Toshiba's new 64 layer NVMe drive takes the cake

Subject: Storage | June 28, 2017 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: Toshiba XG5, toshiba, ssd, NVMe, nand, M.2, BiCS, 64-Layer

We first heard about the Toshiba XG5 1TB NVMe SSD at Computex, with its 64 layer BiCS flash and stated read speeds of 3GB/s, writes just over 2 GB/s.  Today Kitguru published a review of the new drive, including ATTO results which match and even exceed the advertised read and write speeds.  Their real world test involved copying 30GB of movies off of a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro to the XG5, only Samsung's new 960 lineup and the OCZ RD400 were able to beat Toshiba's new SSD.  Read more in their full review, right here.

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"The Toshiba XG5 1TB NVMe SSD contains Toshiba's newest 3D 64-Layer BiCS memory and our report will examine Toshiba's newest memory, as well as their newest NVMe controller to go along with it."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Kingston's DCP1000 NVMe PCIe SSD; fast and outside most people's budgets just like a race car

Subject: Storage | June 12, 2017 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: kingston, DCP1000, enterprise ssd, NVMe, PCIe SSD

The Kingston DCP1000 NVMe PCIe SSD comes in 800GB, 1.6TB, and 3.2TB though as it is an Enterprise class drive even the smallest size will cost you over $1000.  Even with a price beyond the budget of almost all enthusiasts it is interesting to see the performance of this drive, especially as Kitguru's testing showed it to be faster than the Intel D P3608.  Kitguru cracked the 1.6TB card open to see how it worked and within found four Kingston 400GB NVMe M.2 SSDs, connected by a PLX PEX8725 24-lane, 10-port PCIe 3.0 switch which then passes the data onto the cards PCIe 3.0 x8 connector.  Each of those 400GB SSDs have their own PhisonPS5007-11 eight channel quad-core controller which leads to very impressive performance.  They did have some quibbles about the performance consistency of the drive; however it is something they have seen on most drives of this class and not something specific to Kingston's drive.

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"Move over Intel DC P3608, we have a new performance king! In today’s testing, it was able to sustain sequential read and write speeds of 7GB/s and 6GB/s, respectively! Not only that, but it is able to deliver over 1.1million IOPS with 4KB random read performance and over 180K for write."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Just a little more Computex in the cache; check out what Adata is up to

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 12, 2017 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sata, NVMe, M.2, computex 2017, adta

Adata had a flashy booth at Computex, focusing on their upcoming storage and memory products which The Tech Report spent some time at.  They had quite a lineup to show off, a pair of Enterprise class NVMe M.2 drives, the IM2P33E8 powered by Silicon Motion's upcoming SM2262 controller which is reputed to hit 3000 MB/s read, 1500 MB/s write as well as the SATA IM2S33D8 using the SM2259 controller.

For high end users there are the NVMe XPG SX9000, XPG SX8000 and XPG SX7000, the former with a Marvell controller and Toshiba's evergreen 15-nm MLC NAND, the latter pair with a Silicon Motion controller and IMFT 3D MLC flash.  For the price sensitive they have launched an M.2 drive which only uses two PCIe lanes, it will not be as the high end drives but should leave a HDD or older SSD in the dirt. 

As for what is below?  Why that is an XPG Spectrix S10 drive which is the world's first RGB infected SSD.

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"Without high-end motherboards or funky case concepts to show off, Adata focused its Computex presence on its strong point: storage. Join us as we walk through the company's upcoming SSD offerings."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Computex 2017: Toshiba Launches XG5 NVMe Client SSD With 64-Layer BiCS Flash

Subject: Storage | May 30, 2017 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, ocz, NVMe, nand, M.2, computex 2017, BiCS, 64-Layer

Last night we saw WD launch the first client SSDs with 64-layer NAND Flash, but recall that WD/SanDisk is in partnership with Toshiba to produce this new gen 3 BiCS memory, which means Toshiba is also launching their own product wrapped around this new high-density flash:

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Enter the Toshiba XG5. It is certainly coming on strong here, as evidenced by the specs:

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Unlike the WD/SanDisk launch, the BiCS flash on this Toshiba variant sits behind an NVMe SSD controller, with stated read speeds at 3GB/s and writes just over 2 GB/s. We don't yet have random performance figures, but we expect it to certainly be no slouch given the expected performance of this newest generation of flash memory. Let's take a quick look at some of the high points there:

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Alright, so we have the typical things you'd expect, like better power efficiency and higher endurance, but there is a significant entry there under the performance category - 1-shot, full sequence programming. This is a big deal, since writing to flash memory is typically done in stages, with successive program cycles nudging cell voltages closer to their targets with each pass. This takes time and is one of the main things holding back the write speeds of NAND flash. This new BiCS is claimed to be able to successfully write in a single program cycle, which should translate to noticeable improvements in write latency.

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Another thing helping with writes is that the XG5 will have its BiCS flash operating in a hybrid mode, meaning these are TLC SSDs with an SLC cache. We do not have confirmed cache sizes to report, but it's a safe bet that they will be similar to competing products.

We don't yet have pricing info, but we do know that the initial capacity offerings will start with 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB offerings. The XG5 is launching in the OEM channel in the second half of 2017. While this one is an OEM product, remember that OCZ is Toshiba's brand for client SSDs, so there's a possibility we may see a retail variant appear under that name in the future.

Press blast after the break.

Source: Toshiba

Computex 2017: ASUS Announces Republic of Gamers, STRIX X299-based Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | May 30, 2017 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: x299, VROC, Strix X299-E, ROG, Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex, raid, NVMe, LiveDash, Intel, computex 2017, asus, 802.11ad, 10G

Hot on the heels of Intel's Core i9 Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X announcements today, ASUS has released details on its X299 offerings. While you can find details on the more Prime and TUF ASUS Motherboards here, we're taking a look at the flagship Republic of Gamers products in this post.

Today ASUS is taking the wraps off of 3 X299 ROG Motherboards, the Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex, and Strix X299-E.

One of the interesting features ASUS is talking about with these X299 boards is Intel VROC technology. While we'll have a post with some more details about VROC soon, essentially it allows for a bootable M.2 NVMe RAID to exist from the CPU PCIe lanes.

While NVMe RAID is supported on the Z170 and Z270 platforms, it depends on all data going through the chipset to function which creates a bottleneck. Using an add-in card in the PCIe slot of your motherboard, VROC claims to allow NVME SSDs to operate in a RAID away from the chipset, while still being bootable.

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Rampage VI Extreme

As we've historically seen with ASUS ROG Motherboards, the "Extreme" model tends to be where we see innovative new features that will later find their way into the rest of ASUS's motherboard lineup, and the Rampage VI Extreme seems to be no different.

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Networking seems to be a big focus for the Rampage VI Extreme, with the addition of 802.11ad wireless networking. While 802.11ad devices are just starting to come out, it's use of 60GHz wireless in order to hit speeds of up to 4.6GBps is very compelling. However, by using such high-frequency wireless technology, 802.11ad signals will not penetrate surfaces like walls and mostly depend on line of sight. This is more for fast file transfers within one room, with the rest of your house still utilizing 802.11ac.

Wired networking sees an upgrade too on the Rampage VI Extreme, with the addition of a 10 Gigabit NIC. We saw ASUS integrate 10G networking on the X99-E WS 10G late last year, and it's great to see continued commitment to bringing 10G to consumers.

In addition to the VROC add-in card for NVMe SSDs that we mentioned previously, the Rampage VI Extreme features 3 onboard M.2 slots (2 slots come from the use of the DIMM.2 module in one of the memory slots). ASUS says this will help clean up your chassis while still giving you maximum storage options. It's unclear if these SSDs are being routed through the chipset, or are going directly to the CPU using Intel's VROC technology which would provide more throughput.

For users looking for a bit of flair on their motherboard, in addition to built-in RGB lighting, the Rampage VI Extreme features a new LiveDash OLED display for displaying real-time system information on your motherboard. You can also customize this display to offer custom messages and graphics to complement your case mod.

Rampage VI Apex

A newer addition to the ROG family, the Apex motherboards are meant for maximum overclocking and performance. This means that you'll actually sacrifice some features from other X299 boards in order to get a lean product you can push to the edge.

For instance, the Rampage VI Apex only provide 1 DIMM slot per memory channel, which ASUS claims allows the optimal trace routing to improve performance and stability with the fastest memory kits. In addition, you'll also find 2 DIMM.2 slots to add a total of 4 PCIe M.2 SSDs to your system.

While it may not be meant for gamers, the Rampage VI Apex is sure to set some records in the high-end overclocking realm.

Strix X299-E

Unlike the uncompromising motherboards we've talked about so far, the Strix X299-E aims to bring a more entry-level motherboard to the ROG line. 

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Keeping the same design cues as the other ROG motherboards, the Strix X299-E also keeps a lot of the same features. Users can expect the same PCIe slots and headers as other ROG boards. Additionally, features like onboard RGB lighting with Aura Sync Software, USB 3.1 Gen2, SupremeFX audio, and Intel Gigabit networking make the Strix X299-E a compelling product that should suit the needs of most users.

ROG Rampage VI Extreme, Rampage VI Apex and ROG Strix X299-E motherboards will be available at leading resellers in North America starting in late June with the STRIX series arriving first.

Source: ASUS

Computex 2017: ASUS Announces Prime and TUF Intel X299 Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | May 30, 2017 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: x299, VROC, skylake-x, raid, NVMe, LiveDash, kaby lake-x, Intel, HEDT, computex 2017, asus, 802.11ad

Alongside the announcement of Intel's Core i9 Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X CPUs, ASUS has unveiled details of their X299 motherboards. While we've already taken a look updates to the Republic of Gamers line of products, ASUS also released details about their "Prime" and "TUF" X299 products.

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ASUS PRIME

The Prime line of motherboards from ASUS are their entry-level options for any given platform. However just because they are the lowest cost boards doesn't mean that they are lacking in features.

All X299 Prime motherboards feature 3-way SLI thanks to the additional PCIe lanes available in the X299 platform (supported 44 lane CPUs are required). These available x16 slots are all reinforced with ASUS SafeSlot technology to help prevent heavy GPUs from damaging your motherboard.

The new Prime motherboards also feature the Realtek S1220A which we first saw on ASUS's Z270 products. ASUS claims that the S1220A paired with high-quality audio components on board help produce an onboard sound that rivals some dedicated sound cards.

Additionally, all X299 boards feature RGB LED headers with Aura Sync compatibility for maximum customizability. 

For the storage-focused, Intel VROC technology found on ASUS's X299 boards will allow for high-speed M.2 NVMe SSD RAIDs without being bottlenecked by chipset bandwidth, unlike on the Z270 platform.

Though the use of an add-in card users will be able to RAID multiple M.2 SSDs into a bootable array, utilizing full bandwidth from the available CPU PCIe lanes. ASUS even says that you can link multiple of these VROC cards together! 

In addition to these features, the Prime X299-Deluxe adds some very exciting features

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Wireless networking has seen an enhancement with the adoption of integrated 802.11ad Wi-Fi. This brand new wireless technology capable of 4.6Gbps transfer speeds uses spectrum in the 60Ghz range. While these high-speed radio waves cannot penetrate surfaces like walls, for applications like super fast file transfer between PCs in one room, or high-quality video streaming to wireless displays this should be ideal.

Along with Intel VROC support, the Prime X299-Deluxe has dual onboard M.2 Slots and a single U.2 Slot for high-speed storage options.

The new LiveDash display is a small OLED panel on the motherboard that allows you to display system statistics as well as custom animations and text for additional customization.

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In addition to the features on the motherboard, ASUS is including their ThunderboltEX 3 expansion card with the Prime X299-Deluxe so that owners can utilize Thunderbolt 3 technology with up to 40Gbps of bandwidth.

ASUS TUF X299

The TUF line has always been focused on ultimate reliability and durability. This is accomplished with high-quality components and more stringent testing standards than other products. 

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The ASUS TUF X299 Mark 1 is the all-new flagship motherboard for the TUF line. Redesigned Thermal Armor design helps to streamline airflow across the motherboard while also providing cooling to the onboard M.2 slot.

The Fortifier backplate uses a carefully shaped metal plate to stiffen the board to prevent warping. A removable GPU holder is also supplied to help support the weight of heavy graphics cards.

The new version of ASUS TUF Detective software allows users to perform diagnostics wirelessly over an included USB Bluetooth adapter rather than depending on a wired connection like the previous implementation.

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The TUF X299 Mark 2 removes the Thermal Armor and Fortifier, but retains all of the great reliability and durability aspects of the TUF Mark 2,

ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe, Prime X299-A and TUF X299 Mark 1 motherboards will be available at leading resellers in North America starting in late June

Source: ASUS

Micron Launches SolidScale Platform Architecture, Consolidates NVMe in the Datacenter

Subject: Storage | May 24, 2017 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: SolidScale, NVMf, NVMe, micron, fabric, Cassandra

A few weeks back, I was briefed on Micron’s new SolidScale Architecture. This is essentially Micron’s off-the-shelf solution that ties together a few different technologies in an attempt to consolidate large pools of NVMe storage into a central location that can then be efficiently segmented and distributed among peers and clients across the network.

Traditionally it has been difficult to effectively utilize large numbers of SSDs in a single server. The combined IOPS capabilities of multiple high-performance PCIe SSDs can quickly saturate the available CPU cores of the server due to kernel/OS IO overhead incurred with each request. As a result, a flash-based network server would be bottlenecked by the server CPU during high IOPS workloads. There is a solution to this, and it’s simpler than you might think: Bypass the CPU!

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Read on for our deeper dive into Micron's SolidScale technology!

Source: Micron

Corsair Forces its way into the NVMe market with their MP500 M.2 SSD

Subject: Storage | May 18, 2017 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: corsair, corsair force mp500, mp500, M.2, NVMe, PS5007-E7, toshiba mlc

Corsair have entered the NVMe market with a new Force Series product, the MP500 drive which contains Toshiba's 15-nm MLC, run by the popular Phison PS5007-E7 controller.  There is a difference which The Tech Report noticed right away, that sticker is for more than just show, it hides a layer of heat-dissipating copper inside just like we have seen in Samsung products.  It may have been the sticker, or some sort of secret sauce which Corsair added but the MP500's performance pulled ahead of Patriot's Hellfire SSD overall.  Read the full review to see where the drive showed the most performance differential.

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"Corsair is throwing its hat into the NVMe SSD ring with the Force Series MP500 drive. We subjected this gumstick to our testing gauntlet to see how well the 240GB version fares against the rest of the formidable NVMe field."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction and Specifications

Introduction

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XPoint. Optane. QuantX. We've been hearing these terms thrown around for two years now. A form of 3D stackable non-volatile memory that promised 10x the density of DRAM and 1000x the speed and endurance of NAND. These were bold statements, and over the following months, we would see them misunderstood and misconstrued by many in the industry. These misconceptions were further amplified by some poor demo choices on the part of Intel (fortunately countered by some better choices made by Micron). Fortunately cooler heads prevailed as Jim Handy and other industry analysts helped explain that a 1000x improvement at the die level does not translate to the same improvement at the device level, especially when the first round of devices must comply with what will soon become a legacy method of connecting a persistent storage device to a PC.

Did I just suggest that PCIe 3.0 and the NVMe protocol - developed just for high-speed storage, is already legacy tech? Well, sorta.

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That 'Future NVM' bar at the bottom of that chart there was a 2-year old prototype iteration of what is now Optane. Note that while NVMe was able to shrink down the yellow bar a bit, as you introduce faster and faster storage, the rest of the equation (meaning software, including the OS kernel) starts to have a larger and larger impact on limiting the ultimate speed of the device.

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NAND Flash simplified schematic (via Wikipedia)

Before getting into the first retail product to push all of these links in the storage chain to the limit, let's explain how XPoint works and what makes it faster. Taking random writes as an example, NAND Flash (above) must program cells in pages and erase cells in blocks. As modern flash has increased in capacity, the sizes of those pages and blocks have scaled up roughly proportionally. At present day we are at pages >4KB and block sizes in the megabytes. When it comes to randomly writing to an already full section of flash, simply changing the contents of one byte on one page requires the clearing and rewriting of the entire block. The difference between what you wanted to write and what the flash had to rewrite to accomplish that operation is called the write amplification factor. It's something that must be dealt with when it comes to flash memory management, but for XPoint it is a completely different story:

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XPoint is bit addressible. The 'cross' structure means you can select very small groups of data via Wordlines, with the ultimate selection resolving down to a single bit.

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Since the programmed element effectively acts as a resistor, its output is read directly and quickly. Even better - none of that write amplification nonsense mentioned above applies here at all. There are no pages or blocks. If you want to write a byte, go ahead. Even better is that the bits can be changed regardless of their former state, meaning no erase or clear cycle must take place before writing - you just overwrite directly over what was previously stored. Is that 1000x faster / 1000x more write endurance than NAND thing starting to make more sense now?

Ok, with all of the background out of the way, let's get into the meat of the story. I present the P4800X:

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Read on for our full review of the P4800X!

ADATA Announces XPG SX7000 Line of NVMe PCIe SSDs

Subject: Storage | April 10, 2017 - 04:15 PM |
Tagged: adata, pcie, M.2, NVMe

ADATA has added another line of M.2 PCIe SSDs to their catalog with the XPG SX7000. These drives support NVMe and claim up to 1800 MB/s sequential read performance and 850 MB/s sequential write performance, with both tests measured on CrystalDiskMark at a queue depth of 32. Interestingly enough, their ATTO sequential write results, 860 MB/s, exceed their claimed maximum. Again, each of these numbers are provided by ADATA, so it’s still up to third-parties (like us) to verify. That said, ADATA provided a lot of information in their performance chart, which is nice to see.

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The spec sheet (pdf) provides performance results for three SKUs: 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. A fourth model (if you guessed 1TB, then you would be right) is also acknowledged, but not elaborated upon. These are all based on 3D TLC flash, with some undefined amount of SLC cache.

Pricing and availability are TBD, but it will come with a 5 year warranty.

Source: ADATA