Subject: Storage
Manufacturer:

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

A few months back, we took a look at the ADATA Premier Pro SP920 series of SSDs. Those came equipped with the Marvell 88SS9189 controller. Marvell SSD controllers have always done a good job, and they were among the first to support SATA 6Gbit speeds. Crucial was one of the first to adopt the Marvell controller into their SATA SSD products, so it seems fitting that we revisit the 88SS9189 controller in the form of Micron's Crucial M550 Series of SSDs:

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Being one of the big manufacturers of SSDs, Micron has some cool production videos. Here's one of their videos covering the production of flash all the way through to the assembly of an SSD. We actually toured one of these plants a few years back. Good stuff:

Continue reading as we evaluate all available capacities of the Crucial M550!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital
Tagged: wdc, WD, Red Pro, red, hdd, 6tb, 4TB

Introduction and Specs

Introduction:

*** NOTE ***

In the preparation for this review, we noted abnormal behavior with the 6TB Red. After coordination with Western Digital, they replicated our results and will be issuing a firmware to correct the issue. We are publishing this piece as-is, with caveats added as appropriate. We will revisit this piece with an additional update once we have retested the 6TB Red on the updated firmware / configuration. More information / detail is available in our related news post on this matter.

*** END NOTE ***

Last year we covered the benefits of TLER enabled drives, and the potential for drive errors in a RAID can lead to the potential loss of entire arrays. Western Digital solved this problem by their introduction of the WD Red series. That series was since incrementally updated to include a 4TB capacity, and other Western Digital lines were also scaled up to 4TB capacities.

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This week the Red line was updated to include both 5TB and 6TB models, sporting 1.2TB per platter. Performance is expected to be slightly improved over the older / smaller capacities of the Red. The upgraded line will use an improved 'NASware 3.0' firmware, which makes improvements to Western Digital's software based vibration compensation. These improvements mean WD can now support up to 8 Reds in a single chassis (up from 5 with NASware 2.0).

Also announced was the new Red Pro line, available in capacities up to 4TB. The Red Pro is just as it sounds - a 'Pro' version of the Red. This model borrows more features from WD's enterprise line, making it very similar to an SE series HDD. Imagine a Red, but at 7200RPM and more aggressive seek times. The Red Pro also borrows the enterprise-grade 5-year warranty and is supported in chassis up to 16 bays, thanks to built-in hardware vibration compensation. When all is said and done, the Red Pro is basically a WD SE with firmware tweaked for NAS workloads.

As a recap of what can potentially happen if you have a large RAID with 'normal' consumer grade HDD's (and by consumer grade I mean those without any form of Time Limited Error Recovery, or TLER for short):

  • Array starts off operating as normal, but drive 3 has a bad sector that cropped up a few months back. This has gone unnoticed because the bad sector was part of a rarely accessed file.
  • During operation, drive 1 encounters a new bad sector.
  • Since drive 1 is a consumer drive it goes into a retry loop, repeatedly attempting to read and correct the bad sector.
  • The RAID controller exceeds its timeout threshold waiting on drive 1 and marks it offline.
  • Array is now in degraded status with drive 1 marked as failed.
  • User replaces drive 1. RAID controller initiates rebuild using parity data from the other drives.
  • During rebuild, RAID controller encounters the bad sector on drive 3.
  • Since drive 3 is a consumer drive it goes into a retry loop, repeatedly attempting to read and correct the bad sector.
  • The RAID controller exceeds its timeout threshold waiting on drive 3 and marks it offline.
  • Rebuild fails.
  • Blamo, your data is now (mostly) inaccessible.

I went into much further detail on this back in the intro to the WD 3TB Red piece, but the short of it is that you absolutely should use a HDD intended for RAID when building one.

Continue reading our review of the new WD 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro!!

Western Digital launches 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro - with a configuration issue

Subject: Storage | July 23, 2014 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, Red Pro, red, 6tb, 4TB

Western Digital has extended its Red line with 5 and 6TB models, sporting 1.2TB per platter. Performance is expected to be slightly improved over the older / smaller capacities of the Red. The upgraded line will use an improved 'NASware 3.0' firmware, which makes improvements to Western Digital's software based vibration compensation. These improvements mean WD can now support up to 8 Reds in a single chassis (up from 5 with NASware 2.0).

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Also announced was the new Red Pro line, available in capacities up to 4TB. The Red Pro is just as it sounds - a 'Pro' version of the Red. This model borrows more features from WD's enterprise line, making it very similar to an SE series HDD. Imagine a Red, but at 7200RPM and more aggressive seek times. The Red Pro also borrows the enterprise-grade 5-year warranty and is supported in chassis up to 16 bays, thanks to built-in hardware vibration compensation. When all is said and done, the Red Pro is basically a WD SE with firmware tweaked for NAS workloads.

We typically have our WD reviews post right at the NDA. On this piece, we opted to hold back as we've been working with Western Digital on some abnormal performance results we saw with the 6TB Red. Below are the results seen in Iometer. Note that the 6TB Red failed to demonstrate the expected 'ramp up' seen with other drives. HDDs normally show increased performance as Queue Depth increases. This is because the HDD controller is able to see multiple pending requests and optimize its access pattern. The more commands in the queue (higher QD), the more the HDD can optimize the pattern, and therefore the higher resulting IOPS seen.

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As you can see above, the 6TB Red appears to behave as if NCQ is disabled. Some might argue (in reviews that have already published) that the drive still performs well, but the plain truth of the matter is that a HDD effectively operating without NCQ removes the drives ability to scale when multiple commands are issued. Any test issuing more than one command simultaneously will see a lesser result as compared to a properly configured drive, so things like streaming multiple videos or several users actively simultaneously accessing a NAS will see a negative impact on performance.

The 4TB Red Pro did not demonstrate the issues noted above, and Western Digital has just issued this statement in response to our feedback. Here it is:

WD has learned that initial production units of WD Red 5* and 6 TB drives perform below our expectations in random-read benchmark tests when measured with specific testing software. We have found a configuration setting to be causing these particular test results, for which we are developing a firmware update to correct the configuration setting. In the intended application -- multi-drive NAS systems -- the drives have performed to our high expectations in WD’s labs and by our system partners; users will experience normal WD Red performance.

WD is committed to providing optimally performing storage products, designed for intended applications, and we will have a firmware update available through the WD Red Product Customer Service support line as it becomes available.

*Limited quantities of 5 TB have shipped with the earlier configuration setting.

We have decided to publish the full article covering both new drives, including the 6TB Red in its (currently shipping) misconfigured form. It will go live once I add the necessary verbiage explaining the misconfiguration seen on the 5TB and 6TB Red. Stay tuned for that piece later tonight (**EDIT** our review is now live **EDIT**), as well as a follow-on piece to be published as soon as we have the updated firmware from Western Digital.

Full press blast on the 6TB Red and 4TB Red Pro appears after the break.

Intel Launches SSD Pro 2500 Series for Businesses of All Sizes

Subject: Storage | July 22, 2014 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: Intel, ssd, Pro 2500, enterprise, encryption, mcafee

Intel has not offered many products which take advantage of their takeover of McAfee, now known as Intel Security but today's release of the Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series changes that.  This family of SSDs will work with McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator to allow the automatic implementation of hardware-based 256-bit encryption on these drives in a similar manner to what Endpoint Encryption has done in the past.  Since it sits on the hardware Intel claims no impact to the speed is caused by the on the fly encryption.  If you use Intel Setup and Configuration Software with vPro you can even monitor the health of deployed drives.  Check out Intel's page here and the PR below.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif., July 22, 2014 – Intel Corporation today announced an addition to the Intel® Solid-State Drive (SSD) Professional Family: the Intel® SSD Pro 2500 Series. This new business-class SSD delivers lower total cost of ownership, security and manageability features, and blazing-fast SSD performance demanded by today’s business users.

Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series offers IT departments peace of mind with advanced security features and capabilities designed for businesses ranging from small companies through large IT-managed enterprises. Security and remote manageability features, combined with lower annual failure rates than hard disk drives (HDDs), help to reduce the need for resource-intensive deskside visits.

Managing data security is critical for businesses and a challenge for IT leaders. Data breaches, often a result of lost or stolen PCs, can cost a business nearly $50,000 in lost productivity, replacement, data recovery and legal costs.1 To help businesses mitigate the threat of such costly breaches, the Intel Pro 2500 Series SSDs are self-encrypting drives (SED) utilizing hardware-based 256-bit encryption to protect data without a loss of performance. Additionally, the new Intel drives feature the Trusted Computing Group’s OPAL 2.0* standard and are Microsoft eDrive* capable. These policy-based controls help to prevent data breaches and support crypto erase to repurpose the drive for reuse.

“The need to protect assets, keep an eye on the bottom line and ensure employees have the best tools is a challenge for IT departments,” said Rob Crooke, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of the Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group. “The Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series is a well-rounded solution to help balance those often competing needs. Adding the Pro 2500 Series to the Intel SSD Professional Family delivers a powerful storage solution to help businesses of all sizes meet their critical IT needs.”

“The Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series is the second-generation OPAL-based client storage solution that helps IT departments protect their users’ data and also provides valuable features to reduce operational costs,” stated Candace Worley, senior vice president and general manager, Endpoint Security, McAfee*, part of Intel Security. “The Pro 2500 Series is a perfect companion to our data protection solutions, managed by McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator*, all working in concert to provide IT departments with data security, management and control, wherever their endpoints may be.”

In an environment with Intel® vPro™ Technology, with Intel® Setup and Configuration Software and leading security software, the Pro 2500 Series drives can be managed remotely allowing IT to monitor and report drive health as well as track assets and remedy faults. This remote manageability enforces IT policies to help prevent mishaps and simultaneously provides a great user experience. Embedded and Internet of Things applications can also take advantage of the remote manageability features to help limit the number of IT professionals needed to oversee devices. To assist in protecting user data and lower the total cost of ownership, applications such as ATMs and remote digital signage can be updated, monitored and managed remotely.

“Corporations of every size are facing the growing challenge of protecting sensitive data and ensuring compliance with a litany of data protection laws and regulations,” said Bill Solms, president and CEO of Wave Systems*. “The Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series offers a sound foundation for any data security program, incorporating hardware-level encryption without impacting drive performance. Wave’s on-premise and cloud-based management software complements the Intel SSD Pro 2500 by offering remote drive provisioning, automated password recovery and secure audit logs to document that encryption was in place should a laptop become lost or stolen.”

The Intel SSD Professional Family is part of the Intel® Stable Image Platform Program, including a 15-month availability of the components and drivers for compatibility and stability across a qualified IT image. This helps minimize IT qualification and deployment times. The Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series also features five advance power modes helping to balance performance and power to enable a longer battery life and provide a better mobile experience.

The Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series will be available in both 2.5-inch and M.2 form factors and in capacities ranging from 120GB to 480GB. The Intel SSD Pro 2500 Series is backed by a 5-year limited warranty and features a world-class annualized failure rate (AFR) well below 1 percent. The AFRs of other SSDs and HDDs can reach as high as 5 percent or more in mobile environments.

Source: Intel

Seagate's 6TB HDD, bigger but pricey

Subject: Storage | July 15, 2014 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: hdd, Seagate, enterprise, 6tb, sata

For many users the purchase of a 6TB SSD is out of their price range and for many businesses who need long term storage the return on investment simply doesn't justify an SSD.  In some cases tape backup is sufficient but not always which is where products like Seagate's 6TB Enterprise drive excel, a 7200 RPM with an impressive 216MB/s stated sustained transfer rate.  It comes with a 5 year warranty and is rated at 550TB per year which means that even if it is heavily used you should not expect failure rates to be high.  It does cost a bit at $480 which makes the SAS 4TB model a bit more attractive but when your data needs its space it is hard to find a larger drive.  Check out the benchmarks at Overclockers Club.

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"Compared to your standard consumer level 3TB drive this thing is double the capacity and brings home the money with the performance. To have capacity and performance at the same time is the golden ticket. Although this drive has the added cost of being an enterprise drive, having dealt with some enterprise drives I can say it is well worth it if longevity and long up time is what you are looking for.”

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Corsair

Need 128GB at 450 MB/s in your pocket?

We don't normally do reviews on USB flash drives, even if they are USB 3.0 based. But the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX turned out to be a bit different. Not only is this a USB 3.0 capable thumb drive, it is powered by an SSD controller, pushing performance as high as 460 MB/s in our testing! Add to that capacity options of 128GB and 256GB and you have a flash drive that really stands out from majority of the market.

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Check out the video review below that Allyn and I made about the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB flash drive and then continue on to see some more pictures and our quick benchmark results.

The Flash Voyager GTX is a bit large in pantheon of USB thumb drives but it's actually smaller than I expected it when I heard the capacity options available. You'll definitely be able to keep this around your neck or in your pocket without noticing it and you may still be able to keep it on your key ring. 

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What do you do with 128GB or 256GB of flash drive? Well, other than the obvious of having a huge capacity drive for your "sneaker net" implementation at your home or office, you can investigate more interesting usage models. If you are looking for a more secure place to store sensitive files that you don't want on your home or work PC full time, just keep them on the Flash Voyager GTX and plug it into a USB 3.0 port when you want access. You'll get performance on par with an SSD but the ability to quickly disconnect it.

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Flash Voyager GTX 128GB USB 3.0 SSD Flash Drive!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Late last year, Western Digital launched their My Cloud series, first with a single-drive My Cloud, and immediately followed up with a beefier small-office product, the 4-drive My Cloud EX4. Then earlier this year, they filled My Cloud gap (so to speak), with a 2-drive variant of the EX4 - the My Cloud EX2. As the EX2 was more of a business type of NAS, it commanded a bit of a price premium as compared to competing 2-bay NAS devices. The logical solution is was for WD to expand the standard My Cloud lineup upward by adding a 2-bay device to their existing consumer line.

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The My Cloud Mirror is very similar to the My Cloud EX2. You get the bulk of the same features as compared with the EX2, but with some of the more workstation / enterprise features removed. Here's a couple of slides to help explain those differences:

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Packaging:

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Packaging is simple, with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud Mirror!

Samsung's new flash stands above the competition

Subject: Storage | July 7, 2014 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: vertical, V-NAND, ssd, sata, Samsung, 850 PRO, 3d

As you saw in Al's review, the Samsung 850 drive is more than just a small bump in model number and performance, it is the stellar introduction to 3D NAND.  The Tech Report is likely having nightmares from the drives reported longevity which is expected to be up to 10 times the cycles of current drives and means an update to their long running endurance test could see them testing into the 2020's.  While they haven't yet added the 850 to that particular test they did post a review which starts out with a comprehensive look at the history of Flash technology and why 3D NAND is faster and more resilient than previous types; read on to get  a better understanding of the fastest consumer SATA drive on the market.

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"Most flash memory is limited to a single layer, but the V-NAND chips in Samsung's new 850 Pro SSD stack 32 layers on top of each other. This is next-level stuff, literally, and it's supposed to make the 850 Pro the fastest SATA drive around. We investigate."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Tidbits from the 2014 Samsung SSD Summit

Subject: Storage | July 1, 2014 - 09:53 PM |
Tagged: V-NAND, Summit, ssd, Samsung, 2014

Here are some goodies from yesterdays briefings at the 2014 Samsung SSD Summit:

Slides from the 3D V-NAND discussion. These provide some additional visuals for what I explained in the intro to the 850 PRO series SSD review:

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Next we got into current launching lineups. First the 850 PRO that launched today:

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Samsung also launched an 845DC PRO, which uses the previous generation 24-layer V-NAND:

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Finally, as we walked out of the conference, we saw a 32-layer V-NAND wafer on display:

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Taking die pictures is tricky...

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...but persistence is rewarded:

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More to follow!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction

Samsung has certainly been pushing the envelope in the SSD field. For the past two years straight, they have launched class leading storage products, frequently showing outside-the-box thinking. Their 840 PRO series was an impressive MLC performer to say the least, but even more impressive was the 840 EVO, which combined cost-efficient TLC flash with a super-fast SLC cache. The generous SLC area, present on each die and distributed amongst all flash chips within the drive, enabled the EVO to maintain PRO-level performance for the majority of typical consumer (and even power user) usage scenarios. The main win for the EVO was the fact that it could be produced at a much lower cost, and since its release, we've seen the EVO spearheading the push to lower cost SSDs.

All of these innovations might make you wonder what could possibly be next. Today I have that answer:

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If you're going "Hey, they just changed the label from 840 to 850!", well, think again. This SSD might have the same MEX controller as its predecessor, but Samsung has done some significant overhauling of the flash memory itself. Allow me to demonstrate.

Here's standard (2D) flash memory, where the charge is stored on a horizontal plane:

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..and now for 3D:

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The charges (bits) are not stored at the top layer. They are stored within all of those smaller, thinner layers below it. You're still looking at a 2D plane (your display), so here's a better view:

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Read on as we dive even deeper into this awesome new 3D flash technology!