X points to the spot; in 3D!

Subject: Storage | July 18, 2017 - 07:31 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, srt, rst, Optane Memory, Optane, Intel, hybrid, CrossPoint, cache, 32GB, 16GB

It has been a few months since Al looked at Intel's Optane and its impressive performance and price.  This is why it seems appropriate to revist the 2280 M.2 stick with a PCIe 3.0 x2 interface.  It is not just the performance which is interesting but the technology behind Optane and the limitations.  For anyone looking to utilize Optane is is worth reminding you of the compatibility limitations Intel requires, only Kaby Lake processors with Core i7, i5 or i3 heritage.  If you do qualify already or are planning a system build, you can revisit the performance numbers over at Kitguru.

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"Optane is Intel’s brand name for their 3D XPoint memory technology. The first Optane product to break cover was the Optane PC P4800X, a very high-performance SSD aimed at the Enterprise segment. Now we have the second product using the technology, this time aimed at the consumer market segment – the Intel Optane Memory module."

Here are some more Memory articles from around the web:

Memory

Source: Kitguru

Spent all your money on a new CPU and couldn't afford an SSD? Intel Optane Memory is here

Subject: Storage | April 24, 2017 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, srt, rst, Optane Memory, Optane, Intel, hybrid, CrossPoint, cache, 32GB, 16GB

At $44 for 16GB or $77 for a 32GB module Intel's Optane memory will cost you less in total for an M.2 SSD, though a significantly higher price per gigabyte.  The catch is that you need to have a Kaby Lake Core system to be able to utilize Optane, which means you are unlikely to be using a HDD.  Al's test show that Optane will also benefit a system using an SSD, reducing latency noticeably although not as significantly as with a HDD.

The Tech Report tested it differently, by sourcing a brand new desktop system with Kaby Lake Core APU that did not ship with an SSD.  Once installed, the Optane drive enabled the system to outpace an affordable 480GB SSD in some scenarios; very impressive for a HDD.  They also did peek at the difference Optane makes when paired with aforementioned affordable SSD in their full review.

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"Intel's Optane Memory tech purports to offer most of the responsiveness of an SSD to systems whose primary storage device is a good old hard drive. We put a 32GB stick of Optane Memory to the test to see whether it lives up to Intel's claims."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications, and Requirements

Introduction:

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Finally! Optane Memory sitting in our lab! Sure, it’s not the mighty P4800X we remotely tested over the past month, but this is right here, sitting on my desk. It’s shipping, too, meaning it could be sitting on your desk (or more importantly, in your PC) in just a matter of days.

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The big deal about Optane is that it uses XPoint Memory, which has fast-as-lightning (faster, actually) response times of less than 10 microseconds. Compare this to the fastest modern NAND flash at ~90 microseconds, and the differences are going to add up fast. What’s wonderful about these response times is that they still hold true even when scaling an Optane product all the way down to just one or two dies of storage capacity. When you consider that managing fewer dies means less work for the controller, we can see latencies fall even further in some cases (as we will see later).

Read on for our full review of Optane Memory!

Intel Officially Launches Optane Memory, Shows Performance

Subject: Storage | March 27, 2017 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Optane Memory, Optane, M.2, Intel, cache, 3D XPoint

We are just about to hit two years since Intel and Micron jointly launched 3D XPoint, and there have certainly been a lot of stories about it since. Intel officially launched the P4800X last week, and this week they are officially launching Optane Memory. The base level information about Optane Memory is mostly unchanged, however, we do have a slide deck we are allowed to pick from to point out some of the things we can look forward to once the new tech starts hitting devices you can own.

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Alright, so this is Optane Memory in a nutshell. Put some XPoint memory on an M.2 form factor device, leverage Intel's SRT caching tech, and you get a 16GB or 32GB cache laid over your system's primary HDD.

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To help explain what good Optane can do for typical desktop workloads, first we need to dig into Queue Depths a bit. Above are some examples of the typical QD various desktop applications run at. This data is from direct IO trace captures of systems in actual use. Now that we've established that the majority of desktop workloads operate at very low Queue Depths (<= 4), lets see where Optane performance falls relative to other storage technologies:

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There's a bit to digest in this chart, but let me walk you through it. The ranges tapering off show the percentage of IOs falling at the various Queue Depths, while the green, red, and orange lines ramping up to higher IOPS (right axis) show relative SSD performance at those same Queue Depths. The key to Optane's performance benefit here is that it can ramp up to full performance at very low QD's, while the other NAND-based parts require significantly higher parallel requests to achieve full rated performance. This is what will ultimately lead to a much snappier responsiveness for, well, just about anything hitting the storage. Fun fact - there is actually a HDD on that chart. It's the yellow line that you might have mistook as the horizontal axis :).

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As you can see, we have a few integrators on board already. Official support requires a 270 series motherboard and Kaby Lake CPU, but it is possible that motherboard makers could backport the required NVMe v1.1 and Intel RST 15.5 requirements into older systems.

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For those curious, if caching is the only way power users will be able to go with Optane, that's not the case. Atop that pyramid there sits an 'Intel Optane SSD', which should basically be a consumer version of the P4800X. It is sure to be an incredibly fast SSD, but that performance will most definitely come at a price!

We should be testing Optane Memory shortly and will finally have some publishable results of this new tech as soon as we can!

Source: Intel

30 nanoseconds is way too slow, down with the latency gap!

Subject: General Tech | February 23, 2017 - 10:45 AM |
Tagged: hbll, cache, l3 cache, Last Level Cache

There is an insidious latency gap lurking in your computer between your DRAM and your CPUs L3 cache.  The size of the latency depends on your processor as not all L3 cache are created equally but regardless there are wasted CPU cycles which could be reclaimed.   Piecemakers Technology, the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan and Intel are on the case, with a project to design something to fit in that niche between the CPU and DRAM.  Their prototype Last Level Cache is a chip with 17ns latency which would improve the efficiency at which L3 cache could be filled to pass onto the next level in the CPU.  The Register likens it to the way Intel has fit XPoint between the speed of SSDs and DRAM.  It will be interesting to see how this finds its way onto the market.

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"Jim Handy of Objective Analysis writes about this: "Furthermore, there's a much larger latency gap between the processor's internal Level 3 cache and the system DRAM than there is between any adjacent cache levels.""

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Intel Quietly Launches Official Optane Memory Site

Subject: Storage | February 15, 2017 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, ssd, Optane, memory, Intel, cache

We've been hearing a lot about Intel's upcoming Optane memory over the past two years, but the information had all been in the form of press announcements and leaked roadmap slides.

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We now have an actual Optane landing page on the Intel site that discusses the first iteration of 'Intel Optane Memory', which appears to be the 8000p Series that we covered last October and saw as an option on some upcoming Lenovo laptops. The site does not cover the upcoming enterprise parts like the 375GB P4800X, but instead, focuses on the far smaller 16GB and 32GB 'System Accelerator' M.2 modules.

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Despite using only two lanes of PCIe 3.0, these modules turn in some impressive performance, but the capacities when using only one or two (16GB each) XPoint dies preclude an OS install. Instead, these will be used, presumably in combination with a newer form of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology driver, as a caching layer meant as an HDD accelerator:

While the random write performance and endurance of these parts blow any NAND-based SSD out of the water, the 2-lane bottleneck holds them back compared to high-end NVMe NAND SSDs, so we will likely see this first consumer iteration of Intel Optane Memory in OEM systems equipped with hard disks as their primary storage. A very quick 32GB caching layer should help speed things up considerably for the majority of typical buyers of these types of mobile and desktop systems, while still keeping the total cost below that for a decent capacity NAND SSD as primary storage. Hey, if you can't get every vendor to switch to pure SSD, at least you can speed up that spinning rust a bit, right?

Source: Intel

Full Steam ahead! Cache your games in this DIY cache server

Subject: General Tech | January 30, 2017 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: steam, cache, Nginx, ubuntu

There are tricks to managing your Steam library if you are running low on space or simply setting up something new, from tricking Steam by copying files manually or the new feature which allows you to move games from within Steam.  One other possible way to manage your time and bandwidth is to build yourself a small little webserver which caches any Steam game you have downloaded locally, so you can reinstall them without using up your bandwidth.  Those familiar with Riverbed appliances and the like will already be familiar with this process but many gamers may not be.  Ars Technica walks you through the build and teaches a bit about caching and basic webservers along the way; check it out you are not already well versed in setting up something similar.

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"But there’s an alternative to having to re-download all your Steam games from the Internet: you can set up a local Steam caching server, so that once you download something, you’ve got it on your LAN instead of having to reach for it across the net and incur usage fees."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: OCZ

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Since their acquisition by Toshiba in early 2014, OCZ has gradually transitioned their line of SSD products to include parts provided by their parent company. Existing products were switched over to Toshiba flash memory, and that transition went fairly smoothly, save the recent launch of their Vector 180 (which had a couple of issues noted in our review). After that release, we waited for the next release from OCZ, hoping for something fresh, and that appears to have just happened:

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OCZ sent us a round of samples for their new OCZ Trion 100 SSD. This SSD was first teased at Computex 2015. This new model would not only use Toshiba sourced flash memory, it would also displace the OCZ / Indilinx Barefoot controller with Toshiba's own. Then named 'Alishan', this is now officially called the 'Toshiba Controller TC58'. As we found out during Computex, this controller employs Toshiba's proprietary Quadruple Swing-By Code (QSBC) error correction technology:

QSBC.png

Error correction tech gets very wordy, windy, and technical and does so very quickly, so I'll do my best to simplify things. Error correction is basically some information interleaved within the data stored on a given medium. Pretty much everything uses it in some form or another. Some Those 700MB CD-R's you used to burn could physically hold over 1GB of data, but all of that extra 'unavailable' space was error correction necessary to deal with the possible scratches and dust over time. Hard drives do the same sort of thing, with recent changes to how the data is interleaved. Early flash memory employed the same sort of simple error correction techniques initially, but advances in understanding of flash memory error modes have led to advances in flash-specific error correction techniques. More advanced algorithms require more advanced math that may not easily lend itself to hardware acceleration. Referencing the above graphic, BCH is simple to perform when needed, while LDPC is known to be more CPU (read SSD controller CPU) intensive. Toshiba's proprietary QSB tech claims to be 8x more capable of correcting errors, but what don't know what, if any, performance penalty exists on account of it.

We will revisit this topic a bit later in the review, but for now lets focus on the other things we know about the Trion 100. The easiest way to explain it is this is essentially Toshiba's answer to the Samsung EVO series of SSDs. This Toshiba flash is configured in a similar fashion, meaning the bulk of it operates in TLC mode, while a portion is segmented off and operates as a faster SLC-mode cache. Writes first go to the SLC area and are purged to TLC in the background during idle time. Continuous writes exceeding the SLC cache size will drop to the write speed of the TLC flash.

Read on for the full review!

Can Seagate's cached HDD compete with an SSD + HDD setup?

Subject: Storage | October 4, 2013 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: hybrid hdd, cache, Seagate, 2TB

Benchmarking cached HDDs can be a difficult task as they are specifically designed to cache commonly used data which results in two very different speeds for data access, the 8GB SSD and the actual HDD.  The Tech Report recently met this challenge when benchmarking Seagate's first 3.5" desktop cached drive with 8GB of flash and 2TB of platter storage.  When contrasting it to some of the higher end HDDs available it became apparent that the more expensive WD Black 4TB was a faster drive but as it does cost more per gigabyte it might not be the best choice for every purpose.  Check out the review to see if this hybrid device is a better choice than buying both a small sized SSD and a large HDD for your own usage.

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"Seagate's hybrid tech has finally been deployed in a desktop drive. The Desktop SSHD combines an 8GB flash cache with 2TB of mechanical storage. We take a closer look at how that combo holds up against standard hard drives and SSDs."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

HAMRs, Shingles and SSD cached HDDs; size versus speed

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2013 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: HAMR, SMR, cache, hdd, Seagate, western digital, hgst, helium

Enthusiasts are wholeheartedly adopting SSDs for their storage media of choice with HDDs relegated to long term storage of infrequently accessed storage.  For SMB and enterprise it is not such an easy choice as the expense to move to a purely SSD infrastructure is daunting and often not the most cost effective way to run their business.  That is why HDD makers continue to develop new technology for platter based storage such as HAMR and shingled magnetic media in an attempt to speed up platter drives as well as increasing the storage density.  Today at The Register you can read about a variety of technologies that will keep the platter alive, from Seagate's cached Enterprise Turbo SSHD, HGST's helium filled drives and the latest predictions on when HAMR and SMR drives could arrive on the market.

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"At a briefing session for tech journos yesterday, Seagate dropped hints of new solid-state hybrid drives (SSHDs) - which combine a non-volatile NAND cache with spinning platters - and a general session about Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) and Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR)."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register