Subject: Storage | April 3, 2018 - 04:56 AM | Allyn Malventano
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.
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:
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.
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
Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2018 - 09:07 AM | Alex Lustenberg
Tagged: video, ultrawide, podcast, Optane, Intel, Huawei, GeForce Partner Program, FreeSync2, cts labs, caldigit
PC Perspective Podcast #491 - 03/14/18
Join us this week for discussion on Intel Optane 800P, UltraWide Monitors, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath,Allyn Malventano
Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Jim Tanous
Program length: 1:34:30
Subject: Storage | March 9, 2018 - 05:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Intel Optane 800P @ The SSD Review
- Intel SSD 600p Series 512 GB @ TechPowerUp
- Intel 2/8TB DC P4500 NVMe SSDs gets Reviewed - Amazing Capacity and Speed! @ The SSD Review
- he 1TB WD Blue 3D SSD @ TechARP
- Crucial MX500 500GB SSD @ Kitguru
- QNAP TS-431X2-8G 10GbE NAS Server Review @ NikKTech
- SilverStone MS09 m.2 SATA External SSD Enclosure @ Benchmark Reviews
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Intel has wanted a 3D XPoint to go 'mainstream' for some time now. Their last big mainstream part, the X25-M, launched 10 years ago. It was available in relatively small capacities of 80GB and 160GB, but it brought about incredible performance at a time where most other early SSDs were mediocre at best. The X25-M brought NAND flash memory to the masses, and now 10 years later we have another vehicle which hopes to bring 3D XPoint to the masses - the Intel Optane SSD 800P:
Originally dubbed 'Brighton Beach', the 800P comes in at capacities smaller than its decade-old counterpart - only 58GB and 118GB. The 'odd' capacities are due to Intel playing it extra safe with additional ECC and some space to hold metadata related to wear leveling. Even though 3D XPoint media has great endurance that runs circles around NAND flash, it can still wear out, and therefore the media must still be managed similarly to NAND. 3D XPoint can be written in place, meaning far less juggling of data while writing, allowing for far greater performance consistency across the board. Consistency and low latency are the strongest traits of Optane, to the point where Intel was bold enough to launch an NVMe part with half of the typical PCIe 3.0 x4 link available in most modern SSDs. For Intel, the 800P is more about being nimble than having straight line speed. Those after higher throughputs will have to opt for the SSD 900P, a device that draws more power and requires a desktop form factor.
- Capacities: 58GB, 118GB
- PCIe 3.0 x2, M.2 2280
- Sequential: Up to 1200/600 MB/s (R/W)
- Random: 250K+ / 140K+ IOPS (R/W) (QD4)
- Latency (average sequential): 6.75us / 18us (R/W) (TYP)
- Power: 3.75W Active, 8mW L1.2 Sleep
Specs are essentially what we would expect from an Optane Memory type device. Capacities of 58GB and 118GB are welcome additions over the prior 16GB and 32GB Optane Memory parts, but the 120GB capacity point is still extremely cramped for those who would typically desire such a high performing / low latency device. We had 120GB SSDs back in 2009, after all, and nowadays we have 20GB Windows installs and 50GB game downloads.
Before moving on, I need to call out Intel on their latency specification here. To put it bluntly, sequential transfer latency is a crap spec. Nobody cares about the latency of a sequential transfer, especially for a product which touts its responsiveness - something based on the *random* access latency, and the 6.75us figure above would translate to 150,000 QD1 IOPS (the 800P is fast, but it's not *that* fast). Most storage devices/media will internally 'read ahead' so that sequential latencies at the interface are as low as possible, increasing sequential throughput. Sequential latency is simply the inverse of throughput, meaning any SSD with a higher sequential throughput than the 800P should beat it on this particular spec. To drive the point home further, consider that a HDD's average sequential latency can beat the random read latency of a top-tier NVMe SSD like the 960 PRO. It's just a bad way to spec a storage device, and it won't do Intel any favors here if competing products start sharing this same method of rating latency in the future.
Our samples came in white/brown box packaging, but I did snag a couple of photos of what should be the retail box this past CES:
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2018 - 07:32 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XPoint, Optane, Intel, CES 2018, CES, 800p, 60GB, 3D XPoint, 120gb
Intel broke news just now that they will be launching a larger version of their 16/32GB Optane Memory modules. The new 800P looks very much the same as its little brother but is designed to operate as a sole boot SSD. Mobile applications are also possible now as the 800P includes power management features that the Optane Memory modules lacked (as they were not intended for mobile).
We are under embargo as far as performance goes, but from what we know about how Optane parts scale, it's a safe bet that performance will be very close to what we've seen out of the Optane Memory parts. Warranty will be 5 years with an endurance of ~200GB per day. No word on cost at this time. Overall these though fit nicely between Optane Memory (16/32GB) and the 900P (280/480+GB) capacity points.
The elephant in the room is the capacity. While these can store more than the 16/32GB variants, 60/120GB may not be enough for most users out there. Fortunately, devices like these are great in Zx70 RAID or even VROC configurations!
Subject: Storage | November 24, 2017 - 04:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Optane, Intel, linux, 900P, Ubuntu 17.10
Phoronix installed an Optane 900P SSD into their AMD EPYC system to test the performance the new drive provides running under Ubuntu. Their results were very similar to Al's, showing that this fairly expensive 280GB SSD can justify its premium price by leaving the competition in the dust. The testing suite they used is quite different from the one here at PCPer but the proof that Optane gets along well with Linux is indisputable.
"At the end of October Intel released the Optane 900P solid-state drive as their new ultra high-end performance SSD. Windows reviews have been positive, but what about using the Optane 900P on Linux? It's working well and delivers stunning NVMe SSD performance."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- ADATA SU900 512 GB SSD @ TechPowerUp
- Crucial BX300 480GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- Crucial MX300 2 TB @ TechPowerUp
- Crucial BX300 @ The SSD Review
- Seagate Backup Plus Hub 8TB Desktop Storage Review @ NikKTech
Introduction and Specifications
Back in April, we finally got our mitts on some actual 3D XPoint to test, but there was a catch. We had to do so remotely. The initial round of XPoint testing done (by all review sites) was on a set of machines located on the Intel campus. Intel had their reasons for this unorthodox review method, but we were satisfied that everything was done above board. Intel even went as far as walking me over to the very server that we would be remoting into for testing. Despite this, there were still a few skeptics out there, and today we can put all of that to bed.
This is a 750GB Intel Optane SSD DC P4800X - in the flesh and this time on *our* turf. I'll be putting it through the same initial round of tests we conducted remotely back in April. I intend to follow up at a later date with additional testing depth, as well as evaluating kernel response times across Windows and Linux (IRQ, Polling, Hybrid Polling, etc), but for now, we're here to confirm the results on our own testbed as well as evaluate if the higher capacity point takes any sort of hit to performance. We may actually see a performance increase in some areas as Intel has had several months to further tune the P4800X.
This video is for the earlier 375GB model launch, but all points apply here
(except that the 900P has now already launched)
The baseline specs remain the same as they were back in April with a few significant notable exceptions:
The endurance figure for the 375GB capacity has nearly doubled to 20.5 PBW (PetaBytes Written), with the 750GB capacity logically following suit at 41 PBW. These figures are based on a 30 DWPD (Drive Write Per Day) rating spanned across a 5-year period. The original product brief is located here, but do note that it may be out of date.
We now have official sequential throughput ratings: 2.0 GB/s writes and 2.4 GB/s reads.
We also have been provided detailed QoS figures and those will be noted as we cover the results throughout the review.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
It’s been two long years since we first heard about 3D XPoint Technology. Intel and Micron serenaded us with tales of ultra-low latency and very high endurance, but when would we have this new media in our hot little hands? We got a taste of things with Optane Memory (caching) back in April, and later that same month we got a much bigger, albeit remotely-tested taste in the form of the P4800X. Since April all was quiet, with all of us storage freaks waiting for a consumer version of Optane with enough capacity to act as a system drive. Sure we’ve played around with Optane Memory parts in various forms of RAID, but as we found in our testing, Optane’s strongest benefits are the very performance traits that do not effectively scale with additional drives added to an array. The preferred route is to just get a larger single SSD with more 3D XPoint memory installed on it, and we have that very thing today (and in two separate capacities)!
You might have seen various rumors centered around the 900P lately. The first is that the 900P was to supposedly support PCIe 4.0. This is not true, and after digging back a bit appears to be a foreign vendor mistaking / confusing PCIe X4 (4 lanes) with the recently drafted PCIe 4.0 specification. Another set of rumors centered around pre-order listings and potential pricing for the 280 and 480 GB variants of the 900P. We are happy to report that those prices (at the time of this writing) are way higher than Intel’s stated MSRP's for these new models. I’ll even go as far as to say that the 480GB model can be had for less than what the 280GB model is currently listed for! More on that later in the review.
Performance specs are one place where the rumors were all true, but since all the folks had to go on was a leaked Intel press deck slide listing figures identical to the P4800X, we’re not really surprised here.
Lots of technical stuff above, but the high points are <10us typical latency (‘regular’ SSDs run between 60-100us), 2.5/2.0 GB/s sequential reads/writes, and 550k/500k random read/write performance. Yes I know, don’t tell me, you’ve seen higher sequentials on smaller form factor devices. I agree, and we’ve even seen higher maximum performance from unreleased 3D XPoint-equipped parts from Micron, but Intel has done what they needed to do in order to make this a viable shipping retail product, which likely means sacrificing the ‘megapixel race’ figures in favor of offering the lowest possible latencies and best possible endurance at this price point.
Packaging is among the nicest we’ve seen from an Intel SSD. It actually reminds me of how the Fusion-io ioDrives used to come.
Also included with the 900P is a Star Citizen ship. The Sabre Raven has been a topic of gossip and speculation for months now, and it appears to be a pretty sweet looking fighter. For those unaware, Star Citizen is a space-based MMO, and with a ‘ship purchase’ also comes a license to play the game. The Sabre Raven counts as such a purchase and apparently comes with lifetime insurance, meaning it will always be tied to your account in case it gets blown up doing data runs. Long story short, you get the game for free with the purchase of a 900P.
Subject: Storage | October 4, 2017 - 09:24 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: x299, VROC, skylake-x, RAID-0, Optane, Intel, bootable, boot
We've been playing around a bit with Intel VROC lately. This new tech lets you create a RAID of NVMe SSDs connected directly to newer Intel Skylake-X CPUs, without the assistance of any additional chipset or other RAID controlling hardware on the X299 platform. While the technology is not fully rolled out, we did manage to get it working and test a few different array types as a secondary volume. One of the pieces of conflicting info we had been trying to clear up was can you boot from a VROC array without the currently unobtanium VROC key...
Well, it seems that question has been answered with our own tinkering. While there was absolutely no indication in the BIOS that our Optane Memory quad RAID-0 was bootable (the array is configurable but does not appear in the bootable devices list), I'm sitting here looking at Windows installed directly to a VROC array!
Important relevant screenshots below:
For the moment this will only work with Intel SSDs, but Intel's VROC FAQ states that 'selected third-party SSDs' will be supported, but is unclear if that includes bootability (future support changes would come as BIOS updates since they must be applied at the CPU level). We're still digging into VROC as well as AMD's RAID implementation. Much more to follow, so stay tuned!
We've been hearing about Intel's VROC (NVMe RAID) technology for a few months now. ASUS started slipping clues in with their X299 motherboard releases starting back in May. The idea was very exciting, as prior NVMe RAID implementations on Z170 and Z270 platforms were bottlenecked by the chipset's PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI link to the CPU, and they also had to trade away SATA ports for M.2 PCIe lanes in order to accomplish the feat. X99 motherboards supported SATA RAID and even sported four additional ports, but they were left out of NVMe bootable RAID altogether. It would be foolish of Intel to launch a successor to their higher end workstation-class platform without a feature available in two (soon to be three) generations of their consumer platform.
To get a grip on what VROC is all about, lets set up some context with a few slides:
First, we have a slide laying out what the acronyms mean:
- VROC = Virtual RAID on CPU
- VMD = Volume Management Device
What's a VMD you say?
...so the VMD is extra logic present on Intel Skylake-SP CPUs, which enables the processor to group up to 16 lanes of storage (4x4) into a single PCIe storage domain. There are three VMD controllers per CPU.
VROC is the next logical step, and takes things a bit further. While boot support is restricted to within a single VMD, PCIe switches can be added downstream to create a bootable RAID possibly exceeding 4 SSDs. So long as the array need not be bootable, VROC enables spanning across multiple VMDs and even across CPUs!
Assembling the Missing Pieces
Unlike prior Intel storage technology launches, the VROC launch has been piecemeal at best and contradictory at worst. We initially heard that VROC would only support Intel SSDs, but Intel later published a FAQ that stated 'selected third-party SSDs' would also be supported. One thing they have remained steadfast on is the requirement for a hardware key to unlock RAID-1 and RAID-5 modes - a seemingly silly requirement given their consumer chipset supports bootable RAID-0,1,5 without any key requirement (and VROC only supports one additional SSD over Z170/Z270/Z370, which can boot from 3-drive arrays).
On the 'piecemeal' topic, we need three things for VROC to work:
- BIOS support for enabling VMD Domains for select groups of PCIe lanes.
- Hardware for connecting a group of NVMe SSDs to that group of PCIe lanes.
- A driver for OS mounting and managing of the array.
Let's run down this list and see what is currently available:
Check. Hardware for connecting multiple drives to the configured set of lanes?
Check (960 PRO pic here). Note that the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 Card will only work on motherboards supporting PCIe bifurcation, which allows the CPU to split PCIe lanes into subgroups without the need of a PLX chip. You can see two bifurcated modes in the above screenshot - one intended for VMD/VROC, while the other (data) selection enables bifurcation without enabling the VMD controller. This option presents the four SSDs to the OS without the need of any special driver.
With the above installed, and the slot configured for VROC in the BIOS, we are greeted by the expected disappointing result:
Now for that pesky driver. After a bit of digging around the dark corners of the internet:
Check! (well, that's what it looked like after I rapidly clicked my way through the array creation)
Don't even pretend like you won't read the rest of this review! (click here now!)