Subject: General Tech, Storage | February 22, 2017 - 12:14 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Optane, kaby lake, Intel, 3D XPoint
Intel has announced that its Optane memory will require an Intel Kaby Lake processor to function. While previous demonstrations of the technology used an Intel Skylake processor, it appears this configuration will not be possible on the consumer versions of the technology.
Further, the consumer application accelerator drives will also require a 200-series chipset motherboard, and either a M.2 2280-S1-B-M or M.2 2242-S1-B-M connector with two or four PCI-E lanes. Motherboards will have to support NVMe v1.1 and Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) 15.5 or newer.
It is not clear why Intel is locking Optane technology to Kaby Lake and whether it is due to technical limitations that they were not able to resolve to keep Skylake compatible or if it is just a matter of not wanting to support the older platform and focus on its new Kaby Lake processors. As such, Kaby Lake is now required if you want UHD Blu Ray playback and Optane 3D XPoint SSDs.
What are your thoughts on this latest bit of Optane news? Has Intel sweetened the pot enough to encourage upgrade hold outs?
- A Closer Look at Intel's Optane SSD DC P4800X Enterprise SSD Performance
- Intel Quietly Launches Official Optane Memory Site
- The Intel Core i7-7700K Review - Kaby Lake and 14nm+
Subject: Storage | February 16, 2017 - 01:58 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: XPoint, ssd, Optane, memory, Intel, cache
We now have an actual Optane landing page on the Intel site that discusses the first iteration of 'Intel Optane Memory', which appears to be the 8000p Series that we covered last October and saw as an option on some upcoming Lenovo laptops. The site does not cover the upcoming enterprise parts like the 375GB P4800X, but instead, focuses on the far smaller 16GB and 32GB 'System Accelerator' M.2 modules.
Despite using only two lanes of PCIe 3.0, these modules turn in some impressive performance, but the capacities when using only one or two (16GB each) XPoint dies preclude an OS install. Instead, these will be used, presumably in combination with a newer form of Intel's Rapid Storage Technology driver, as a caching layer meant as an HDD accelerator:
While the random write performance and endurance of these parts blow any NAND-based SSD out of the water, the 2-lane bottleneck holds them back compared to high-end NVMe NAND SSDs, so we will likely see this first consumer iteration of Intel Optane Memory in OEM systems equipped with hard disks as their primary storage. A very quick 32GB caching layer should help speed things up considerably for the majority of typical buyers of these types of mobile and desktop systems, while still keeping the total cost below that for a decent capacity NAND SSD as primary storage. Hey, if you can't get every vendor to switch to pure SSD, at least you can speed up that spinning rust a bit, right?
Subject: Storage | February 14, 2017 - 11:51 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: tlc, slc, MX300, micron, imft, Dynamic Write Acceleration, DWA, crucial, 3DNAND, 3d nand
Last June Al took a look at the Crucial MX300 750GB and its ability to switch its cache dynamically from TLC to SLC, helping Crucial improve how they implemented this feature along the way. It proved to be a great value for the money; not the best performing drive but among the least expensive on the market. Crucial has since expanded the lineup and Hardware Canucks took a look at the 2TB model. This model has more than just a larger pool of NAND, the RAM cache has been doubled up to 1GB and the dynamic cache has more space to work in as well. Take a look at this economy sized drive in their full review.
"Crucial's newest MX300 series continues to roll on with a new 2TB version. This SSD may be one of the best when it comes to performance, price and capacity all combined into one package."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Crucial MX300 525GB SSD Review @ Neoseeker
- Silicon Power S57 240GB @ eTeknix
- Silicon Power S56 240GB @ eTeknix
- Transcend ESD400 256GB External SSD @ Kitguru
- QNAP TurboNAS TS-1635-8G 16-bay 10GbE NAS Server Review @ NikKTech
- Drobo 5c 5-Bay USB Type-C Self-Managing DAS @ eTeknix
Subject: Storage | February 10, 2017 - 09:22 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: Optane, XPoint, P4800X, 375GB
Over the past few hours, we have seen another Intel Optane SSD leak rise to the surface. While we previously saw a roadmap and specs for a mobile storage accelerator platform, this time we have some specs for an enterprise part:
The specs are certainly impressive. While they don't match the maximum theoretical figures we heard at the initial XPoint announcement, we do see an endurance rating of 30 DWPD (drive writes per day), which is impressive given competing NAND products typically run in the single digits for that same metric. The 12.3 PetaBytes Written (PBW) rating is even more impressive given the capacity point that rating is based on is only 375GB (compare with 2000+ GB of enterprise parts that still do not match that figure).
Now I could rattle off the rest of the performance figures, but those are just numbers, and fortunately we have ways of showing these specs in a more practical manner:
Assuming the P4800X at least meets its stated specifications (very likely given Intel's track record there), and also with the understanding that XPoint products typically reach their maximum IOPS at Queue Depths far below 16, we can compare the theoretical figures for this new Optane part to the measured results from the two most recent NAND-based enterprise launches. To say the random performance makes leaves those parts in the dust is an understatement. 500,000+ IOPS is one thing, but doing so at lower QD's (where actual real-world enterprise usage actually sits) just makes this more of an embarrassment to NAND parts. The added latency of NAND translates to far higher/impractical QD's (256+) to reach their maximum ratings.
Intel research on typical Queue Depths seen in various enterprise workloads. Note that a lower latency device running the same workload will further 'shallow the queue', meaning even lower QD.
Another big deal in the enterprise is QoS. High IOPS and low latency are great, but where the rubber meets the road here is consistency. Enterprise tests measure this in varying degrees of "9's", which exponentially approach 100% of all IO latencies seen during a test run. The plot method used below acts to 'zoom in' on the tail latency of these devices. While a given SSD might have very good average latency and IOPS, it's the outliers that lead to timeouts in time-critical applications, making tail latency an important item to detail.
I've taken some liberties in my approximations below the 99.999% point in these plots. Note that the spec sheet does claim typical latencies "<10us", which falls off to the left of the scale. Not only are the potential latencies great with Optane, the claimed consistency gains are even better. Translating what you see above, the highest percentile latency IOs of the P4800X should be 10x-100x (log scale above) faster than Intel's own SSD DC P3520. The P4800X should also easily beat the Micron 9100 MAX, even despite its IOPS being 5x higher than the P3520 at QD16. These lower latencies also mean we will have to add another decade to the low end of our Latency Percentile plots when we test these new products.
Well, there you have it. The cost/GB will naturally be higher for these new XPoint parts, but the expected performance improvements should make it well worth the additional cost for those who need blistering fast yet persistent storage.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Micron paper launched their 5100 Series Enterprise SATA SSD lineup early last month. The new line promised many sought after features for such a part, namely high performance, high-performance consistency, high capacities, and relatively low cost/GB (thanks to IMFT 3D NAND which is now well into volume production since launching nearly two years ago). The highs and lows I just rattled off are not only good for enterprise, they are good for general consumers as well. Enterprises deal in large SSD orders, which translates to increased production and ultimately a reduction in the production cost of the raw NAND that also goes into client SSDs and other storage devices.
The 5100 Series comes in three tiers and multiple capacities per tier (with even more launching over the next few months). Micron sampled us a 2TB 'ECO' model and a 1TB 'MAX'. The former is optimized more for read intensive workloads, while the latter is designed to take a continuous random write beating.
I'll be trying out some new QoS tests in this review, with plans to expand out with comparisons in future pieces. This review will stand as a detailed performance verification of these two parts - something we are uniquely equipped to accomplish.
Subject: General Tech, Storage | January 29, 2017 - 10:09 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: toshiba, nand, flash storage, flash memory, business
ZDNet is reporting that Toshiba is in a bit of a financial bind following losses from acquisitions and its Westinghouse division -- which saw massive losses and cost overruns in the US Nuclear market -- which could amount to billions of dollars. In an effort to offset some of those losses and preserve shareholder equity, Toshiba plans to spin off its memory business into a new company and then offer up to a 20% stake in that new company for sale. The new company would include its memory chip and SSD business though its image sensor division would stay with Toshiba and not be part of the spin off.
Toshiba is the second largest memory manufacturer behind Samsung and it is one of the company's most profitable divisions making up the majority of its operating profit.
The company is hoping that other companies or investors will be interested in a piece of that business and that the company will be able to raise enough money from the sale of up to 20% of the spin off company to make up for the losses incurred in its US nuclear market ventures.
Toshiba plans to hold a shareholder meeting in March to seek approval for the plan stating that if it us unable to proceed with the plan and complete a sale to bring in cash by the end of its fiscal year (the end of March), “shareholder equity could be wiped out.”
It is interesting that Toshiba is once again having a bit of corporate drama and needing to restructure (it sold off its PC division in 2015). This could be a good opportunity for one of the smaller memory makers or even one of the spinning rust manufacturers to become more relevant in the flash storage space (and if having a stake got them access to IP for their own stuff even better though that would probably cost them a ton more!). Alternatively, the stake could be bought up by an a large company that just wants a profit machine to grow even larger (heh).
Hopefully the guys will discuss this bit of news on the podcast! What are your thoughts?
Subject: Storage | January 26, 2017 - 05:47 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Ultra HD, UHD, Pioneer, optical, drive, disc, blu-ray, BDR-S 11 J-X, BDR-S 11 J-BK, 5.25, 4k
Pioneer has announced a pair of new 5.25-inch optical drives (via their Japanese site), and both offer support for UHD Blu-ray playback. These (SATA III) drives are the BDR-S 11 J-BK and BDR-S 11 J-X, and their Ultra HD capability represents a "world's first" for a BD burner, according to Pioneer.
Image credit: Anandtech
There has been much discussion about support for UHD Blu-ray on the PC in the past year, and the technical capabilities of existing BDXL-compatible drives seemed to offer support for the current crop of UHD media. Unfortunately, the DRM requirements seem to involve the entire chain, and these new Pioneer optical drives support the required AACS 2.0 decryption. But this is just the tip of the iceberg with system requirements, as Anandtech lists what you will actually need to play back UHD Blu-rays on your computer:
- A PC that supports AACS 2.0 and Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX)
- An appropriate optical disk drive
- Software that handles UHD BD playback
- Windows 10
- A GPU that has an HDMI 2.0a output with HDCP 2.2 (and AACS2 supported by its driver, which eliminates current-gen standalone GPUs)
- A 4K TV/display that has an HDMI 2.0a input with HDCP 2.2
The software playback requirements are apparently handled via the included software, which Pioneer lists as PowerDVD 14 - though even the latest commercial version (PowerDVD 16) does not support UHD playback yet. It is possible that a custom version, or one previously unavailable to the public, has been included; as Pioneer specifically states that this included PowerDVD 14 software will allow you to "play Ultra HD Blu-ray such as movies, animation, music, Blu-ray, DVD-Video on your computer".
Image credit: Anandtech
The two models are differentiated by a more premium audio focus for the BDR-S 11 J-X (and correspondingly higher price, based on reported pricing, below), with this model offering the following audiophile-oriented enhancements:
"BDR-S 11 J-X displays the playback quality of the audio CD to be played back in four levels, and in the case of low quality, it carries the "audio CD check function" which displays the coping method such as setting change of this machine It is suitable for applications such as CD ripping and music playback. In addition, by applying the coating adopted also for high-end audio equipment to the disc tray to improve the vibration isolation performance, it also enhances heat dissipation by applying special paint to the interior and exterior of the enclosure, realizing high quietness and reliability..."
Pricing was not included in the official announcement, though Anandtech's report quotes (Japanese-language) PC Watch with pricing roughly equivalent to $200 US (BDR-S 11 J-BK) and $300 US (BDR-S 11 J-X) for the drives. Availability begins in late February in Japan.
Subject: Storage | January 24, 2017 - 06:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: patriot, hellfire 480gb, NVMe, M.2, PCIe SSD, M.2 2280
Patriot brings you what should be Arthur Miller's favourite SSD, the Hellfire 480GB M.2 PCIe NVMe drive. The Tech Report recently published a review of this drive, comparing it to the dozens of SSDs they have recently tested, which is still a mere drop in the bucket that is the SSD market. The drive uses Phison's PS5007-E7 controller and 15nm MLC NAND from Toshiba, components familiar to anyone who spends a lot of time looking inside of SSDs and which can give a good estimate of the speeds to expect. With a sale price of about $230 it does not have to be the fastest NVMe drive in the world to be a great deal; read the full review to see if this might be the M.2 drive for you.
"Patriot joins the high-end storage fray with its first NVMe SSD, the Hellfire series. We run the 480GB version of this drive through our testing gauntlet to see whether it can keep up with the rest of the NVMe crowd."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- The 1TB WD Blue SSD @ Tech ARP
- Kingston SSDNow DC400 480GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- Thecus N4810 4-Bay SMB and Enthusiast NAS @ eTeknix
- Noontec TerraMaster D4-310 4-Bay USB Type-C DAS @ eTeknix
Subject: Storage | January 9, 2017 - 08:50 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Seagate, backup plus, 5TB, onedrive, SMR
If you have a huge collection of files you want backed up, Seagate's new external HDD is a decent alternative to deleting what you don't need anymore so it will fit on most drives. Inside the Backup Plus is a shingled Barracuda with 5 platters of 1TB giving you a huge amount of storage for around $160. It also comes with a two year OneDrive subscription which gives you another 200GB of online storage. The copying process should not take a painful amount of time, the testing results at Nikktech show it to be one of the faster external drives they have benchmarked.
"The brand new Backup Plus 5TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive by Seagate doesn't only offer plenty of storage capacity and impressive performance for when on the go but it also comes bundled with a 2-year OneDrive 200GB subscription. Oh and did we mention that it's priced just right?"
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- MyDigitalSSD BOOST 1TB External SSD @ Benchmark Reviews
- QNAP TVS-473-16G 4-Bay NAS @ Kitguru
- Samsung 960 PRO NVMe SSD @ Benchmark Reviews
- Corsair Force MP500 480GB SSD @ Kitguru
Subject: Storage | January 5, 2017 - 10:32 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.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!