Subject: Storage | April 18, 2018 - 05:39 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: wdc, WD, ultrastar, sata, SAS, HelioSeal, hdd, DC HC530, 14tb
Following up on the prior release of a 14TB SMR (shingled magnetic recording) HDD, WD has launched a PMR (parallel magnetic recording)version of the same - the Ultrastar DC HC530:
While the new model does not yet incorporate MAMR, it does couple PMR with TDMR (two-dimensional magnetic recording), which gives a slight boost to platter density, reaching over 900 Gbit/sq. inch. The DC HC530 naming is a departure from the previous HGST Ultrastar line products, which were labeled as 'He8', 'He10', etc. High-level specs are as follows:
- Rotational speed: 7200 RPM
- Data buffer: 512MB
- Seek time (typ): 7.5 ms
- Sequential transfer rate: 267 MB/s (start of disk)
- Available sector sizes: 512e (advanced format emulation), 4Kn (4KB sectors)
- Warranty: 5 years
The SAS models offer double the interface throughput (12Gbps) and some additional custom sector sizes but require higher operating power to drive that faster interface. While track linear density is high enough (at least at the start of the disk) to saturate a SATA 3Gbit link, SATA 6Gbit and SAS 12Gbit links will still see a cache-hit benefit from the drives' relatively large 512MB data buffer.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
While Western Digital has a huge history with spinning disks, their experience with SSDs has been touch and go. They expanded further into the HDD arena with their very long merging process with HGST, but they have only really dabbled in the solid-state arena. Their earliest attempt was with the Black2 back in 2013, which was a novel concept that never really caught mainstream fame. WD acquired SanDisk a few years back, but they were better known for SD cards and OEM SATA SSDs. More recently we began seeing WD test the waters with PCIe / NVMe parts, with a WD Black and Blue launching at CES 2017. Those were 'ok', but were more of a budget SSD than a powerhouse class-leading product worthy of the Black moniker. Today we see WD take another stab at a WD Black NVMe SSD:
Enter the WD Black NVMe and SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D 1TB SSDs. Yes, I know the names are a mouthful, but I would be more worried about the potential for confusion when looking for a WD Black SSD on the market (as there are now two *very* similarly named products). Technically the new part is the 'Western Digital WD Black NVMe SSD'. Yes I know don't tell me - they said Western Digital twice.
We will also be reviewing the SanDisk Extreme PRO M.2 NVMe 3D SSD today. I'm including those results as well, but just as they did with their previous SATA SSD release, these are identical parts with different packaging and labeling. The specs are the same. Heck, the firmware is the same minus the bits that report the device name to the host. For the sake of simplicity, and the fact that the WD part is meant for retail/gamers (SanDisk for creative pros and OEMs), I'll stick with referring mostly to the WD side throughout this review.
Strong specs here. Fast sequentials, but random IOPS is rated at QD32 across 8 threads (QD=256), which is, well, just silly. I know WD is doing this because 'everyone is doing it', and they have to compete, but I have a feeling we will also be seeing very good low QD performance today.
It doesn't get much more no frills than this.
Subject: Storage | February 27, 2018 - 11:03 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: wdc, WD, ssd, SN720, SN520, sandisk, NCMe, nand, M.2, BiCS, 2280, 2242, 2230
Western Digital launched a few new NVMe SSDs at Mobile World Congress today:
To the left we have the WD PC SN720, a PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSD boasting speeds of up to 3.4GB/s and IOPS up to 500k. Available capacities are 1TB, 512GB, and 256GB. To the right we have the WD PC SN520, a more power efficient variant running on half of the PCIe lanes, and with specs coming in at roughly half of its faster brother. Capacities are also cut in half, with the range dropping to 512GB, 256GB, and 128GB. Interestingly, all capacities are available in three M.2 form factors (2280, 2242, and 2230).
We don't have a specific part number for the controller, but WD told us they are manufactured on a 28nm process, employ 8 NAND channels, and use DDR4 RAM (not DRAMless). The controller is optimized for interfacing with WD (/Toshiba) BiCS NAND flash, meaning these SSDs should prove to be a well integrated solution.
Press blast from WD appears after the break.
Subject: Storage | October 11, 2017 - 11:16 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, STO, Spin Torque Oscillator, SMR, PMR, Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording, microwave, MAMR, HAMR, FMR
Today Western Digital made a rather significant announcement in the field of HDD technology. We’ve previously talked about upcoming ways to increase the density of HDD storage, with the seeming vaporware Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) forever looming on the horizon, just out of reach.
WD, like others, have been researching HAMR as a possible way of increasing platter densities moving forward. They were even showing off prototypes of the technology back in 2013, but a prototype is a far cry from a production ready, fully reliable product. Seagate had been making stronger promises of HAMR, but since we are already 5 years into their 10-year prediction of 60TB HAMR HDDs (followed by further delays), it's not looking like we will see a production ready HAMR HDD model any time soon.
Ok, so HAMR is not viable for now, but what can we do? Seems WD has figured it out, and it's a technology they have been kicking around their labs for nearly a decade. Above we see the PMR limit of ~1.1 Terabits/square inch. SMR pushes that figure to 1.4, but we are running up against the so-called 'writeability limit', which is the point at which the write head / magnetic field is too small to overcome the paramagnetic threshold of the smaller magnetic domains of higher density media. We are used to hearing that the only way to raise that limit was to heat the media with a laser while writing (HAMR), but there is a different / better way - Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording, or MAMR for short.
Don't let the 'microwave' part of the term fool you - we are not microwaving the media with sufficient energy to actually heat it. Instead, we are doing something *way* cooler. The slide above shows how smaller grain size (higher density) requires a stronger write field to reach sufficient energy levels to reliably store a bit of data. Now check out the next slide:
This is a lot to grasp but allow me to paraphrase greatly. Imagine a magnet with a north and south pole. If you came along with a stronger magnet and attempted to reverse its polarity by directly opposing the currently stored state, it's generally difficult to do so. Current HDD tech relies on the field being strong enough to overcome the stored polarity, but MAMR employs a Spin Torque Oscillator, which operates at a high enough frequency (20-40 GHz) to match the ferromagnetic resonance of the media. This causes a precession of the stored field (like a gyroscope) and tilts it about its vertical axis. This resonance adds the extra energy (in addition to the write field) needed to flip the field to the desired direction. What's amazing about this whole process is that thanks to the resonance effects, the STO can increase the effectiveness of the write field 3-4x while only consuming ~1/100th of the power compared to that needed to generate the write field. This reduction in the damping constant of the media is what will enable smaller magnetic domains, therefore higher platter densities in future MAMR-equipped HDDs.
One of the best things about this new tech is that it is just a simple addition to all of other technologies already in place today. Western Digital was already making their drive heads with an advanced 'damascene' process, silently introduced about three years ago. To oversimplify the description, damascene is a process that enables greater physical precision in the shape of the head, which helps increase density. What makes this process a bigger deal now is that it more easily enables integration of the Spin Torque Oscillator into the head assembly. Aside from this head-level change and another pair of leads to provide a very small drive current (~1-2mA), every other aspect of the drive is identical to what we have today. When it comes to a relatively radical change to how the writing can be accomplished at these upcoming higher densities, doing so without needing to change any of the other fundamental technologies of the drive is a good thing. By no change, I really mean no change - MAMR can be employed on current helium-filled drives. Even SMR.
Western Digital also slipped in another announcement, which is the shift from the older style 'nested actuator' (introduced with 2TB HDDs back in 2009), to a newer 'micro-actuator'. The newer actuator moves the articulation point much closer to the head compared to the previous technology, enabling even finer head tracking, ultimately resulting in increased track pitch. WD currently sits somewhere around 400 tracks per inch (TPI), but they hope to reach 1 million (!) thanks to this new tracking combined with MAMR and improved media chemistry.
Now this doesn't mean we will see a sudden influx of 40TB HDDs hitting the market next week. WD still has to scale up production of STO-enabled heads, and even after that is complete, the media technology still needs to catch up to the maximum capabilities of what MAMR can achieve (creating smaller magnetic domains on the disk surface, etc). Still, it's nice to know that there is a far simpler way to flip those stored bits around without having to resort to HAMR, which seems to be perpetually years away from production. Speaking of which, I'll leave you with WD's reliability comparison between their own HAMR and MAMR technologies. Which would you choose?
Oh yeah, and about that supposed SSD vs. HDD cost/GB crossover point. It may not be as soon as we previously thought:
Full press blast appears after the break.
Subject: General Tech | August 3, 2017 - 12:00 PM | Alex Lustenberg
Tagged: podcast, wolfenstein, wdc, Vibe, Vega Nano, Threadripper, ryzen 3, radeon rx vega, QLC, htc, Fanatec, Clubsport lite elite, BiCS3, amd, video
PC Perspective Podcast #461 - 08/03/17
Join us for AMD Ryzen 3, Threadripper, Logitech Powerplay, 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: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg
Program length: 1:38:20
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
1:00:45 Looks Like Vega Nano is GO!
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Subject: Storage | August 2, 2017 - 06:21 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: BiCS3, western digital, wdc, WD, tlc, slc, QLC, nand, mlc, flash, 96GB, 768Gb, 3d
A month ago, WD and Toshiba each put out releases related to their BiCS 3D Flash memory. WD announced 96 layers (BiCS4) as their next capacity node, while Toshiba announced them reliably storing four bits per cell (QLC).
WD recently did their own press release related to QLC, partially mirroring Toshiba's announcement, but this one had some additional details on capacity per die, as well as stating their associated technology name used for these shifts. TLC was referred to as "X3", and "X4" is the name for their QLC tech as applied to BiCS. The WD release stated that X4 tech, applied to BiCS3, yields 768Gbit (96GB) per die vs. 512Gbit (64GB) per die for X3 (TLC). Bear in mind that while the release (and the math) states this is a 50% increase, moving from TLC to QLC with the same number of cells does only yields a 33% increase, meaning X4 BiCS3 dies need to have additional cells (and footprint) to add that extra 17%.
The release ends by hinting at X4 being applied to BiCS4 in the future, which is definitely exciting. Merging the two recently announced technologies would yield a theoretical 96-layer BiCS4 die, using X4 QLC technology, yielding 1152 Gbit (144GB) per die. A 16 die stack of which would come to 2,304 GB (1.5x the previously stated 1.5TB figure). The 2304 figure might appear incorrect but consider that we are multiplying two 'odd' capacities together (768 Gbit (1.5x512Gbit for TLC) and 96 layers (1.5x64 for X3).
Press blast appears after the break.
Subject: Storage | June 28, 2017 - 09:49 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: wdc, WD, toshiba, QLC, nand, BiCS, 96-layer, 3d
A couple of announcements out of Toshiba and Western Digital today. First up is Toshiba announcing QLC (4 bit per cell) flash on their existing BiCS 3 (64-layer) technology. QLC may not be the best for endurance as the voltage tolerances become extremely tight with 16 individual voltage states per cell, but Toshiba has been working on this tech for a while now.
In the above slide from the Toshiba keynote at last year's Flash Memory Summit, we see the use case here is for 'archival grade flash', which would still offer fast reads but is not meant to be written as frequently as MLC or TLC flash. Employing QLC in Toshiba's current BiCS 3 (64-layer) flash would enable 1.5TB of storage in a 16-die stack (within one flash memory chip package).
Next up is BiCS 4, which was announced by Western Digital. We knew BiCS 4 was coming but did not know how many layers it would be. We now know that figure, and it is 96. The initial offerings will be the common 256Gbit (32GB) capacity per die, but stacking 96 cells high means the die will come in considerably smaller, meaning more per wafer, ultimately translating to lower cost per GB in your next SSD.
While these announcements are welcome, their timing and coordinated launch from both companies seems odd. Perhaps it has something to do with this?
Subject: Storage | May 29, 2017 - 11:42 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, Ultra, ssd, sandisk, nand, computex 2017, Blue, BiCS, 3d
Western Digital bought SanDisk nearly two years ago, but we had not really seen any products jointly launched under both brand labels. Until today:
The WD Blue 3D NAND SATA SSD and SanDisk Ultra 3D SSD are both products containing identical internals. Specifically, these are the first client SSDs built with 64-layer 3D NAND technology. Some specs:
- Sequential read: 560 MB/s
- Sequential write: 530 MB/s
- Capacity: 250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB
- Form factor: 2.5" (WD and Sandisk), M.2 (SATA) 2280 (WD only)
MSRP's start at $99.99 for the 250GB models of all flavors (2.5" / M.2 SATA), and all products will ship with a 3-year warranty.
It might seem odd that we see an identical product shipped under two different brands owned by the same company, but WD is likely leveraging the large OEM relationship held by SanDisk. I'm actually curious to see how this pans out long term because it is a bit confusing at present.
Subject: Storage | May 17, 2017 - 09:57 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, Red Pro, red, NAS, helium, HelioSeal, hdd, Hard Drive, 10TB
Western Digital increased the capacity of their Red and Red Pro NAS hard disk lines to 10TB. Acquiring the Helioseal technology via their HGST acquisition, which enables Helium filled hermetically sealed drives of even higher capacities, WD expanded the Red lines to 8TB (our review of those here) using that tech. Helioseal has certainly proven itself, as over 15 million such units have shipped so far.
We knew it was just a matter of time before we saw a 10TB Red and Red Pro, as it has been some time since the HGST He10 launched, and Western Digital's own 10TB Gold (datacenter) drive has been shipping for a while now.
- Red 10TB: $494
- Red Pro 10TB: $533
MSRP pricing looks a bit high based on the lower cost/GB of the 8TB model, but given some time on the market and volume shipping, these should come down to match parity with the lesser capacities.
Press blast appears after the break.
Subject: Storage | January 5, 2017 - 05:32 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, ssd, pcie, NVMe, CES 2017, CES, Black
Following up on their Blue and Green SSDs launched back in October, Western Digital has now launched a Black series SSD:
Unlike the Green and Blue which are SATA products available in 2.5" and M.2 (SATA) form factors, the Black is a pure M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4 product. These were rumored to have a Marvell controller, but the samples I saw floating around CES appeared to have SanDisk branding. Flash will very likely be SanDisk 15nm TLC (with SLC cache). Specs are as follows:
- 256GB / 512GB
- $109 / $199 ($0.42 / $0.39 / GB)
- Random read: 170k
- Random write: 130k/134k
- Sequential read: 2.05 GB/s
- Sequential write: 700 / 800 MB/s
- Endurance 80 / 160 TBW
- Warranty: 5 years
- Power: 5.5 mW idle / 8.25 W peak
Pricing looks very competitive for an NVMe SSD, but we will have to see how the performance shakes out when compared against other budget SSDs. The WD Blue 1TB performed very well in our new test suite, so here's hoping the Black is equally surprising.
WD's press blast appears after the break.
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