Subject: Storage | August 12, 2013 - 09:00 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, silicon motion, sata, controller
You may very well have never heard of Silicon Motion (SMI), a major priducer of flash memory controllers, even if you've followed the SSD industry for a while. This is primarily because the vast majority of their products have been tailored for the devices that folks tend to not crack open during review, namely USB memory sticks, eMMC devices, and SD / CF cards:
Creating controllers in those arenas will tend to force a company to do a few things very well:
- Handle a very limited number of flash channels with the greatest speed possible, due to packaging requirements for very small devices.
- Operate at the lowest power draw possible as to meet the current draw limits of the host interface.
This has resulted in SMI developing a 6Gb/sec SSD controller, dubbed the SM2246EN, using the above techniques:
The block diagram shows what appears to be a fairly standard 4-channel configuration, though there are fewer steps in the pipeline as compared to SandForce and other controllers, which should help decrease latency and improve efficiency. There is also no compression engine, which means power consumption should be further reduced.
Read on for further details on specs and power consumption, followed by the full press blast.
500GB on the go
Corsair seems to have its fingers in just about everything these days so why not mobile storage, right? The Voyager Air a multi-function device that Corsair calls as "portable wireless drive, home network drive, USB drive, and wireless hub." This battery powered device is meant to act as a mobile hard drive for users that need more storage on the go including PCs and Macs as well as iOS and Android users.
The Voyager Air can also act as a basic home NAS device with a Gigabit Ethernet connection on board for all the computers on your local network. And if you happen to have DLNA ready Blu-ray players or TVs nearby, they can access the video and audio stored on the Voyager Air as well.
Available in either red or black, with 500GB and 1TB capacities, the Voyager Air is slim and sleek, meant to be seen not hidden in a closet.
The front holds the power switch and WiFi on/off switch as well as back-lit icons to check for power, battery life and connection status.
Subject: Storage | July 31, 2013 - 05:34 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: diablo technologies, DIMM, nand, flash memory, memory channel storage
Ottawa-based Diablo Technologies unveiled a new flash storage technology yesterday that it calls Memory Channel Storage. As the name suggest, the storage technology puts NAND flash into a DIMM form factor and interfaces the persistent storage directly with the processor via the integrated memory controller.
The Memory Channel Storage (MCS) is a drop-in replacement for DDR3 RDIMMs (Registered DIMMs) in servers and storage arrays. Unlike DRAM, MCS is persistent storage backed by NAND flash and it can allow servers to have Terabytes of storage connected to the CPU via the memory interface instead of mere Gigabytes of DRAM acting as either system memory or block storage. The photo provided in the technology report (PDF) shows a 400GB MCS module that can slot into a standard DIMM slot, for example.
Diablo Technologies claims that MCS exhibits lower latencies and higher bandwidth than PCI-E and SATA SSDs. More importantly, the storage latency is predictable and consistent, making it useful for applications such as high frequency stock trading where speed and deterministic latency are paramount. Further, users can get linear increases in throughput with each additional Memory Channel Storage module added to the system. Latencies with MCS are as much as 85% lower with PCI-E SSDs and 96% lower than SAS/SATA SSDs according to Diablo Technologies. NAND flash maintenance such as wear leveling is handled via an on-board logic chip.
Diablo Technologies is also aiming the MCS technology at servers running big data analytics, massive cloud databases, financial applications, server virtualization, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). MCS can act as super fast local storage or as a local cache for external (such as networked) storage in the form of mechanical hard drives or SSDs.
Some details about Memory Channel Storage are still unclear, but it looks promising. It will not be quite as fast in random access as DRAM but it will be better (more bandwidth, lower latency) than both PCI-E and SATA-connected NAND flash-based SSDs. It would be awesome to see this kind of tech make its way to consumer systems so that I can have a physical RAMDisk with fast persistent storage (at least as far as form factor, MCS uses NAND not DRAM chips).
The full press release can be found here.
Subject: Storage | July 28, 2013 - 11:13 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ssd, raidr express, raidr, pci-e ssd, ASUS ROG, asus
ASUS has officially launched its PCI-E based ROG RAIDR Express SSD which was first shown off at CES 2013. The company posted details and high resolution photos on its Republic of Gamers blog on Friday.
The new PCI-E-based solid state drive measures 157 x 120 x 20mm and contains 240GB of NAND flash encased in a sleek metal Replublic Of Gamers themed exterior. Specifically, the RAIDR Express uses 19nm Toshiba synchronous MLC NAND flash and two LSI SandForce 2281 SSD controllers. As such, the drive is actually two SSDs that are placed in a RAID 0 configuration for the best performance. ASUS rates the drive at 830 MB/s sequential reads and 810 MB/s sequential writes. The PCI-E SSD is further capable of up to 100,000 4K random IOPS.
ASUS has also included what it is calling a "DuoMode" BIOS switch that allows the drive to be used with either legacy or modern UEFI BIOSes. When the switch is in the EUFI position, PCs with the modern UEFI-equipped motherboards can boot up faster.
Beyond the RAIDR Express SSD itself, ASUS includes the following bundled software packages:
- RAMDisk software
- HybriDisk caching software
- SSD TweakIT utility
ASUS is including RAMDisk software that is able to use as much as 80% of system RAM as a virtual drive that can be used to reduce wear on the SSD by using the RAM drive instead of the SSD for writing temporary files and the like. The above mentioned HybriDisk software allows the RAIDR Express SSD to be used as a cache drive for mechanical hard drives up to 4TB in capacity. Users can use the TweakIT utility to manage and optimize the SSD, and the CrystalDiskMark benchmark is being included to allow gamers to run benchmarks on the RAIDR Express to get an idea of its performance.
Oddly enough, ASUS has yet to release specific pricing or availability. More information along with the full press release can be found on the Republic of Gamers blog, however.
With that said, some sites are reporting that the RAIDR Express will be sold for around 440 Euros, which works out to about $600 USD or $2.5 per Gigabyte. Update: Commentor Roberto has pointed out that the RAIDR Express 240GB is available over in Japan for around 39,980 Yen, or ~$409 USD which is a much more reasonable price. US availability and pricing are still just estimates at this point, however. A bit on the expensive side (if the price is true) for sure, but it is nice to see another player in the PCI-E SSD space and it looks to be a speedy drive aimed at ROG fans and enthusiasts.
Also read: Details on a 120GB ASUS ROG RAIDR Express SSD @ PC Perspective.
Subject: Storage | July 26, 2013 - 06:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: TurboWrite, tlc, ssd, slc, Samsung, 840 evo, MEX controller
Along with Al's review of the new EVO line you can get a second opinion from The Tech Report about the performance of the new SSD with a fast cache. The majority of the storage is 19nm TLC NAND but there is an SLC cache sitting between the controller and that long term TLC storage to help with the overall responsiveness of the drive, aka TurboWrite. In the 120 and 250GB models that cache is 3GB while in the larger models you get a 6GB cache. In their real world testing the new EVO drive is incredible at large file copying though Sandforce drives can beat it in small file copy speeds, likely thanks to the compressed write trickery that controller family is so good at. Check out the review here and keep your fingers crossed that MSRP is the acual price these drives sell at.
"Samsung's entry-level 840 EVO SSD combines affordable TLC NAND with a server-style SLC cache. We explain the drive's unique buffering tech and explore how it affects performance."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung 840 EVO SSD @ The SSD Review
- Samsung SSD 840 EVO Review: 120GB, 250GB, 500GB, 750GB & 1TB Models Tested @ AnandTech
- Samsung 840 EVO 250GB, 750GB SSD Review @ Custom PC Review
- Samsung 840 Evo SSD @ Hardware.info
- Samsung unveils 840 EVO solid-state drive family @ The Tech Report
- 240GB OCZ Vertex 450 Solid State Drive @ Benchmark Reviews
- Plextor M5M 128GB mSATA SSD Review @ Legit Reviews
- OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB SSD @ eTeknix
- OCZ Vector 512GB SSD @ Kitguru
- RunCore Pro IV 1.8 Inch ZIF SSD @ LanOC Reviews
- Silicon-Power Velox V55 240GB @ Legion Hardware
- Seagate 600 Pro SSD 400GB @ Bjorn3D
- Securely Erasing Your SSD with Linux: A How-To @ Techgage
- Seagate Central 3TB review: User-friendly? @ Hardware.info
- Silicon Power Blaze B20 32GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive @ NikKTech
- USB 3.0 Flash Drive Roundup July 2013 @ Legion Hardware
- Icy Dock FlexCage 2 Bay and 3 Bay Hard Drive Enclosure Review @ HiTech Legion
- Zalman ZM-VE400 USB 3.0 HDD/SSD Enclosure @ Funky Kit
- QNAP TS-421 & QTS 4.0 @ techPowerUp
- Thecus N2520 review: first NAS with Intel Atom CE5315 @ Hardware.info
Subject: Storage | July 26, 2013 - 12:35 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: turbo sshd, sshd, Seagate, nand, enterprise
Earlier this week Seagate took the wraps off of its latest Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD). Dubbed the Enterprise Turbo SSHD, this latest model is aimed at the enterprise server market. The drives combine a traditional 10K SAS mechanical hard drive in capacities up to 600GB with up to 32GB of NAND flash.
The 2.5" Enterprise Turbo SSHDs are aimed at servers with big data analytics, virtual desktops, and transaction processing workloads. The NAND flash acts as a cache for the mechanical hard drive, and caching is done by the controller at an I/O level.
According to Seagate, the company has been working with IBM over the past year to put the new SSHD through its paces. As such, the hybrid drives will first be available in the IBM X and BladeCentral servers. The IBM versions will have 16GB of NAND flash and one year warranties according to the documentation available online.
Seagate further claims up to three times random performance increase versus 15K SAS mechanical hard drives. The 600GB 10K SSHD is rated to have up to two times better IOPS than a traditional 10K SAS hard drive without a NAND cache.
The Enterprise Turbo also comes with enterprise-friendly drive self encryption options. The Seagate product page notes that the Enterprise Turbo SSHD will have a five year warranty. Pricing and detailed benchmarks are not yet available though some preliminary performance results can be found here.
The full press release can be found here.
Introduction and Specifications
Last week, Samsung flew a select group of press out to Seoul, Korea. The event was the 2013 Samsung Global SSD Summit. Here we saw the launch of a new consumer SSD, the 840 EVO:
This new SSD aims to replace the older 840 (non-Pro) model with one that is considerably more competitive. Let's just right into the specs:
Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 18, 2013 - 04:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, nvidia, HPC, amazon
Adam DeConinck, high performance computing (HPC) systems engineer for NVIDIA, built a personal computer cluster in his spare time. While not exactly high performance, especially when compared to the systems he maintains for Amazon and his employer, its case is made of Lego and seems to be under a third of a cubic foot in volume.
Image source: NVIDIA Blogs
Raspberry Pi is based on a single-core ARM CPU bundled on an SoC with a 24 GFLOP GPU and 256 or 512 MB of memory. While this misses the cutesy point of the story, I am skeptical of the expected 16W power rating. Five Raspberry Pis, with Ethernet, draw a combined maximum of 17.5W, alone, and even that neglects the draw of the networking switch. My, personal, 8-port unmanaged switch is rated to draw 12W which, when added to 17.5W, is not 16W and thus something is being neglected or averaged. Then again, his device, power is his concern.
Despite constant development and maintenance of interconnected computers, professionally, Adam's will for related hobbies has not been displaced. Even after the initial build, he already plans to graft the Hadoop framework and really reign in the five ARM cores for something useful...
... but, let's be honest, probably not too useful.
Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 18, 2013 - 02:29 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: nand, micron, flash, 16nm
Micron recently announced that is has begun sampling 16nm NAND flash to select partners. Micron expects to begin full production of the NAND chips using the smaller flash manufacturing process in the fourth quarter of this year (Q4 2013). Drives based on its new 16nm MLC NAND flash are expected to arrive as early as next year. (PC Perspective's own storage expert is currently overseas, but I managed to reach out over email to get some clarification, and his thoughts, on the Micron annuoncement.)
The announcement relates to new NAND flash that is smaller, but not necessarily faster, than the existing 20nm and 25nm flash chips used in current solid state drives. In the end, Micron is still delivering 128Gb (Gigabit) per die, but using a 16nm process. The 16nm flash is a pure shrink of 20nm which is, in turn, a shrink of 25nm flash. In fact, Micron is able to get just under 6 Terabytes of storage out of a single 300mm wafer. These wafers are then broken down into dies in individual flash chips that are used in all manner of solid state storage devices from smartphone embedded storage to desktop SSDs. This 16nm flash still delivers 128Gb --which is 16GB-- per die allowing for a 128GB SSD using as few as eight chips.
A single 16nm NAND flash die with a SSD in the background
Micron expects the 16nm MLC (multi-level cell) flash to be used in consumer SSDs, USB thumb drives, mobile devices, and cloud storage.
The 16nm process will allow Micron to get more storage out of the same sized wafer (300mm) used for current processes, which in theory should mean flash memory that is not only smaller, but (in theory) cheaper.
A single wafer of 16nm NAND flash (just under 6TBs)
As Allyn further notes, the downside to the new 16nm NAND flash is a reduction in the number of supported PE cycles. Micron has not released specific information on this, but the new 16nm MLC flash is expected to have fewer than 1,000 P/E cycles. For comparison, 25nm and 20nm flash has P/E cycles of 3,000 and 1,000 respectively.
In simple terms, P/E (program-erase) cycles relate to the number of times that a specific portion of flash memory can be written to before wearing out. SSD manufacturers were able to work around this with the transition from 25nm to 20nm and still deliver acceptable endurance on consumer drives, and I expect that similar techniques will be used to do the same for 16nm flash. For example, manufactuers could enable compression that is used prior to writing out the data to the physical flash or over-provisioning the actual hardware versus the reported software capacity (ie a drive sold as a 100GB model that actually has 128GB of physical flash).
I don't think it will be a big enough jump that typical consumers wil have to worry too much about this, considering the vast majority of operations will be read operations and not writes. Despite the reduction in P/E cycles, SSDs with 16nm NAND MLC flash will still likely out-last a typical mechanical hard drive.
What do you think about the Micron announcement?
The full press release can be found below:
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