More test results of the new Samsung 960 Pro, if your brain still has the free space to store it

Subject: Storage | October 18, 2016 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: vnand, ssd, Samsung, NVMe, 960 PRO, 48-layer, 2TB

Al has already exhaustively covered the new Samsung 960 Pro in his latest article, which also happens to be the premiere of PC Perspective's new storage testing suite.  An in depth discussion of the new testing methodology can be found on the third page and you can expect to hear about it on our podcast tomorrow and perhaps in a standalone article in the near future.  Several comments have inquired as to the effect this drive would have on a system used for gaming or multimedia and how it would compare to drives like the Intel 750 and DC P3700 or OZC's RD 400.  The best place to find those comparisons is over at The Tech Report, their RoboBench transfer test features a long list of drives you can look at.  Check it out once you have finished off our article.


"Samsung's 960 Pro follows up on last year's 950 Pro with denser V-NAND, a brand-new controller, and space-age label technology. We put this drive to the test to see whether its performance is truly out-of-this-world."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Intel Optane (XPoint) First Gen Product Specifications Leaked

Subject: Storage | October 14, 2016 - 08:05 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Optane, 8000p, Intel

Intel and Micron jointly launched XPoint technology over a year ago, and we've been waiting to see any additional info ever since. We saw Micron demo a prototype at FMS 2016, and we also saw the actual prototype. Intel's last demo was not so great, later demos were better), and we saw a roadmap leaked a few months ago. Thanks to another leak, we now have specs for one of Intel's first Optane products:


Now I know there is a bunch of rambling around the net already. "Why so small?!?!". What I think we are looking at is Stony Beach - Intel's 'Application Accelerator" seen here:


What further backs this theory is that you'll note the PCIe 3.0 x2 link of that product in the above roadmap, which couples nicely with the upper end limits seen in the 32GB product, which is clearly hitting a bandwidth limit at 1.6 GB/s, which is the typical max seen on a x2 PCIe 3.0 link.


Now with the capacity thing aside, there is another important thing to bring up. First gen XPoint dies are 128 Gbit, which works out to 16 GB. That means the product specs for the 16GB part are turning in those specs *WITH ONE DIE*. NAND based SSDs can only reach these sorts of figures by spreading the IO's across four, eight, or more dies operating in parallel. This is just one die, and it is nearly saturating two lanes of PCIe 3.0!

Another cool thing to note is that we don't typically get to know how well a single die of anything will perform. We always have to extrapolate backwards from the smaller capacities of SSDs, where the dies are the bottleneck instead of the interface to the host. Here we have the specs of one die of a product. Imagine what could be done with even wider interfaces and more dies!


XPoint fills the still relatively large performance gap between RAM and NAND, and does so while being non-volatile. There are good things on the horizon to be enabled by this technology, even if we first see it in smaller capacity products.

WD and SanDisk; sneaking a peek at the new 1TB Blue

Subject: Storage | October 11, 2016 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, ssd, Blue, 1TB, marvell 1074

Al is hard at work benchmarking the new Western Digital SSDs and you should expect to see his full in depth review in the near future but for those who need immediate gratification here is Hardware Canucks review.  The 1TB WD Blue uses a Marvell 1074 controller, a full gigabyte of cache provided by a pair of Micron 512MB DDR3 chips and 15nm TLC that should survive 400TB of writes and is warrantied for three years.  Western Digital and SanDisk DNA meet for the first time in a consumer SSD, check out how it fares against the competition right here.


"Western Digital, once known for their hard drives alone, is now wading in the SSD market with two new series. In this review, we take the new Blue 1TB SSD out for a spin."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Western Digital Gets Back in the SSD Game With Blue and Green SSDs!

Subject: Storage | October 11, 2016 - 11:50 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, ssd, Green, Blue

It has been over 6 years since we saw an SSD come out of Western Digital, but we suspected some new ones may be coming after their recent acquisition of SanDisk. That say has come, and today we have two new SSD models announced by WD:


These new SSDs naturally borrow SanDisk 15nm TLC flash but drive that flash with aftermarket controllers. The Blue employs a Marvell 88SS1074 controller while the Green will use a Silicon Motion SM2256S. The Blue will have the typical SATA 6Gbps saturating specs seen in modern SSDs, while the Green will be derated a bit. Detailed specifications are below:

  • Form Factors: 2.5¨/7mm cased, M.2 2280
  • Endurance (Blue):
    • 250GB: 100 TBW
    • 500GB: 200 TBW
    • 1TB: 400 TBW
  • Power (Blue):
    • Slumber: 42mW-52mW
    • DEVSLP: 4.9mW-9.7mW
    • Average Active Power: 70mW
  • Warranty (Blue and Green): 3 years

WD Blue SSD Specs.png

The WD Green will be more budget minded and is to be offered in only a 120GB and 240GB form factor, with reduced endurance ratings of 40 TBW and 80 TBW, respectively.

Pricing (for the WD Blue SSD):

  • 250 GB $79.99
  • 500 GB $139.99
  • 1TB $299.99

WD Blue WD Green SATA 1.png

The WD Green SSD will be available 'later this quarter', and we do not yet have pricing for that model, but it should come in at a lower cost than the Blue prices above. We have a Blue model in for testing and should see how it fares on our new storage suite later this week.

Press blast after the break.

Western Digital Refreshes Colorful My Passport and My Book Lines

Subject: Storage | October 11, 2016 - 10:22 AM |
Tagged: western digital, wdc, WD, my passport, my book

Western Digital has refreshed their My Passport and My Book lines with a new industrial design:


The My Passport line (pictured above) features a new design and colors. Capacities now extend all the way up to 4TB. Prices:

  • 1 TB $79.99
  • 2 TB $109.99
  • 3 TB $149.99
  • 4 TB $159.99

These feature password protection and AES-256 hardware encryption. There is also a 'My Passport for Mac' model which parallels the above series but comes pre-formated for use with a Mac. Amazing that they are now fitting 4TB of capacity into a 2.5" enclosure.


Also up is a redesign of the My Book. This bookshelf style drive is now a chunkier version of the My Passport products mentioned earlier. Thanks to Helium-filled HGST HelioSeal technology recently acquired by Western Digital, capacities now extend up to 8TB on this line. Prices follow:

  • 3 TB $129.99
  • 4 TB $149.99
  • 6 TB $229.99
  • 8 TB $299.99

I like the more squared off design, especially for the My Book, as it should make them more stable and less likely to be tipped over by accidental bumps. These also support hardware encryption. All models of both the My Book and My Passport come with a 2-year limited warranty as well as backup software to help ease the process of automating your backups. 

Press blast after the break.

About the "Firefox Is Eating Your SSD" Story

Subject: Storage | October 5, 2016 - 07:57 PM |
Tagged: ssd, mozilla, google, firefox, endurance, chrome

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post pop up on Twitter a few times about Firefox performing excessive writes to SSDs, which total up to 32GBs in a single day. The author attributes it mostly to a fast-updating session restore feature, although cookies were also resource hogs in their findings. In an update, they also tested Google Chrome, which, itself, clocked in over 24GB of writes in a day.


This, of course, seemed weird to me. I would have thought that at least one browser vendor might notice an issue like this. Still, I passed the link to Allyn because he would be much more capable in terms of being able to replicate these results. In our internal chat at the time, he was less skeptical than I was. I've since followed up with him, and he said that his initial results “wasn't nearly as bad as their case”. He'll apparently elaborate on tonight's podcast, and I'll update this post with his findings.

Drobo Launches 5C - 5-bay USB 3.0 Type-C (Type-A) Direct Attached Storage Solution

Subject: Storage | October 4, 2016 - 08:30 AM |
Tagged: usb 3.0, Type-C, Type-A, hdd, External, Drobo 5C, drobo, DAS, 5-bay

We looked at the third-gen 4-bay Drobo over a year back, and while the performance and price were great, it was held back by its limited number of drive bays. Drobo fixed that today:


The new Drobo 5C is basically an evolution of the 4-bay model. Performance is similar, which justifies the choice to stick with USB 3.0 (5 Gbit), but we now have a Type-C port on the Drobo side (a Type-C to Type-A cable is included to cover most potential users). The added bay helps users increase potential capacity or alternatively select BeyondRAID's Dual Drive Redundancy mode without as much of an ultimate capacity hit compared to its 4-bay predecessor.

Drobo 5C lineup.png

The Drobo 5C supersedes the old 4-bay unit in their lineup.

The new Drobo 5C is available today for $349, with drive package deals offered direct from Drobo. Drobo is also offering a limited-time $50 discount to 2nd and 3rd gen 4-bay Drobo owners (valid until 11 Oct 2016). I have confirmed here that a disk pack from a 4-bay model can be moved directly to the new 5-bay model with no issue.

We have a full review of the Drobo 5C coming, but we have a few questions out to them that need answering before our article goes live.

Full press blast after the break.

Source: Drobo

Business on the front and back end, Kingston's SSDNow KC400 series

Subject: Storage | October 3, 2016 - 05:03 PM |
Tagged: kingston, ssdnow KC400, Phison PS3110-S10, mlc, sata ssd

Kitguru has another Phison PS3110-S10 based SSD up for review, the Kingston SSDNow KC400 512GB SATA SSD.  This drive is heavily packaged compared to others, with sixteen 32GB 15nm MLC NAND packages and a 256MB DDR3L-1600 paired with the eight channel controller.  The drive is marketed at businesses and with an 800TB lifetime, 450GB of writes everyday for the five year warranty as well as SmartECC and SmartRefresh it would fit that bill.  Consumers and businesses alike will appreciate the sequential read/write performance of 550MB/s and 530MB/s.  Overall it is another drive that fits into the existing pack of drives and is worth your consideration, especially if you have need of its error correction features.  Read the full review for more information.


"Kingston’s SSDNow KC400 family is part of the company’s business-oriented SSD product line which features end-to-end data path protection, technologies to protect data in the NAND and guard against read errors, as well as good endurance."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Source: Kitguru

Toshiba Announces OCZ TL100 2.5" SATA SSDs - 240GB at $0.28/GB!

Subject: Storage | September 27, 2016 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, tlc, TL100, ssd, sata, ocz, 2.5

Toshiba launched the OCZ TL100 series today:


These are TLC SSDs aimed at the budget sector. They are using the ever more common SLC cached TLC hybrid configuration, and come in at bargain basement pricing. Here are the specs:

  • Capacity: 120 / 240 GB
  • Sequential read / write: 550 / 530 MB/s
  • Random read / write: 85k / 80k IOPS
  • Warranty: 3 years with advance replacement
  • Endurance (120/240GB): 30 / 60 TBW (27 / 54 GB/day)
  • Price:
    • 120GB: $45 ($0.38/GB)
    • 240GB: $68 ($0.28/GB)

Yes, that's $0.28/GB and a 240GB SSD at less than $70 bucks. The endurance is on the low side, but if these perform even half way decently, they will be a great low-cost way to go for most budget PC builds. We'll be testing these shortly on a new suite of tests with workloads that have been specifically optimized to more closely resemble real usage. These tests allow hybrid SSDs to use their SLC cache as opposed to flooding the drives with IO and forcing TLC writes. Don't be surprised if these perform surprisingly well for their cost. No guarantees as we haven't tested them yet, but we will soon!

Press blast after the break.

Source: OCZ

The AS330 Panther 960GB SSD is branded Apacer but what matters is what is inside

Subject: Storage | September 26, 2016 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: tlc, Phison PS3110-S10, AS330 Panther, apacer, 960GB SSD

Almost everyone seems to be making SATA SSDs these days, the market is much more crowded that at this time last year which can make your purchasing decisions more complicated.  If you cannot afford the new M.2 and PCIe SSDs but are instead looking for a SATA SSD then your choices are varied and you cannot necessarily depend on price when you make your decision.

The internals are what really determines the value you are getting from an SSD, in this case the AS330 uses the four channel Phison PS3110-S10 controller, 15nm Toshiba TLC NAND and has a 512MB DDR3L-1600 cache.  This puts it in the same class as many other value priced SSDs from companies like PNY and Kingston.  Hardware Canucks' testing proves this to be true, the drive is a bit slower than the OCZ Trion 150 but is solidly in the middle of the pack of comparable SSDs.  The price you can find the drive will be the deciding factor, the 960GB model should sell around $200, the 480GB model is currently $120 on Newegg.


"Apacer's AS330 Panther SSD is inexpensive, offers good performance and has capacity to burn. But can this drive roar or will a lack of brand recognition cause it to purr out to obscurity? "

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


*Updated* Samsung 960 PRO and 960 EVO Announced - Details and Specifications Inside

Subject: Storage | September 21, 2016 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, pcie, NVMe, M.2, 960 PRO, 960 EVO

I'm currently running around at the various briefings and events here at Samsung's Global SSD Summit, but we did get some details on the 960 PRO and EVO that I've set to go live at the NDA time of 1 PM Seoul time.

960 Set_B.JPG

Here is a distilled version of the specs, capacities, and prices of the 960 PRO and EVO:

960 PRO

  • 512GB, 1TB, 2TB capacities
  • Sequential: 3.5 GB/s reads / 2.1 GB/s writes
  • 4K random (IOPS): 440,000 read / 360,000 write
  • Dynamic Thermal Guard (new version of their overtemperature protection - details below)
  • 5 year warranty, endurace peaks at 1.2PBW for the 2TB model
  • 512GB model = $329.99 ($0.64/GB)

960 EVO

  • 250GB, 500GB, 1TB capacities
  • Sequential: 3.2 GB/s reads / 1.9 GB/s writes (write speed is for TurboWrite SLC cache)
  • 4K random (IOPS): 380,000 read / 360,000 write
  • Dynamic Thermal Guard
  • 3 year warranty, endurance up to 400TBW for the 1TB model
  • 250GB = $129.99 ($0.52/GB)

I would certainly like to see Samsung push the 960 EVO capacities upwards of 4TB, and with competing M.2 NVMe products shipping at a lower cost, those prices use some tweaking as well.

More information and pics to follow later today (tonight for you USA folks)!

**UPDATE** - since everyone is in bed and hasn't read any of this yet, I'm just going to add the information from the presentation here.

First, some of you may be wondering about the inverted capacity difference between the PRO and EVO. Historically, Samsung has shipped their EVO line in higher capacities than the PRO line. The 850 EVO currently ships in capacities up to 4TB, while the 850 PRO remains limited to 2TB. If you look closely at the photos above, you'll note that there are four flash packages on the PRO, while there are only two on the EVO. The cause for this difference is that the DRAM package (visible on the EVO) is integrated within the controller package on the PRO model. This is similar to what Samsung has done with their PM971-NVMe SSD, which has not only the controller and DRAM, but the flash itself all stacked within a *single* package. Samsung calls this package-on-package (PoP):



During the Q&A, Samsung's Unsoo Kim indicated that future 960 EVO's may also shift to the PoP design in order to shift to 4 packages, and therefore double (or quadruple) the capacity on that line in the future.

Samsung also tackled thermal throttling head-on with what they call Dynamic Thermal Guard. This is a combination of a few things. First is the reduced power consumption - the new controller draws ~10% less power despite moving to a 5-core design (up from a 3-core on the 950 PRO). Second, and perhaps more interesting, is a new heat spreading label:


This new label contains a copper layer that helps spread heat across more of the surface area of the M.2 part. Samsung gets bonus points for outside the box thinking there. The combination of the reduced power draw and the heat spreader help to make thermal throttling even more impossible under typical use:


While the above chart was for reads (writes produce more heat), that's still a very good improvement, and being able to move potentially the full drive capacity before throttling is pretty good, especially considering the new models are moving data at a much faster speed. About those faster speeds, here are some increased details on the per-capacity specs:

960 PRO





960 EVO





Take the 960 EVO write specs with a grain of salt - those are assuming writes are going into the SLC cache area but never fear because TurboWrite is getting a boost as well:


This new 'Intelligent TurboWrite' increases the SLC cache area significantly over that of the 850 EVO we are all used to, with up to a 42GB area on the 1TB model! This should make it easier to swallow those boastful write performance claims, as there's a really good chance that all writes any typical user applies to the new EVO will go straight into that new larger cache. 

Apologies for the odd cutoffs on these pictures. They were corrected for parallax prior to posting. I also couldn't do anything about the presenter being in the way of the data :). I've requested slides from Samsung and will replace these here if/when they are provided.

Last but not least was a newly announced '2.0' version of the Samsung proprietary NVMe driver, which should help enable these increased speeds, as the Windows InBox driver is certainly not optimized to handle them. With the driver comes a new ground-up redesign of Samsung's Magician software, which added support for file-specific secure erasure and a special 'Magic Vault' secure encrypted area of the SSD that can be invisible to the host OS when locked.

This appears to be the bulk of what is to be announced at the Summit, so for now, I leave you with the endurance ratings and (MSRP) pricing for all capacities / models:



Full press blast after the break.

Samsung Kicks Off Global SSD Summit With 960 EVO and 960 PRO

Subject: Storage | September 20, 2016 - 06:01 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, 960 PRO, 960 EVO, NVMe, pcie, ssd, Summit, Global

Your humble Storage Editor is once again in Seoul, Korea. With these trips comes unique skylines:


...the Seoul Tower:


...and of course, SSD announcements! Samsung has a habit of slipping product pics into the yearly theme. This year they were a bit more blunt about it:


Yup, looks like tomorrow we will see Samsung officially announce their successor to the 950 PRO. We'll be hearing all about the 960 PRO and the new 960 EVO tomorrow, exactly three months after we broke the early news of these new models.

There will, of course, be more details tomorrow once we attend the relevant product briefings. This will be late at night for those of you back in the states. No further details for now. I'm off to get some dinner and recover from that 14-hour flight!

OCZ's VX500, next generation MLC for those who want price and performance in the same drive

Subject: Storage | September 14, 2016 - 05:53 PM |
Tagged: VX500, ocz, toshiba, TC35, mlc, sata 6Gbs

We've seen a lot of high end SSDs lately so it is nice to be able to link to the new VX500 series from OCZ, or Toshiba to be more technically correct.  Running with MSRPs of ~$150 for the 512GB model and ~$340 for the 1TB model these drives will fit more comfortably into many budgets.  The 1TB model does come with a bit of a price increase thanks to the use of larger MLC NAND chips and the presence of a RAM cache, the 512GB model forgoes the cache altogether.  Hardware Canucks put the 512GB and 1TB models to the test and their speeds hit the top of the SATA charts; if you can't afford the newest SSD tech this is a drive worthy of your consideration.  They did not have the time to fully test the durability but the five year hassle free warranty and rated total disk writes show that the NAND is unlikely to die any time soon.


"OCZ is diving back into the mainstream SSD market in a big way. Their new VX500 series combines an affordable price with excellent performance and some incredible NAND durability."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Crucial's new MX300 SSD; new NAND means new sizes

Subject: Storage | September 6, 2016 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: crucial, MX300, 1050GB, sata ssd, M.2, 88SS1074, tlc

The MX300 series utilizes Micron 384G-bit, 32 tier floating gate, 3D TLC NAND which means that the capacities are a little different than we are used to.  1050GB is an odd number, the 978GB available after formatting even more so, but in the end the actual number matters less than the performance.  The SSD Review tested this drive which uses a four channel Micron 88SS1074 controller and sports eight NAND packages with Micron LPDDR3 1333MHz DRAM for a cache.  They tested a single drive as well as setting up two in RAID 0, the single drive could hit 535MB/s read and 516MB/s write and RAID 0 did indeed come close to doubling that.  Drop by to see their full results.


"Due to the new 384G-bit TLC 3D NAND, the MX300 line up is now offered in 275GB, 525GB, 750GB, 1050GB, and 2TB options. From this announcement, the 2TB option intrigued us the most, however, they are still unavailable, so we opted to get two 1050GB models for today's review."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Samsung's 256GB Samsung EVO Plus MicroSD card, for your 4K recording pleasure

Subject: Storage | August 29, 2016 - 04:37 PM |
Tagged: microSD, Samsung, evo plus, U3, UHS-I

A while back Al broke down the specifications of SD cards and what each class meant and the proper usage for them.  The top class is U3 and it offers transfer speeds high enough to support recording 4K video on your devices and that happens to be the rating on the new 256GB Samsung EVO Plus MicroSD.  Legion Hardware just tested this MicroSD card and it now holds the title of best performing SD card they have tested.  The performance does come at a premium, the MSRP of the card is $250 and even with a 10 year warranty this is still an expensive purchase.  If you need the ability to record 4K video immediately this is the fast solution available but if you are still in the planning stages, remember that there is a new standard, UFS, which is due to hit the market soon and impact pricing of older products.


"Running out of storage on your smartphone, tablet or 4K video camera? Well the good news is SD cards have never been more affordable and crucially offered such huge storage capacities. In fact, Samsung recently announced the availability of a 256GB version of their popular EVO Plus MicroSD card series"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


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

Subject: Storage | August 25, 2016 - 06:26 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.


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


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:

600p-6000p pricing.png

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

More space than even Jimmy Stewart would need to satisfy his voyeurism

Subject: Storage | August 18, 2016 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: skyhawk, Seagate, rear window, hitchcock, 10TB

Seagate designed the 10TB SkyHawk HDD for recording video surveillance by adding in firmware they refer to as ImagePerfect.  This is designed for handling 24/7 surveillance and extends the endurance life of the drive to 180TB a year, for the length of the three year warranty.  Constantly recording video means this drive will write far more often than most other usages scenarios and reads will be far less important.  eTeknix tried the drive out in their usual suite of benchmarks; being somewhat difficult to set up a test to verify the claimed support for up to 64HD recordings simultaneously.  If you are looking for durable storage at a reasonable price and might even consider needing more than eight drives of storage you should check the SkyHawk out.


"I’ve recently had a look at the 10TB IronWolf NAS HDD from Seagate and today it is time to take a closer look at its brother, the brand new SkyHawk DVR and NVR hard disk drive with a massive 10TB capacity. Sure, you could use NAS optimized drives for simple video setups, but having a video and camera optimized surveillance disk does bring advantages. Especially when your recorded video is critical."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:


Source: eTeknix

IDF 2016: ScaleMP Merges Software-Defined Memory With Storage-Class Memory, Makes Optane Work Like RAM

Subject: Storage | August 16, 2016 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: Virtual SMP, SMP, SDM-S, SDM-F, ScaleMP, IDF 2016, idf

ScaleMP has an exciting announcement at IDF today, but before we get into it, I need to do some explaining. Most IT specialists know how to employ virtualization to run multiple virtual environments within the same server, but what happens when you want to go the other way around?


You might not have known it, but virtualization can go both ways. ScaleMP make such a solution, and it enables some amazing combinations of hardware all thrown at a single virtualized machine. Imagine what could be done with a system containing 32,768 CPUs and 2048TB (2PB) of RAM. Such a demand is actually more common than you might think:


List of companies / applications of ScaleMP.


ScaleMP's tech can fit into a bunch of different usage scenarios. You can choose to share memory, CPU cores, IO, or all three across multiple physical machines, all combined into a single beast of a virtualized OS, but with the launch of 3D XPoint there's one more thing that might come in handy as a sharable resource, as there is a fairly wide latency gap between NAND and RAM:

NAND RAM gap.png

Alright, now that we've explained the cool technology and the gap to be filled, onto the news of the day, which is that ScaleMP has announced that their Software Defined Memory tech has been optimized for Intel Optane SSDs. This means that ScaleMP / Optane customers will be able to combine banks of XPoint installed across multiple systems all into a single VM. Another key to this announcement is that due to the way ScaleMP virtualizes the hardware, the currently developing storage-class (NVMe) XPoint/Optane solutions can be mounted as if they were system memory, which should prove to be a nice stopgap until we see second generation 3D XPoint in DIMM form.

More to follow from IDF 2016. ScaleMP's press blast appears after the break.

IDF 2016: Intel To Demo Optane XPoint, Announces Optane Testbed for Enterprise Customers

Subject: Storage | August 16, 2016 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: XPoint, Testbed, Optane, Intel, IDF 2016, idf

IDF 2016 is up and running, and Intel will no doubt be announcing and presenting on a few items of interest. Of note for this Storage Editor are multiple announcements pertaining to upcoming Intel Optane technology products.


Optane is Intel’s branding of their joint XPoint venture with Micron. Intel launched this branding at last year's IDF, and while the base technology is as high as 1000x faster than NAND flash memory, full solutions wrapped around an NVMe capable controller have shown to sit at roughly a 10x improvement over NAND. That’s still nothing to sneeze at, and XPoint settles nicely into the performance gap seen between NAND and DRAM.


Since modern M.2 NVMe SSDs are encroaching on the point of diminishing returns for consumer products, Intel’s initial Optane push will be into the enterprise sector. There are plenty of use cases for a persistent storage tier faster than NAND, but most enterprise software is not currently equipped to take full advantage of the gains seen from such a disruptive technology.


XPoint die. 128Gbit of storage at a ~20nm process.

In an effort to accelerate the development and adoption of 3D XPoint optimized software, Intel will be offering enterprise customers access to an Optane Testbed. This will allow for performance testing and tuning of customers’ software and applications ahead of the shipment of Optane hardware.


I did note something interesting in Micron's FMS 2016 presentation. QD=1 random performance appears to start at ~320,000 IOPS, while the Intel demo from a year ago (first photo in this post) showed a prototype running at only 76,600 IOPS. Using that QD=1 example, it appears that as controller technology improves to handle the large performance gains of raw XPoint, so does performance. Given a NAND-based SSD only turns in 10-20k IOPS at that same queue depth, we're seeing something more along the lines of 16-32x performance gains with the Micron prototype. Those with a realistic understanding of how queues work will realize that the type of gains seen at such low queue depths will have a significant impact in real-world performance of these products.

future NVM.PNG

The speed of 3D XPoint immediately shifts the bottleneck back to the controller, PCIe bus, and OS/software. True 1000x performance gains will not be realized until second generation XPoint DIMMs are directly linked to the CPU.

The raw die 1000x performance gains simply can't be fully realized when there is a storage stack in place (even an NVMe one). That's not to say XPoint will be slow, and based on what I've seen so far, I suspect XPoint haters will still end up burying their heads in the sand once we get a look at the performance results of production parts.


Leaked roadmap including upcoming Optane products

Intel is expected to show a demo of their own more recent Optane prototype, and we suspect similar performance gains there as their controller tech has likely matured. We'll keep an eye out and fill you in once we've seen Intel's newer Optane goodness it in action!

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

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2016 - 12:27 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:


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