Subject: General Tech, Storage | February 21, 2017 - 07:14 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Optane, kaby lake, Intel, 3D XPoint
Intel has announced that its Optane memory will require an Intel Kaby Lake processor to function. While previous demonstrations of the technology used an Intel Skylake processor, it appears this configuration will not be possible on the consumer versions of the technology.
Further, the consumer application accelerator drives will also require a 200-series chipset motherboard, and either a M.2 2280-S1-B-M or M.2 2242-S1-B-M connector with two or four PCI-E lanes. Motherboards will have to support NVMe v1.1 and Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) 15.5 or newer.
It is not clear why Intel is locking Optane technology to Kaby Lake and whether it is due to technical limitations that they were not able to resolve to keep Skylake compatible or if it is just a matter of not wanting to support the older platform and focus on its new Kaby Lake processors. As such, Kaby Lake is now required if you want UHD Blu Ray playback and Optane 3D XPoint SSDs.
What are your thoughts on this latest bit of Optane news? Has Intel sweetened the pot enough to encourage upgrade hold outs?
- A Closer Look at Intel's Optane SSD DC P4800X Enterprise SSD Performance
- Intel Quietly Launches Official Optane Memory Site
- The Intel Core i7-7700K Review - Kaby Lake and 14nm+
Subject: Editorial | February 16, 2017 - 01:36 PM | Alex Lustenberg
Tagged: Zen, Z170, webkit, webgpu, podcast, Optane, nvidia, Intel, icx, evga, ECS, crucial, Blender, anidees, amd
PC Perspective Podcast #437 - 02/16/17
Join us for EVGA iCX, Zen Architechure, Intel Optane, new NVIDIA and AMD driver releases, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Allyn Malventano, Ken Addison, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom
Program length: 1:32:21
Podcast topics of discussion:
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Subject: Storage | February 15, 2017 - 08:58 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XPoint, ssd, Optane, memory, Intel, cache
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.
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?
Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2017 - 01:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: vulkan, Intel, Intel Skylake, kaby lake
The open source API, Vulkan, just received a big birthday present from Intel as they added official support on their Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs under Windows 10. We have seen adoption of this API from a number of game engine designers, Unreal Engine and Unity have both embraced it, the latest DOOM release was updated to support Vulkan and there is even a Nintendo 64 renderer which runs on it. Ars Technica points out that both AMD and NVIDIA have been supporting this API for a while and that we can expect to see Android implementations of this close to the metal solution in the near future.
"After months in beta, Intel's latest driver for its integrated GPUs (version 188.8.131.5290) adds support for the low-overhead Vulkan API for recent GPUs running in Windows 10. The driver supports HD and Iris 500- and 600-series GPUs, the ones that ship with 6th- and 7th-generation Skylake and Kaby Lake processors."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- XPoint: Leaked Intel specs reveal 'launch-ready' SSD – report @ The Register
- Patch Tuesday put on hold, SMB zero-day exploit likely to blame @ The Inquirer
- Roses are red, violets are blue, fake-news-detecting AI is fake news, too @ The Register
- Google's Not-so-secret New OS @ Slashdot
- Linksys Velop Mesh Wi-Fi Router System @ Custom PC Review
Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2017 - 12:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: acronis, caringo, Cisco, fujitsu, Intel, mimecast
The Register received more than a few tidbits of news from a wide array of storage companies, which they have condensed in this post. Acronis have released new versions of their Backup suite and True Image, with the Backup suite now able to capture Office 365 mailboxes. Cisco have released a product which allows you to have your onsite cloud run like Azure while Fujitsu announced their mid-range ETERNUS AF650 all-flash array. Intel have updated their implementation of the open source Lustre parallel file system for supercomputers and several companies released earning data, though Mimecast wished their news was better.
"Incoming! Boom, boom and boom again – storage news announcements hit the wires in a relentless barrage. Here's a few we've received showing developments in data protection, cloud storage, hyper-converged storage, the dregs of flash memory and more."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- 1 of 5 Intel's 8th-gen 'Coffee Lake' chips will be 14nm, not 10nm @ The Inquirer
- Google has a canary problem: One clocked off and crocked its cloud @ The Register
- Ping Pong Ball Improves the Google Daydream Controller @ Hack a Day
- Munich looks to ditch its Linux infrastructure and bring back Windows @ The Inquirer
- That guy using a Surface you keep seeing around town could be a spook @ The Register
- DeepMind AI learns to act aggressive when it doesn't get its way @ The Inquirer
- Good in a Pinch: The Physics of Crimped Connections @ Hack a Day
- Macs don't get viruses? Hahaha, ha... seriously though, that Word doc could be malware @ The Register
Subject: Editorial | February 9, 2017 - 06:59 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: TSMC, Samsung, Results, quadro, Q4, nvidia, Intel, geforce, Drive PX2, amd, 2017, 2016
It is most definitely quarterly reports time for our favorite tech firms. NVIDIA’s is unique with their fiscal vs. calendar year as compared to how AMD and Intel report. This has to do when NVIDIA had their first public offering and set the fiscal quarters ahead quite a few months from the actual calendar. So when NVIDIA announces Q4 2017, it is actually reflecting the Q4 period in 2016. Clear as mud?
Semantics aside, NVIDIA had a record quarter. Gross revenue was an impressive $2.173 billion US. This is up slightly more than $700 million from the previous Q4. NVIDIA has shown amazing growth during this time attributed to several factors. Net income (GAAP) is at $655 million. This again is a tremendous amount of profit for a company that came in just over $2 billion in revenue. We can compare this to AMD’s results two weeks ago that hit $1.11 billion in revenue and a loss of $51 million for the quarter. Consider that AMD provides CPUs, chipsets, and GPUs to the market and is the #2 x86 manufacturer in the world.
The yearly results were just as impressive. FY 2017 featured record revenue and net income. Revenue was $6.91 billion as compare to FY 2016 at $5 billion. Net income for the year was $1.666 billion with comparison to $614 million for FY 2016. The growth for the entire year is astounding, and certainly the company had not seen an expansion like this since the early 2000s.
The core strength of the company continues to be gaming. Gaming GPUs and products provided $1.348 billion in revenue by themselves. Since the manufacturing industry was unable to provide a usable 20 nm planar product for large, complex ASICs companies such as NVIDIA and AMD were forced to innovate in design to create new products with greater feature sets and performance, all the while still using the same 28 nm process as previous products. Typically process shrinks accounted for the majority of improvements (more transistors packed into a smaller area with corresponding switching speed increases). Many users kept cards that were several years old due to there not being a huge impetus to upgrade. With the arrival of the 14 nm and 16 nm processes from Samsung and TSMC respectively, users suddenly had a very significant reason to upgrade. NVIDIA was able to address the entire market from high to low with their latest GTX 10x0 series of products. AMD on the other hand only had new products that hit the midrange and budget markets.
The next biggest area for NVIDIA is that of the datacenter. This has seen tremendous growth as compared to the other markets (except of course gaming) that NVIDIA covers. It has gone from around $97 million in Q4 2016 up to $296 million this last quarter. Tripling revenue in any one area is rare. Gaming “only” about doubled during this same time period. Deep learning and AI are two areas that required this type of compute power and NVIDIA was able to deliver a comprehensive software stack, as well as strategic partnerships that provided turnkey solutions for end users.
After datacenter we still have the visualization market based on the Quadro products. This area has not seen the dramatic growth as other aspects of the company, but it remains a solid foundation and a good money maker for the firm. The Quadro products continue to be improved upon and software support grows.
One area that promises to really explode in the next three to four years is the automotive sector. The Drive PX2 system is being integrated into a variety of cars and NVIDIA is focused on providing a solid and feature packed solution for manufacturers. Auto-pilot and “co-pilot” modes will become more and more important in upcoming models and should reach wide availability by 2020, if not a little sooner. NVIDIA is working with some of the biggest names in the industry from both automakers and parts suppliers. BMW should release a fully automated driving system later this year with their i8 series. Audi also has higher end cars in the works that will utilize NVIDIA hardware and fully automated operation. If NVIDIA continues to expand here, eventually it could become as significant a source of income as gaming is today.
There was one bit of bad news from the company. Their OEM & IP division has seen several drops over the past several quarters. NVIDIA announced that the IP licensing to Intel would be discontinued this quarter and would not be renewed. We know that AMD has entered into an agreement with Intel to provide graphics IP to the company in future parts and to cover Intel in potential licensing litigation. This was a fair amount of money per quarter for NVIDIA, but their other divisions more than made up for the loss of this particular income.
NVIDIA certainly seems to be hitting on all cylinders and is growing into markets that previously were unavailable as of five to ten years ago. They are spreading out their financial base so as to avoid boom and bust cycles of any one industry. Next quarter NVIDIA expects revenue to be down seasonally into the $1.9 billion range. Even though that number is down, it would still represent the 3rd highest quarterly revenue.
Subject: Processors | February 8, 2017 - 09:38 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Zen, Skylake, Samsung, ryzen, kaby lake, ISSCC, Intel, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, amd, AM4, 14 nm FinFET
Yesterday EE Times posted some interesting information that they had gleaned at ISSCC. AMD released a paper describing the design process and advances they were able to achieve with the Zen architecture manufactured on Samsung’s/GF’s 14nm FinFETT process. AMD went over some of the basic measurements at the transistor scale and how it compares to what Intel currently has on their latest 14nm process.
The first thing that jumps out is that AMD claimes that their 4 core/8 thread x86 core is about 10% smaller than what Intel has with one of their latest CPUs. We assume it is either Kaby Lake or Skylake. AMD did not exactly go over exactly what they were counting when looking at the cores because there are some significant differences between the two architectures. We are not sure if that 44mm sq. figure includes the L3 cache or the L2 caches. My guess is that it probably includes L2 cache but not L3. I could be easily wrong here.
Going down the table we see that AMD and Samsung/GF are able to get their SRAM sizes down smaller than what Intel is able to do. AMD has double the amount of L2 cache per core, but it is only about 60% larger than Intel’s 256 KB L2. AMD also has a much smaller L3 cache as well than Intel. Both are 8 MB units but AMD comes in at 16 mm sq. while Intel is at 19.1 mm sq. There will be differences in how AMD and Intel set up these caches, and until we see L3 performance comparisons we cannot assume too much.
(Image courtesy of ISSCC)
In some of the basic measurements of the different processes we see that Intel has advantages throughout. This is not surprising as Intel has been well known to push process technology beyond what others are able to do. In theory their products will have denser logic throughout, including the SRAM cells. When looking at this information we wonder how AMD has been able to make their cores and caches smaller. Part of that is due to the likely setup of cache control and access.
One of the most likely culprits of this smaller size is that the less advanced FPU/SSE/AVX units that AMD has in Zen. They support AVX-256, but it has to be done in double the cycles. They can do single cycle AVX-128, but Intel’s throughput is much higher than what AMD can achieve. AVX is not the end-all, be-all but it is gaining in importance in high performance computing and editing applications. David Kanter in his article covering the architecture explicitly said that AMD made this decision to lower the die size and power constraints for this product.
Ryzen will undoubtedly be a pretty large chip overall once both modules and 16 MB of L3 cache are put together. My guess would be in the 220 mm sq. range, but again that is only a guess once all is said and done (northbridge, southbridge, PCI-E controllers, etc.). What is perhaps most interesting of it all is that AMD has a part that on the surface is very close to the Broadwell-E based Intel i7 chips. The i7-6900K runs at 3.2 to 3.7 GHz, features 8 cores and 16 threads, and around 20 MB of L2/L3 cache. AMD’s top end looks to run at 3.6 GHz, features the same number of cores and threads, and has 20 MB of L2/L3 cache. The Intel part is rated at 140 watts TDP while the AMD part will have a max of 95 watts TDP.
If Ryzen is truly competitive in this top end space (with a price to undercut Intel, yet not destroy their own margins) then AMD is going to be in a good position for the rest of this year. We will find out exactly what is coming our way next month, but all indications point to Ryzen being competitive in overall performance while being able to undercut Intel in TDPs for comparable cores/threads. We are counting down the days...
Subject: Processors | February 8, 2017 - 01:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: kaby lake, i5-7600K, Intel
[H]ard|OCP followed up their series on replacing the TIM underneath the heatspreader on Kaby Lake processors with another series depicting the i5-7600K in the buff. They removed the heatspreader completely and tried watercooling the die directly. As you can see in the video this requires more work than you might immediately assume, it was not simply shimming which was involved, some of the socket on the motherboard needed to be trimmed with a knife in order to get the waterblock to sit directly on the core. In the end the results were somewhat depressing, the risks involved are high and the benefits almost non-existent. If you are willing to risk it, replacing the TIM and reattaching the heatspreader is a far better choice.
"After our recent experiments with delidding and relidding our 7700K and 7600K to see if we could get better operating temperatures, we decided it was time to go topless! Popping the top on your CPU is one thing, and getting it to work in the current processor socket is another. Get out your pocket knife, we are going to have to make some cuts."
Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:
- Intel Celeron G3930 On Linux: A Dual-Core Kabylake CPU For $40 @ Phoronix
- Intel Pentium G4600: A Surprising 3.6GHz Kabylake CPU For $90 @ Phoronix
Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2017 - 01:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Intel, c2000, Avoton
"System May Experience Inability to Boot or May Cease Operation" is not the errata note you want to read, but for those running devices powered by an Intel Avoton C2xxx family Atom processor it is something to pay attention to. The Low Pin Count bus clock may stop functioning permanently after the chip has been in service for a time, rendering the device non-functional. Intel had little to say about the issue when approached by The Register but did state that there is a board level workaround available to resolve the issue.
The Avoton famliy of chips were released in 2013 and were designed to compete against ARM's new low powered server chips. The flaw is likely responsible for the issues with Cisco routers that have been reported on recently; the chip can also be found in the Synology DS1815+ and some Dell server products. It will be interesting to see how Intel responds to this issue, they have a history of reluctance discussing flaws in their product's architecture.
"Intel's Atom C2000 processor family has a fault that effectively bricks devices, costing the company a significant amount of money to correct. But the semiconductor giant won't disclosed precisely how many chips are affected nor which products are at risk."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Giant ion-trapped quantum computer takes shape @ Nanotechweb
- Boffins create quantum cloning machine to intercept 'secure' messages @ The Inquirer
- 'Wet' metallic MoS2 makes ultrafast supercapacitor @ Nanotechweb
- Vizio fined $2.2m for selling screen-scraped data from Smart TVs @ The Inquirer
- Reverse Engineering Ikea’s New Smart Bulbs @ Hack a Day
- Canadian telco bans a little four-letter dirty word from texts: U B E R @ The Register
- Hacker hijacks 160,000 insecure printers to teach a lesson about security @ The Inquirer
- Western Digital Unveils First-Ever 512Gb 64-Layer 3D NAND Chip @ Slashdot
- If You Owned a PC With a DVD Drive You Might Be Able To Claim $10 @ Slashdot Inbox x General x
- Wheel of Destiny Case Mods #1 Giveaway by EVGA and Modders-Inc
Subject: Memory | February 3, 2017 - 08:42 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: XPoint, server, Optane, Intel Optane, Intel, big data
Last week Hexus reported that Intel has begun shipping Optane memory modules to its partners for testing. This year should see the launch of both these enterprise products designed for servers as well as tiny application accelerator M.2 solid state drives based on the Intel and Micron joint 3D memory venture. The modules that Intel is shipping are the former type of Optane memory and will be able to replace DDR4 DIMMs (RAM) with a memory solution that is not as fast but is cheaper and has much larger storage capacities. The Optane modules are designed to slot into DDR4 type memory slots on server boards. The benefit for such a product lies in big data and scientific workloads where massive datasets will be able to be held in primary memory and the processor(s) will be able to access the data sets at much lower latencies than if it had to reach out to mass storage on spinning rust or even SAS or PCI-E solid state drives. Being able to hold all the data being worked on in one pool of memory will be cheaper with Optane as well as it is allegedly priced closer to NAND than RAM and the cost of RAM adds up extremely quickly when you need many terabytes of it (or more!). Various technologies attempting to bring higher capacity non volatile and/or flash-based storage in memory module form have been theorized or in the works in various forms for years now, but it appears that Intel will be the first ones to roll out actual products.
It will likely be years before the technology trickles down to consumer desktops and notebooks, so slapping what would effectively be a cheap RAM disk into your PC is still a ways out. Consumers will get a small taste of the Optane memory in the form of tiny storage drives that were rumored for a first quarter 2017 release following its Kaby Lake Z270 motherboards. Previous leaks suggest that the Intel Optane Memory 8000P would come in 16 GB and 32 GB capacities in a M.2 form factor. With a single 128-bit (16 GB) die Intel is able to hit speeds that current NAND flash based SSDs can only hit with multiple dies. Specifically the 16GB Optane application accelerator drive is allegedly capable of 285,000 random 4K IOPS, 70,000 random write 4K IOPS, Sequential 128K reads of 1400 MB/s, and sequential 128K writes of 300 MB/s. The 32GB Optane drive is a bit faster at 300,000 4K IOPS, 120,000 4K IOPS, 1600 MB/s, and 500 MB/s respectively.
Unfortunately, I do not have any numbers on how fast the Optane memory that will slot into the DDR4 slots will be, but seeing as two dies already max out the x2 PCI-E link they use in the M.2 Optane SSD, a dual sided memory module packed with rows of Optane dies on the significantly wider memory bus is very promising. It should lie somewhere closer to (but slower than) DDR4 but much faster than NAND flash while still being non volatile (it doesn't need constant power to retain the data).
I am interested to see what the final numbers are for Intel's Optane RAM and Optane storage drives. The company has certainly dialed down the hype for the technology as it approached fruition though that may be more to do with what they are able to do right now versus what the 3D XPoint memory technology itself is potentially capable of enabling. I look forward to what it will enable in the HPC market and eventually what will be possible for the desktop and gaming markets.
What are your thoughts on Intel and Micron's 3D XPoint memory and Intel's Optane implementation (Micron's implementation is QuantX)?
- IDF 2016: Intel To Demo Optane XPoint, Announces Optane Testbed for Enterprise Customers
- Intel Optane (XPoint) First Gen Product Specifications Leaked
- Intel Z270 Express and H270 Express Chipsets Support Kaby Lake, More PCI-E 3.0 Lanes