An overview of Thunderbolt Technology
The promise of Thunderbolt connectivity has been around for a couple of years now. Today, Thunderbolt is finally finding its way to the PC platform in the form of motherboards from ASUS and MSI. First unveiled as "Light Peak" at the Intel Developer Forum in 2009, the technology started out as a way to connect multiple devices to a system over a fiber optic cable (hence the 'light' in the name), though the final products have changed the implementation slightly.
The first prototype implementations actually used a USB-style connection and interface. It further required fiber optic cables. When it was renamed to Thunderbolt and then released in conjunction with a new lineup of Apple MacBook laptops, not only did the physical interface move to a mini-DisplayPort connection but the cable was made to use copper rather than fiber. Without diving too far into the reasons and benefits of either direction, the fact is that the copper cables allow for modest power transfer and are much cheaper than fiber optic variants would be.
Thunderbolt's base technology remains the same, however. It is a transfer standard that allows for 10 Gbps of bandwidth for each channel (bi-directional) and concurrently supports both data and display connections. The actual interface for the data path is based on PCI Express and connected devices actually appear to Windows as if they are internally connected to the system which can offer some interesting benefits – and headaches – for hardware developers. The display connection uses the DisplayPort standard and can be used along with the data connection without affecting bandwidth levels or performance.
For current Intel processor implementations, the Thunderbolt connection is supported by a separate controller chip on the motherboard (or a riser card) – and some routing is required for correct usage. The Thunderbolt controller does not actually include a graphics controller, so it must be fed an output from another graphics processor, obviously in this case directly from the Ivy Bridge / Sandy Bridge processors. In theory, these could be from other controllers, but with the ubiquitous nature of integrated processor graphics on IVB and SNB processors, this is going to be the implementation going forward according to motherboard and system designers.
Subject: Storage | June 21, 2012 - 06:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Vertex 4, vertex, ocz, Indilinx
Just in case you didn't believe Al's review of the new OCZ Vertex 4 or because you want to see the difference between the 512GB version he reviewed and the 128GB version that costs a lot less, you can check out what OCIA thinks right here. AS you would expect, the lower capacity results in lower performance thanks to the reduction in the amount of channels but at a tested 511.51MB on Sandra and an IOPS score of 99514 slow is a relative term. If you are going to pick up this drive update to the newest firmware, OCIA tested with 184.108.40.206 and saw a big performance difference from the previous firmware version.
“The Everest 2 platform comes as a result of OCZ’s acquisition of Indilinx in early 2011 but it isn’t the first time we have seen the Indilinx brand stamped on a Vertex drive. The company launched the original Vertex SSD as one of the pioneering flash storage solutions for mainstream users with an Indilinx controller under the hood. OCZ jumped on the SandForce bandwagon with the Vertex 2 and Vertex 3 but have come full circle back to an Indilinx solution with the Vertex 4... well, sort of. But we’ll get to that in just a bit.”
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- OCZ Vertex 4 Solid State Drive @ Benchmark Reviews
- Crucial Adrenaline Cache SSD @ XSReviews
- MyDigitalSSD SMART 256GB mSATA Solid State Drive @ Tweaktown
- Western Digital VelociRaptor 1TB Hard Drive Review @ Hardware Canucks
- MemoRight MS-701 240GB mSATA Solid State Drive @ Kitguru
- Corsair Accelerator Series 30GB Cache SSD @ SSD Review
- MyDigitalSSD SMART Series 256GB SSD @ SSD Review
- Western Digital Scorpio 1TB (9.5mm) review @ Hardware.Info
- OCZ improves Vertex 4 with firmware 1.4 @ Hardware.Info
- Adaptec 6805TQ maxCache RAID controller @ TechwareLabs
- Western Digital Sentinel DX4000 @ TechwareLabs
- StarTech.com USB 3.0 to SATA IDE HDD Docking Station @ AnandTech
- Thecus N5550 5-Bay NAS Review @ eTeknix
- NZXT Aperture M Card Reader @ Kitguru
- NAP Updates Firmware to 3.7 | New Features! @ Computing on Demand
- Synology DiskStation DS412+ @ Legion Hardware
- Seagate GoFlex Satellite @ LanOC Reviews
Subject: Storage | June 21, 2012 - 09:06 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, msata, drobo
I have a warm spot in my heart for Drobo products ever since I spent months trying to break one (unsuccessfully). With that I am now pleased to report on their announcement of two new products.
First is the Drobo 5D, which is basically a 5-bay Drobo S on steroids. It updates the interface to USB 3.0 + Thunderbolt and speeds up IOPS and multi-stream performance by way of an mSATA SSD. The SSD does not take up a drive bay as it is installed beneath a trap door un the bottom of the 5D:
Next up is the Drobo Mini. This little guy carries the same connectivity as the 5D, but is *much* smaller:
The drop in size comes from a change in the form factor of installed storage. It takes up to 4 2.5" form factor drives. Performance should be similar to that of the 5D, primarily based on it also sporting that integrated mSATA port. I suspect the mini will go over very well with the mobile / MacBook / Ultrabook crowd, as being able to carry a small box with large redundant storage is a great idea for mobile workstations.
More to follow as availability will be announced in July. Pricing is expected to be below $650 (thunderbolt cable *included*). Press blast after the break.
Subject: Storage | June 20, 2012 - 11:13 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: Link_a_Media, LAMD, Hynix
First OCZ buys Indilinx, then LSI buys SandForce, and now for another acquisition:
You may recall Link_a_Media devices seemingly coming out of nowhere these past few weeks, releasing an SSD controller present in the new Corsair Neutron Series of devices, and scoring an award at Computex. Even though the new LAMD controller is brand new and largely untested, it has gotten enough traction to be scooped up by a larger company - in this case Hynix. Hynix is a big name in RAM devices. We frequently see Hynix RAM in our SSD reviews, and the parts also appear in much of the shipping DDR3 RAM. More to follow as news continues to flow (and especially once Corsair Neutron reviews start appearing).
Link_a_Media Devices has been around for a while, though not in the SSD market. They have previously made chips integral to Toshiba HDD's.
Press blast after the break.
Subject: Editorial, Storage | June 18, 2012 - 09:56 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: deal of the day, external drive, Hard Drive, buffalo
Today's deal offers us a 2TB version of the Buffalo LinkStation Live, a NAS device (network attached storage) that allows users to easily backup their systems while being able to share the resources on the drive at the same time.
The Buffalo LinkStation Live series of drives allows you to access the NAS through Android and iOS applications over the web, supports transfer rates as high as 1 Gbps, is Apple Time Machine compatible and integrates a BitTorrent client too. A copy of NovaBACKUP Professional is included for users to install and setup easy, automated PC backups. And you can use the LinkStation Live as a DLNA media server to boot.
Today, LogicBuy has a deal on this unit for $135 with free shipping, using a coupon code found in the product's description.
Subject: Storage | June 14, 2012 - 06:28 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: corsair, toggle NAND, IMFT NAND, performance series, Marvell 9174
Corsair's 256GB Performance Pro SSD is the member of the Performance series which utilizes Toshiba Toggle NAND and the Marvell 9174 controller. At $340 it is a little more expensive than some other comparable drives, however that may be well deserved for after their testing [H]ard|OCP put this drive in the same category as the Intel 520 in general performance. In fact during some tests they found it to be faster than the lauded Intel SSD, which is no mean feat. That performance, along with a solid three year warranty helped Corsair pick up a Silver Award from [H].
"Today we review the 256GB Corsair Performance Pro SSD. Corsair provides enthusiasts with both sides of the SSD controller coin by offering both Marvell and SandForce controlled SSDs in its product lines. Today we will take a look at the Marvell powered 256GB SSD and the Toshiba Toggle NAND that Corsair has chosen for it."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- A quick look at Thunderbolt on the PC @ The Tech Report
- 240 GB Intel 520 Series Solid State Drive @ TechARP
- OCZ Petrol 128 GB Solid State Drive @ X-bit Labs
- Kingston SSDNow V+200 vs Zalman F-Series 60 GB SSD Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB SSD Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Kingmax SMP35 Client 480 GB Solid State Drive @ X-bit Labs
- ADATA XPG SX900 (128GB) Review: Maximizing SandForce Capacity @ AnandTech
- MyDigitalSSD Releases BP3 and Smart mSATA SSDs - High Performance Low Price and Both SATA 3 @ SSD Review
- Western Digital VelociRaptor 1TB 10K RPM Hard Disk @ Tweaktown
- WD VelociRaptor 1TB and Scorpio Blue 500GB @ SPCR
- LaCie 2big NAS review: a solid NAS @ Hardware.Info
- RaidSonic ICY BOX IB-120CL-U3 HDD Docking & Clone Station Review @ NikKTech
Subject: Storage | June 13, 2012 - 10:08 PM | Allyn Malventano
In case some of you are fans of the Samsung 830 Series SSDs (like I am), you'll be pleased to see this litle tidbit over at iFixit:
Now that just says Samsung on the parts, and Samsung makes more than an 830 Series, but all of their other series are 3Gb/sec SATA and below. For further confirmation, here's a quick clip from my review of the 830 Series:
(particular interest on the controller part numbers - in that they are identical)
I see this as great news for the new MacBooks. The more devices those 830 Series SSDs get put into, the better.
Subject: Storage | June 12, 2012 - 08:50 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, neutron, LAMD, corsair, computex
Last week during Computex, Corsair jointly announced a new SSD to their lineup. Their partnership was with Link_A_Media Devices (LAMD), and the new Corsair Neutron Series scooped up Tom Hardware's "Best of Computex 2012" award:
The LAMD press blast for this event included some additional technical specs:
- SATA 6G host interface
- 8 NAND channels, up to 4CE per channel
- Support for 2y-nm and 1x-nm NAND Flash from all major Flash vendors
- ONFi 2.3, Toggle Mode 1 and Legacy NAND interfaces
- Proprietary endurance improving eBoostTM technology
- End-to-end user data path protection
- Strong BCH ECC capability with area/power efficient decoder architecture
- Enterprise-class proven firmware for NAND management and data transport operations
- Variable NAND over-provisioning
- Efficient garbage collection and global wear leveling
- RAID/Chipkill technology
- Proven unsolicited power loss management
- Low power design
- S.M.A.R.T. support
- Microsoft® Windows® 7 TRIM support
- Sequential Read: 550 MB/s
- Sequential Write: 550 MB/s
- Random Read (4KB): 90K IOPS
- Random Write (4KB): 90K IOPS
What caught my eye was the "Enterprise-class proven firmware" part. If this is LAMD's first entry to market, how can they possibly have 'proven' anything, especially in the enterprise sector? If it wasn't for the lack of compression, I'd be inclined to think this was some sort of re-brand of SandForce tech. Clearly this is something to remain curious about as more information is disclosed.
Full press blast after the break.
ioSafe: Introduction and Internals
Cloud storage is all the talk these days, and our own Tim Verry has been hard at work detailing as much of it as he can keep up with. While all of us at PCPer currently use cloud based solutions for many of the day-to-day goings on, it's not for everyone, and it tends to not be for very large chunks of data, either. Sometimes local storage is just the way to go – especially when you want to be the one in absolute control of the reliability and integrity of your data.
The general rule for proper backups is to have your local copy, a local backup (RAID is *not* a backup), and an additional off-site backup to cover things like theft, fires or floods. So lets say you simply have too much sensitive data for your internet connection to support bulk transferring to an off-side / cloud storage location. Perhaps the cloud storage for that much space is simply cost prohibitive, or your data is sensitive enough that – despite encryption – you don't want it leaving your network and/or premesis? Perhaps you're just stubborn and want only one backup of your data? I think I might have the answer you've been looking for – behold the ioSafe SoloPRO:
What is this thing, you may ask? On the inside it's one of the available 1, 2, 3, or even 4TB 3.5" hard drives. On the outside it's a very durable and solid steel enclosure. The hard drive is wrapped in a thermally conductive yet water resistant 'HydroSafe' foil that enables water resistance rated at a 10 ft depth for 3 days with no data loss. The bonus, however, is not the water resistance - that featuer is present primarily to battle the side effects of something much more drastic - the ioSafe is fire-proof. That feature comes from what sits between the steel casing and the shrink wrapped hard drive - something ioSafe calls a DataCast (pictured below):
I'm going to break from my normal warranty voiding and show a photo from this past Storage Visions conference at the Consumer Electonics Show, where an ioSafe was already cracked open for our viewing pleasure:
Subject: Storage | June 5, 2012 - 01:07 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, sandisk, pcie, enterprise, computex
Just over a month back we took a look at the Intel SSD 910 Series PCIe SSD. While the specs and performance were excellent, there were some factors preventing use in workstation systems - namely the prohibitive cost and lack of a Boot ROM. With that, it seems SanDisk has made an attempt to answer that call. Today at Computex they announced a new PCIe Enterprise SSD, the PCIe Lightning:
This is a much simpler layout, with flash right alongside the controller - an option not possible with the multi-PCB Intel 910 Series as it contained much more flash on its daughter boards. With this simpler layout comes lower cost but unfortunately lower maximum capacities. Less complexity also means lower maximum specs, but they still look quite good given the price point this card will be filling:
- Price: $1350 (200GB) / $2350 (400GB)
- 4k 70/30 R/W split: 23,000 IOPS
- Sequential Throughput: 425 MB/sec
- Warranty: 5 Year
- Endurance: 10 full-drive writes per day for warranty duration
I'm glad to see some good PCIe SSD competition cropping up - especially the bootable kind.
Get notified when we go live!