Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
The OCZ RevoDrive has been around for a good long while. We looked at the first ever RevoDrive back in 2010. It was a bold move for the time, as PCIe SSDs were both rare and very expensive at that time. OCZ's innovation was to implement a new VCA RAID controller which kept latencies low and properly scaled with increased Queue Depth. OCZ got a lot of use out of this formula, later expanding to the RevoDrive 3 x2 which expanded to four parallel SSDs, all the way to the enterprise Z-Drive R4 which further expanded that out to eight RAIDed SSDs.
OCZ's RevoDrive lineup circa 2011.
The latter was a monster of an SSD both in physical size and storage capacity. Its performance was also impressive given that it launched five years ago. After being acquired by Toshiba, OCZ re-spun the old VCA-driven SSD one last time in the form of a RevoDrive 350, but it was the same old formula and high-latency SandForce controllers (updated with in-house Toshiba flash). The RevoDrive line needed to ditch that dated tech and move into the world of NVMe, and today it has!
Here is the new 'Toshiba OCZ RD400', branded as such under the recent rebadging that took place on OCZ's site. The Trion 150 and Vertex 180 have also been relabeled as TR150 and VT180. This new RD400 has some significant changes over the previous iterations of that line. The big one is that it is now a lean M.2 part which can come on/with an optional adapter card for those not having an available M.2 slot.
Subject: Storage | April 12, 2016 - 03:30 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vmware, ssd, S600DC, S3100, P3520, P3320, Nexenta, micron, Intel, D3700, D3600, Ceph, 9100, 7100, 5410s, 540s, 5400s
There has been a lot of recent shuffling about in the world of enterprise storage. I’m writing up this post from a Micron product launch event in Austin, Texas. Today they are launching a round of enterprise SSD products. These lines cover the full storage gamut from M.2 to U.2 to HHHL. While prior Micron SSDs were bottlenecked by AHCI and PCIe 2.0, these new lines are using Marvell controllers and are capable of PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds (plus NVMe).
The workhorse of the lineup is the 9100, which will be available in HHHL and U.2 2.5” 15mm form factors.
Micron is not the only company pushing further into this space. Less than two weeks ago, Intel ran their ‘Cloud Day’ event, where they launched a new Xeon CPU and a plethora of new SSDs, some of which were based on IMFT 3D NAND tech (SSD DC P3320). Intel also launched the client 540s and business 5400s product lines, which are based on Silicon Motion SM2256 controllers driving SK Hynix hybrid (SLC+TLC) flash. While these controllers and flash are coming from external sources, they must still pass Intel’s rigorous qualification and compatibility validation testing, so failure rates should be kept to a minimum.
Another aspect of this Micron launch day is their push into the production of not only SSDs, but all-flash storage devices. Dubbed ‘Micron Accelerated Solutions’, these are devices built, serviced, and supported by Micron. They naturally contain Micron SSDs, but also draw on other vendors like Supermicro and Nexenta. The products range from VMware SANs, to Ceph solutions capable of 1 million IOPS and 140 Gbps, to software-defined storage. I’ll be sitting through briefings and asking questions about these products when this post is set to go live, and I will update this space with any additional juicy tidbits once we wrap up for the day.
Apparently we are going to see consumer IMFT 3D TLC NAND *this month* in the form of a Crucial MX300!
...and in a couple of months we will see Crucial M.2 PCIe SSDs:
There was also some discussion on XPoint (spoken 'cross point') and where Micron sees this new storage being implemented. Expected to see scaled production in 2017 and 2018, XPoint is non-volatile (like flash) but extremely fast (like DRAM). There was not much said beyond generalities, but they did have a wafer, and you know I love die shots:
I was not permitted to get a better die shot of the wafer at this event, as the Micron rep specifically requested that journalists only use photos that were shot from stage distance. Fortunately, this was not the only event where I have photographed a XPoint wafer. Here is a photo I caught at a prior event:
Here is a quick breakdown of the products launched by both Intel and Micron over the last two weeks:
- SSD DC P3520 and P3320
- First SSDs to use 256Gbit/die 32-layer IMFT 3D NAND.
- PCIe 3.0 x4 HHHL and 2.5” U.2
- SSD DC D3700 and D3600
- PCIe 3.0 x4 2.5” U.2 dual-port design.
- Dual-port means two hosts can access a single SSD through the use of a special backplane that merges the PCIe lanes from two separate systems into a single U.2 connector. This is a move for increased redundancy, as one system can fail and the same flash storage will still be available to the failover system.
- PCIe 3.0 x4 2.5” U.2 dual-port design.
- SSD DC S3100
- SATA 2.5” SLC+TLC hybrid for enterprise
- Intended for boot OS / caching / index storage duties
- SATA 2.5” SLC+TLC hybrid for enterprise
- SSD 540s and Pro 5400s
- Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix SLC+TLC hybrid flash
- Pro 5200s adds Intel vPro / OPAL 2.0 and Microsoft eDrive support
- SSD E 5400s and E 5410s
- Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix flash
- Small capacity M.2 2280 and 2.5” SATA
- 9100 PCIe SSD
- PCIe 3.0 x4 HHHL and 2.5” U.2 15mm
- Up to 3.2TB capacity
- 7100 PCIe SSD
- PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 22110 and 2.5” U.2 7mm
- SAS 2.5”
- Micron Accelerated Solutions
That’s a whole lot of flash related product launches in a very short period of time. I’m excited to see large pushes into the enterprise because that means we will see this tech trickle down to consumers and power users that much sooner!
The Micron NVMe press release was a bit light on details, so I’ve included their Accelerated Solutions release after the break.
Subject: Storage | March 23, 2016 - 10:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: newegg, Mushkin, silicon motion, micron, ssd
Here's a brief post for our Canadian fans. If you have been interested in a decent, large SSD, then you might want to check out Newegg Canada. The Mushkin Enhanced Reactor 1TB is currently $100 off, which puts it at a price of $299.99 CDN plus tax and shipping. While 30c/GB might sound mundane to our neighbours to the south, the currency conversion works out to about 23c/GB USD.
Sure, it's not the fastest SSD on the market, but it's a solid, mainstream one. A 2TB version also exists, but you will be paying about $60 more than just getting two, 1TB SKUs. This version uses the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller and Micron flash. We might end up with better or cheaper drives coming in the future, I have no idea, but this should be good for cheap, decent, and now.
Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 04:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Samsung, ssd, BGA
Instead of the standard pin grid array, Samsung's PM971 SSD uses BGA which allows them to for a much smaller overall size, albeit at the cost of it being permanently soldered to a circuit motherboard. The three models, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB, will each be smaller than an SD card which is why these SSDs will be able to be used in future generations of small mobile devices. This not only foretells of a significantly higher storage capacity for your phone but also a faster one as Samsung's PR describes sequential read speeds of up to 1500MBps and sequential writes at 600MBps, or if you prefer, 190K random read IOPS and 150K random write IOPS. They haven't really given any details beyond those stats but you can try to glean some more information from the Japanese language article which The Inquirer links to in their story here.
"SAMSUNG HAS been showing off what it believes is the answer to the question of how to squeeze even more out of smartphone and tablet form factors. And with blazing speeds of 1500MBps it's hard to argue."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Your money or your life! Another hospital goes down to ransomware @ The Register
- Azure's wobbly day as three services glitch around the world @ The Register
- Building A Butcher Block Computer Desk To Comfortably Handle Six Monitors @ Phoronix
Subject: Storage | March 17, 2016 - 06:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zotac, Premium Edition 480GB, ssd, Phison PS3110
That's right, ZOTAC offers a number of SSDs, including a PCIe based one, but today Hardware Canucks examines the Premium Edition 480GB. It uses the Phison PS3110 controller, 256MB NANYA DDR3 for cache and the slightly older 19nm Toshiba Toggle MLC NAND. This is similar to other lower cost SSDs and so you would expect the performance to be similar as well. This is indeed the case, performance is similar to the PNY XLR8 and the Crucial MX200 drives and the price is attractive, Hardware Canucks saw it on sale for $65US for the 240GB model and less than $140 for the 480GB. If you are looking for a lower cost SSD you should check out the full review.
"The mid-tier SSD market is a crowded place these days but Zotac may have a standout contender with their affordable yet fast Premium Edition."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung 950 PRO SSD RAID-0 Performance @ Benchmark Reviews
- ADATA XPG SX930 240GB @ Kitguru
- OCZ Trion 150 480 GB @ techPowerUp
- QNAP TS-253A Network Attached Storage @ Modders-Inc
- Synology DS216play 2-bay NAS @ techPowerUp
- QNAP TAS-268 QTS and Android Combo NAS @ eTeknix
- ASUSTOR AS3102T NAS Server Review @ NikKTech
Subject: Storage | March 8, 2016 - 08:07 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, Seagate, pcie, NVMe, flash drive
Today Seagate announced that they are production ready on a couple of NVMe PCIe SSD models. These are data-center tailored units that focus on getting as much parallel flash into as small of a space as possible. From engineering drawings, the first appears to be a half height (HHHL) device, communicates over a PCIe 3.0 x8 link, and reaches a claimed 6.7GB/s:
The second model is a bit more interesting for a few reasons. This is a PCIe 3.0 x16 unit (same lane configuration as a high end GPU) that claims 10 GB/s:
10 GB/s, hmm, where have I seen that before? :)
The second image gives away a bit of what may be going on under that heatsink. There appears to be four M.2 form factor SSDs in there, which would imply that it would appear as four separate NVMe devices. This is no big deal for enterprise data applications that can be pointed at multiple physical devices, but that 10 GB/s does start to make more sense (as a combined total) as we know of no single SSD controller capable of that sort of throughput. It took four Intel SSD 750’s for us to reach that same 10 GB/s figure, so it stands to reason that Seagate would use that same trick, only with M.2 SSDs they can fit everything onto a single slot card.
That’s all we have on this release so far, but we may see some real product pics sneak out of the Open Compute Project Summit, running over the next couple of days.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Around this same time last year, Samsung launched their Portable SSD T1. This was a nifty little external SSD with some very good performance and capabilities. Despite its advantages and the cool factor of having a thin and light 1TB SSD barely noticeable in your pocket, there was some feedback from consumers that warranted a few tweaks to the design. There was also the need for a new line as Samsung was switching over their VNAND from 32 to 48 layer, enabling a higher capacity tier for this portable SSD. All of these changes were wrapped up into the new Samsung Portable SSD T3:
Most of these specs are identical to the previous T1, with some notable exceptions. Consumer feedback prompted a newer / heavier metal housing, as the T1 (coming in at only 26 grams) was almost too light. With that newer housing came a slight enlarging of dimensions. We will do some side by side comparisons later in the review.
Subject: Storage | February 18, 2016 - 08:14 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Trion 150, toshiba, tlc, ssd, slc, sata, ocz, A15nm
As you may remember from Al's post, the OCZ Trion 150 is essentially the same as the previous Trion 100, except for the use of 15nm TLC flash from Toshiba and a lower initial price. Hardware Canucks got their paws on two of the drives from this series to benchmark, the 480GB and 960GB models. The 480GB model retains the 256MB DDR3 cache, the 960 doubles that to 512MB but there is one thing missing from this new series; instead of relying on capacitors to prevent lost data from a power failure they rely on OCZ's firmware based Power Failure Management Plus. Read Hardware Canucks full review to see if the new Trion can match the price to performance of the original.
"With the budget-focused SSD market exploding, OCZ is launching the Trion 150, a refresh of their original Trion 100 series which should offer better performance and an even lower price."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- OCZ Trion 150 480GB @ Legion Hardware
- Mushkin Striker 480GB @ eTeknix
- Samsung 750 EVO @ The SSD Review
- PNY CS1311 & XLR8 CS2211 SSDs Review @ Hardware Canucks
- QNAP TS-453A 4-bay NAS @ techPowerUp
- Kingston DataTraveler 2000 @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2016 - 07:16 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: x16 LTE, vulkan, video, ssd, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, pb328q, opengl, nvidia, micron, Khronos, gtx 950, asus, apple, 840 evo, 750ti, 750 evo, 3d nand
PC Perspective Podcast #387 - 02/18/2016
Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS PB328Q, Samsung 750 EVO SSD, the release of Vulkan 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, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:34:18
Week in Review:
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Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Subject: Storage | February 14, 2016 - 07:51 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, ssd, Samsung, nand, micron, Intel, imft, 768Gb, 512GB, 3d nand, 384Gb, 32 Layer, 256GB
You may have seen a wave of Micron 3D NAND news posts these past few days, and while many are repeating the 11-month old news with talks of 10TB/3.5TB on a 2.5"/M.2 form factor SSDs, I'm here to dive into the bigger implications of what the upcoming (and future) generation of Intel / Micron flash will mean for SSD performance and pricing.
Remember that with the way these capacity increases are going, the only way to get a high performance and high capacity SSD on-the-cheap in the future will be to actually get those higher capacity models. With such a large per-die capacity, smaller SSDs (like 128GB / 256GB) will suffer significantly slower write speeds. Taking this upcoming Micron flash as an example, a 128GB SSD will contain only four flash memory dies, and as I wrote about back in 2014, such an SSD would likely see HDD-level sequential write speeds of 160MB/sec. Other SSD manufacturers already recognize this issue and are taking steps to correct it. At Storage Visions 2016, Samsung briefed me on the upcoming SSD 750 Series that will use planar 16nm NAND to produce 120GB and 250GB capacities. The smaller die capacities of these models will enable respectable write performance and will also enable them to discontinue their 120GB 850 EVO as they transition that line to higher capacity 48-layer VNAND. Getting back to this Micron announcement, we have some new info that bears analysis, and that pertains to the now announced page and block size:
256Gb MLC: 16KB Page / 16MB Block / 1024 Pages per Block
384Gb TLC: 16KB Page / 24MB Block / 1536 Pages per Block
To understand what these numbers mean, using the MLC line above, imagine a 16MB CD-RW (Block) that can write 1024 individual 16KB 'sessions' (Page). Each 16KB can be added individually over time, and just like how files on a CD-RW could be modified by writing a new copy in the remaining space, flash can do so by writing a new Page and ignoring the out of date copy. Where the rub comes in is when that CD-RW (Block) is completely full. The process at this point is very similar actually, in that the Block must be completely emptied before the erase command (which wipes the entire Block) is issued. The data has to go somewhere, which typically means writing to empty blocks elsewhere on the SSD (and in worst case scenarios, those too may need clearing before that is possible), and this moving and erasing takes time for the die to accomplish. Just like how wiping a CD-RW took a much longer than writing a single file to it, erasing a Block takes typically 3-4x as much time as it does to program a page.
With that explained, of significance here are the growing page and block sizes in this higher capacity flash. Modern OS file systems have a minimum bulk access size of 4KB, and Windows versions since Vista align their partitions by rounding up to the next 2MB increment from the start of the disk. These changes are what enabled HDDs to transition to Advanced Format, which made data storage more efficient by bringing the increment up from the 512 Byte sector up to 4KB. While most storage devices still use 512B addressing, it is assumed that 4KB should be the minimum random access seen most of the time. Wrapping this all together, the Page size (minimum read or write) is 16KB for this new flash, and that is 4x the accepted 4KB minimum OS transfer size. This means that power users heavy on their page file, or running VMs, or any other random-write-heavy operations being performed over time will have a more amplified effect of wear of this flash. That additional shuffling of data that must take place for each 4KB write translates to lower host random write speeds when compared to lower capacity flash that has smaller Page sizes closer to that 4KB figure.
A rendition of 3D IMFT Floating Gate flash, with inset pulling back some of the tunnel oxide layer to show the location of the floating gate. Pic courtesy Schiltron.
Fortunately for Micron, their choice to carry Floating Gate technology into their 3D flash has netted them some impressive endurance benefits over competing Charge Trap Flash. One such benefit is a claimed 30,000 P/E (Program / Erase) cycle endurance rating. Planar NAND had dropped to the 3,000 range at its lowest shrinks, mainly because there was such a small channel which could only store so few electrons, amplifying the (negative) effects of electron leakage. Even back in the 50nm days, MLC ran at ~10,000 cycle endurance, so 30,000 is no small feat here. The key is that by using that same Floating Gate tech so good at controlling leakage for planar NAND on a new 3D channel that can store way more electrons enables excellent endurance that may actually exceed Samsung's Charge Trap Flash equipped 3D VNAND. This should effectively negate the endurance hit on the larger Page sizes discussed above, but the potential small random write performance hit still stands, with a possible remedy being to crank up the Over-Provisioning of SSDs (AKA throwing flash at the problem). Higher OP means less active pages per block and a reduction in the data shuffling forced by smaller writes.
A 25nm flash memory die. Note the support logic (CMOS) along the upper left edge.
One final thing helping out Micron here is that their Floating Gate design also enables a shift of 75% of the CMOS circuitry to a layer *underneath* the flash storage array. This logic is typically part of what you see 'off to the side' of a flash memory die. Layering CMOS logic in such a way is likely thanks to Intel's partnership and CPU development knowledge. Moving this support circuitry to the bottom layer of the die makes for less area per die dedicated to non-storage, more dies per wafer, and ultimately lower cost per chip/GB.
Samsung's Charge Trap Flash, shown in both planar and 3D VNAND forms.
One final thing before we go. If we know anything about how the Intel / Micron duo function, it is that once they get that freight train rolling, it leads to relatively rapid advances. In this case, the changeover to 3D has taken them a while to perfect, but once production gains steam, we can expect to see some *big* advances. Since Samsung launched their 3D VNAND their gains have been mostly iterative in nature (24, 32, and most recently 48). I'm not yet at liberty to say how the second generation of IMFT 3D NAND will achieve it, but I can say that it appears the next iteration after this 32-layer 256Gb (MLC) /384Gb (TLC) per die will *double* to 512Gb/768Gb (you are free to do the math on what that means for layer count). Remember back in the day where Intel launched new SSDs at a fraction of the cost/GB of the previous generation? That might just be happening again within the next year or two.