For years we have been repeatedly teased by Samsung. Launch after successful launch in the consumer SSD space, topping performance charts nearly every time, but what about enterprise? Oh sure, there were plenty of launches on that side, with the company showing off higher and higher capacity 2.5" enterprise SSDs year after year, but nobody could ever get their hands on one, and even the higher tier reviewers could not confirm Samsung's performance claims. While other SSD makers would privately show me performance comparison data showing some Samsung enterprise part walking all over their own enterprise parts, there was not much concern in their voices since only a small group of companies had the luxury of being on Samsung's short list of clients that could purchase these products. Announcements of potentially groundbreaking products like the Z-SSD were soured by press folk growing jaded by unobtanium products that would likely never be seen by the public.
Samsung has recently taken some rather significant steps to change that tune. They held a small press event in September, where we were assured that enterprise SSD models were coming to 'the channel' (marketing speak for being available on the retail market). I was thrilled, as were some of the Samsung execs who had apparently been pushing for such a move for some time.
As a next step towards demonstrating that Samsung is dedicated to their plan, I was recently approached to test a round of their upcoming products. I accepted without hesitation, have been testing for the past week, and am happy to now bring you detailed results obtained from testing eight different SSDs across four enterprise SSD models. Testing initially began with three of the models, but then I was made aware that the Z-SSD was also available for testing, and given the potential significance of that product and its placement as a competitor to 3D XPoint products like Intel's Optane, I thought it important to include that testing as well, making this into one heck of a Samsung Enterprise SSD roundup!
One large note before we continue - this is an enterprise SSD review. Don't expect to see game launches, SYSmark runs, or boot times here. The density of the data produced by my enterprise suite precludes most easy side-by-side comparisons, so I will instead be presenting the standard full-span random and sequential results for fully conditioned drives, marking the rated specs on the charts as we go along. High-Resolution QoS will also be used throughout, as Quality of Service is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing SSDs for enterprise usage. In short, the SSDs will be tested against their own specifications, with the exception of some necessary comparisons between the Samsung Z-SSD and the Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X which I will squeeze in towards the end of this very lengthy and data-dense review.
Subject: Storage | November 7, 2018 - 06:44 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: western digital, SMR, hgst, HelioSeal, datacenter
Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2018 - 10:48 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Ampere, arm, armv8-a, datacenter, ddr4
Ampere recently announced the availability of its first ARM-based server processor dubbed eMAG. The new chips use 16 or 32 custom CPU cores built upon the X-Gene 3 (once pioneered by Applied Micro) compatible with the 64-bit ARMv8-A instruction set. Ampere, in partnership with Lenovo (and several smaller unspecified ODMs), has started shipping eMAG to its customers and partners. Current eMAG processors are based on TSMC 16nm FinFET+ and Ampere plans to move future eMAG processors to TSMC’s 7nm node while adding support for multi-socket servers as soon as next year.
Ampere’s eMAG processors are designed for the datacenter with big data computing workloads in mind that benefit from large amounts of memory and cores including big data analytics, web serving, and in-memory databases. The new ARM server CPU entrant is designed to compete with the likes of Intel’s Xeon and AMD’s EPYC X86-64 processors as well as other ARM-based offerings from Cavium and Qualcomm. Early reports suggest that eMAG is no slouch in performance, but where it really excels is in price to performance, performance per core per dollar, and total cost of ownership metrics.
Today’s eMAG processors feature either 16 or 32 custom ARM cores clocked at 3.0 GHz base and up to 3.3 GHz turbo with 32KB I-cache, 32KB D-cache (L1) per core, 256KB L2 cache which is shared between two paired cores, and a global shared 32MB L3 cache. There are eight DDR4 memory controllers (up to 1TB DDR4-2667 using 16 DIMMs for up to 170.7 GB/s memory bandwidth) as well as 42 lanes of PCI-E 3.0 I/O. The CPU cores, cache, and controllers are connected using a switch that is part of a coherent fabric. Additional I/O support includes four SATA 3 and two USB 2.0 along with 10GbE. The eMAG processors have a 125W TDP.
Perhaps most interesting is the pricing which Ampere has set at a rather aggressive $550 for the 16-core chip and $850 for the 32-core processor. The Ampere chips are interesting especially following Qualcomm’s seeming loss of interest in this space as it dialed back its Centriq efforts earlier this year. With a new ARM entrant that reduces the datacenter barrier to entry for workloads that need lots of acceptable performance cores paired with lots of memory and AMD’s renewed datacenter push on all fronts, Intel is going to have its work cut out for it when it comes to maintaining its datacenter dominance. At the very least it may shake up server CPU pricing. Further, perhaps beyond its intended use, these ARM-based offerings may also introduce some new server platforms that are accessible to enthusiast virtual lab-ers and small HPC developers (small shops, universities, etc) that can use lower cost systems like these for testing and research into developing highly parallelized code that will eventually be run on higher end servers in the “hyperscale” data center.
I am curious to see if the eMAG will live up to its performance claims and expectations of competing with the big players in this space. According to ExtremeTech, Ampere claims the 32-core eMAG is able to match the Intel Xeon Gold 6130 (16 core / 32 thread, 2.1-3.7 GHz, 22MB L3, and 125W TDP) in SPEC CINT2006 benchmarks. The company further claimed earlier this year that eMAG would offer up to 90% performance per dollar versus Xeon Silver and 40% higher performance per dollar compared to Xeon Gold processors from Intel.
What are your thoughts on eMAG and ARM in the server space?
- ARM Reveals First Public CPU Roadmap - Targeting Intel Performance
- ARMing the Cloud; Qualcomm's Centriq 2400 Platform will power Microsoft Azure instances
Subject: Storage | March 27, 2018 - 01:33 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Seagate, helium, enterprise, datacenter, 14tb
During the Open Compute Summit Seagate showed off a new drive in its Helium-filled Exos X lineup that offers up 14TB of storage in a 3.5-inch SATA hard drive package. The aptly named Exos X14 is a low power 7200 RPM drive that utilizes PMR rather than the more exotic methods (shingled, HAMR, ect) and is a drop-in replacement that Seagate claims allows up to 40% more storage space per rack than previous drives – up to 3,360 TB per rack!
The drive is aimed at datacenter customers and cloud storage providers clamoring for fast-enough affordable storage. The Exos X14 platform is expected to use a whopping 9-platters each holding 1.55 terabytes. Beyond that, Seagate is not sharing exact specifications except to say that it has bested the sustained transfer rates of the Exos X12 and competitors and has leading and reliable random I/O performance that has been optimized for hyperscale environments (so take that for what you will) likely thanks to the increased storage density.
Seagate did note that the new drives support Seagate Secure encryption and the drive is rated for FIPS 140-2 / Level 2 and ISO/IEC 15408 certifications so at least in theory it meets a minimum level of IT security practices in the methods it uses to protect the data stored on it.
A research study performed by IDC and sponsored by Seagate found that worldwide data creation could hit up to 163 Zettabytes (163 trillion Gigabytes!) by 2025 (10-times the amount of data created last year) which is mind-boggling. Even if the reality is half of that, that’s still an absolutely staggering amount of data that needs to be stored somewhere and both spinning rust and expensive flash are going to have to make some significant advancements to get to that point – and to that point with an acceptable TCO.
The Exos X14 is expected to start shipping to datacenter customers this summer and is currently being sampled to select partners like Baidu and Facebook (Facebook was showing off a server packed with the drives at OCP 2018).
Also interesting is Seagate’s announcement of “Mach.2” multi-actuator technology and its advancements into making HAMR (heat assisted magnetic recording) more reliable both of which are going to be important for the future.
Subject: Storage | September 18, 2017 - 09:35 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: western digital, wd gold, TLER, enterprise, datacenter
Western Digital has a new mechanical hard drive for your treasure trove of digital data. Utilizing fourth generation HelioSeal technology and eight PMR platters to fit 1.5TB of data per platter, the WD121KRYZ has a capacity of 12TB and features quite a few enterprise technologies to improve reliability and reduce data loss.
The WD Gold 12TB drive is an eight-platter 3.5" drive spinning at 7200RPM paired with 256 MB of cache and featuring a SATA III interface. The helium sealed hard drive uses a dual stage actuator head positioning system that can adjust the fly height of the read-write heads in real time. Enterprise focused features include RAFF to monitor and correct linear and rotational vibrations and TLER to protect the integrity of a RAID array. The vibration monitoring Is overkill for a desktop PC or even a NAS, but can be useful in a datacenter environment where hundreds of drives are packed together. The time limited error recovery technology ensures that bad sectors do not cause a RAID rebuild to fail (and Allyn has a more in-depth explanation here).
The WD Gold 12TB is built for continuous operation with an annual workload rate of 550TB running 24/7 with a 5-year warranty and 2.5 million hours MTBF. The maximum sustained transfer is 255 MB/s. The digital hoarder’s dream is available for $521.99 from Western Digital which works out to $0.0435 / GB. If you do not want to wait for a Red Pro 12TB variant (there does not appear to be one available and WD only recently launched 10TB models), the Gold series drive might be a good option with a better warranty and lower error rate.
- Western Digital Launches 10TB Red and Red Pro
- Western Digital Reworks Enterprise Lineup, Launches 8TB Gold Datacenter HDD
- WD and HGST Refresh Enterprise SSDs to Include 8TB, Push HDDs to 12TB and Beyond
Subject: Processors | May 16, 2017 - 06:49 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Zen, server, ryzen, processor, EPYC, datacenter, cpu, amd, 64 thread, 32 core
AMD has announced their new datacenter CPU built on the Zen architecture, which the company is calling EPYC. And epic they are, as these server processors will be offered with up to 32 cores and 64 threads, 8 memory channels, and 128 PCI Express lanes per CPU.
Some of the details about the upcoming "Naples" server processors (now EPYC) were revealed by AMD back in March, when the upcoming server chips were previewed:
- A highly scalable, 32-core System on Chip (SoC) design, with support for two high-performance threads per core
- Industry-leading memory bandwidth, with 8-channels of memory per "Naples" device. In a 2-socket server, support for up to 32 DIMMS of DDR4 on 16 memory channels, delivering up to 4 terabytes of total memory capacity.
- The processor is a complete SoC with fully integrated, high-speed I/O supporting 128 lanes of PCIe, negating the need for a separate chip-set
- A highly-optimized cache structure for high-performance, energy efficient compute
- AMD Infinity Fabric coherent interconnect for two "Naples" CPUs in a 2-socket system
- Dedicated security hardware
Compared to Ryzen (or should it be RYZEN?), EPYC offers a huge jump in core count and available performance - though AMD's other CPU announcement (Threadripper) bridges the gap between the desktop and datacenter offerings with an HEDT product. This also serves to bring AMD's CPU offerings to parity with the Intel product stack with desktop/high performance desktop/server CPUs.
EPYC is a large processor. (Image credit: The Tech Report)
While specifications were not offered, there have been leaks (of course) to help fill in the blanks. Wccftech offers these specs for EPYC (on the left):
(Image credit: Wccftech)
We await further information from AMD about the EPYC launch.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Intel launched their Datacenter 'P' Series parts a little over two years ago. Since then, the P3500, P3600, and P3700 lines have seen various expansions and spinoffs. The most recent to date was the P3608, which packed two full P3600's into a single HHHL form factor. With Intel 3D XPoint / Optane parts lurking just around the corner, I had assumed there would be no further branches of the P3xxx line, but Intel had other things in mind. IMFT 3D NAND offers greater die capacities at a reduced cost/GB, apparently even in MLC form, and Intel has infused this flash into their new P3520:
Remember the P3500 series was Intel's lowest end of the P line, and as far as performance goes, the P3520 actually takes a further step back. The play here is to get the proven quality control and reliability of Intel's datacenter parts into a lower cost product. While the P3500 launched at $1.50/GB, the P3520 pushes that cost down *well* below $1/GB for a 2TB HHHL or U.2 SSD.
Subject: Storage | August 10, 2016 - 02:00 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: 2.5, V-NAND, ssd, Samsung, nand, FMS 2016, FMS, flash, 64-Layer, 32TB, SAS, datacenter
..now this picture has been corrected for extreme parallax and was taken in far from ideal conditions, but you get the point. Samsung's keynote is coming up later today, and I have a hunch this will be a big part of what they present. We did know 64-Layer was coming, as it was mentioned in Samsung's last earnings announcement, but confirmation is nice.
*edit* now that the press conference has taken place, here are a few relevant slides:
With 48-Layer V-NAND announced last year (and still rolling out), it's good to see Samsung pushing hard into higher capacity dies. 64-Layer enables 512Gbits (64GB) per die, and 100MB/s per die maximum throughput means even lower capacity SSDs should offer impressive sequentials.
Samsung 48-Layer V-NAND. Pic courtesy of TechInsights.
We will know more shortly, but for now, dream of even higher capacity SSDs :)
*edit* and this just happened:
*additional edit* - here's a better picture taken after the keynote:
The 32TB model in their 2.5" form factor displaces last years 16TB model. The drive itself is essentially identical, but the flash packages now contain 64-layer dies, doubling the available capacity of the device.
Subject: Processors | March 15, 2016 - 12:52 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: TSMC, SoC, servers, process technology, low power, FinFET, datacenter, cpu, arm, 7nm, 7 nm FinFET
ARM and TSMC have announced their collaboration on 7 nm FinFET process technology for future SoCs. A multi-year agreement between the companies, products produces on this 7 nm FinFET process are intended to expand ARM’s reach “beyond mobile and into next-generation networks and data centers”.
TSMC Headquarters (Image credit: AndroidHeadlines)
So when can we expect to see 7nm SoCs on the market? The report from The Inquirer offers this quote from TSMC:
“A TSMC spokesperson told the INQUIRER in a statement: ‘Our 7nm technology development progress is on schedule. TSMC's 7nm technology development leverages our 10nm development very effectively. At the same time, 7nm offers a substantial density improvement, performance improvement and power reduction from 10nm’.”
Full press release after the break.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
What's better than an 18-channel NVMe PCIe Datacenter SSD controller in a Half Height Half Length (HHHL) package? *TWO* 18-channel NVMe PCIe Datacenter controllers in a HHHL package! I'm sure words to this effect were uttered in an Intel meeting room some time in the past, because such a device now exists, and is called the SSD DC P3608:
The P3608 is essentially a pair of P3600's glued together on a single PCB, much like how some graphics cards merge a pair of GPUs to act with the performance of a pair of cards combined into a single one:
What is immediately impressive here is that Intel has done this same trick within 1/4 of the space (HHHL compared to a typical graphics card). We can only imagine the potential of a pair of P3600 SSDs, so lets get right into the specs, disassembly, and testing!