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.


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.


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

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).


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:


(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.


The M8Pe SSD lineup (Image credit: Computer Base)

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: DeepSpar

Introduction, Packaging, and Internals


Being a bit of a storage nut, I have run into my share of failed and/or corrupted hard drives over the years. I have therefore used many different data recovery tools to try to get that data back when needed. Thankfully, I now employ a backup strategy that should minimize the need for such a tool, but there will always be instances of fresh data on a drive that went down before a recent backup took place or a neighbor or friend that did not have a backup.

I’ve got a few data recovery pieces in the cooker, but this one will be focusing on ‘physical data recovery’ from drives with physically damaged or degraded sectors and/or heads. I’m not talking about so-called ‘logical data recovery’, where the drive is physically fine but has suffered some corruption that makes the data inaccessible by normal means (undelete programs also fall into this category). There are plenty of ‘hard drive recovery’ apps out there, and most if not all of them claim seemingly miraculous results on your physically failing hard drive. While there are absolutely success stories out there (most plastered all over testimonial pages at those respective sites), one must take those with an appropriate grain of salt. Someone who just got their data back with a <$100 program is going to be very vocal about it, while those who had their drive permanently fail during the process are likely to go cry quietly in a corner while saving up for a clean-room capable service to repair their drive and attempt to get their stuff back. I'll focus more on the exact issues with using software tools for hardware problems later in this article, but for now, surely there has to be some way to attempt these first few steps of data recovery without resorting to software tools that can potentially cause more damage?


Well now there is. Enter the RapidSpar, made by DeepSpar, who hope this little box can bridge the gap between dedicated data recovery operations and home users risking software-based hardware recoveries. DeepSpar is best known for making advanced tools used by big data recovery operations, so they know a thing or two about this stuff. I could go on and on here, but I’m going to save that for after the intro page. For now let’s get into what comes in the box.

Note: In this video, I read the MFT prior to performing RapidNebula Analysis. It's optimal to reverse those steps. More on that later in this article.

Read on for our full review of the RapidSpar!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging


Everyone expects SSD makers to keep pushing out higher and higher capacity SSDs, but the thing holding them back is sufficient market demand for that capacity. With that, it appears Samsung has decided it was high time for a 4TB model of their 850 EVO. Today we will be looking at this huge capacity point, and paying close attention to any performance dips that sometimes result in pushing a given SSD controller / architecture to extreme capacities.


This new 4TB model benefits from the higher density of Samsung’s 48-layer V-NAND. We performed a side-by-side comparison of 32 and 48 layer products back in March, and found the newer flash to reduce Latency Percentile profiles closer to MLC-equipped Pro model than the 32-layer (TLC) EVO:


Latency Percentile showing reduced latency of Samsung’s new 48-layer V-NAND

We’ll be looking into all of this in today’s review, along with trying our hand at some new mixed paced workload testing, so let’s get to it!

Read on for our full review of the Samsung 850 EVO 4TB SATA SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Micron
Tagged: U.2, ssd, pro, pcie, NVMe, micron, MAX, HHHL, 9100

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


It's been too long since we took a look at enterprise SSDs here at PC Perspective, so it's high time we get back to it! The delay has stemmed from some low-level re-engineering of our test suite to unlock some really cool QoS and Latency Percentile possibilities involving PACED workloads. We've also done a lot of work to distill hundreds of hours of test results into fewer yet more meaningful charts. More on that as we get into the article. For now, let's focus on today's test subject:


Behold the Micron 9100 MAX Series. Inside that unassuming 2.5" U.2 enclosure sits 4TB of flash and over 4GB of DRAM. It's capable of 3 GB/s reads, 2 GB/s writes, and 750,000 IOPS. All from inside that little silver box! There's not a lot more to say here because nobody is going to read much past that 3/4 MILLION IOPS figure I just slipped, so I'll just get into the rest of the article now :).



The 9100's come in two flavors and form factors. The MAX series (1.2TB and 2.4TB in the above list) come with very high levels of performance and endurance, while the PRO series comes with lower overprovisioning, enabling higher capacity points for a given flash loadout (800GB, 1.6TB, 3.2TB). Those five different capacity / performance points are available in both PCIe (HHHL) and U.2 (2.5") form factors, making for 10 total available SKUs. All products are PCIe 3.0 x4, using NVMe as their protocol. They should all be bootable on systems capable of UEFI/NVMe BIOS enumeration.

Idle power consumption is a respectable 7W, while active consumption is selectable in 20W, 25W, and 'unlimited' increments. While >25W operation technically exceeds the PCIe specification for non-GPU devices, we know that the physical slot is capable of 75W for GPUs, so why can't SSDs have some more fun too! That said, even in unlimited mode, the 9100's should still stick relatively close to 25W and in our testing did not exceed 29W at any workload. Detailed power testing is coming to future enterprise articles, but for now, the extent will be what was measured and noted in this paragraph.


Our 9100 MAX samples came only in anti-static bags, so no fancy packaging to show here. Enterprise parts typically come in white/brown boxes with little flair.

Read on for our full review of the Micron 9100 MAX 2.4TB U.2 Enterprise SSD!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Pre and Post Update Testing

Samsung launched their 840 Series SSDs back in May of 2013, which is over three years ago as of this writing. They were well-received as a budget unit but rapidly eclipsed by the follow-on release of the 840 EVO.

samsung 840 FW-1-.png

A quick check of our test 840 revealed inconsistent read speeds.

We broke news of Samsung’s TLC SSDs being effected by a time-based degrading of read speeds in September of 2014, and since then we have seen nearly every affected product patched by Samsung, with one glaring exception - the original 840 SSD. While the 840 EVO was a TLC SSD with a built-in SLC static data cache, the preceding 840 was a pure TLC drive. With the focus being on the newer / more popular drives, I had done only spot-check testing of our base 840 sample here at the lab, but once I heard there was finally a patch for this unit, I set out to do some pre-update testing so that I could gauge any improvements to read speed from this update.

As a refresher, ‘stale’ data on an 840 EVO would see reduced read speeds over a period of months after those files were written to the drive. This issue was properly addressed in a firmware issued back in April of 2015, but there were continued grumbles from owners of other affected drives, namely the base model 840. With the Advanced Performance Optimization patch being issued so long after others have been patched, I’m left wondering why there was such a long delay on this one? Differences in the base-840’s demonstration of this issue revealed themselves in my pre-patch testing:

Read on for our look at this new firmware for the Samsung 840!

Leaked Intel Roadmap Details Upcoming Optane XPoint SSDs and Storage Accelerators

Subject: Storage | June 13, 2016 - 07:46 AM |
Tagged: XPoint, tlc, Stony Beach, ssd, pcie, Optane, NVMe, mlc, Mansion Beach, M.2, kaby lake, Intel, imft, Brighton Beach, 3DNAND, 3d nand

A recent post over at benchlife.info included a slide of some significant interest to those who have been drooling over XPoint technology:


For those unaware, XPoint (spoken 'cross-point') is a new type of storage technology that is persistent like NAND Flash but with speeds closer to that of RAM. Intel's brand name for devices implementing XPoint are called Optane.

Starting at the bottom of the slide, we see a new 'System Acceleration' segment with a 'Stony Beach PCIe/NVMe m.2 System Accelerator'. This is likely a new take on Larson Creek, which was a 20GB SLC SSD launched in 2011. This small yet very fast SLC flash was tied into the storage subsystem via Intel's Rapid Storage Technology and acted as a caching tier for HDDs, which comprised most of the storage market at that time. Since Optane excels at random access, even a PCIe 3.0 x2 part could outmaneuver the fastest available NAND, meaning these new System Accelerators could act as a caching tier for Flash-based SSDs or even HDDs. These accelerators can also be good for boosting the performance of mobile products, potentially enabling the use of cheaper / lower performing Flash / HDD for bulk storage.


Skipping past the mainstream parts for now, enthusiasts can expect to see Brighton Beach and Mansion Beach, which are Optane SSDs linked via PCIe 3x2 or x4, respectively. Not just accelerators, these products should have considerably more storage capacity, which may bring costs fairly high unless either XPoint production is very efficient or if there is also NAND Flash present on those parts for bulk storage (think XPoint cache for NAND Flash all in one product).

We're not sure if or how the recent delays to Kaby Lake will impact the other blocks on the above slide, but we do know that many of the other blocks present are on-track. The SSD 540s and 5400s were in fact announced in Q2, and are Intel's first shipping products using IMFT 3D NAND. Parts not yet seen announced are the Pro 6000p and 600p, which are long overdue m.2 SSDs that may compete against Samsung's 950 Pro. Do note that those are marked as TLC products (purple), though I suspect they may actually be a hybrid TLC+SLC cache solution.


Going further out on the timeline we naturally see refreshes to all of the Optane parts, but we also see the first mention of second-generation IMFT 3DNAND. As I hinted at in an article back in February, second-gen 3D NAND will very likely *double* the per-die capacity to 512Gbit (64GB) for MLC and 768Gbit (96GB) for TLC. While die counts will be cut in half for a given total SSD capacity, speed reductions will be partially mitigated by this flash having at least four planes per die (most previous flash was double-plane). A plane is an effective partitioning of flash within the die, with each section having its own buffer. Each plane can perform erase/program/read operations independently, and for operations where the Flash is more limiting than the interface (writes), doubling the number of planes also doubles the throughput. In short, doubling planes roughly negates the speed drop caused by halving the die count on an SSD (until you reach the point where controller-to-NAND channels become the bottleneck, of course).


IMFT XPoint Die shot I caught at the Intel / Micron launch event.

Well, that's all I have for now. I'm excited to see that XPoint is making its way into consumer products (and Storage Accelerators) within the next year's time. I certainly look forward to testing these products, and I hope to show them running faster than they did back at that IDF demo...

Computex 2016: Corsair Announces Neutron XTI SSDs

Subject: Storage | June 6, 2016 - 07:40 AM |
Tagged: ssd, corsair, neutron, neutron xti, Neutron XT

Corsair announced a new line of SSDs at Computex. We didn't have boots on the ground there this year, and it's not yet on Corsair's website, so we needed to go with Tom's coverage of the product. The Corsair Neutron XTI uses Toshiba's 15nm MLC flash and the Phison S10 controller “with expanded cache”. This added cache addresses some “performance consistency” issues that Corsair identified, but they didn't seem to elaborate on what that is. It is rated at up to 100,000 IOPS Read and 90,000 IOPS Write, but that obviously needs to be tested to specify when, how, and how often.


Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

Speaking of tested Corsair Neutron SSDs, Allyn reviewed the previous model, the Corsair Neutron XT, all the way back in November, 2014. He was impressed with the drive at the time, although, while it was super fast at low queue depths of about ~1-4 items, it slowed down above that. Since that time, he has been developing some interesting testing methods to figure out whether slowdowns could be related to individual hitches that would be lost in benchmarks that aggregate results and implicitly average them out. He didn't have those methods back then, though, so it's unclear whether the queue depth issue was a symptom of a latency problem, and whether the “expanded cache” will help that.

We'll see when it's launched. It will be available in 240, 480, and 960 GB varieties.

Podcast #402 - GTX 1070 Review, i7-6950X Review, AMD Radeon RX480, Aftermarket GTX 1080’s, Tiny SSDs, Computex 2016, and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2016 - 03:11 PM |
Tagged: zenfone 3, ssd, Samsung, rx480, ROG Rampage V Edition 10, podcast, PM971-NVMe, i7-6950X, gtx1080, GTX1070, computex 2016, Broadwell, Bristol Ridge, BGA, avalon, 1080, 1070

PC Perspective Podcast #402 - 06/03/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 1070 Review, i7-6950X Review, AMD Radeon RX480, Aftermarket GTX 1080’s, Tiny SSDs, Computex 2016, 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!

This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Casper!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 2:02:07
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Casper!
  3. News items of interest:
    1. 1:12:09 Aftermarket GTX 1080s are here!
    2. 1:27:25 ASUS Computex 2016
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Allyn: Break down and organize / lookup all of those Amazon boxes.
  5. Closing/outro

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