The ultimate in SSDs? Adata's new SU900

Subject: Storage | July 11, 2017 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: SU900, adata, 256GB, mlc, SM2258, sata ssd

Adata have added a new series of SSDs to their Ultimate lineup, the SU900, which ranges from the 256GB model sent to The Tech Report to review straight through to a 2TB model.  This incarnation uses 3D MLC flash but retains the Silicon Motion SM2258 controller which was used on the SU800s. In testing the drive surpassed the previous Ultimate drive but did not quite reach the performance levels of the Samsung 850 EVO in some benchmarks, however it did in the actual usage testing.  If you are looking for a drive in that class and have concerns about the longevity of TLC flash, this drive is worth a look.

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"Adata has issued an update to its Ultimate line of SSDs with its SU900 family. Join us as we find out how much of an upgrade 3D MLC flash brings to the company's Ultimate drives versus its past forays with 3D TLC NAND."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Toshiba and Western Digital announce QLC and 96-Layer BiCS Flash

Subject: Storage | June 28, 2017 - 09:49 PM |
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.

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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).

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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?

Toshiba's new 64 layer NVMe drive takes the cake

Subject: Storage | June 28, 2017 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: Toshiba XG5, toshiba, ssd, NVMe, nand, M.2, BiCS, 64-Layer

We first heard about the Toshiba XG5 1TB NVMe SSD at Computex, with its 64 layer BiCS flash and stated read speeds of 3GB/s, writes just over 2 GB/s.  Today Kitguru published a review of the new drive, including ATTO results which match and even exceed the advertised read and write speeds.  Their real world test involved copying 30GB of movies off of a 512GB Samsung 950 Pro to the XG5, only Samsung's new 960 lineup and the OCZ RD400 were able to beat Toshiba's new SSD.  Read more in their full review, right here.

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"The Toshiba XG5 1TB NVMe SSD contains Toshiba's newest 3D 64-Layer BiCS memory and our report will examine Toshiba's newest memory, as well as their newest NVMe controller to go along with it."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

Today Intel is launching a new line of client SSDs - the SSD 545S Series. These are simple, 2.5" SATA parts that aim to offer good performance at an economical price point. Low-cost SSDs is not typically Intel's strong suit, mainly because they are extremely rigorous on their design and testing, but the ramping up of IMFT 3D NAND, now entering its second generation stacked to 64-layers, should finally help them get the cost/GB down to levels previously enjoyed by other manufacturers.

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Intel and Micron jointly announced 3D NAND just over two years ago, and a year ago we talked about the next IMFT capacity bump coming as a 'double' move. Well, that's only partially happening today. The 545S line will carry the new IMFT 64-layer flash, but the capacity per die remains the same 256Gbit (32GB) as the previous generation parts. The dies will be smaller, meaning more can fit on a wafer, which drives down production costs, but the larger 512Gbit dies won't be coming until later on (and in a different product line - Intel told us they do not intend to mix die types within the same lines as we've seen Samsung do in the past).

Specifications

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There are no surprises here, though I am happy to see a 'sustained sequential performance' specification stated by an SSD maker, and I'm happier to see Intel claiming such a high figure for sustained writes (implying this is the TLC writing speed as the SLC cache would be exhausted in sustained writes).

I'm also happy to see sensical endurance specs for once. We've previously seen oddly non-scaling figures in prior SSD releases from multiple companies. Clearly stating a specific TBW 'per 128GB' makes a lot of sense here, and the number itself isn't that bad, either.

Packaging

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Simplified packaging from Intel here, apparently to help further reduce shipping costs.

Read on for our full review of the Intel 545S 512GB SSD!

Kingston's DCP1000 NVMe PCIe SSD; fast and outside most people's budgets just like a race car

Subject: Storage | June 12, 2017 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: kingston, DCP1000, enterprise ssd, NVMe, PCIe SSD

The Kingston DCP1000 NVMe PCIe SSD comes in 800GB, 1.6TB, and 3.2TB though as it is an Enterprise class drive even the smallest size will cost you over $1000.  Even with a price beyond the budget of almost all enthusiasts it is interesting to see the performance of this drive, especially as Kitguru's testing showed it to be faster than the Intel D P3608.  Kitguru cracked the 1.6TB card open to see how it worked and within found four Kingston 400GB NVMe M.2 SSDs, connected by a PLX PEX8725 24-lane, 10-port PCIe 3.0 switch which then passes the data onto the cards PCIe 3.0 x8 connector.  Each of those 400GB SSDs have their own PhisonPS5007-11 eight channel quad-core controller which leads to very impressive performance.  They did have some quibbles about the performance consistency of the drive; however it is something they have seen on most drives of this class and not something specific to Kingston's drive.

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"Move over Intel DC P3608, we have a new performance king! In today’s testing, it was able to sustain sequential read and write speeds of 7GB/s and 6GB/s, respectively! Not only that, but it is able to deliver over 1.1million IOPS with 4KB random read performance and over 180K for write."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

 

Introduction, How PCM Works, Reading, Writing, and Tweaks

I’ve seen a bit of flawed logic floating around related to discussions about 3D XPoint technology. Some are directly comparing the cost per die to NAND flash (you can’t - 3D XPoint likely has fewer fab steps than NAND - especially when compared with 3D NAND). Others are repeating a bunch of terminology and element names without taking the time to actually explain how it works, and far too many folks out there can't even pronounce it correctly (it's spoken 'cross-point'). My plan is to address as much of the confusion as I can with this article, and I hope you walk away understanding how XPoint and its underlying technologies (most likely) work. While we do not have absolute confirmation of the precise material compositions, there is a significant amount of evidence pointing to one particular set of technologies. With Optane Memory now out in the wild and purchasable by folks wielding electron microscopes and mass spectrometers, I have seen enough additional information come across to assume XPoint is, in fact, PCM based.

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XPoint memory. Note the shape of the cell/selector structure. This will be significant later.

While we were initially told at the XPoint announcement event Q&A that the technology was not phase change based, there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and it is likely that Intel did not want to let the cat out of the bag too early. The funny thing about that is that both Intel and Micron were briefing on PCM-based memory developments five years earlier, and nearly everything about those briefings lines up perfectly with what appears to have ended up in the XPoint that we have today.

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Some die-level performance characteristics of various memory types. source

The above figures were sourced from a 2011 paper and may be a bit dated, but they do a good job putting some actual numbers with the die-level performance of the various solid state memory technologies. We can also see where the ~1000x speed and ~1000x endurance comparisons with XPoint to NAND Flash came from. Now, of course, those performance characteristics do not directly translate to the performance of a complete SSD package containing those dies. Controller overhead and management must take their respective cuts, as is shown with the performance of the first generation XPoint SSD we saw come out of Intel:

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The ‘bridging the gap’ Latency Percentile graph from our Intel SSD DC P4800X review.
(The P4800X comes in at 10us above).

There have been a few very vocal folks out there chanting 'not good enough', without the basic understanding that the first publicly available iteration of a new technology never represents its ultimate performance capabilities. It took NAND flash decades to make it into usable SSDs, and another decade before climbing to the performance levels we enjoy today. Time will tell if this holds true for XPoint, but given Micron's demos and our own observed performance of Intel's P4800X and Optane Memory SSDs, I'd argue that it is most certainly off to a good start!

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A 3D XPoint die, submitted for your viewing pleasure (click for larger version).

You want to know how this stuff works, right? Read on to find out!

ASUS X299 Enables Intel Virtual RAID on CPU - RAID-0 up to 20 SSDs!

Subject: Storage | May 31, 2017 - 08:58 PM |
Tagged: x299, VROC, Virtual RAID on CPU, raid, Intel, asus

Ken and I have been refreshing our Google search results ever since seeing the term 'VROC' slipped into the ASUS press releases. Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC) is a Skylake-X specific optional feature that is a carryover from Intel's XEON parts employing RSTe to create a RAID without the need for the chipset to tie it all together.

Well, we finally saw an article pop up over at PCWorld, complete with a photo of the elusive Hyper M.2 X16 card:

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The theory is that you will be able to use the 1, 2, or 3 M.2 slots of an ASUS X299 motherboard, presumably passing through the chipset (and bottlenecked by DMI), or you can shift the SSDs over to a Hyper M.2 X16 card and have four piped directly to the Skylake-X CPU. If you don't have your lanes all occupied by GPUs, you can even add additional cards to scale up to a max theoretical 20-way RAID-0 supporting a *very* theoretical 128GBps.

A couple of gotchas here:

  • Only works with Skylake-X (not Kaby Lake-X)
  • RAID-1 and RAID-5 are only possible with a dongle (seriously?)
  • VROC is supposedly only bootable when using Intel SSDs (what?)

Ok, so the first one is understandable given Kaby Lake-X will only have 16 PCIe lanes direclty off of the CPU.

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The second is, well, annoying, but understandable once you consider that some server builders may want to capitalize on the RSTe-type technology without having to purchase server hardware. It's still a significant annoyance, because how long has it been since anyone has had to deal with a freaking hardware dongle to unlock a feature on a consumer part. That said, most enthusiasts are probably fine with RAID-0 for their SSD volume, given they would be going purely for increased performance.

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The third essentially makes this awesome tech dead on arrival. Requiring only Intel branded M.2 SSDs for VROC bootability is a nail in the coffin. Enthusiasts are not going to want to buy 4 or 8 (or more) middle of the road Intel SSDs (the only M.2 NAND SSD available from Intel is the 600p) for their crazy RAID - they are going to go with something faster, and if that can't boot, that's a major issue.

More to follow as we learn more. We'll keep a lookout and keep you posted as we get official word from Intel on VROC!

Source: PCWorld

COMPUTEX 2017: QNAP Unveils World's First Ryzen-based NAS

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | May 31, 2017 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: TS-x77, amd, ryzen, qnap, NAS, computex 2017

QNAP are providing a sneak peak of a new line of NAS devices, powered by AMD's Ryzen processors.  The TS-x77 series will come in 6, 8, and 12-bay models with an AMD Ryzen 7 1700 or Ryzen 5 1600 or 1400 processor with up to 8, 16, 32 or 64GB DDR4 RAM dependant on the model. 

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The devices support RAID 0/1/5/6/10/50/60, RAID 1/5/6/10/50/60 + spare, single and JBOD, which support AES-NI encryption acceleration.  Internally there are quite a lot of opportunities to customize your NAS, on all models you will find a pair of M.2 2242/2260/2280/22110 SATA 6 Gb/s SSD slots for your hot storage and depending on the model you will have a mix of 2.5" and dual 2.5/3.5" drive bays for your SSDs or HDDs. 

That is not the only possibilities for expansion in these NAS devices, all models contain three PCIe 3.0, one 8x slot and two 4x which you can use for a PCIe SSD, 10GbE or 40GbE network cards or perhaps even a GPU for local transcoding.  Externally you have four Gigabit ethernet connectors, two USB 3.1 ports, one Type-C and one Type-A as well as five USB 3.0 ports.

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These will not be available until Q3, so we won't be able to review it for a while but rest assured that we are at least as interesting in seeing the performance of Ryzen in a NAS as you are.

Source: QNAP

Computex 2017: Toshiba Launches XG5 NVMe Client SSD With 64-Layer BiCS Flash

Subject: Storage | May 30, 2017 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: toshiba, ssd, ocz, NVMe, nand, M.2, computex 2017, BiCS, 64-Layer

Last night we saw WD launch the first client SSDs with 64-layer NAND Flash, but recall that WD/SanDisk is in partnership with Toshiba to produce this new gen 3 BiCS memory, which means Toshiba is also launching their own product wrapped around this new high-density flash:

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Enter the Toshiba XG5. It is certainly coming on strong here, as evidenced by the specs:

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Unlike the WD/SanDisk launch, the BiCS flash on this Toshiba variant sits behind an NVMe SSD controller, with stated read speeds at 3GB/s and writes just over 2 GB/s. We don't yet have random performance figures, but we expect it to certainly be no slouch given the expected performance of this newest generation of flash memory. Let's take a quick look at some of the high points there:

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Alright, so we have the typical things you'd expect, like better power efficiency and higher endurance, but there is a significant entry there under the performance category - 1-shot, full sequence programming. This is a big deal, since writing to flash memory is typically done in stages, with successive program cycles nudging cell voltages closer to their targets with each pass. This takes time and is one of the main things holding back the write speeds of NAND flash. This new BiCS is claimed to be able to successfully write in a single program cycle, which should translate to noticeable improvements in write latency.

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Another thing helping with writes is that the XG5 will have its BiCS flash operating in a hybrid mode, meaning these are TLC SSDs with an SLC cache. We do not have confirmed cache sizes to report, but it's a safe bet that they will be similar to competing products.

We don't yet have pricing info, but we do know that the initial capacity offerings will start with 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB offerings. The XG5 is launching in the OEM channel in the second half of 2017. While this one is an OEM product, remember that OCZ is Toshiba's brand for client SSDs, so there's a possibility we may see a retail variant appear under that name in the future.

Press blast after the break.

Source: Toshiba

Computex 2017: Western Digital Launches Client SSDs Sporting 64-Layer NAND

Subject: Storage | May 29, 2017 - 11:42 PM |
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:

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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.

Full press blast after the break: