The new solid state standard for laptop vendors?

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2016 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: ssd, laptop, ultraportable

The increasing use of on-board memory by OEMs in ultraportables has some enthusiasts unhappy, however the trend that DigiTimes mentioned today should cheer them up somewhat.  It is predicted by DRAMeXchange that over half of all laptops will use an SSD for storage by 2018.  There are some rather interesting bits of data in the post, for instance the pricing of SSDs for OEMs have reportedly stabilized for the first time, with a quoted rise in prices of 0-0.5% for MLC and 0-1% TLC based models compared with the prior quarter.  These numbers seem in direct opposition to the retail market where not only have we seen a steady decline in SSD prices, the change has been much greater than 1%.

There is a shadow cast by this silver lined cloud; with more demand by OEMs for NAND there will be more pressure on manufacturers and so it is predicted that supply will be unable to meet demand in Q3 of this year.  One would expect manufacturers to produce for the market segment that offers a greater profit margin and if the pricing mentioned previously is accurate, that is not retail.  It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens to SSD pricing in the fall.

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"DRAMeXchange has maintained its estimate given earlier in 2016 that the adoption of SSDs in notebooks would exceed 30% in 2016. The proportion is forecast to reach 56% in 2018, according to the research firm."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Intel Revises All SSD Product Lines - 3D NAND Everywhere!

Subject: Storage | August 25, 2016 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Pro 6000p, Intel, imft, E 6000p, E 5420s, DC S3520, DC P3520, 600p, 3d nand

Intel announced the production of 3D NAND a little over a year ago, and we've now seen production ramp up to the point where they are infusing it into nearly every nook and cranny of their SSD product lines.

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The most relevant part for our readers will be a long overdue M.2 2280 SSD. These will kick off with the 600p:

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An overseas forum member over at chiphell got their hands on a 600p and ran some quick tests. From their photo (above), we can confirm the controller is not from Intel, but rather from Silicon Motion. The NAND is naturally from Intel, as is likely their controller firmware implementation, as these parts go through the same lengthy validation process as their other products.

Intel is going for the budget consumer play here. The flash will be running in TLC mode, likely with an SLC cache. Specs are respectable - 1.8GB/s reads, 560MB/s writes, random read 155k, random write 128k (4KB QD=32). By respectable specs I mean in light of the pricing:

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Wow! These prices are ranging from $0.55/GB at 128GB all the way down to $0.35/GB for the 1TB part.

You might have noticed the Pro 6000p in that list. Those are nearly identical to the 600p save some additional firmware / software tweaks to support IT infrastructure remote secure erase.

Intel also refreshed their DataCenter (DC) lineup. The SSD DC S3520 (SATA) and P3520 (PCIe/NVMe) were also introduced as a refresh, also using Intel's 3D NAND. We published our exclusive review of the Intel SSD DC P3520 earlier today, so check there for full details on that enterprise front. Before we move on, a brief moment of silence for the P3320 - soft-launched in April, but discontinued before it shipped. We hardly knew ye.

Lastly, Intel introduced a few additional products meant for the embedded / IoT sector. The SSD E 6000p is an M.2 PCIe part similar to the first pair of products mentioned in this article, while the SSD E 5420s comes in 2.5" and M.2 SATA flavors. The differentiator on these 'E' parts is enhanced AES 256 crypto.

Most of these products will be available 'next week', but the 600p 360GB (to be added) and 1TB capacities will ship in Q4.

Abbreviated press blast appears after the break.

Source: Intel
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel launched their Datacenter 'P' Series parts a little over two years ago. Since then, the P3500, P3600, and P3700 lines have seen various expansions and spinoffs. The most recent to date was the P3608, which packed two full P3600's into a single HHHL form factor. With Intel 3D XPoint / Optane parts lurking just around the corner, I had assumed there would be no further branches of the P3xxx line, but Intel had other things in mind. IMFT 3D NAND offers greater die capacities at a reduced cost/GB, apparently even in MLC form, and Intel has infused this flash into their new P3520:

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Remember the P3500 series was Intel's lowest end of the P line, and as far as performance goes, the P3520 actually takes a further step back. The play here is to get the proven quality control and reliability of Intel's datacenter parts into a lower cost product. While the P3500 launched at $1.50/GB, the P3520 pushes that cost down *well* below $1/GB for a 2TB HHHL or U.2 SSD.

Read on for our full review of the Intel DC P3520 SSD!

FMS 2016: Phison E8 Controller - NVMe Speed at SATA Cost

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2016 - 04:27 PM |
Tagged: ssd, PS5008-E8/E8T, PS5008-E8, PS5007-E7, phison, PCIe 3.0 x2, NVMe, FMS 2016, FMS, E8

I visited Phison to check out their new E8 controller:

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Phsion opted to take a step back from the higher performance PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe controllers out there, offering a solution with half the lanes. PCIe 3.0 x2 can still handle 1.5 GB/s, and this controller can exceed 200,000 random IOPS. Those specs are actually in-line with what most shipping x4 solutions offer today, meaning the E8 is more effectively saturating its more limited connectivity. Reducing the number of lanes helps Phison reduce the component cost of this controller to match the cost of typical SATA controllers while tripling the performance, greatly reducing the cost to produce NVMe SSDs.

In addition to 3D Flash support, the E8 is also a DRAM-less controller, meaning it has a small internal SRAM cache and has been architected to not need external DRAM installed on the PCB. DRAM-less means even lower costs. This can only be a good thing, since high performing NVMe parts at SATA costs is going to drive down the costs of even faster NVMe solutions, which is great for future buyers.

Press blast after the break.

Source: Phison

FMS 2016: Liqid Combines Quad M.2 in to Powerful Packages

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2016 - 03:18 PM |
Tagged: FMS, FMS 2016, Liqid, kingston, toshiba, phison, U.2, HHHL, NVMe, ssd

A relative newcomer this year at Flash Memory Summit was Liqid. These guys are essentially creating an ecosystem from a subset of parts. Let's start with Toshiba:

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At Toshiba's booth, we spotted their XG3 being promoted as being part of the Liqid solution. We also saw a similar demo at the Phison booth, meaning any M.2 parts can be included as part of their design. Now let us get a closer look at the full package options and what they do:

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This demo, at the Kingston booth, showed a single U.2 device cranking out 835,000 4k IOPS. This is essentially saturating its PCIe 3.0 x4 link with random IO's, and it actually beats the Micron 9100 that we just reviewed!

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How can it pull this off? The trick is that there are actually four M.2 SSDs in that package, along with a PLX switch. The RAID must be handled on the host side, but so long as you have software that can talk to multiple drives, you'll get full speed from this part.

More throughput can be had by switching to a PCIe 3.0 x8 link on a HHHL form factor card:

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That's 1.3 million IOPS from a single HHHL device! Technically this is four SSDs, but still, that's impressively fast and is again saturating the bus, but this time it's PCIe 3.0 x8 being pegged!

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We'll be tracking Liqid's progress over the coming months, and we will definitely test these solutions as they come to market (we're not there just yet). More to follow from FMS 2016!

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: Seagate Demos Facebook Lightning, 60TB 3.5" SSD!

Subject: Storage | August 10, 2016 - 05:59 PM |
Tagged: FMS 2016, ssd, Seagate, Lightning, facebook, 60TB

Seagate showed off some impressive Solid State Storage at Flash Memory Summit 2016.

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First up is the Nytro XM1440. This is a 2TB M.2 22110 SSD complete with enterprise firmware and power loss protection. Nice little package, but what's it for?

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..well if you have 60 of them, you can put them into this impressive 1U chassis. This is Facebook's Lightning chassis (discussed yesterday). With Seagate's 2TB parts, this makes for 120TB of flash in a 1U footprint. Great for hyperscale datacenters.

Now onto what you came to see:

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This is the 'Seagate 60TB SAS SSD'. It really doesn't need a unique name because that capacity takes care of that for us! This is a 3.5" form factor SAS 12Gbit beast of a drive.

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They pulled this density off with a few tricks which I'll walk through. First was the stacking of three PCBs with flash packages on both sides. 80 packages in total.

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Next up is Seagate's ONFi fan-out ASIC. This is required because you can only have so many devices connected to a single channel / bus of a given SSD controller. The ASIC acts as a switch for data between the controller and flash dies.

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With so much flash present, we could use a bit of fault tolerance. You may recall RAISE from SandForce (who Seagate now owns). This is effectively RAID for flash dies, enabling greater resistance to individual errors across the array.

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Finally we have the specs. With a dual 12 Gbit SAS inteface, the 60TB SAS SSD can handle 1.5 GB/s reads, 1.0 GB/s writes, and offers 150,000 IOPS at 4KB QD32 random (SAS tops out at QD32). The idea behind drives like these is to cram as much storage into the smallest space possible, and this is certainly a step in the right direction.

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We also saw the XP7200 add-in card. I found this one interesting as it is a PCIe 3.0 x16 card with four M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs installed, but *without* a PLX switch to link them to the host system. This is possible only in server systems supporting PCIe Bifurcation, where the host can recognize that certain sets of lanes are linked to individual components.

More to follow from FMS 2016! Press blast after the break.

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!

Microsemi Flashtec Controllers Offer PCIe 3.0 x8 NVMe SSDs up to 20TB

Subject: Storage | August 8, 2016 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: storage, ssd, solid state drive, PCIe 3.0 x8, PCI-E 3.0, NVMe2032, NVMe2016, NVMe, Microsemi, Flashtec

Microsemi's Flashtec NVMe SSD controllers are now in production, and as Computer Base reports (Google-translated version of the page available here) these controllers use twice as many PCIe lanes than current offerings with a x8 PCI-E 3.0 connection, and can support up to 20 TB of flash capacity.

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Image credit: Computer Base

"The NVMe controller destined for the professional high-performance segment and work with PCIe 3.0 x8 or two x4 PCIe 3.0. The NVMe2032 has 32 memory channels (and) NVMe2016 (has) 16. When using 256-Gbit flash SSDs can be implemented with up to 20 terabytes of storage."

The 32-channel NVMe2032 boasts up to 1 million IOPS in 4K random read performance, and the controller supports DDR4 memory for faster cache performance. The announcement of the availability of these chips comes just before the start of Flash Memory Summit, which our own Allyn Malventano will be attending. Stay tuned for more flashy SSD news to come!

Samsung PM1633a: 15.36TB SSD for $10,000 USD

Subject: Storage | August 2, 2016 - 03:03 AM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, enterprise ssd

Allyn first mentioned this device last year, but they're apparently now shipping for a whopping $10,000 USD. To refresh, the PM1633a is an SSD from Samsung that packs 15.36TB into a 2.5-inch form factor. According to Samsung, it does this by stacking 16 dies, each containing 48 layers of flash cells, into a 512GB package. It's unclear how many packages are installed in the device, because we don't know how much over-provisioning Samsung provides, but the advertised capacity equates to exactly 30 packages. Update @ 11:30pm: Turns out I was staring right at it in the old press release. The drive has 32 packages, so 16384 GB, once you account for over-provisioning.

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Image Credit: Samsung

Down at CDW, they are selling them for $10,311.99 USD with the option to lease for $321.73 / month. That's only 2.1c/GB... per month... for probably three whole years. No Ryan, that doesn't count. The warranty period doesn't seem to be listed, but Samsung will cover up to 15.36TB per day in writes. I mean, we knew it would be expensive, given its size and performance. At least it's only ~65c/GB.

Source: CDW