vice versa, they were able to significantly reduce write latency during high IOPS activity.

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The key is that if the host / host software has more control over where and how data is stored on the SSD, the end result is a much more optimized write pattern, which ultimately boosts overall throughput and IOPS. We are still in the experimentation stage on Storage Intelligence, with more to follow as standards are developed and the industry pushes forward.

It might be a while before we see Storage Intelligence go mainstream, but I'm definitely eager to see 3D TLC VNAND hit the market, and now we know it's coming! More to follow in the coming days as we continue our live coverage of the Flash Memory Summit!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Thecus

Introduction

The Thecus N2560 is a dual-bay NAS Server powered by an Intel Atom SoC. With the addition of HDMI output could this be the answer for some basic HTPC needs as well?

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The Thecus N2560 at work in the living room

The N2560 is similar in some ways to the Thecus N2310 NAS we looked at a couple of months ago, but it builds on both the functionality and power of that unit. Both are 2-bay designs with support for up to 8TB of storage via dual 4TB hard drives, and they run the same OS (ThecusOS 6). There are some very big differences, too. The N2560 boasts an Intel Atom SoC which provides dual 1.60 GHz cores, compared to the N2310’s single 800 MHz PowerPC core. The N2560 also features a full-size HDMI output as well as SPDIF digital audio output, making it a potential alternative for some HTPC tasks.

The Thecus N2560 is an attractive-looking device, with the smooth lines and finish of a more expensive product. But beyond the N2560's appearance and basic function as a NAS, this is really a server. Digital audio and video output is certainly an impressive addition for a device that retails for around $180, making it a compelling budget HTPC option if the OS and media software work well. Since the basics of the Thecus OS and NAS usage were covered with the N2310, the media output potential of the N2560 is the area of focus for this review.

Continue reading our look at the Thecus N2560 NAS Server!

HGST Announces 12 Gbps SAS, Enterprise SSDs

Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 29, 2014 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged:

You might remember Allyn say that Samsung's 850 Pro is the closest to total saturation of SATA 6Gbps. The other option that we have seen is the bunch of SSDs that are attached to a PCI Express bus. HGST, formerly Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, has just SAS'd back (that was a terrible pun... which I refuse to apologize for) with a Serial Attached SCSI 12 Gbps model (pdf link). They claim a maximum read throughput of 1100 MB/s, with 64K chunks, and 130,000 IOPS, with 4K random accesses.

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The drives will be based on Intel 20nm enterprise-grade NAND with two bits per memory cell (MLC). Its durability is rated at 25 full driver writes per day for 5 years. Models will range from 100GB, all the way up to 1600GB (1.6TB).

While I am limited to Google Translate, there does not appear to be any price or availability information provided. They are enterprise drives, however, so I expect it to be above typical consumer drives.

What is in a brand? The tale of two low cost SSDs

Subject: Storage | July 28, 2014 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: adata, SP610, corsair, Force LX, 512GB

Two drives are competing for the budget segments money on Legit Reviews, the $250 Corsair Force LX 512GB and the $240 ADATA SP610 512GB SSD.  512GB should be enough for most budget users to store their needed software on and save them the cost of an HDD but which will offer the most value for the money?  Both drives have Silicon Motion's SM2246EN controller and 20nm Micron MLC NAND, the same 3 year warranty and the same physical measurements.  Does one stand out over the other?  Read the full review to see.

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"Solid-State Drive (SSD) have been steadily growing in capacity and thanks to improvements to the manufacturing processes the price of NAND and SSD controllers has been falling at an impressive rate. This means that fairly large SSDs are now fairly affordable and something the for the average consumer can justify purchasing."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer:

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

A few months back, we took a look at the ADATA Premier Pro SP920 series of SSDs. Those came equipped with the Marvell 88SS9189 controller. Marvell SSD controllers have always done a good job, and they were among the first to support SATA 6Gbit speeds. Crucial was one of the first to adopt the Marvell controller into their SATA SSD products, so it seems fitting that we revisit the 88SS9189 controller in the form of Micron's Crucial M550 Series of SSDs:

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Being one of the big manufacturers of SSDs, Micron has some cool production videos. Here's one of their videos covering the production of flash all the way through to the assembly of an SSD. We actually toured one of these plants a few years back. Good stuff:

Continue reading as we evaluate all available capacities of the Crucial M550!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Tagged: wdc, WD, Red Pro, red, hdd, 6tb, 4TB

Introduction and Specs

Introduction:

*** NOTE ***

In the preparation for this review, we noted abnormal behavior with the 6TB Red. After coordination with Western Digital, they replicated our results and will be issuing a firmware to correct the issue. We are publishing this piece as-is, with caveats added as appropriate. We will revisit this piece with an additional update once we have retested the 6TB Red on the updated firmware / configuration. More information / detail is available in our related news post on this matter.

*** END NOTE ***

Last year we covered the benefits of TLER enabled drives, and the potential for drive errors in a RAID can lead to the potential loss of entire arrays. Western Digital solved this problem by their introduction of the WD Red series. That series was since incrementally updated to include a 4TB capacity, and other Western Digital lines were also scaled up to 4TB capacities.

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This week the Red line was updated to include both 5TB and 6TB models, sporting 1.2TB per platter. Performance is expected to be slightly improved over the older / smaller capacities of the Red. The upgraded line will use an improved 'NASware 3.0' firmware, which makes improvements to Western Digital's software based vibration compensation. These improvements mean WD can now support up to 8 Reds in a single chassis (up from 5 with NASware 2.0).

Also announced was the new Red Pro line, available in capacities up to 4TB. The Red Pro is just as it sounds - a 'Pro' version of the Red. This model borrows more features from WD's enterprise line, making it very similar to an SE series HDD. Imagine a Red, but at 7200RPM and more aggressive seek times. The Red Pro also borrows the enterprise-grade 5-year warranty and is supported in chassis up to 16 bays, thanks to built-in hardware vibration compensation. When all is said and done, the Red Pro is basically a WD SE with firmware tweaked for NAS workloads.

As a recap of what can potentially happen if you have a large RAID with 'normal' consumer grade HDD's (and by consumer grade I mean those without any form of Time Limited Error Recovery, or TLER for short):

  • Array starts off operating as normal, but drive 3 has a bad sector that cropped up a few months back. This has gone unnoticed because the bad sector was part of a rarely accessed file.
  • During operation, drive 1 encounters a new bad sector.
  • Since drive 1 is a consumer drive it goes into a retry loop, repeatedly attempting to read and correct the bad sector.
  • The RAID controller exceeds its timeout threshold waiting on drive 1 and marks it offline.
  • Array is now in degraded status with drive 1 marked as failed.
  • User replaces drive 1. RAID controller initiates rebuild using parity data from the other drives.
  • During rebuild, RAID controller encounters the bad sector on drive 3.
  • Since drive 3 is a consumer drive it goes into a retry loop, repeatedly attempting to read and correct the bad sector.
  • The RAID controller exceeds its timeout threshold waiting on drive 3 and marks it offline.
  • Rebuild fails.
  • Blamo, your data is now (mostly) inaccessible.

I went into much further detail on this back in the intro to the WD 3TB Red piece, but the short of it is that you absolutely should use a HDD intended for RAID when building one.

Continue reading our review of the new WD 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro!!