Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged: x470, StoreMI, raid, NVMe, amd

NVMe RAID and StoreMI

With Ken testing all of the new AMD X470 goodness that we had floating around the office here at PCPer, I snuck in some quick storage testing to get a look at just how the new platform handled a typical power user NVMe RAID configuration. We will be testing a few different platform configurations:

  • ASUS Z270 w/ 7700K
    • 1x SSD behind chipset (PCH)
    • 2x SSD (RAID-0) behind chipset (PCH)
    • 1x SSD directly connected to CPU
  • AMD X470 w/ 2600X
    • 1x SSD via RAIDXpert bottom driver
    • 2x SSD (RAID-0) via RAIDXpert
    • 1x SSD via MS InBox NVMe driver

For the AMD system we tested, all M.2 ports were direct connected to the CPU. This should be the case for most systems since the AMD chipset has only a PCIe 2.0 x4 link which would cut most NVMe SSD bandwidth in half if passed through it. The difference on AMD is that installing the RAIDXpert software also installs a 'bottom driver' which replaces the Windows NVMe driver, while Intel's RST platform handles this process more in the chipset hardware (but is limited to PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI bandwidth). Now onto the results:

Random Read IOPS

random.png

For random IO, we see expected scaling from AMD, but do note that IOPS comes in ~40% lower than the same configuration on Intel's platform. This is critical as much of the IO seen in general use is random reads at lower queue depths. We'd like to see AMD doing better here, especially in the case where a single SSD was operating without the interference of the RAIDXpert driver, which was better, but still not able to match Intel.

Random Read Latency

latency.png

This latency chart should better explain the IOPS performance seen above. Note that the across the board latency increases by ~10us on the X470 platform, followed by another ~20us when switching to the RAIDXpert driver. That combined ~30us is 50% of the 60us QD1 latency seen the Z270 platform (regardless of configuration).

Sequential Read

sequential.png

Ok, now we see the AMD platform stretch its legs a bit. Since Intel NVMe RAID is bottlenecked by its DMI link while AMD has all NVMe SSDs directly connected to the CPU, AMD is able to trounce Intel on sequentials, but there is a catch. Note the solid red line, which means no RAIDXpert software. That line tracks as it should, leveling off horizontally at a maximum for that SSD. Now look at the two dashed red lines and note how they fall off at ~QD8/16. It appears the RAIDXpert driver is interfering and limiting the ultimate throughput possible. This was even the case for a single SSD passing through the RAIDXpert bottom driver (configured as a JBOD volume).

StoreMI

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AMD has also launched their answer to Intel RST caching. StoreMI is actually a more flexible solution that offers some unique advantages over Intel. Instead of copying a section of HDD data to the SSD cache, StoreMI combines the total available storage space of both the HDD and SSD, and is able to seamlessly shuffle the more active data blocks to the SSD. StoreMI also offers more cache capacity than Intel - up to 512GB SSD caches are possible (60GB limit on Intel). Lastly, the user can opt to donate 2GB of RAM as an additional caching layer.

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AMD claims the typical speedups that one would expect with an SSD caching a much slower HDD. We have done some testing with StoreMI and can confirm the above slide's claims. Actively used applications and games end up running at close to SSD speeds (after the first execution, which comes from the HDD). StoreMI is not yet in a final state, but that is expected within the next week or two. We will revisit that topic with hard data once we have the final shipping product on-hand.

The EX920, an HP NVMe SSD for thee

Subject: Storage | April 6, 2018 - 03:33 PM |
Tagged: SSD EX920, NVMe, hp, tlc, SM2622, M.2

HP have released a new NVMe M.2 SSD, the EX920 which uses Silcon Motion's SM2622 controller and a DDR3-1600 cache which scales directly with the size of the drive, the 256GB drive has a 256MB cache while the 2TB has 2GB.  The drive uses four PCIe Gen 3 lanes, which offers some very impressive performance, Benchmark Reviews measured 3183/1776 MBps read/write in CrystalDiskMark.   The only real drawback to this drive is the warranty; while most companies offer at least five years, this HP drive is only covered for three.

hpspecs.PNG

"HP suggests sustained sequential read speeds up to 3200 MB/s, and sustained sequential writes up to 1800 MB/s from their 1TB EX920 SSD, which utilizes 64-layer 3D NAND to deliver impressive storage density and reliability. Relative to solid state storage, one terabyte is an enormous amount of near-instant drive capacity. We’ll see if HP’s EX920 M.2 SSD is worth the money."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

While Western Digital has a huge history with spinning disks, their experience with SSDs has been touch and go. They expanded further into the HDD arena with their very long merging process with HGST, but they have only really dabbled in the solid-state arena. Their earliest attempt was with the Black2 back in 2013, which was a novel concept that never really caught mainstream fame. WD acquired SanDisk a few years back, but they were better known for SD cards and OEM SATA SSDs. More recently we began seeing WD test the waters with PCIe / NVMe parts, with a WD Black and Blue launching at CES 2017. Those were 'ok', but were more of a budget SSD than a powerhouse class-leading product worthy of the Black moniker. Today we see WD take another stab at a WD Black NVMe SSD:

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Enter the WD Black NVMe and SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D 1TB SSDs. Yes, I know the names are a mouthful, but I would be more worried about the potential for confusion when looking for a WD Black SSD on the market (as there are now two *very* similarly named products). Technically the new part is the 'Western Digital WD Black NVMe SSD'. Yes I know don't tell me - they said Western Digital twice.

We will also be reviewing the SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD today. I'm including those results as well, but just as they did with their previous SATA SSD release, these are identical parts with different packaging and labeling. The specs are the same. Heck, the firmware is the same minus the bits that report the device name to the host. For the sake of simplicity, and the fact that the WD part is meant for retail/gamers (SanDisk for creative pros and OEMs), I'll stick with referring mostly to the WD side throughout this review.

Specifications:

specs.png

Strong specs here. Fast sequentials, but random IOPS is rated at QD32 across 8 threads (QD=256), which is, well, just silly. I know WD is doing this because 'everyone is doing it', and they have to compete, but I have a feeling we will also be seeing very good low QD performance today.

Packaging:

It doesn't get much more no frills than this.

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Read on for our full review of the Western Digital WD Black NVMe and SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D 1TB SSDs!

Kingston Launches Budget PCI-E x2 A1000 NVMe SSDs

Subject: Storage | April 5, 2018 - 03:38 AM |
Tagged: toshiba, tlc, phison, NVMe, kingston, BiCS3, 3d nand

Kingston is continuing its push into NVMe SSDs with its new A1000 series. The budget parts are positioned as mechanical drive alternatives. These drives use a lower cost PCI-E x2 interface and are single sided with the M.2 2280 (80mm) form factor. Kingston is using the four channel Phison E8 PS5008-E8 controller with DRAM cache along with Kingston branded TLC 3D NAND flash (SSD Review's sample reportedly used Toshiba's BICS3 256Gb flash).

Kingston A1000.png

The A1000 series (PDF) comes in 240 GB, 480 GB, and 960 GB capacities. They offer up to 1500 MB/s sequential reads across all capacities and the other performance characteristics varying according to the capacity and number of flash dies used. The 960 GB drive is the fastest with up to 1,000 MB/s sequential writes, 120,000 random read IOPS, and 100,000 random write IOPS. The 480GB drive is a bit slower at 900 MB/s sequential writes, 100,000 random read IOPS, and 90,000 random write IOPS. Finally, the lowest capacity 240 GB SSD hits up to 800 MB/s sequential writes, 100,000 random read IOPS, and 80,000 random write IOPS. As far as endurance, Kingston rates all three capacities at the same 1 million hours MTBF and 150 TBW for the 240 GB, 300 TBW for the 480 GB, and 600 TBW for the 960 GB solid state drive. Kingston warranties the drives for five years which is nice to see on a budget drive.

  240 GB 480 GB 960 GB
Sequential Read 1,500 MB/s 1,500 MB/s 1,500 MB/s
Sequential Write 800 MB/s 900 MB/s 1,000 MB/s
Random Read 100K 100K 120K
Random Write 80K 90K 100K
Endurance Rating 150 TBW 300 TBW 600 TBW
MSRP $119.99 $219.99 $402.99

Kingston's A1000 SSDs use the NVMe 1.3 protocol but they are limited by the x2 PCI-E interface, especially where reads are concerned. Kingston is pricing the drives at MSRPs of $119.99 for the 240 GB, $219.99 for the 480 GB, and $402.99 for the 960 GB drive which does seem a bit on the pricier side of things but we'll have to wait a bit to see how retail pricing shakes out to say for sure. For example, looking on Amazon, the MSRPs of the A1000 drives are close to the retail pricing of Kingston's faster KC1000 SSDs which makes me think the street prices may come in lower than shown above (hopefully). In any case, the A1000 drives should be available soon as reviews have already begun popping up online.

Source: Kingston

ADATA Launches XPG GAMMIX S11 NVMe SSDs

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2018 - 05:04 PM |
Tagged: adata, xpg, NVMe, pci-e, ssd, 3d nand

ADATA recently unveiled a new M.2 solid state drive under its XPG (Xtreme Performance Group) brand that pairs a Silicon Motion SM2262 controller and DDR3 cache with second generation 64-layer 3D NAND flash from Micron (IMFT) to create the XPG GAMMIX S11 SSD that will be available in 240 GB, 480 GB, and 960 GB capacities. Aimed at gamers and enthusiasts, the XPG branded SSD is cooled by a black and red heatsink that ADATA claims keeps the drive up to 10°C cooler than drives without heatshields.

XPG Gammix S11 SSD.jpg

The XPG Gammix S11 uses the M.2 2280 form factor and PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface with the NVMe 1.3 protocol. The drive features a dual package DDR3 DRAM cache on a 32-bit bus as well as a second level intelligent SLC cache. RAID Engine and Data Shaping features along with low density parity check error correction (LDPC) help secure the integrity of data in transit and stored on the 3-bits per cell flash. ADATA rates the Gammix S11 SSD at up to 3200 MB/s sequential reads, 1700 MB/s sequential writes and random 4k read and write IOPS of 310K and 280K respectively. Note that the lower capacity models are a bit slower due to fewer flash dies.

ADATA rates the solid state drive at 2 million hours MTBF and offers up a 5 year warranty. As far as pricing (MSRP), the 240 GB drive is $139.99, the 480 GB is $259.99, and the 960 GB drive is $309.99. Reportedly a 2TB (1.92 TB) PCI-E SSD is also in the works but it's not quite ready yet. If you are turned off by the gamer-focused heatsink, it appears the SX8200 is the same drive with an optional black heatsink.

Source: ADATA / XPG

Intel Launches 8th Gen i3+, i5+, i7+ with Optane Memory Mobile Caching up to 64GB

Subject: Storage | April 3, 2018 - 04:56 AM |
Tagged: Optane Memory, Optane, NVMe, Intel, 8th generation core, 800p, 3D XPoint

Remember *way* back just before CES 2017, when we caught that 'Optane Memory Storage Accelerator' entry on some Lenovo laptop release docs? Well, those obviously never happened, and we figured out why a few months later when we reviewed Intel's Optane Memory products and realized that the first iteration of these products had no apparent hardware power management capabilities, meaning they would draw excessive power while idling in a mobile platform.

180307-190822.jpg

While the Optane Memory launch was a year ago, just last month we tested the 800P - what was meant to be the true usable standalone M.2 packaging for Optane. This part was nearly physically identical to Optane Memory, but with some tweaks to available capacities, and more importantly, support for hardware lower power idle states. While this opened the door for use in laptops, it still did not completely close the loop on an Optane-based caching solution for mobile platforms. That loop gets closed today:

2018-04-03-04-48-43.png

Along with a round of other new 8th generation CPU announcements (covered by Ken here), Intel has also launched a 'Core Plus' series, which are essentially the same 8th gen Core i3 / i5 / i7 parts, but with the addition of Optane Memory caching. These will be a newer, more power efficient version of the Optane Memory caching parts. While these were previously available in 16GB and 32GB capacities, this new round will add a 64GB tier to the mix.

2018-04-03-04-49-07.png

Another update being made to Optane Memory is that instead of caching the OS drive, Optane Memory will be able to cache a secondary data drive. This would be ideal for a system that was already using a fast NVMe SSD or 800P/900P as the OS drive, where the user also wanted to cache a very large secondary data HDD. The Optane Memory caching is currently limited to caching either the OS drive or a secondary drive - no current possibility to split the higher capacity Optane Memory modules across two separate drives (we asked, and will continue to press this suggestion).

Not sure what all of this 'Optane' / '3D XPoint' stuff is all about? Check out my article detailing how it all works here

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.

Also read:

Source: Anandtech

Microsoft looks to lower SSD peak pricing with Denali

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2018 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: Intel, NVMe, ssd, denali

Less expensive NVMe SSDs are something we would all love to see and businesses are no different.  Facebook, Amazon, Google and other companies who store a lot of data which needs to be quickly accessed spend a lot on flash and they are intensely interested in anything that can be done to reduce the costs.  Microsoft have come up with a proposed change in SSD design which they call Denali.  It will reduce the cost of SSDs by moving many of functions SSD controllers currently handle up the stack, which would allow the use of less expensive controllers on the SSD which will reduce the cost of manufacturing.  They have many partners including controller designers such as Micron onboard, so we should see something come out of this project.  Pick up a truckload of more intel over at The Register.

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"Denali is a reference architecture for NVMe SSDs which removes software functionality found in many SSDs today and sends them up the stack. The functions include address mapping, garbage collection and wear-levelling."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: MyDigitalSSD

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

When one thinks of an M.2 SSD, we typically associate that with either a SATA 6GB/s or more recently with a PCIe 3.0 x4 link. The physical interface of M.2 was meant to accommodate future methods of connectivity, but it's easy to overlook the ability to revert back to something like a PCIe 3.0 x2 link. Why take a seemingly backward step on the interface of an SSD? Several reasons actually. Halving the number of lanes makes for a simpler SSD controller design, which lowers cost. Power savings are also a factor, as driving a given twisted pair lane at PCIe 3.0 speeds draws measurable current from the host and therefore adds to the heat production of the SSD controller. We recently saw that a PCIe 3.0 x2 can still turn in respectable performance despite lower bandwidth interface, but how far can we get the price down when pairing that host link with some NAND flash?

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Enter the MyDigitalSSD SBX series. Short for Super Boot eXpress, the aim of these parts is to offer a reasonably performant PCIe NVMe SSD at something closer to SATA SSD pricing.

Specifications:

  • Physical: M.2 2280 (single sided)
  • Controller: Phison E8 (PS5008-E8)
  • Capacities: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB
  • PCIe 3.0 x2, M.2 2280
  • Sequential: Up to 1.6/1.3 GB/s (R/W)
  • Random: 240K+ / 180K+ IOPS (R/W)
  • Weight: 8g
  • Power: <5W

Packaging:

The MyDigitalDiscount guys keep things extremely simple with their SSD packaging, which is eaxctly how it should be. It doesn't take much to package and protect an M.2 SSD, and this does the job just fine. They also include a screwdriver and a screw just in case you run into a laptop that came without one installed.

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Read on for our full review of all capacities of the MyDigitalSSD SBX lineup!

Mid-octane Optane, Intel's 800P series

Subject: Storage | March 9, 2018 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: ssd, PCIe 3.0 x2, Optane, NVMe, Intel, Brighton Beach, 800p, 58GB, 3D XPoint, 118GB

The price of the 480GB 900P is somewhat prohibitive but the small size of the 32GB gumstick also causes one pause; hence the 800P family with a 58GB and a 118GB model.  They bear price tags of $130 and $200, as you may remember from Al's review.  The Tech Report also had a chance to test these two Optane sticks out, with some tests not covered in our review, such as their own real world copying benchmark.  If you are looking for a second opinion, drop by and take a look.

drives.jpg

"Intel's duo of Optane SSD 800P drives promises the same blend of impressively-low latency and performance consistency as its larger Optane devices at a price more builders can afford. We ran these drives through our storage-testing gauntlet to see whether they can make a name for themselves as primary storage."

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Storage