Computex 2018: AMD Announces New EPYC Design Wins

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2018 - 10:36 PM |
Tagged: server, EPYC, enterprise, amd

AMD started off its Computex 2018 livestream by announcing three new design wins for its EPYC server processors. Specifically, AMD's EPYC is being picked up by Cisco, HPE, and Tencent for new server products that will be aimed at heavy virtualization workloads where the physical servers will be host to many virtual machines used for all manner of enterprise applications in the both private and public clouds.

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Specifically, AMD notes that Cisco will be using EPYC in a new UCS solution where AMD notes that EPYC offers up 128% more cores, 50% more servers, and 20% more storage per rack than the competition. Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS) is a high performance converged platform that combines servers, networking, storage, and management together into a rack-able solution that is all interconnected by a Cisco fabric.

AMD EPYC HPE.png

HPE (the enterprise focused spin off from HP) is also adopting EPYC with the announcement today of its first AMD EPYC powered single socket Proliant server: the HPE Proliant DL325 Gen 10. AMD claims its EPYC processors (up to 32 cores / 64 threads) offers up to 25% lower cost per VM than the leading dual socket competitor. In the datacenter world TCO (total cost of ownership) is king and EPYC does have a core count advantage over Intel in this space.

AMD EPYC Tencent.png

Finally, AMD announced that China-based Tencent SA1 cloud service will begin offering AMD EPYC powered instances as soon as today with EPYC offering up to 30% lower cost per VM to Tencent.

AMD did not go into more specifics on the announcements, but it is nice to see EPYC getting some design wins. If you are still awake at this time, you can catch the AMD livestream on Youtube here. Here is what you have to look forward to according to AMD CEO Lisa Su: AMD Vega graphics, FreeSync, Ryzen, Threadripper 2, and 7nm Radeon Vega GPUs.

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Source: AMD

Micron Launches 5210 ION - First QLC NAND Enterprise SATA SSD

Subject: Storage | May 21, 2018 - 04:30 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, QLC, nand, micron, enterprise

For those that study how flash memory stores bits, Quad Level Cell technology is a tricky thing to pull off in production. You are taking a single NAND Flash cell and change its stored electron count in such a way that you can later discriminate between SIXTEEN different states.

SLC MLC TLC QLC.png

...we're talking a countable number (dozens to hundreds) of electrons making the difference between a stored 0101 or 0110 in a given cell. Pulling that off in production-capable parts is no small feat, and doing so for enterprise usage first is definitely a bold move. Enter Micron:

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The 5210 ION line is a SATA product meant for enterprise usages where the workload is primarily reading. This comes in handy for things like real-time data analytics and content delivery systems, where data is infrequently written but needs to be readable at latencies faster than what HDD's can provide.

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These are 2.5" 7mm SSDs that will be available from 1.92TB to 7.68TB (yes, 2TB is the *smallest* available capacity for these!). The idea is to enable an easy upgrade path for larger data systems that already employ SATA or SAS (SAS systems are typically cross-compatible with SATA). For backplanes that are designed for slimmer 7mm drives, this can make for some extreme densities.

These are currently being sampled to some big data companies and should see more general availability in a few months time. Press blast from Micron appears after the break.

Source: Micron

Samsung Shows Off M.2 Form Factor Z-NAND Z-SSD at OCP Summit

Subject: Storage | March 29, 2018 - 10:43 PM |
Tagged: z-ssd, Z-NAND, workstation, Samsung, NVMe, M.2, HPC, enterprise

Samsung is expanding its Z-NAND based "Z-SSD" products with a new M.2 solid state drive for workstations and high-performance compute servers. Previously only available in half-height AIC (add-in-card) form factors, the SZ983 M.2 sports a M.2 22110 form factor and NVMe compatible PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface. The new drive was shown off at Samsung's booth during the Open Compute Project Summit in San Jose and was spotted by Anandtech who managed to snap a couple photos of it.

Samsung Z-SSD M_2 NVMe.jpg

Image credit: Anandtech spotted Samsung's M.2 Z-SSD at OCP Summit 2018.

The new M.2 Z-SSD will come in 240GB and 480GB capacities and sports an 8 channel Phoenix controller. The drive on display at OCP Summit 2018 had a part number of MZ1JB240HMGG-000FB-001. Comparing it to the SZ985 PCI-E SSD, this new M.2 drive appears to also have a DRAM cache as well as capacitors to protect data in the event of power loss (data writes would be able to completely write from the cache to the drive before safe shutdown) though we don't know if this drive has the same 1.5GB of LPDDR4 cache or not. Note that the sticker of the M.2 drive reads SZ983 while Samsung elsewhere had the M.2 labeled as the SZ985 (M.2) so it's unclear which name will stick when this actually launches though hopefully it's the former just to avoid confusion. The Phoenix (formerly Polaris v2) controller is allegedly going to also be used on some of the higher end V-NAND drives though we'll have to wait and see if that happens or not.

Anyway, back to performance numbers, Samsung rates the M.2 Z-SSD at 3200 MB/s sequential reads and 2800 MB/s sequential writes (so a bit slower than the SZ985 at writes). Samsung did not talk random IOPS numbers. The drive is rated at the same 30 DWPD (drive writes per day) endurance rating as the SZ985 and will have the same 5-year warranty. I am curious if the M.2 NVMe drive is able to hit the same (or close to) random IOPS numbers as the PCI-E card which is rated at up to 750,000 read and 170,000 write IOPS.

Z-NAND is interesting as it represents a middle ground between V-NAND and other 3D NAND flash and 3D XPoint memory in both terms of cost and latency performance with Z-NAND being closer in latency to XPoint than V-NAND. Where it gets interesting is that Z-NAND is essentially V-NAND just run at a different mode and yet they are able to reduce write latency by 5-times (12-to-20 microseconds) and cell read latency by up to 10-times (16 microseconds). While Samsung is already working on second generation Z-NAND, these drives are using first generation Z-NAND which is the more performance (lowest latency) type but costs quite a bit more than 2nd generation which is only a bit slower (more read latency). Judging by the form 110mm form factor, this M.2 drive is aimed squarely at datacenter and workstation usage and is not likely to lead to a consumer Optane 800P (et al) competitor, but if it does well enough we may see some prosumer and consumer Z-NAND based options in the future with newer generations of Z-NAND as they get the right balance of cost and latency for the desktop gaming and enthusiast market.

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Source: Anandtech

Seagate Announces Exos X14 14TB Enterprise Hard Drive

Subject: Storage | March 27, 2018 - 01:33 AM |
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!

Seagate Exos X14 14TB Enterprise Hard Drive.jpg

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.

Source: Seagate

Seagate Announces Quarterly Earnings for Q2 FY2018

Subject: General Tech, Storage | February 1, 2018 - 03:07 AM |
Tagged: Seagate, quarterly earnings, Hard Drive, financial results, enterprise

Seagate Technology has announced its quarterly earnings for the second quarter of fiscal year 2018 (the quarter ending 12/29/2017). The Cupertino-based company has reported quarterly revenue of $2.9 billion, net income of $159 million, and diluted EPS of 55 cents. On a Non-GAAP reporting basis, Seagate saw Q2 FY2018 net income of $431 million and earnings per share of $1.48.

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Seagate's revenue remained flat year-over-year, but increased 11.5% versus the previous quarter. Net income decreased 12% QOQ and 46% YoY using GAAP accounting methods, but on a non-GAAP basis Seagate reports a 54% increase versus the previous quarter and 4.6% increase versus the same quarter last year so it's not all bad news. The company is also managed to amass quite a bit of cash including $850 million from operations and $773 of free cash flow.

  Q2 FY2018 Q1 FY2018 Q2 FY2017 QOQ YoY
Revenue $2.9 billion $2.6 billion $2.9 billion +11.5% =
Net Income (GAAP) $159 million $181 million $297 million -12% -46%
Diluted Earnings Per Share (GAAP) 0.55 0.62 1.00 -11.5% -45%
Net Income (Non-GAAP) $431 million $279 million $412 million +54% +4.6%
Diluted EPS (Non-GAAP) 1.48 0.96 1.38 +54% +7.2%

Seagate manufactures both mechanical hard drives and solid state drives, and while the company cranks out many internal and external drives for consumers, the company is very much focused on the enterprise market, especially where its solid state storage is concerned. Seagate states in its press release that it is heavily focused on cloud storage with its 60TB 3.5" SAS drive and NVMe add-in-card (which it demonstrated at FMS 2016). The company has partnered with Facebook to build its 1U Lightning storage solution (up to 120TB of flash storage using 60 2TB M.2 NVMe drives) and continues to target the enterprise and exascale/HPC markets with their absolutely massive and ever-growing data demands for big data analytics of financial and user data, uploaded and user-generated media, cloud backup, and research/simulation data for supercomputers. Further, the company continues to push mechanical enterprise storage to ever higher capacities with Barracuda Pro and also has its Ironwolf NAS and sequential-optimized Skyhawk drives for surveillance systems. On the flash storage front, Seagate has its Nytro M.2 NVMe and Nytro SAS SSDs.

Seagate Facebook Lightning JBOF System.jpg

Facebook's 1U Lightning JBOF System using 60 Seagate XM1440 M.2 SSDs.

I am interested to see where Seagate (STX) will go with its flash storage (Will they ever bring it to the consumer market in a big way? They do have a few products, but their focus seems to be mostly on enterprise.) and if they will manage to match or surpass Western Digital and Toshiba this year in the enterprise HDD capacity war. Currently, the company's Barracuda, IronWolf, and Exos drives top out at 12TB including the second generation Helium-sealed versions.

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Source: Seagate

Samsung Introducing Z-NAND Based 800GB Z-SSD For Enterprise HPC

Subject: Storage | January 31, 2018 - 08:39 PM |
Tagged: z-ssd, Z-NAND, Samsung, HPC, enterprise, ai

Samsung will be introducing a new high performance solid state drive using new Z-NAND flash at ISSCC next month. The new Samsung SZ985 Z-SSD is aimed squarely at the high-performance computing (HPC) market for big data number crunching, supercomputing, AI research, and IoT application development. The new drive will come in two capacities at 800GB and 240GB and combines low latency Z-NAND flash with 1.5GB LPDDR4 DRAM cache and an unspecified "high performance" Samsung controller.

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The Z-NAND drive is interesting because it represents an extremely fast storage solution that offers up to 10-times cell read performance and 5-times less write latency than 3-bit V-NAND based drives such as Samsung's own PM963 NVMe SSD. The Z-NAND technology represents a middle ground (though closer to Optane than not) between NAND and X Point flash memory without the expense and complexity of 3D XPoint (at least, in theory). The single port 4-lane drive (PCI-E x4) reportedly is able to hit random read performance of 750,000 IOPS and random write performance of 170,000 IOPS. The drive is able to do this with very little latency at around 16µs (microseconds). To put that in perspective, a traditional NVMe SSD can exhibit write latencies of around 90+ microseconds while Optane sits at around half the latency of Z-NAND (~8-10µs). You can find a comparison chart of latency percentiles of various storage technologies here. While the press release did not go into transfer speeds or read latencies, Samsung talked about that late last year when it revealed the drive's existence. The SZ985 Z-SSD maxes out its x4 interface at 3.2 GB/s for both sequential reads and sequential writes. Further, read latencies are rated at between 12µs and 20µs. At the time Allyn noted that the 30 drive writes per day (DWPD) matched that of Intel's P4800X and stated that it was an impressive feat considering Samsung is essentially running its V-NAND flash in a different mode with Z-NAND. Looking at the specs, the Samsung SZ985 Z-SSD has the same 2 million hours MTBF but is actually rated higher for endurance at 42 Petabytes over five years (versus 41 PB). Both drives appear to offer the same 5-year warranty though we may have to wait for the ISSCC announcement for confirmation on that.

It appears that the SZ-985 offers a bit more capacity, higher random read IOPS, and better sequential performance but with slightly more latency and lower random write IOPS than the 3D XPoint based Intel Optane P4800X drive.

In all Samsung has an interesting drive and if they can price it right I can see them selling a ton of these drives to the enterprise market for big data analytics tasks as well as a high-speed drive for researchers. I am looking forward to more information being released about the Z-SSD and its Z-NAND flash technology at the ISSCC (International Solid-State Circuits Conference) in mid-February.

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Source: Samsung

Toshiba Launches 14TB Helium Sealed PMR Hard Drives For Enterprise Customers

Subject: Storage | December 9, 2017 - 11:46 PM |
Tagged: PMR, toshiba, helium, Hard Drive, enterprise, cmr, cloud storage, 14tb

Toshiba recently took the wraps off of a new hard drive series aimed at the enterprise market. What makes the MG07ACA series interesting is that Toshiba is offering a 14 TB 3.5” drive without resorting to using Shingled Magnetic Recording. Instead, the new MG07ACA series uses standard recording methods (CMR) and nine ~1.556 TB PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) platters in an helium filled hermetically sealed enclosure to hit 40% more capacity and up to 50% better power efficiency than the previous MG06ACA (10 TB) series. The new drives are also important because they represent the first foray into helium filled hard drives for Toshiba following the company pushing air breathing drives to the limit with its seven platter models.

Toshiba MG07ACA 14TB CMR hard drive.jpg

The new drives are standard 7200 RPM models with 256 MB of cache and a SATA 6 Gbps interface. The 14 TB model is able to hit 260 MB/s sustained transfer while the slightly lower areal density of the 12 TB model puts it at a 250 MB/s transfer speed maximum. They are able to hit 167 random 4K read IOPS and 70 random 4k write IOPS (which is fun to compare to even the slowest SSDs today, but these drives aren't for random workloads). Toshiba rates the drives at a fairly industry standard 550 TB per year workload and 2.5 million hours MTBF with a five year warranty. Toshiba is reportedly using its own laser welding technology to seal the drives and keep the helium contained. The MG07ACA drives are offered in emulated 512 (512e) and 4k native sectors with the 512e models featuring Toshiba Persistent Write Cache technology to prevent data loss in the event of power failure while the drives are executing read-modify-write operations. The power loss protection (PLP) is important for enterprise customers using these drives to upgrade the storage in their legacy software and hardware setups.

The MG07ACA series includes 14 TB 9-disk and 12 TB 8-disk drives. That’s a lot of platters in a single drive, but Toshiba claims that going this route with CMR / PMR reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO) for enterprise customers that are buying up high capacity drives for their cloud storage and big data storage needs. The drives are allegedly more power efficient and trusted in the enterprise market as opposed to the newer shingled drives. I suppose these drives are also useful as they can be drop in upgrades of lower capacity models.

John Rydning, Research Vice President for hard disk drives at IDC was quoted in the press release in saying:

"While enterprise server and storage customers realize that shingled magnetic recording (SMR) technology can improve HDD capacity, the adoption of SMR HDD products into server and storage systems is a transition that will take several years,"

Interestingly the drives offer 1.5 TB / platter in the 12 TB model and a bit more than 1.55 TB / platter in the 14 TB drive. With SMR technology hitting up to 1.75 TB / platter so far, using that could get a 14 TB drive with just 8 platters, but that is still fairly close that I suppose going with the longer track record of non shingled PMR and its reliability is more important to the enterprise customers.

In order to cram 9 platters into a standard 3.5" drive, Toshiba had to make the platters thinner and move to helium instead of air. Specifically, Toshiba is using 0.635mm Showa Denko (SDK) PMR platters that are a mere 1.58mm apart! The drives have Nidec motors on the top and bottom as well as environmental sensors and RVFF (Rotation Vibration Feed Forward) vibration compensation technology which is important when you have nine platters spinning at 7200 RPM in each drive and then hundreds of drives are placed in close proximity to each other in server racks and SANs. The move to helium and thinner platters is a big part of the power savings in this drive with the platters being easier to spin up and exhibiting less flutter moving through the much less dense helium versus air. Toshiba claims that the MG07ACA series uses up to 7.6 watts in normal operation and 4.6 watts at idle (0.32W/GB).

According to AnandTech, Toshiba will begin sampling the new hard drives later this month and will sell the drives to its large enterprise customers within the first half of next year. Once demand from the big data crowd has been met, Toshiba will being selling the drives through distributors which means enthusiasts will be able to get their hands on the drives through normal channels by the end of 2018. Exact pricing and availability have not been announced at this time.

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Source: Toshiba

Western Digital Launches 12TB Gold Hard Drive To Consumers

Subject: Storage | September 18, 2017 - 09:35 PM |
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.

WD Gold 12TB.jpg

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.

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Win-ning friends in the workplace and hoping you hate group policy

Subject: General Tech | May 23, 2017 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Win 10, enterprise

Microsoft is continuing with their policy of self inflicted hurdles for Enterprise adoption of Windows 10.  We have known for a while that Group Policy no longer works as expected on the new version of Windows and today The Inquirer posted more exact information this particular issue.  A security researcher locked down a machine using Group Policy settings and found that even with policies in place to prevent certain protocols and services, the machine continued to attempt connections.  The most damning proof of all was on a machine set to extreme security, with all but connections to Microsoft Update blocked, that still happily attempted to connect to advertising servers.  The marketshare of Win 10 devices in the workplace does not look to be on the rise any time soon.

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"On Monday, we revealed that a security researcher had used a packet sniffer to show that many settings designed to prevent access to the internet were being ignored with connections to a range of third party servers including advertising hubs."

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Source: The Inquirer

Need a huge amount of reliable storage? 10TB of enterprise storage from Seagate

Subject: Storage | March 21, 2017 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, 10TB, enterprise, hdd

The Seagate Barracuda Pro 10TB Enterprise HDD won't give you the fastest access to your data, but if you have a large amount of storage in a reliable format it is worth looking at this review.  The MSRP of $444.45USD is much lower than you would pay for 10TB of SSD storage, though you might be able to set up several smaller disks in a Drobo or similar device for a similar price.  The MTBF is 2.5 million hours, the endurance rating is 550TB per year and there is a 5 year warranty so even with heavy usage you should be able to depend on this drive for quite a long time.  You can drop by NikKTech to see how it performs.

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"The Seagate Barracuda Pro 10TB hard disk drive offers good endurance levels with great performance and an even greater capacity. The Enterprise Capacity 3.5 V6 10TB model again by Seagate boosts even higher performance and endurance numbers without asking more from your wallet."

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Source: Nikktech