FMS 2015: Toshiba Announces QLC (4-bit MLC) 3D Archival Flash

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2015 - 08:40 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, FMS 2015, flash, BiCS, Archive, Archival, 3d

We occasionally throw around the '3-bit MLC' (Multi Level Cell) term in place of 'TLC' (Triple Level Cell) when talking about flash memory. Those terms are interchangeable, but some feel it is misleading as the former still contains the term MLC. At Toshiba's keynote today, they showed us why the former is important:


Photo source: Sam Chen of Custom PC Review

That's right - QLC (Quadruple Level Cell), which is also 4-bit MLC, has been mentioned by Toshiba. As you can see at the right of that slide, storing four bits in a single flash cell means there are *sixteen* very narrow voltage ranges representing the stored data. That is a very hard thing to do, and even harder to do with high performance (programming/writing would take a relatively long time as the circuitry nudges the voltages to such a precise level). This is why Toshiba pitched this flash as a low cost solution for archival purposes. You wouldn't want to use this type of flash in a device that was written constantly, since the channel materials wearing out would have a much more significant effect on endurance. Suiting this flash to be written only a few times would keep it in a 'newer' state that would be effective for solid state data archiving.

The 1x / 0.5x / 6x figures appearing in the slide are meant to compare relative endurance to Toshiba's own planar 15nm flash. The figures suggest that Toshiba's BiCS 3D flash is efficient enough to go to QLC (4-bit) levels and still maintain a higher margin than their current MLC (2-bit) 2D flash.

More to follow as we continue our Flash Memory Summit coverage!

FMS 2015: Samsung's New 256Gbit VNAND Enables 16TB PM1633a Datacenter SSD

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2015 - 04:59 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, vnand, 48-layer, tlc, 16TB, FMS 2015

I get these emails and comments all the time - "I want a larger capacity SSD". Ok, here ya go:


Samsung's earlier 48-layer VNAND announcement was exciting, but we already knew about it going into the keynote. What we did not know was that Samsung was going to blew the doors off of their keynote when they dropped this little gem. It's not just the largest capacity SSD, as this thing is more dense than any HDD's available today as well. That's 16TB of 48-layer TLC VNAND packed into a 2.5" form factor SAS-connected SSD. what do you do once you have such a high density device? Well, you figure out how many you can cram into a 2U chassis of course!


Yup, that's 48 of those new SSDs, making for a capacity of 768TB in a 2U chassis. Samsung described this as a "JBOF" (Just a Bunch Of Flash), so processing the 2 million IOPS this array is capable of will have to be left to the connected system.

No word on pricing, but I'd think we are in 'mortgage the house' territory if you want to put this into your home PC.

There is more to follow from Flash Memory Summit, but for now I've got to run to another meeting!

FMS 2015: *UPDATED* Samsung Adds Layers to its 3D VNAND, Doubling Capacity While Reducing Power Consumption

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2015 - 04:39 PM |
Tagged: vnand, tlc, Samsung, FMS 2015, 48-layer, 32GB, 32-layer, 256Gbit

FMS 2015: Samsung Adds Layers to its 3D VNAND, Doubling Capacity While Reducing Power Consumption

Samsung recently added 2TB capacity parts to their 850 EVO SATA SSDs, but today’s announcement may double that. Today at Flash Memory Summit, Samsung has announced a new iteration on their 3D VNAND technology.


Cross section of Samsung 32-layer VNAND. (TechInsights)

The announcement is a new TLC 3D VNAND (the type present in the 850 EVO Series). The new parts consist of an updated die with the following improvements:

  • 48 layer VNAND - up from 32 layers of the previous generation
  • 256Gbit (32GB) capacity - up from 128Gbit (16GB) capacity of 32-layer VNAND
  • 30% reduction in power consumption over 32-layer VNAND


Samsung’s new 48-layer VNAND.

I suspected Samsung would go this route in order to compete with the recent announcements from Intel/Micron and SanDisk. Larger die capacities may not be the best thing for keeping performance high in smaller capacity SSDs (a higher number of smaller capacity dies helps there), but it is definitely a good capability to have since higher capacity per die translates to more efficient flash die production.

The Samsung keynote is at noon today (Pacific), and I will update this piece with any photos relevant to the announcement after that keynote.


I just got out of the Samsung keynote. There were some additional slides with data relevant to this post:


This image simply shows the additional vertical stacking, but adds that Samsung has this new flash in production right now.


The new higher capacity dies enable 1.4x greater density per wafer (realize that this does not mean more dies per wafer, as the image incorrectly suggests).


The power consumption improvements (right) were in the press release, however the speed improvements (left) were not. A 2x improvement in per-die speeds means that Samsung should not see a performance hit if they migrate their existing 128Gbit TLC VNAND SSDs over to these new 256Gbit parts. Speaking of which...


Not only is this new VNAND being produced *this month*, Samsung is retrofitting their 850 EVO line with the new parts. Again, we expect no performance delta but will likely retest these new versions just to double check for any outliers.

There was some more great info from the keynote, but that will appear in another post later today.

Samsung’s press blast appears after the break.

Source: Samsung

Meet the ADATA XPG SX930 family of SSDs

Subject: Storage | August 10, 2015 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: adata, XPG SX930, JMF670H

ADATA's new XPG SX930 series is aimed at enthusiasts on a budget, the 120GB is about $65, the 240GB at $110 and the 480GB at $200.  The SSDs use the JMicron JMF670H controller, not one we have seen before and they also have a pseudo SLC cache which grows with the size of the drive from 4GB to 8GB to 16GB for the 480GB model.  The SSD Review tested out all three drives and found that the advertised speeds of 550MB/s read and 460MB/s write were more or less accurate and the drives did fairly well in their other tests as well.  If you need more speedy storage and are on a budget you should check out their full review.


"ADATA has memory products for all sections of the market, from consumer to industrial. As of late they have released a new consumer SSD, the XPG SX930. It is marketed towards the gamer and overclocker crowd at a pretty competitive price point."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Intel SSD 750 Series 800GB SKU Appears!

Subject: Storage | August 6, 2015 - 06:37 PM |
Tagged: SSD 750, ssd, pcie, NVMe, Intel

Back when we reviewed the Intel SSD 750, it was only available in a 400GB and 1.2TB capacity, leaving a wide expanse of capacity between those two figures.


A new 800GB SKU of the Intel SSD 750 Series of PCIe SSDs was hinted at with the Skylake launch press materials, and it appears to have been a reality:


They may not be on the shelves yet, but appearing on ARK is a pretty good indicator that these are coming soon. We don't have pricing yet, but I would suspect a cost/GB closer to the 1.2TB model than to the 400GB model, which should come in at around $700. Performance sees a slight hit for the 800GB model, likely since this is an 'uneven' number of dies for the design of the SSD DC P3500 line it was based on.

Which would you prefer - a single 800GB or a pair of 400GB SSD 750's in a RAID (now that it is possible)?

Source: Intel ARK
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, rst, raid, Intel

A quick look at storage

** This piece has been updated to reflect changes since first posting. See page two for PCIe RAID results! **

Our Intel Skylake launch coverage is intense! Make sure you hit up all the stories and videos that are interesting for you!

When I saw the small amount of press information provided with the launch of Intel Skylake, I was both surprised and impressed. The new Z170 chipset was going to have an upgraded DMI link, nearly doubling throughput. DMI has, for a long time, been suspected as the reason Intel SATA controllers have pegged at ~1.8 GB/sec, which limits the effectiveness of a RAID with more than 3 SSDs. Improved DMI throughput could enable the possibility of a 6-SSD RAID-0 that exceeds 3GB/sec, which would compete with PCIe SSDs.


Speaking of PCIe SSDs, that’s the other big addition to Z170. Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology was going to be expanded to include PCIe (even NVMe) SSDs, with the caveat that they must be physically connected to PCIe lanes falling under the DMI-connected chipset. This is not as big of as issue as you might think, as Skylake does not have 28 or 40 PCIe lanes as seen with X99 solutions. Z170 motherboards only have to route 16 PCIe lanes from the CPU to either two (8x8) or three (8x4x4) PCIe slots, and the remaining slots must all hang off of the chipset. This includes the PCIe portion of M.2 and SATA Express devices.

PCH storage config.png

Continue reading our preview of the new storage options on the Z170 chipset!!

Breaking: Intel and Micron announce 3D XPoint Technology - 1000x Faster Than NAND

Subject: Storage | July 28, 2015 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, non-volatile RAM, micron, memory, Intel

Everyone that reads SSD reviews knows that NAND Flash memory comes with advantages and disadvantages. The cost is relatively good as compared to RAM, and the data remains even with power removed (non-volatile), but there are penalties in the relatively slow programming (write) speeds. To help solve this, today Intel and Micron jointly launched a new type of memory technology.


XPoint (spoken 'cross point') is a new class of memory technology with some amazing characteristics. 10x the density (vs. DRAM), 1000x the speed, and most importantly, 1000x the endurance as compared to current NAND Flash technology.


128Gb XPoint memory dies, currently being made by Intel / Micron, are of a similar capacity to current generation NAND dies. This is impressive for a first generation part, especially since it is physically smaller than a current gen NAND die of the same capacity.

Intel stated that the method used to store the bits is vastly different from what is being used in NAND flash memory today. Intel stated that the 'whole cell' properties change as a bit is being programmed, and that the fundamental physics involved is different, and that it is writable in small amounts (NAND flash must be erased in large blocks). While they did not specifically state it, it looks to be phase change memory (*edit* at the Q&A Intel stated this is not Phase Change). The cost of this technology should end up falling somewhere between the cost of DRAM and NAND Flash.


3D XPoint memory is already being produced at the Intel / Micron Flash Technology plant at Lehi, Utah. We toured this facility a few years ago.

Intel and Micron stated that this technology is coming very soon. 2016 was stated as a launch year, and there was a wafer shown to us on stage:


You know I'm a sucker for good wafer / die photos. As soon as this session breaks I'll get a better shot!

There will be more analysis to follow on this exciting new technology, but for now I need to run to a Q&A meeting with the engineers who worked on it. Feel free to throw some questions in the comments and I'll answer what I can!

*edit* - here's a die shot:


Added note - this wafer was manufactured on a 20nm process, and consists of a 2-layer matrix. Future versions should scale with additional layers to achieve higher capacities.

Press blast after the break.

Source: Intel

Something is cooking in San Francisco

Subject: Storage | July 28, 2015 - 11:26 AM |
Tagged: Intel, micron, flash


...stay tuned!

Team Red gets NASty with QNAP

Subject: Storage | July 23, 2015 - 07:38 PM |
Tagged: TVS-x63, qnap, Puma, amd

AMD is exploring alternate product routes to raise their income and the latest seems to be the Puma powered QNAP TVS-x63.  It is a four bay NAS which is powered by the 2.4GHz AMD GX424-CC SoC which happens to have a 28 stream processor GCN Radeon clocked at 497 MHz.  It has a pair of gigabit ports with an optional add-in card offering a single 10Gb or two additional 1Gb ports, though that will raise you above the cost of the $630 base model. Bjorn3d found the power consumption to be higher than the competition but the overall operation was flawless.


"The QNAP TVS-x63 marked the world’s first NAS featuring AMD processor. AMD’s new strategy is targeting the markets with high profit return and the company is returning to the server market. NAS, by extension, is like a small scale server, so it makes sense to see AMD putting their processors into these devices."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Source: Bjorn3D

Samsung Announces VNAND Powered 4TB PM863 and 2TB SM863 SATA Enterprise SSDs

Subject: Storage | July 20, 2015 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: vnand, ssd, SM863, sata, Samsung, PM863

Take the Samsung 850 Pro and 850 EVO, add some Tantalum Capacitors for enhanced power loss protection, tune their firmware for enterprise workloads and QoS, and what do you get?

600x600_2.png get the Samsung PM863 and SM863 lines of enterprise SSDs! These 2.5" SATA units were just announced, and as we suspected after reviewing the new 2TB 850 EVO and Pro, these new models can include even more flash packages, dramatically increasing the flash capacity. Here is a breakdown of the launch pricing and capacities:

SM863 (2-bit MLC VNAND):

  • 120GB - $140 ($1.17/GB)
  • 240GB - $180 ($0.75/GB)
  • 480GB - $330 ($0.69/GB)
  • 960GB - $870 ($0.91/GB) < possible typo $640 ($0.67/GB)
  • 1.92TB - $1260 ($0.66/GB)

PM863 (3-bit MLC VNAND):

  • 120GB - $125 ($1.04/GB)
  • 240GB - $160 ($0.67/GB)
  • 480GB - $290 ($0.60/GB)
  • 960GB - $550 ($0.57/GB)
  • 1.92TB - $1100 ($0.57/GB)
  • 3.84TB - $2200 ($0.57/GB)

Aside from the possible typo in the pricing I informed Samsung of the pricing oddity and they have replied with a correction. Their site should be updated to reflect this correction shortly.

These are some very competitive prices for enterprise SSDs, and the fact that the TLC version can cram just under 4TB into a 7mm 2.5" form factor is just astounding. The MLC version capacities appear to still follow that of the 850 Pro, minus a bit of available capacity due to higher levels of over-provisioning.

More impressive is the endurance ratings of these SSDs. The SM863 line is rated (varying by capacity) from 770 Terabytes Written (TBW) to an astonishing 12,320 TBW for the 1.92TB model! That's over 12 Petabytes! The PM863 is rated lower as it is TLC based, but is still no slouch as it ranges from 170 to 5,600 TBW for the 3.84TB capacity. The SM863 carries a 5-year warranty, while the PM863 drops that to 3-years.

We've been waiting to see Samsung's 32-layer VNAND appear in enterprise units for some time now, and look forward to testing them just as soon as we can get our hands on them!

Full press blast after the break.

Source: Samsung