Toshiba Plans To Spin Off Storage Business, Sell 20% Of New Company

Subject: General Tech, Storage | January 29, 2017 - 10:09 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, nand, flash storage, flash memory, business

ZDNet is reporting that Toshiba is in a bit of a financial bind following losses from acquisitions and its Westinghouse division -- which saw massive losses and cost overruns in the US Nuclear market -- which could amount to billions of dollars. In an effort to offset some of those losses and preserve shareholder equity, Toshiba plans to spin off its memory business into a new company and then offer up to a 20% stake in that new company for sale. The new company would include its memory chip and SSD business though its image sensor division would stay with Toshiba and not be part of the spin off.

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Toshiba is the second largest memory manufacturer behind Samsung and it is one of the company's most profitable divisions making up the majority of its operating profit.

The company is hoping that other companies or investors will be interested in a piece of that business and that the company will be able to raise enough money from the sale of up to 20% of the spin off company to make up for the losses incurred in its US nuclear market ventures.

Toshiba plans to hold a shareholder meeting in March to seek approval for the plan stating that if it us unable to proceed with the plan and complete a sale to bring in cash by the end of its fiscal year (the end of March), “shareholder equity could be wiped out.”

It is interesting that Toshiba is once again having a bit of corporate drama and needing to restructure (it sold off its PC division in 2015). This could be a good opportunity for one of the smaller memory makers or even one of the spinning rust manufacturers to become more relevant in the flash storage space (and if having a stake got them access to IP for their own stuff even better though that would probably cost them a ton more!). Alternatively, the stake could be bought up by an a large company that just wants a profit machine to grow even larger (heh).

Hopefully the guys will discuss this bit of news on the podcast! What are your thoughts?

Source: ZDNet

Phison Announces UFS 2.1 NAND Controller - Death to eMMC!

Subject: Storage | December 22, 2016 - 09:03 PM |
Tagged: UFS 2.1, UFS, PS8313, PS8311, phison, nand, flash, controller

Following up on Micron's UFS 2.1 announcement, Phison has announced the launch of their own PS8311 UFS 2.1 controller:

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For those unaware, UFS 2.1 is a much-anticipated replacement for eMMC, which is the equivalent of trying to run your laptop OS off of an SD Card. Fortunately, eMMC only appears in budget systems, but the transition to UFS 2.1 should bring the storage performance bar up considerably in those systems.

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UFS Architecture Overview. Source: JEDEC

Devices following the Universal Flash Storage standard will enable less protocol overhead and more direct communication with the flash.

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Looking at an older roadmap, we see Phison was relatively on target with the PS8311, with a faster PS8313 scheduled for later in 2017.

Press blast after the break.

Source: Phison
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

Earlier this year we covered the lower two capacities of the Samsung 750 EVO. We had some requests for a review of the 500GB model as soon as it was added to their lineup, and Samsung promptly sent a sample, but I delayed that review in the interest of getting the full 750 EVO lineup tested under our new storage test suite. I've been running batches of SSDs through this new suite, and we now have enough data points to begin cranking out some reviews. The 750 EVO was at the head of the line, so we will be starting with it first. I'm 'reissuing' our review as a full capacity roundup of the 750 EVO lineup as these are fresh results on a completely new test suite.

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Specifications

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These are the 'Rev. 2' specifications from Samsung, which include the 500GB model of the 750 EVO. The changes are not significant, mainly a slight bump to random performance of the top capacity model along with a changeover to lower power DDR3 (of twice the capacity) for the 500GB model's system cache.

Packaging

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Nothing new here. This is the standard Samsung packaging for their SATA products.

Continue reading our full review of the Samsung 750 EVO series of SSDs!!

PC Perspective Podcast 429 12/15/16

Subject: Editorial | December 15, 2016 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged: podcast, zalman, ryzen, note 7, nand, LG, instinct, hdr, DRM, doom, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #428 - 12/8/16

Join us this week as we discuss AMD ReLive, Ryzen, Zalman Keyboards, LG HDR monitors  and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:17:34

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Jeremy: Aged, not obsolete - SAMSUNG 850 EVO 2.5" 2TB
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Source:

Flash news: Demand up, supply down ... outcome obvious

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: 3d nand, price increase, nand

DRAMeXchange is predicting a price hike in NAND chips over the coming year thanks to a supply decline combined with an impressive rise in demand.  The supply decline is a direct result of the industry's switch in preference to 3D NAND, which requires manufacturers to retool their existing lines.  While retooling from the production of 2D to 3D NAND, the line can produce neither and as all available lines were currently at or near full volume production, we are seeing a decline in the amount of available flash chips.  Even once lines are retooled, only Samsung has seen an increase in their production volumes, a situation which will hopefully change in the coming year.  With demand on the rise as more and more users switch to SSDs and the amount of storage on cellphones increasing in each new model we can only expect to see prices rise.  DigiTimes reports a predicted 10% rise in average SSD prices in Q1 of 2017, with prices of eMMC and UFS storage jumping even more.

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"From the supply side, the industry-wide transition to 3D-NAND is now moving at full speed," said Sean Yang, research director of DRAMeXchange. "However, most suppliers with the exception of Samsung have not improve their yield rates for the technology as quickly as they would like."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

FMS 2016: Micron QuantX XPoint Prototype SSD Spotted

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2016 - 04:06 PM |
Tagged: FMS, FMS 2016, XPoint, micron, QuantX, nand, ram

Earlier this week, Micron launched their QuantX branding for XPoint devices, as well as giving us some good detail on expected IOPS performance of solutions containing these new parts:

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Thanks to the very low latency of XPoint, the QuantX solution sees very high IOPS performance at a very low queue depth, and the random performance very quickly scales to fully saturate PCIe 3.0 x4 with only four queued commands. Micron's own 9100 MAX SSD (reviewed here), requires QD=256 (64x increase) just to come close to this level of performance! At that same presentation, a PCIe 3.0 x8 QuantX device was able to double that throughput at QD=8, but what are these things going to look like?

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The real answer is just like modern day SSDs, but for the time being, we have the prototype unit pictured above. This is essentially an FPGA development board that Micron is using to prototype potential controller designs. Dedicated ASICs based on the final designs may be faster, but those take a while to ramp up volume production.

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So there it is, in the flesh, nicely packaged and installed on a complete SSD. Sure it's a prototype, but Intel has promised we will see XPoint before the end of the year, and I'm excited to see this NAND-to-DRAM performance-gap-filling tech come to the masses!

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FMS 2016: Samsung To Announce 64-Layer 4th Gen V-NAND, 32TB 2.5" SSD

Subject: Storage | August 10, 2016 - 06:00 PM |
Tagged: 2.5, V-NAND, ssd, Samsung, nand, FMS 2016, FMS, flash, 64-Layer, 32TB, SAS, datacenter

At a huge press event like Flash Memory Summit, being in the right place at the right time (and with the right camera), matters greatly. I'll just let a picture say a thousand words for me here:

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..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:

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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.

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Samsung 48-Layer V-NAND. Pic courtesy of TechInsights.

64-Layer is Samsung's 4th generation of V-NAND. We've seen 48-Layer and 32-Layer, but few know that 24-Layer was a thing (but was mainly in limited enterprise parts).

We will know more shortly, but for now, dream of even higher capacity SSDs :)

*edit* and this just happened:

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*additional edit* - here's a better picture taken after the keynote:

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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.

FMS 2016: Facebook Talks WORM QLC NAND Flash, Benchmarks XPoint

Subject: Storage | August 9, 2016 - 09:59 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Worm, storage, ssd, RocksDB, Optane, nand, flash, facebook

At their FMS 2016 Keynote, Facebook gave us some details on the various storage technologies that fuel their massive operation:

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In the four corners above, they covered the full spectrum of storing bits. From NVMe to Lightning (huge racks of flash (JBOF)), to AVA (quad M.2 22110 NVMe SSDs), to the new kid on the block, WORM storage. WORM stands for Write Once Read Many, and as you might imagine, Facebook has lots of archival data that they would like to be able to read quickly, so this sort of storage fits the bill nicely. How do you pull off massive capacity in flash devices? QLC. Forget MLC or TLC, QLC stores four bits per cell, meaning there are 16 individual voltage states for each cell. This requires extremely precise writing techniques and reads must appropriately compensate for cell drift over time, and while this was a near impossibility with planar NAND, 3D NAND has more volume to store those electrons. This means one can trade the endurance gains of 3D NAND for higher bit density, ultimately enabling SSDs upwards of ~100TB in capacity. The catch is that they are rated at only ~150 write cycles. This is fine for archival storage requiring WORM workloads, and you still maintain NAND speeds when it comes to reading that data later on, meaning that decade old Facebook post will appear in your browser just as quickly as the one you posted ten minutes ago.

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Next up was a look at some preliminary Intel Optane SSD results using RocksDB. Compared to a P3600, the prototype Optane part offers impressive gains in Facebook's real-world workload. Throughput jumped by 3x, and latency reduced to 1/10th of its previous value. These are impressive gains given this fairly heavy mixed workload.

More to follow from FMS 2016!

FMS 2016: Micron Keynote Teases XPoint (QuantX) Real-World Performance

Subject: Storage | August 9, 2016 - 07:33 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, QuantX, nand, micron

Micron just completed their keynote address at Flash Memory Summit, and as part of the presentation, we saw our first look at some raw scaled Queue Depth IOPS performance figures from devices utilizing XPoint memory:

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These are the performance figures from an U.2 device with a PCIe 3.0 x4 link. Note the outstanding ramp up to full saturation of the bus at a QD of only 4. Slower flash devices require much more parallelism and a deeper queue to achieve sufficient IOPS throughput to saturate that same bus. That 'slow' device on the bottom there, I'm pretty certain, is Micron's own 9100 MAX, which was the fastest thing we had tested to date, and it's being just walked all over by this new XPoint prototype!

Ok, so that's damn fast, but what if you had an add in card with PCIe 3.0 x8?

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Ok, now that's just insane! While the queue had to climb to ~8 to reach these figures, that's 1.8 MILLION IOPS from a single HHHL add in card. That's greater than 7 GB/s worth of 4KB random performance!

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In addition to the crazy throughput and IOPS figures, we also see latencies running at 1/10th that of flash-based NVMe devices.

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..so it appears that while the cell-level performance of XPoint boasts 1000x improvements over flash, once you implement it into an actual solution that must operate within the bounds of current systems (NVMe and PCIe 3.0), we currently get only a 10x improvement over NAND flash. Given how fast NAND already is, 10x is no small improvement, and XPoint still opens the door for further improvement as the technology and implementations mature over time.

More to follow as FMS continues!

Plextor's Upcoming M8Pe M.2 SSD Previewed at Computer Base

Subject: Storage | August 1, 2016 - 07:14 PM |
Tagged: M8PeG, ssd, solid state drive, preview, plextor, nand, M8Pe, M.2, CES 2016, M8PeY

Plextor announced their first M.2 SSD at CES 2016, and now the M8Pe series is officially set for a release this month. Computer Base (German language) had a chance to preview the new drive, and supplied a detailed look at the M.2 version (this is model M8PeG, and the version with a riser card is M8PeY).

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The Plextor M8PeG SSD (Image credit: Computer Base)

Even the M.2 form-factor version of the SSD includes a heatsink, which Plextor warns creates incompatibility with notebooks as the M8PeG is 4.79 mm in height with the heatsink in place.

Specifications for the drives are as follows:

  Plextor M8PeG Plextor M8PeY
Controller Marvell 88SS1093 (8-Channel)
DRAM 512MB LPDDR3 (1024MB variant)
Capacity 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB
NAND Toshiba 15nm Toggle 2.0 MLC
Form Factor M.2 (80 mm) PCIe card (HH, HL)
Interface PCIe 3.0 x4
Warranty 5 years

So what did Computer Base have to report with their hands-on preview of the new drive? Here's their CrystalDiskMark result:

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(Image credit: Computer Base)

Naturally we'll have to wait for a full-scale AllynReview™ to get a better idea of performance in all situations, but until then it's good to know we'll soon have another option to consider in the M.2 SSD market. As to pricing, we don't have anything just yet.

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The M8Pe SSD lineup (Image credit: Computer Base)