Subject: Editorial, Storage | June 17, 2014 - 09:56 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: sandisk, fusion-io, buyout
Fusion-io was once a behemoth of flash memory storage. Back when SSDs were having a hard time saturating SATA 3Gb/sec, Fusion-io was making fire breathing PCIe SSDs full of SLC flash and pushing relatively insane IOPS and throughput figures. Their innovations were a good formula at the time. They made the controller a very simple device, basically just a simple bridge from the PCIe bus to the flash memory. This meant that most of the actual work was done in the driver. This meant that Fusion-io SSDs were able to leverage the CPU and memory of the host system to achieve very high performance.
Fusion-io ioDrive 160 creams the competition back in 2010.
Being the king of IOPS back in the early days of flash memory storage, Fusion-io was able to charge a premium for their products. In a 2010 review, I priced their 160GB SSD at about $40/GB. In the years since, while flash memory prices (and therefore SSD products) have steadily dropped in price while achieving higher and higher performance figures, Fusion-io products have mostly remained static in price. All of this time, the various iterations of the ioDrive continued to bank on the original model of a simple controller and the bulk of the work taking place in the driver. This actually carries a few distinct disadvantages, in that the host system has to spent a relatively large amount of CPU and memory resources towards handling the Fusion-io devices. While this enables higher performance, it leaves less resources available to actually do stuff with the data. This ends up adding to the build cost of a system, as more CPU cores and memory must be thrown at the chassis handling the storage. In more demanding cases, additional systems would need to be added to the rack space in order to handle the additional storage overhead in addition to the other required workloads. Lastly, the hefty driver means Fusion-io devices are not bootable, despite early promises to the contrary. This isn't necessarily a deal breaker for enterprise use, but it does require system builders to add an additional storage device (from a different vendor) to handle OS duties.
In 2014, the other guys are making faster stuff. Note this chart is 4x the scale of the 2010 chart.
Lets fast forward to present times. Just over a week ago, Fusion-io announced their new 'Atomic' line of SSDs. The announcement seemed to fall flat, and did little to save the continuous decline of their stock price. I suspect this was because despite new leadership, these new products are just another iteration of the same resource consuming formula. Another reason for the luke warm reception might have been the fact that Intel launched their P3700 series a few days prior. The P3700 is a native PCIe SSD that employs the new NVM Express communication standard. This open standard was developed specifically for flash memory communication, and it allows more direct access to flash in a manner that significantly reduces the overhead required to perform high data throughputs and very high IO's per second. NVMe is a very small driver stack with native support built into modern operating systems, and is basically the polar opposite of the model Fusion-io has relied on for years now.
Intel's use of NVMe enables very efficient access to flash memory with minimal CPU overhead.
Fusion-io's announcement claimed "The Atomic Series of ioMemory delivers the highest transaction rate per gigabyte for everything from read intensive workflows to mixed workloads.". Let's see how this stacks up against the Intel P3700 - an SSD that launched the same week:
|Model||Fusion-io PX600||Intel P3700|
|Interface / Flash type||PCIe 2.0 x8 / 20nm MLC||PCIe 3.0 x4 / 20nm MLC|
|Read BW (GB/sec)||2.7||2.7||2.7||2.7||2.7||2.8||2.8||2.8|
|Write BW (GB/sec)||1.5||1.7||2.2||2.1||1.2||1.9||1.9||1.9|
|4k random read IOPS||196,000||235,000||330,000||276,000||450,000||460,000||450,000||450,000|
|4k random write IOPS||320,000||370,000||375,000||375,000||75,000||90,000||150,000||175,000|
|4k 70/30 R/W IOPS||Unlisted||150,000||200,000||240,000||250,000|
|Endurance / TB||12.0||12.3||12.3||12.3||18.3||18.3||18.3||18.3|
|Warranty||5 years||5 years|
We are comparing flagship to flagship (in a given form factor) here. Starting from the top, the Intel P3700 is available in generally smaller capacities than the Fusion-io PX600. Both use 20nm flash, but the P3700 uses half the data lanes at twice the throughput. Regarding Fusion-io's 'transaction rate per GB' point, well, it's mostly debunked by the Intel P3700, which has excellent random read performance all the way down to its smallest 400GB capacity point. The seemingly unreal write specs seen from the PX600 are, well, actually unreal. Flash memory writes take longer than reads, so the only logical explanation for the inversion we see here is that Fusion-io's driver is passing those random writes through RAM first. Writing to RAM might be quicker, but you can't sustain it indefinitely, and it consumes more host system resources in the process. Moving further down the chart, we see Intel coming in with a ~50% higher endurance rating when compared to the Fusion-io. The warranties may be of equal duration, but the Intel drive is (on paper / stated warranty) guaranteed to outlast the Fusion-io part when used in a heavy write environment.
For pricing, Intel launched the P3700 at a competitive $3/GB. Pricing data for Fusion-io is not available, as they are behind a bit of a 'quote wall', and no pricing at all was included with the Atomic product launch press materials. Let's take a conservative guess and assume the new line is half the cost/GB of their previous long-standing flagship, the Octal. One vendor lists pricing directly at $124,995 for 10.24TB ($12.21/GB) and $99,995 for 5.12TB ($19.53/GB), both of which require minumum support contracts as an additional cost. Half of $12/GB is still more than twice the $3/GB figure from Intel.
My theory as to why SanDisk is going for Fusion-io?
- A poor track record since the Fusion-io IPO have driven the stock price way down, making it prime for a buyout.
- SanDisk is one of the few remaining flash memory companies that does not own their own high end controller tech.
- Recent Fusion-io product launch overshadowed by much larger (Intel) company launching a competing superior product at a lower cost/GB.
So yeah, the buyout seemed inevitable. The question that remains is what will SanDisk do with them once they've bought them? Merging the two will mean that Fusion-io can include 'in house' flash and (hopefully) offer their products at a lower cost/GB, but that can only succeed if the SanDisk flash performs adequately. Assuming it does, there's still the issue of relatively high costs when compared to freshly competing products from Intel and others. Last but not least is the ioDrive driver model, which grows incresingly dated while the rest of the industry adopts NVMe.
Subject: General Tech, Storage | June 17, 2014 - 01:38 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ssd, Samsung 840, Samsung, kingston hyper x, kingston, endurance, corsair neutron gtx, corsair
In The Tech Report's ongoing SSD endurance challenge, three SSDs are soldiering forward. We have reached the thousand-terabyte mark, which is at least five times more than any of the survivors are rated for. These survivors: The Corsair Neutron GTX, the Samsung 840 Pro, and the Kingston HyperX 3K. Technically, the HyperX was able to reach 1PB of written data with performing only 716TB of actual writes, due to compression.
Image Credit: The Tech Report
Of course, each of the drives are less-than prestine. The Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB was slowly decreasing in its "life" attribute since the beginning, claiming to be somewhere between 75% and 80% with a fairly linear decline. If this trend continues, the drive will reach "zero" at around 4-5PB of writes. That said, its read speed has substantially dropped from the time between 900TB and 1000TB of total writes, from 500MB/s to just under 400MB/s. Also, this "life" could drop substantially if the drive encounters reallocated sectors (which this model has apparently yet to do).
The other two drives are a similar, remarkably successful story.
The Kingston HyperX drive is reporting itself to be substantially worse off, within the last 10% of its life. That said, even though it claims to be pining for the fjords, it is still working and has only reported a couple of reallocated sectors, those occurring in the last 100TB of writes.
The Samsung 840 Pro seems to still be going strong, although it had more zero or "a couple" of reallocated sectors -- every hundred terabytes yields about 500 reallocations.
As always, this is just our brief discussion of what The Tech Report found out. Be sure to check out their full article for many more benchmarks, tests, and conclusions.
Subject: General Tech, Storage, Mobile | June 16, 2014 - 01:54 AM | Scott Michaud
CFast is a standard, based on the merging of CompactFlash with SATA, for memory cards to have SSD-like performance. It has been around for a while, CFast 2.0 having been released in Q4 2012, but with very limited adoption. You could count the number of camera models which use it on a single hand. Still, ADATA is entering that market with a lineup of memory cards, with quite a bit of variety.
The ADATA ISC3E will come in SLC (one stored bit per memory cell) and MLC (two stored bits per memory cell) models. Capacities will range from 4GB to 64GB (SLC) or 4GB to 128GB (MLC). Speeds are fairly low, compared to modern SSDs. SLC is rated at 165 MB/s read and 170 MB/s write, while MLC can read at 435 MB/s and write at 120 MB/s. They support ECC and S.M.A.R.T.
Of course, this is kind-of interesting in terms of its small, removable form factor. Beyond that, it seems to be a few years back in terms of SSD technology. For the high resolution (or high frame rate) camera use case, read and write speeds really do not matter, except when you transfer your media off of your device (which the MLC version is clearly better suited for). Otherwise, as long as your write speed is consistently above what the camera can output, going bigger will be wasted overhead. ADATA suggests using these CFast 2.0 cards in POS terminals and kiosks but, at that point, would you really need small and removable memory?
ADATA has not released pricing and availability.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
You might not expect it from who was originally an optical drive company, but Plextor has been cranking out SSDs for a while now. We will be taking a look at the recent wave of releases from Plextor, starting with the M6M:
Let's dive right in. Read on for our full review!
For a mere $100 you can pick up the 256GB model or for $200 you can double that to 512GB. That certainly makes the drives attractive but the performance is there as well, often beating its predecessor the MX500 series. If reliability is a concern the onboard RAIN feature guards against writes to bad flash, there are onboard capacitors to allow writes to finish in the case of power outages and a 3 year warranty. Check out the full review at The Tech Report if you need a second opinion after Allyn's review.
"The Crucial MX100 is the first solid-state drive to use Micron's 16-nm MLC NAND. It's also one of the most affordable SSDs around, with the 256GB version priced at $109.99 and the 512GB at $224.99. We take a closer look at how the two stack up against a range of competitors, and the results might surprise you."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Crucial MX100 Solid State Drive @ Benchmark Reviews
- Toshiba Q Series Pro 256GB SSD @ NikKTech
- Samsung 845DC EVO @ SSD Review
- OCZ Vertex 460 240GB Review @ OCC
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB PCIe SSD Review @ Legit Reviews
- Vantec EZ SWAP M3500 Series Review @HiTech Legion
- Netgear ReadyNAS RN312, RN314 & RN316 @ Legion Hardware
- Thecus N4560 SOHO/Home NAS Server Review @ Madshrimps
- Thecus N7710-G @ techPowerUp
- ADATA XPG SDXC UHS-1 U3 Card @ The SSD Review
Subject: General Tech, Memory, Storage | June 9, 2014 - 11:08 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: kingston, ssd, hyperx
Kingston, known primarily for RAM, flash drives, and SSDs, discussed the health of their company. VR-Zone reported on the interview and highlighted the company's sentiments about the PC industry. Long story short, Kingston sees growth in sales of PC gaming hardware -- apparently 20% year-over-year. The company expects that this growth comes primarily from SSD upgrades, either from rotating media or, they claim, replacing years-old, entry-level SSDs with more modern (probably in both speed and size) options.
Nathan Su, APAC (Asia-Pacific) director of Kingston, believes that "many users" have experienced low-tier SSDs and, it seems, would be willing to invest in the full thing. He does not clarify what he means, whether he is talking about SSD caching, or just a really small (or slow) SSDs from drive generations past.
There is a bit of a concern that SSD prices will continue to fall, with some drives reaching under 40c/GB in recent sales. As a consumer, I (selfishly) hope that prices continue to drop, while still remaining profitably sustainable for the manufacturers. Hopefully Kingston is accounting for this and will continue to see growth at the same time.
Subject: General Tech, Storage | June 4, 2014 - 07:37 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: computex 2014, computex, tlc, ssd, Samsung, 845DC EVO
Well that was an alphabet soup of a title.
Samsung has just announced a new line of SSDs, based on three bit per cell (TLC) memory, for enterprise customers. The Samsung 845DC EVO is rated at 530MB/s reads with 87,000 IOPS. The company will also cover up to 600TB of writes under its warranty (no mention of length in years, though). The drive will be available "later this month" in 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB models. Samsung did not mention price in their press release, but Anandtech claims the 240GB will be $250, the 480GB will be $490, and the 960GB will be $969.
Samsung's SSDs will give you some TLC???
This is basically $1/GB scaling, plus $10. I must admit, this is getting pricy. In the consumer space, we have recently seen 512GB for $199. That said, SSDs are not known for sticking to their MSRP. Also, these are enterprise-rated drives. Being TLC-based, I wonder how much (if any) SLC-style write cache was included, as per the consumer 840 EVO.
Lastly, Samsung claims that these drives use around 4W under load. This is much lower than hard drives but a little high for SSDs, according to benchmarks that I have seen. That said, there are a few ways to parse that (for example, if they mean that its peak is typically 4W, which would be pretty good for a 960GB drive).
The Samsung 845DC EVO will be available later this month for a little over $1/GB.
Subject: Memory, Storage | June 4, 2014 - 11:15 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: ssd, solid state drive, pcie, pci-e ssd, memory, M.2, ddr4, computex 2014, computex, adata, 2tb ssd
ADATA has been showing off some upcoming products at Computex, and it's all about DRAM.
We'll begin with an upcoming line of PCIe Enterprise/Server SSDs powered by the SandForce SF3700-series controller. We've been waiting for products with the SF3700 controller since January, when ADATA showed a prototype board at CES, and ADATA is now showcasing the controller in the "SR1020" series drives.
The first is a 2TB 2.5" drive, but the interface was not announced (and the sample on the floor appeared to be an empty shell). The listed specs are performance up to 1800MB/s and 150K IOPS, with the drive powered by the SF-3739 controller. Support for both AHCI and NVMe is also listed, along with the usual TRIM, NCQ, and SMART support.
Another 2TB SSD was shown with exactly the same specs as the 2.5" version, but this one is built on the M.2 spec. The drive will connect via 4 lanes of Gen 2 PCI Express. Both drives in ADATA's SR1020 PCIe SSD lineup will be available in capacities from 240GB - 2TB, and retail pricing and availability is forthcoming.
Continuing the DRAM theme, ADATA also showed new DDR4 modules in commodity and enthusiast flavors. Both of the registered DIMMs on display (an ultra-low profile DIMM was also shown) had standard DDR4 specs of 2133MHz at 1.2V, but ADATA also showed some performance DDR4 at their booth.
A pair of XPG Z1 DDR4 modules in action
No pricing or availability just yet on these products.
Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | June 3, 2014 - 03:37 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: computex, computex 2014, WD, ssd, pcie, SATA Express, hdd
SATA Express is an interface to either connect a hard drive to PCIe lanes, or up to two drives via SATA. Obviously, PCIe bandwidth over a cable connection is the real draw. To use the full speed, however, the drive needs to be able to communicate over PCIe. Currently, the standard uses two PCI Express 2.0 lanes (1 GB/s).
Now that Z97 and H97 have launched, WD is set to show off the technology at Computex. The above image is apparently of a dual-drive product, containing 4TB of rotating media and 128GB of SSD memory. I am immediately reminded of the Western Digital Black2 dual drive which Allyn reviewed last November. That product crammed a 120GB SSD into a 2.5" 1TB HDD, which appeared to the system as two separate drives. The drive has "Technology Demonstration" written in red font right on it, but it could be a good representation of what the company is thinking about.
WD also asserts that their prototype uses standard AHCI drivers, for OS compatibility.
If you want to see this product in action, then -- well -- you kind-of need to be at Computex. At some point, you might be able to see it in your own PC. When? How much? No pricing and availability, again, because it is a tech demo.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Intel has a nasty habit of releasing disruptive technology, especially in the area of computer storage. Among the first of those releases was the X25-M, which was groundbreaking to say the least. At a time where most other SATA SSDs were just stopgap attempts to graft flash memory to a different interface, Intel's SATA SSD was really the first true performer.
With performance in the bag, Intel shifted their attention to reducing the cost of their products. The next few generations of the Intel line was coupled with leadership in die shrinks. This all came together in the form of SSD releases of increasingly reduced cost. Sure the enterprise parts retained a premium, but the consumer parts generally remained competitive.
Now Intel appears to have once again shifted their attention to performance, and we know it has been in the works for a while now. With the SATA bottleneck becoming increasingly apparent, big changes needed to me made. First, SATA, while fine for relatively high latency HDD's, was just never meant for SSD speeds. As SSD performance increased, the latencies involved with the interface overhead (translating memory-based addresses into ATA style commands) becomes more and more of a burden.
The solution is to not only transition to PCIe, but to do so using a completely new software and driver interface, called NVM Express. NVMe has been in the works for a while, and offers some incredible benefits in that it essentially brings the flash memory closer to the CPU. The protocol was engineered for the purpose of accessing flash memory as storage, and doing so as fast and with the least latency as possible. We hadn't seen any true NVMe products hit the market, until today, that is:
Behold the Intel SSD DC P3700!