The Connector Formerly Known as SFF-8639 - Now Called U.2

Subject: Storage | June 8, 2015 - 04:04 PM |
Tagged: U.2, ssd, SFF-8639, pcie, NVMe, Intel, computex 2015, computex

Intel has announced that the SSD Form Factor Working Group has finally come up with a name to replace the long winded SFF-8639 label currently applied to 2.5" devices that connect via PCIe.

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As Hardwarezone peeked in the above photo, the SFF-8639 connector will now be called U.2 (spoken 'U dot 2'). This appropriately corresponds with the M.2 connector currently used in portable and small form factor devices today, just with a new letter before the dot.

U.2-M.2.jpg

An M.2 NVMe PCIe device placed on top of a U.2 NVMe PCIe device.

Just as how the M.2 connector can carry SATA and PCIe signaling, the U.2 connector is an extension of the SATA / SAS standard connectors:

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Not only are there an additional 7 pins between the repurposed SATA data and power pins, there are an additional 40 pins on the back side. These can carry up to PCIe 3.0 x4 to the connected device. Here is what those pins look like on a connector itself:

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Further details about the SFF-8639 / U.2 connector can be seen in the below slide, taken from the P3700 press briefing:

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With throughputs of up to 4 GB/sec and the ability to employ the new low latency NVMe protocol, the U.2 and M.2 standards are expected to quickly overtake the need for SATA Express. An additional look at the U.2 standard (then called SFF-8639), as well as a means of adapting from M.2 to U.2, can be found in our Intel SSD 750 Review.

Source: Hardwarezone
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: SSD 750, pcie, NVMe, IOPS, Intel

It's been a while since we reviewed Intel's SSD 750 PCIe NVMe fire-breathing SSD, and since that launch we more recently had some giveaways and contests. We got the prizes in to be sent out to the winners, but before that happened, we had this stack of hardware sitting here. It just kept staring down at me (literally - this is the view from my chair):

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That stack of 5 Intel SSD 750’s was burning itself into my periphery as I worked on an upcoming review of the new Seiki Pro 40” 4K display. A few feet in the other direction was our CPU testbed machine, an ASUS X99-Deluxe with a 40-lane Intel Core i7-5960 CPU installed. I just couldn't live with myself if we sent these prizes out without properly ‘testing’ them first, so then this happened:

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This will not be a typical complete review, as this much hardware in parallel is not realistically comparable to even the craziest power user setup. It is more just a couple of hours of playing with an insane hardware configuration and exploring the various limits and bottlenecks we were sure to run into. We’ll do a few tests in a some different configurations and let you know what we found out.

Continue reading for the results of our little experiment!

Computex 2015: Kingston microDuo 3C USB Type-C Flash Drive

Subject: Storage | June 3, 2015 - 09:15 AM |
Tagged: usb type-c, microDuo 3C, kingston, flash drive, computex 2015

Kingston has announced a new high-speed USB flash drive with the new Type-C connector, and the dual-interface drive also works with standard USB Type-A devices.

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The microDuo 3C offers read speeds up to 100MB/s and 15MB/s writes for the 32GB and 64GB models, with write speeds of 10MB/s on the 16GB version.

Specifications from Kingston:

  • Capacities: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB
  • Speed: USB 3.13
  • 16GB: 100MB/s read, 10MB/s write
  • 32GB & 64GB: 100MB/s read, 15MB/s write
  • Dimensions : 29.94mm x 16.60mm x 8.44mm
  • Warranty / Support : Five-year warranty with free technical support
  • Pricing was not revealed, but the drive will ship later this month so we will find out soon.

    Source: Kingston

    Computex 2015: Micron Announces 16nm TLC For Consumer SSDs

    Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2015 - 11:47 PM |
    Tagged: tlc, ssd, micron, flash, computex 2015, computex, 16nm

    Chugging right along that TechInsights Flash Roadmap we saw last year, Micron has announced the TLC extension to their 16nm flash memory process node.

    Micron Roadmap.png

    While 16nm TLC was initially promised Q4 of 2014, I believe Micron distracted themselves a little with their dabbles into Dynamic Write Acceleration technology. No doubt wanting to offer ever more cost effective SSDs to their portfolio, the new TLC 16nm flash will take up less die space for the same capacity, meaning more dies per 300mm wafer, ultimately translating to lower cost/GB of consumer SSDs.

    micron_128gb_16nm_nand_flash.jpg

    Micron's 16nm (MLC) flash

    The Crucial MX200 and BX100 SSDs have already been undercutting the competition in cost/GB, so the possibility of even lower cost SSDs is a more than welcome idea - just so long as they can keep the reliability of these parts high enough. IMFT has a very solid track record in this regard, so I don't suspect any surprises in that regard.

    Full press blast appears after the break.

    Computex 2015: OCZ Trion and Z-Drive 6000, 6300 SSDs Sighted

    Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2015 - 11:18 PM |
    Tagged: Z-Drive 6300, Z-Drive 6000, Trion, ssd, pcie, OCZ Technology, ocz, NVMe, computex 2015, computex

    OCZ is showing off some new goodies at Computex 2015 in the form of a completely new SSD model – the Trion:

    Trion Pic.jpg

    The Trion is based on an in-house Toshiba ‘Alishan’ controller – the first internal design from that company. Since it is sourced from within Toshiba, the new SSD controller is to be tuned for consumer workloads and should employ lower power states than prior OCZ / Indilinx SSD controllers, as well as Toshiba’s own proprietary QSBC (Quadruple Swing-By Code) error correction technology, which should squeeze a bit more usable life out of the A19nm TLC flash. This is what QSBC looks like compared to competing BCH and LDPC technologies:

    QSBC.png

    We suspect Toshiba dialed back the algorithm a bit for client usage, but it should still be far superior to BCH. We don’t have many more details as the Trion has not yet been officially launched, but we do have this shot of a round of benchmark results from a pre-production 960GB model:

    Trion-2.JPG

    From what we can see, it appears to be a good performer (by modern SATA 6Gb/sec SSD standards), but we naturally can't tell anything for sure until we get samples in for local testing, as we have no idea of the state of preconditioning of the Trion in those tests.

    Also on display were the recently launched Z-Drive 6000 and 6300 Series parts:

    ZDrive6000.jpg

    ZDrive 6300 pic1.jpg

    These are OCZ’s enterprise-grade NVMe devices, available in 800GB, 1.6TB, and 3.2TB. The 6000 series is a 2.5” 15mm SFF-8639 device aimed at lighter workloads with a rating of 1 Drive Write Per Day (DWPD) over a 5-year period, while the 6300 series brings that figure up to 3 DWPD and offers an HHHL PCIe card as an optional form factor. The higher writes per day are facilitated by the move to A19nm eMLC flash.

    We’ll be keeping a close eye on these new developments from OCZ and we are eager to get these in the shop for some thorough testing!

    Press blast for the Trion and Z-Drive 6300 Series after the break!

    A substantial upgrade for Thunderbolt

    Today at Computex, Intel took the wraps off of the latest iteration of Thunderbolt, a technology that I am guessing many of you thought was dead in the water. It turns out that's not the case, and this new set of features that Thunderbolt 3 offers may in fact push it over the crest and give it the momentum needed to become a useable and widespread standard.

    First, Thunderbolt 3 starts with a new piece of silicon, code named Alpine Ridge. Not only does Alpine Ridge increase the available Thunderbolt bandwidth to 40 Gbps but it also adds a native USB 3.1 host controller on the chip itself. And, as mobile users will be glad to see, Intel is going to start utilizing the new USB Type-C (USB-C) connector as the standard port rather than mini DisplayPort.

    tb3-1.jpg

    This new connector type, that was already a favorite among PC Perspective staff because of its size and its reversibility, will now be the way connectivity and speed increases this generation with Thunderbolt. This slide does a good job of summarizing the key take away from the TB3 announcement: 40 Gbps, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, 100 watt (bi-directional) charging capability, 15 watt device power and support for four protocols including Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, USB and PCI Express.

    tb3-2.jpg

    Protocol support is important and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C will be able to connect directly to a DisplayPort monitor, to an external USB 3.1 storage drive, an old thumb drive or a new Thunderbolt 3 docking station. This is truly unrivaled flexibility from a single connector. The USB 3.1 controller is backward compatible as well: feel free to connect any USB device to it that you can adapt to the Type-C connection.

    tb3-3.jpg

    From a raw performance perspective Thunderbolt 3 offers a total of 40 Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth, twice that of Thunderbolt 2 and 4x what we get with USB 3.1. That offers users the ability to combine many different devices, multiple displays and network connections and have plenty of headroom.

    tb3-4.jpg

    With Thunderbolt 3 you get twice as much raw video bandwidth, two DP 1.2 streams, allowing you to run not just a single 4K display at 60 Hz but two of them, all over a single TB3 cable. If you want to connect a 5K display though, you will be limited to just one of them.

    tb3-5.jpg

    For mobile users, which I think is the area where Thunderbolt 3 will be the most effective, the addition of USB 3.1 allows for charging capability up to 100 watts. This is in addition to the 15 watts of power that Thunderbolt provides to devices directly - think external storage, small hubs/docks, etc.

    Continue reading our preview of the new Thunderbolt 3 technology!!

    Zotac's New R Series ZBOX PCs Support Two Drive RAID Configurations

    Subject: General Tech, Systems, Storage | May 30, 2015 - 02:14 AM |
    Tagged: zotac, zbox, SFF, raid, mini server, media server

    Zotac recently launched a new line of tiny ZBOX PCs under the new R Series that support two drive RAID 0 and RAID 1 setups. The series currently includes the ZBOX 1323 and ZBOX R1531. Both systems can be mounted vertically or horizontally and strongly resemble the company's existing ZBOX computers. The top and bottom panels are black with a silver bezel around the sides. A Zotac logo sits in the corner and a large blue circle sits in the center of the top.

    The front panel hosts two audio jacks, an SDXC ard reader, COM port, IR reciever, and power button. Around back, the ZBOX boasts two antennas for the internal wireless module, two Gigabit Ethernet jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, and DisplayPort and HDMI video outputs. A third USB 3.0 port sits along the top edge of this small form factor PC.

    Zotac ZBOX_RI531-P.jpg

    Internally, Zotac is using Intel processors, a small form factor motherboard with two SO-DIMM slots (up to 16 GB), a Mini PCI-E slot for the 802.11ac (plus Bluetooth 4.0) wireless card, and support for up to two 2.5" SATA drives. The motherboard supports RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD configurations for the SATA drives, and the R1531 SKU adds a mSATA slot for a third drive.

    The ZBOX R1323 is equipped with a 11.5W dual core Intel (Haswell) Celeron 2961Y processor clocked at 1.1 GHz with 2MB cache and Intel HD Graphics clocked at up to 850 MHz. The ZBOX R1531 steps up to a 15W dual core (plus Hyperthreading) Broadwell-based Intel Core i3-5010U clocked at 2.1 GHz with HD 5500 graphics clocked at up to 900 MHz. 

    Zotac ZBOX_RI531-P rear IO.jpg

    Both versions will be offered as barebones systems and the R1531 is additionally be sold in a PLUS model that comes with a 64GB mSATA SSD and 4GB of RAM pre-installed.

    The new ZBOX R Series PCs would make for a nice home server with a mSATA drive for the OS and two storage drives in a RAID 1 for redundancy. The Core i3 should be plenty of horsepower for streaming media, running backups, running applications, and even some light video transcoding. The included COM port will also make it suitable for industrial applications, but I think this is mostly going to appeal to home and small business users.

    Zotac has not yet revealed pricing or availability though. Hopefully we are able to find out more about these mini PCs at Computex!

    Source: Zotac

    Lenovo Tech World: High-Performance S2200 and S3200 Storage Arrays

    Subject: Storage | May 27, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
    Tagged: storage, SAN, S3200, S2200, Lenovo, datacenter

    Lenovo has announced two new high-performance storage products aimed at small and medium business, and the new S2200 and S3200 storage arrays are designed with speed in mind.

    lenovo-do.png

    The Storage S2200 and S3200 arrays offer dual and single controllers in 2U-12 and 24 drive configurations. The S2200 supports up to 96 drives and the S3200 supports up to 192 drives to easily support storage growth. The S2200 and S3200 make connectivity simple. The S2200 and S3200 support Fibre Channel, iSCSI and SAS, with the S3200 supporting multi-protocol connectivity that can work with Fibre Channel and iSCSI at the same time. This combination of flexibility and scalability makes integration into nearly any environment easy.

    S2200_Beauty_Right_view.jpg

    Lenovo is also using a technology called "Intelligent Real-Time Tiering" to approximate the performance of flash storage by prioritizing frequently accessed data as it "automatically moves frequently accessed data to higher performing drives every five seconds, significantly increasing storage performance".

    With hybrid configurations and Intelligent Real-Time Tiering, the Lenovo Storage S3200 can provide near All-Flash-Array (AFA) performance for up to 120,000 IOPS at a fraction of the cost of today’s Flash only systems.

    S3200_rear_view.jpg

    The Lenovo S2200 and S3200 SANs will be available worldwide starting in June.

    Source: Lenovo

    Love the NVMe, shame almost nobody can use it

    Subject: Storage | May 20, 2015 - 02:48 PM |
    Tagged: XP941, SSD 750, ssd, SM951, pcie, NVMe, MZVPV512HDGL, AHCI

    For owners of Z97 or X99 boards with updated UEFIs or a rare SFF-8643 connector for the 2.5" version, booting from NVMe is possible, for the rest the Intel SSD 750 will have to be a storage drive.   Al recently looked at this more than impressive PCIe SSD and now [H]ard|OCP has had a bash at it.  The review is certainly worth checking out as some of their tests, especially the real world ones, differ from the benchmarks that Al used.  This will give you more information about how the new SSD will handle your workloads, research worth it if you are thinking of spending $1055 for the 1.2TB model.

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    "Intel is set to be the catalyst for a long-awaited leap forward in storage technology with the new SSD 750 bringing NVMe storage to client PCs for the first time, and turning the high end SSD space upside-down. We are expecting blinding IOPs and we dig in to find out what it can mean to the hardware enthusiast."

    Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

    Storage

    Source: [H]ard|OCP

    Toshiba's portable backup drive, the Canvio Connect

    Subject: Storage | May 7, 2015 - 03:22 PM |
    Tagged: toshiba, Canvio Connect, backup, external drive

    At a $90 price point the 2TB Toshiba Canvio Connect is not a huge investment to give yourself another way to back up your precious data; remember kids the equation is Actual Number of backups = Number of Backups - 1.  It is also a good choice for portable storage, at 8.2oz and 111x79x21mm (4.4x3.1x0.8") it will easily fit into your bag or laptop case.  Hardware Secrets tested it for speed and found it a bit slower than the competition but certainly within expectations for a USB 3.0 drive.  They prefer the Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB overall, for the same price it is slightly faster and slimmer as well.

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    "Users are always damanding more and more storage space, not only inside their computers, but also as portable external hard disk drives. Nowadays, 2 TB portable external drives are becoming popular, and we will test the Toshiba 2 TB Canvio Connect, comparing it to the Seagate 2 TB Backup Plus Slim and the Western Digital 2 TB My Passport Ultra that we've already reviewed. They are all compact drives and make use of the USB 3.0 interface. Which one is the fastest? Let's see!"

    Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

    Storage