Subject: General Tech, Storage | December 28, 2014 - 01:18 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, ssd, ncix, directcanada, deals
A couple of Canadian stores, NCIX and DirectCanada, have marked down the Intel 730 SSD in both 240GB and 480GB models. While sites like Amazon and Newegg are selling it for $530 and $547, respectively, NCIX has the 480GB version on for $259.99 and the 240GB version for $169.99. DirectCanada is close, their price is about $10 more expensive for the 480GB and a few cents cheaper for the 240GB (480GB - $269.89 and 240GB - $169.95). This is even cheaper than the American Amazon price, which is going for $456.99 USD.
You can see in Allyn's review from February, he really liked the drive. He notes that it is a bit hot and power hungry, but he also notes that the controller is overclocked and that is probably why you want to buy it. If you are Canadian, or are somehow able to make a purchase in Canada, this is a ridiculous price. For everyone else, who knows? It might be a sign that its price could drop altogether. Either that, or NCIX and DirectCanada just feel like throwing money around today.
Introduction and Internals
We've seen USB 3.0 in devices for a few years now, but it has only more recently started taking off since controllers, drivers, and Operating Systems have incorporated support for the USB Attached SCSI Protocol. UASP takes care of one of the big disadvantages seen when linking high speed storage devices. USB adds a relatively long and multi-step path for each and every transaction, and the initial spec did not allow for any sort of parallel queuing. The 'Bulk-Only Transport' method was actually carried forward all the way from USB 1.0, and it simply didn't scale well for very low latency devices. The end result was that a USB 3.0 connected SSD performed at a fraction of its capability. UASP fixes that by effectively layering the SCSI protocol over the USB 3.0 link. Perhaps its biggest contributor to the speed boost is SCSI's ability to queue commands. We saw big speed improvements with the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX and other newer UASP enabled flash drives, but it's time we look at some ways to link external SATA devices using this faster protocol. Our first piece will focus on a product from Inateck - their FE2005 2.5" SATA enclosure:
This is a very simple enclosure, with a sliding design and a flip open door at the front.
Subject: Storage | December 15, 2014 - 01:35 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: SAS, hdd, DIY, LSI, Seagate, icy dock
You may want to build a server consisting of enterprise level SSDs to make sure it provides the best possible speeds to anyone accessing data stored there but the chances of you getting the budget for it are slim going on none. That is why reading the guide on building servers from Modders Inc is worth your time if you find yourself pondering the best way to build a storage server on a budget without making it abysmally slow. You have many choices when you are designing a storage server but if you are not quite sure where to start the list of components and the arguments for their usefulness will get you headed in the right direction. For example the LSI MegaRAID SAS 9271-8i is an impressive RAID controller and with good SAS HDDs you can expect to see very good data throughput and will be more important than the CPU you select. Check out the article right here.
"IT infrastructure and storage has always been part of serious conversation between IT engineers and their bosses. As always IT Engineers want to use the best of the newest technologies while their bosses want to keep every project under a tight budget. It's always an ongoing battle, however both sides always come to some mutual agreement that benefits both sides."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Western Digital Red (WD60EFRX) 6 TB Hard Disk @ TechARP
- QNAP TS-451 Network Attached Storage @ Modders-Inc
- LaCie d2 Thunderbolt Review @ TechwareLabs
- Inateck FE2005 USB 3.0 Tool-Less 2.5″ HDD Enclosure @ eTeknix
- Transcend SSD370 256GB SSD Review @HiTech Legion
- Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- Samsung 850 EVO 120GB review @ Bjorn3d
- Kingston SSDnow M2 SATA 120GB Solid State Drive @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech, Storage | December 11, 2014 - 03:30 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, TEM, SEM, Schiltron, Samsung, cross section, 3D VNAND
Once a technology is released to the public, the only thing stopping you from knowing how it works is the ability to look inside. With detailed imagery of 32-layer VNAND recently released by TechInsights, not only was Andy able to conduct a very thorough analysis at his blog, we are able to get some incredibly detailed looks at just what makes this new flash memory tick:
Flash packaging, showing interconnect traces (which connect the outside of the package to the flash dies contained within).
1x: The 3D VNAND die itself. We'll use this as a point of reference of the magnification levels moving forward.
350x: This is the edge of the die, showing how the word (data) lines are connected to the individual layers.
1,500x: There it is, all 32 layers in all of their vertical glory. The only thing more amazing about the technology at play to create such a complex 3D structure at such a small scale, is the technology used to slice it in half (some of the material is tungsten) and take such a detailed 'picture' of that cross section.
30,000x: Finally, we have a top down slice of the channels themselves. This lets us get a good idea of the rough process node at play here. While the columns are 80nm in diameter, there are other features that are smaller, so the process itself still seemes to be in the ~40nm range.
Our focus is of course on the performance more than the extremeny low level bits, but it is definitely cool to see imagery of this new tech. For those curious, we encourage you to check out the detailed analysis done over at 3DInCities.
Subject: Storage | December 8, 2014 - 02:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: 3d nand, tlc, 256 bit aes, 850 EVO, raid, RAPID, Samsung, sata, ssd
Not only does Samsung's new 850 EVO family introduce us to three dimensional triple level cell NAND, it also incorporates an SLC cache to boost write speeds. The Tech Report received the 250GB and 1TB models to test, with a spotlight on how they fared against the 840 Pro and 840 Evo. Their testing shows that the new way of creating NAND has helped mitigate the reduction in speed which accompanied the first generation of TLC drives. There is no question that the SLC write cache also helps as long as it has space available but this new technology does come with a price, expect $500 for the 1TB and $150 for for the 250GB model. The 5 year warranty is a nice touch for those who have reliability concerns.
Make sure to ready through Al's review as well, along with single drive benchmarks you can see how these drives perform in RAID.
"Samsung's long-awaited 850 EVO SSD employs three-dimensional NAND with three bits per cell. It augments that TLC storage with an SLC write cache, and it has a higher endurance rating and longer warranty than most MLC drives. We've taken a closer look to see how it holds up against the competition."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung SSD 850 EVO @ Benchmark Reviews
- Samsung 850 EVO SSD @ The SSD Review
- AMD R7 240GB SSD Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Silicon Power Stream S06 4TB USB 3.0 3.5" External Hard Drive Review @ NikKTech
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Mid last year, Samsung introduced the 840 EVO. This was their evolutionary step from the 840 Pro, which had launched a year prior. While the Pro was a performance MLC SSD, the EVO was TLC, and for most typical proved just as speedy. The reason for this was Samsung’s inclusion of a small SLC cache on each TLC die. Dubbed TurboWrite, this write-back cache gave the EVO the best write performance of any TLC-based SSD on the market. Samsung had also introduced a DRAM cache based RAPID mode - included with their Magician value added software solution. The EVO was among the top selling SSDs since its launch, despite a small hiccup quickly corrected by Samsung.
Fast forward to June of this year where we saw the 850 Pro. Having tested the waters with 24-layer 3D VNAND, Samsung revises this design, increasing the layer count to 32 and reducing the die capacity from 128Gbit to 86Gbit. The smaller die capacity enables a 50% performance gain, stacked on top of the 100% write speed gain accomplished by the reduced cross talk of the 3D VNAND architecture. These changes did great things for the performance of the 850 Pro, especially in the lower capacities. While competing 120/128GB SSDs were typically limited to 150 MB/sec write speeds, the 128GB 850 Pro cruises along at over 3x that speed, nearly saturating the SATA interface. The performance might have been great, but so was the cost - 850 Pro’s have stuck around $0.70/GB since their launch, forcing budget conscious upgraders to seek competing solutions. What we needed was an 850 EVO, and now I can happily say here it is:
As the 840 EVO was a pretty big deal, I believe the 850 EVO has an equal chance of success, so instead of going for a capacity roundup, this first piece will cover the 120GB and 500GB capacities. A surprising number of our readers run a pair of smaller capacity 840 EVOs in a RAID, so we will be testing a matched pair of 850 EVOs in RAID-0. To demonstrate the transparent performance boosting of RAPID, I’ll also run both capacities through our full test suite with RAPID mode enabled. There is lots of testing to get through, so let’s get cracking!
Subject: General Tech, Storage | December 4, 2014 - 10:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, kingston
Once again, we're talking about The Tech Report and their attempt at working SSDs to death. At the last checkpoint, 1.5 petabytes of total writes, the Samsung 840 Pro and the Kingston HyperX 3K (240GB) became the final two. Which will become the sole survivor? How long will it go before dying? Who knows. We just crossed 2 petabytes and these things simply won't die.
Image Credit: The Tech Report
So yeah, we have hit 2 petabytes and these drives seem to be chugging along. Neither of the two survivors have even displayed any major drops in read or write performance, at least not permanently. The Samsung 840 Pro has experienced a few, temporary dips in write performance, from around 500MB/s to around 450MB/s, boo hoo, but has recovered each time.
That said, both drives are using their reserve space. The Samsung 840 Pro has used about 60 percent of its reserve in the last 1300 TB of writes, following a fairly linear decline. If it continues, this drive should finally kick the bucket just before 3 petabytes of writes (~2.87PB). The Kingston HyperX, on the other hand, who knows. That SSD seems to have had a rough time over the last 500TB, but that could be just a hiccup. It could also be on its way out, who knows?
Subject: Storage | December 4, 2014 - 03:21 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: petabyte, petaphile, ssd, torture, 840 pro, hyperx 3k
It is now down to two drives at The Tech Report, only the Samsung 840 Pro and a HyperX 3K which was brought in to replace an model with no stamina have reached the 2 petabyte mark and are still going. The 840 Pro has now used 61% of its used block reserve due to flash failures and while the Sandforce compression has allowed the HyperX to hit this mark with only 1.4 petabytes actually written it has still had 31 sectors reallocated and 2 uncorrectible errors. That puts the HyperX in a difficult spot in that while it is still writing data it is not truly trustworthy anymore. The drive speeds have remained remarkably consistent though the 840 is slowing down somewhat over time, check out the actual benchmark results in the latest update to The Tech Report's torture test.
"Our SSD Endurance Experiment has reached an astounding two petabytes of writes. Only two drives remain, and they're coping very differently. We've checked in on their health and performance to see how each one is holding up."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Flash Memory Endurance Testing @ Hack a Day
- What benchmarks CAN tell you about your solid-state drives @ The Register
- Synology DiskStation DS215j @ Legion Hardware
- SanDisk Connect SDWS2 16 GB Wireless Flash Drive @ eTeknix
Subject: Storage | December 2, 2014 - 05:14 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, sata, ocz, ARC, m10, Indilinx Barefoot
It has been a while since we last talked about the OCZ ARC family but seeing as how you can currently pick up the 256GB model for $100 it seems a good time to revisit the drive. Bjorn3D recently reviewed this drive and it's Indilinx Barefoot M10 controller and Toshiba A19 nm flash. Before delving into the speeds this drive is capable of it is worth reminding possible purchasers of the three year ShieldPlus warranty, if you encounter issues with the drive OCZ will ship you out a brand new advanced replacement along with a prepaid return label to the customer which you then use to send your failed drive back. As far as the performance of this drive, it is a close match to the Crucial MX 100, not the best drive out there but certainly good all around at this price point. In fact with the MX 100 costing only $10 more its slightly better performance might make it more attractive but Crucial's warranty is not as user friendly as OCZs. Check out the full review to see which company you feel deserves your money.
"As expected, with OCZ now owned by Toshiba, OCZ would be using the in-house brew Toshiba NAND for their SSDs as oppose to Intel/Micron. OCZ has transitioned their mainstream Vertex SSDs to the Toshiba NAND already. And the latest budget line of SSD, the ARC 100, continues the trend of using all in-house made components of pairing the Indilinx controller with the Toshiba NAND."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Mushkin Scorpion 480GB PCIe x2 SSD Review @ NikKTech
- G.Skill Phoenix Blade 480GB PCIe x8 SSD @ Kitguru
- Samsung M9T 2TB (2.5-inch) & Seagate SSHD 2TB @ Silent PC Review
- Synology DS215j NAS @ Kitguru
- QNAP TS-653 Pro SMB NAS Review @ Madshrimps
- Silicon Power Armor Series A30 USB 3.0 2TB Portable HDD Review @ Madshrimps
It has become increasingly apparent that flash memory die shrinks have hit a bit of a brick wall in recent years. The issues faced by the standard 2D Planar NAND process were apparent very early on. This was no real secret - here's a slide seen at the 2009 Flash Memory Summit:
Despite this, most flash manufacturers pushed the envelope as far as they could within the limits of 2D process technology, balancing shrinks with reliability and performance. One of the largest flash manufacturers was Intel, having joined forces with Micron in a joint venture dubbed IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technologies). Intel remained in lock-step with Micron all the way up to 20nm, but chose to hold back at the 16nm step, presumably in order to shift full focus towards alternative flash technologies. This was essentially confirmed late last week, with Intel's announcement of a shift to 3D NAND production.
Intel's press briefing seemed to focus more on cost efficiency than performance, and after reviewing the very few specs they released about this new flash, I believe we can do some theorizing as to the potential performance of this new flash memory. From the above illustration, you can see that Intel has chosen to go with the same sort of 3D technology used by Samsung - a 32 layer vertical stack of flash cells. This requires the use of an older / larger process technology, as it is too difficult to etch these holes at a 2x nm size. What keeps the die size reasonable is the fact that you get a 32x increase in bit density. Going off of a rough approximation from the above photo, imagine that 50nm die (8 Gbit), but with 32 vertical NAND layers. That would yield a 256 Gbit (32 GB) die within roughly the same footprint.
Representation of Samsung's 3D VNAND in 128Gbit and 86 Gbit variants.
20nm planar (2D) = yellow square, 16nm planar (2D) = blue square.
Image republished with permission from Schiltron Corporation.
It's likely a safe bet that IMFT flash will be going for a cost/GB far cheaper than the competing Samsung VNAND, and going with a relatively large 256 Gbit (vs. VNAND's 86 Gbit) per-die capacity is a smart move there, but let's not forget that there is a catch - write speed. Most NAND is very fast on reads, but limited on writes. Shifting from 2D to 3D NAND netted Samsung a 2x speed boost per die, and another effective 1.5x speed boost due to their choice to reduce per-die capacity from 128 Gbit to 86 Gbit. This effective speed boost came from the fact that a given VNAND SSD has 50% more dies to reach the same capacity as an SSD using 128 Gbit dies.
Now let's examine how Intel's choice of a 256 Gbit die impacts performance:
- Intel SSD 730 240GB = 16x128 Gbit 20nm dies
- 270 MB/sec writes and ~17 MB/sec/die
- Crucial MX100 128GB = 8x128Gbit 16nm dies
- 150 MB/sec writes and ~19 MB/sec/die
- Samsung 850 Pro 128GB = 12x86Gbit VNAND dies
- 470MB/sec writes and ~40 MB/sec/die
If we do some extrapolation based on the assumption that IMFT's move to 3D will net the same ~2x write speed improvement seen by Samsung, combined with their die capacity choice of 256Gbit, we get this:
- Future IMFT 128GB SSD = 4x256Gbit 3D dies
- 40 MB/sec/die x 4 dies = 160MB/sec
Even rounding up to 40 MB/sec/die, we can see that also doubling the die capacity effectively negates the performance improvement. While the IMFT flash equipped SSD will very likely be a lower cost product, it will (theoretically) see the same write speed limits seen in today's SSDs equipped with IMFT planar NAND. Now let's go one layer deeper on theoretical products and assume that Intel took the 18-channel NVMe controller from their P3700 Series and adopted it to a consumer PCIe SSD using this new 3D NAND. The larger die size limits the minimum capacity you can attain and still fully utilize their 18 channel controller, so with one die per channel, you end up with this product:
- Theoretical 18 channel IMFT PCIE 3D NAND SSD = 18x256Gbit 3D dies
- 40 MB/sec/die x 18 dies = 720 MB/sec
- 18x32GB (die capacity) = 576GB total capacity
Overprovisioning decisions aside, the above would be the lowest capacity product that could fully utilize the Intel PCIe controller. While the write performance is on the low side by PCIe SSD standards, the cost of such a product could easily be in the $0.50/GB range, or even less.
In summary, while we don't have any solid performance data, it appears that Intel's new 3D NAND is not likely to lead to a performance breakthrough in SSD speeds, but their choice on a more cost-effective per-die capacity for their new 3D NAND is likely to give them significant margins and the wiggle room to offer SSDs at a far lower cost/GB than we've seen in recent years. This may be the step that was needed to push SSD costs into a range that can truly compete with HDD technology.