We've been hearing about Intel's VROC (NVMe RAID) technology for a few months now. ASUS started slipping clues in with their X299 motherboard releases starting back in May. The idea was very exciting, as prior NVMe RAID implementations on Z170 and Z270 platforms were bottlenecked by the chipset's PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI link to the CPU, and they also had to trade away SATA ports for M.2 PCIe lanes in order to accomplish the feat. X99 motherboards supported SATA RAID and even sported four additional ports, but they were left out of NVMe bootable RAID altogether. It would be foolish of Intel to launch a successor to their higher end workstation-class platform without a feature available in two (soon to be three) generations of their consumer platform.
To get a grip on what VROC is all about, lets set up some context with a few slides:
First, we have a slide laying out what the acronyms mean:
- VROC = Virtual RAID on CPU
- VMD = Volume Management Device
What's a VMD you say?
...so the VMD is extra logic present on Intel Skylake-SP CPUs, which enables the processor to group up to 16 lanes of storage (4x4) into a single PCIe storage domain. There are three VMD controllers per CPU.
VROC is the next logical step, and takes things a bit further. While boot support is restricted to within a single VMD, PCIe switches can be added downstream to create a bootable RAID possibly exceeding 4 SSDs. So long as the array need not be bootable, VROC enables spanning across multiple VMDs and even across CPUs!
Assembling the Missing Pieces
Unlike prior Intel storage technology launches, the VROC launch has been piecemeal at best and contradictory at worst. We initially heard that VROC would only support Intel SSDs, but Intel later published a FAQ that stated 'selected third-party SSDs' would also be supported. One thing they have remained steadfast on is the requirement for a hardware key to unlock RAID-1 and RAID-5 modes - a seemingly silly requirement given their consumer chipset supports bootable RAID-0,1,5 without any key requirement (and VROC only supports one additional SSD over Z170/Z270/Z370, which can boot from 3-drive arrays).
On the 'piecemeal' topic, we need three things for VROC to work:
- BIOS support for enabling VMD Domains for select groups of PCIe lanes.
- Hardware for connecting a group of NVMe SSDs to that group of PCIe lanes.
- A driver for OS mounting and managing of the array.
Let's run down this list and see what is currently available:
Check. Hardware for connecting multiple drives to the configured set of lanes?
Check (960 PRO pic here). Note that the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 Card will only work on motherboards supporting PCIe bifurcation, which allows the CPU to split PCIe lanes into subgroups without the need of a PLX chip. You can see two bifurcated modes in the above screenshot - one intended for VMD/VROC, while the other (data) selection enables bifurcation without enabling the VMD controller. This option presents the four SSDs to the OS without the need of any special driver.
With the above installed, and the slot configured for VROC in the BIOS, we are greeted by the expected disappointing result:
Now for that pesky driver. After a bit of digging around the dark corners of the internet:
Check! (well, that's what it looked like after I rapidly clicked my way through the array creation)
Don't even pretend like you won't read the rest of this review! (click here now!)
Subject: Storage | September 29, 2017 - 03:11 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: adata, SD700, portable storage, ssd
The SD700 comes in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB varieties and oddly enough the black models cost $5 less than the tent caterpillar gut coloured ones. The drives are USB 3.1 Gen 1, with transfer speeds hitting the expected rate in The Tech Reports testing; still a far cry from a Gen 2 drive however. The pricing is attractive at only a tiny bit more than an internal drive of the same capacity, however there is no way an internal SSD would stand up to the abuse which the SD700 shrugs off. If you are in need of large sized external storage than can be tossed into a bag and forgotten about until it is needed then check this review out.
"Adata has put together an external version of its SU800 SSD. Clad in water- and shock-resistant rubber and plastic, the SD700 wants to be the portable drive of choice for the active data hoarder. Join us as we see how well it can handle our test suite."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- ADATA SX8000 M.2 512 GB SSD @ Guru of 3D
- Crucial BX300 480GB SSD @ Kitguru
- Crucial BX300 480 GB @ techPowerUp
- CORSAIR Neutron NX500 NVMe PCIe Gen.3 x4 Add-In Card SSD Review @ NikKTech
- QNAP TS-453Bmini-8G NAS Server Review @ NikKTech
Subject: Storage | September 18, 2017 - 09:35 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: western digital, wd gold, TLER, enterprise, datacenter
Western Digital has a new mechanical hard drive for your treasure trove of digital data. Utilizing fourth generation HelioSeal technology and eight PMR platters to fit 1.5TB of data per platter, the WD121KRYZ has a capacity of 12TB and features quite a few enterprise technologies to improve reliability and reduce data loss.
The WD Gold 12TB drive is an eight-platter 3.5" drive spinning at 7200RPM paired with 256 MB of cache and featuring a SATA III interface. The helium sealed hard drive uses a dual stage actuator head positioning system that can adjust the fly height of the read-write heads in real time. Enterprise focused features include RAFF to monitor and correct linear and rotational vibrations and TLER to protect the integrity of a RAID array. The vibration monitoring Is overkill for a desktop PC or even a NAS, but can be useful in a datacenter environment where hundreds of drives are packed together. The time limited error recovery technology ensures that bad sectors do not cause a RAID rebuild to fail (and Allyn has a more in-depth explanation here).
The WD Gold 12TB is built for continuous operation with an annual workload rate of 550TB running 24/7 with a 5-year warranty and 2.5 million hours MTBF. The maximum sustained transfer is 255 MB/s. The digital hoarder’s dream is available for $521.99 from Western Digital which works out to $0.0435 / GB. If you do not want to wait for a Red Pro 12TB variant (there does not appear to be one available and WD only recently launched 10TB models), the Gold series drive might be a good option with a better warranty and lower error rate.
- Western Digital Launches 10TB Red and Red Pro
- Western Digital Reworks Enterprise Lineup, Launches 8TB Gold Datacenter HDD
- WD and HGST Refresh Enterprise SSDs to Include 8TB, Push HDDs to 12TB and Beyond
Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 14, 2017 - 10:32 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: western digital, toshiba, nand, flash memory, bain capital
Toshiba remains in a financial crisis in the aftermath of massive losses in its Westinghouse US Nuclear power division and has been attempting to sell off its still very much profitable NAND flash manufacturing business to compensate and right the company to avoid being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Unfortunately for Toshiba it has now missed three target dates for selling off the business. Not for lack of suitors, but primarily because of legal issues resulting from anti-trust concerns as well as legal battles brought by Western Digital – who Toshiba is in a joint venture with for flash manufacturing in Japan – to attempt to prevent the sale.
Jumping to the present, Toshiba has decided to proceed with the negotiations with an investment group led by Bain Capital despite disappointment (and more legal objections) from Western Digital who tried to block similar negotiations back in June. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Toshiba had signed a “memorandum of understanding” and is engaging in private talks to negotiate the sale with an investment group led by Bain Capital and including SK Hynix (who is allegedly only providing financing at this point and not going after a stake in the business to try to avoid further delaying the sale from increased anti-trust red tape), Apple, Dell, Seagate, and two Japanese government controlled entities known as Innovation Network Corp and Development Bank of Japan (again, Bain Capital is offering them the chance to invest post any WD concessions and legal battles in the business to improve chances of the sale going through). As the preferred (by Toshiba) buyer, the Bain Capital-lead group deal is reportedly worth nearly 2.4 trillion Yen ($22 billion USD) including $1.8 billion earmarked for infrastructure. The company expects come to an agreement in late September and is hoping that it will be able to finalize the sale by March so that it can avoid reporting negative net worth and risking being de-listed from the Tokyo Stock Exchange and being cut off from a huge swath of public investors and capital.
Due to the negotiations being private, details are not readily available yet. It is not clear whether Toshiba will be able to pull it off or what the implications will be for the market if it does. (With Toshiba being the world’s second largest flash memory supplier, whoever ends up acquiring the company is going to have a lot of influence on the market and flash technology R&D.) It certainly seems Toshiba’s battle to right itself is going to continue into next year and Western Digital is not going to make it easy. The US-based WD stated:
“We are disappointed that Toshiba would take this action. Our goal has been — and remains — to reach a mutually beneficial outcome that satisfies the needs of Toshiba and its stakeholders.”
A California court has reportedly ordered Toshiba to give Western Digital two weeks’ notice of any deal with the consortium and its two previous arbitration requests through ICC are still pending resolution. Barrons reports that Toshiba may convince WDC to allow the sale if it gives its joint venture partner enough concessions such as an assured long term NAND supply contract and agreed participation in joint Fab projects that would protect SanDisk's contractual rights. Other interested parties for the sale include Foxconn and Western Digital itself. Perhaps SoftBank or the $100 Billion Vision Fund will come in and scoop it up as well.
[Opinions follow heh] I am interested to see how it all will eventually shake out. It remains less than ideal to see Toshiba must sell it off and have the market possibly lose a big flash memory player as the market share power gets more consolidated if it does get picked up by an existing memory manufacturer (see: hard drives, flash memory seems to be going through the same consolidation of companies from lots of little players into fewer bigger ones). I am not certain on the deal specifics as far as ownership and control of TMC and any cash only vs equity splits but with Japanese investors as part of all three bidding / competing consortiums it seems at least part of the business (if only money from it if not voting power) will remain rooted in Japan even if not under the Toshiba brand.
- Apple Is in Talks With Bain for Toshiba Chips Business (VIDEO) @ Bloomberg
- Toshiba to focus on chip talks with Bain, but doesn't rule out other suitors @ Reuters
- Toshiba Says It Favors Bain Group’s Bid for Microchip Business @ NYT
- Toshiba agrees sale with Bain Capital over protests @ ABC News
- Group Including Apple, Dell Moves to Buy Toshiba’s Chip Business @ WSJ (requires subscription)
- Toshiba Plans To Spin Off Storage Business, Sell 20% Of New Company @ PC Perspective
This drive might not be the best choice for an upgrade to a machine you build yourself, however as it is compatible with HP's Software Pre-installation Environment it makes a great deal of sense for an HP owner. Benchmark Reviews tested the drive out and were impressed with the performance they saw; it did not match the somewhat inflated claims made below but it performed in line with the majority of the competition out there. Take a look at the specific results in the full review.
"HP suggests top speeds up to 570 MB/s for reads and 525 MB/s writes from their 1TB SSD S700 PRO, which utilizes 3D NAND to deliver impressive storage density and reliability. In this article for Benchmark Reviews, we test the 1TB HP SSD S700 PRO (2.5″ SATA model 2LU81AA#ABL) against other solid state drive competition."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- HP S700 Pro 1 TB SSD @ Guru of 3D
- Samsung 960 EVO 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD Review @ NikKTech
- Crucial BX300 480GB SSD @ Guru of 3D
- Toshiba N300 6TB High Reliability Hard Drive For NAS Review @ NikKTech
- QNAP TS-453B 4-bay NAS @ techPowerUp
Subject: Storage | August 16, 2017 - 04:03 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: USB 3.1 gen 2, T5, Samsung, portable, 500gb, 2TB
Hopefully Samsung changes its naming schemes before we hit T1000 but for now, as many people know a T5 is stronger than a T3. If you missed Al's review, you should take a peek before heading to The Tech Report to benefit from his wisdom. With portable drives, or most drives for that matter, the metric that we care the most about is real world usage which is what Robobench is intended for. In order to properly test this USB 3.1 Gen 2 drive, TR picked up an addin card with the most common Gen 2 chip, the ASMedia ASM1142 controller and tested the transfer speeds for both compressible and non-compressible data. Drop by for a look at how the Samsung T5 performed.
"Samsung has refreshed its portable SSD lineup with 64-layer V-NAND and an aluminum unibody. We take the new T5 external for a spin to see if it lives up to the legacy of the T1 and T3."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung Portable SSD T5 @ The SSD Review
- Samsung T5 Portable SSD @ Guru of 3D
- Corsair Neutron NX500 NVMe SSD @ The SSD Review
- Corsair Neutron NX500 800GB SSD @ Kitguru
- The 10TB WD Red @ The SSD Review
Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Back in January of 2016, Samsung launched the Portable SSD T1. This was a good way to get more of their VNAND flash out into the market in the form of a speedy and portable USB connected SSD. The launch went so well that they followed it up with the T3 in early 2016. While the T1 maxed out at 1TB of capacity, the T2 pushed that to 2TB, which remains the market sweet spot for max portable capacity today. As increased flash densities come out, it became time for Samsung to refresh the lineup:
Meet the Samsung Portable SSD T5. This new version is ever so slightly smaller than the T3, while packing a 256Gbit die version of Samsung's 64-layer VNAND, along with a newer USB controller that should help get closer to the internal SATA 6Gbit speed of the device.
Most specs are nearly identical to the T3, with a notable increase to 540MB/s throughput, thanks to the faster interface capability.
Straightforward packaging with a notable inclusion of both Type-C to A and C to C cables. The T3 and T1 came with only Type-A.
Subject: Storage | August 14, 2017 - 08:09 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: P4800X, XPoint, NVMe, HHHL, Optane, Intel, ssd, DC
We reviewed the Intel P4800X - Intel's first 3D XPoint SSD, back in April of this year. The one thing missing from that review was product pictures. Sure we had stock photos, but we did not have the product in hand due to the extremely limited number of samples and the need for Intel to be able to make more real-time updates to the hardware based on our feedback during the testing process (reviewers making hardware better FTW!). After the reviews were done, sample priority shifted to the software vendors who needed time to further develop their code bases to take better advantage of the very low latency that Optane can offer. One of those companies is VMware, and one of our friends from over there was able to get some tinker time with one of their samples.
Paul whipped up a few videos showing the installation process as well as timing a server boot directly from the P4800X (something we could not do in our review since we were testing on a remote server). I highly encourage those interested in the P4800X (and the upcoming consumer versions of the same) to check out the article on TinkerTry. I also recommend those wanting to know what Optane / XPoint is and how it works to check out our article here.
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Today Corsair launched their first ever HHHL form factor SSD, the NX500:
Just from the looks of this part, it is clear they were pulling out all the stops with respect to product design. This is certainly one of the most impressive looking SSDs we have seen come through our lab, and it will certainly be the type of thing enthusiasts would show off in their system builds. The NX500 is also likely to be the best showcase of Phison's new E7 controller. I'm just as eager to see if this SSD performs as well as it looks, so let's get to the review!
The specifications here are in line what we would expect for a modern day NVMe SSD. Note that ratings are identical for the 400GB and 800GB models, aside from a doubling of endurance due to the corresponding doubling of flash. There were some additional details in our press kit:
Extreme PerformanceThe Phison PS5007-E7• Description: PS5007-E7 is Phison’s first NVMe controller designed for high performance application. Supporting up to 8-channels in its NAND Flash interface.Extreme ReliabilityMultiple features are built into the PS5007-E7 to ensure stability and reliability.• SmartECC™ – Reconstructs defective/faulty pages when regular ECC fails• SmartRefresh™ – Monitors block ECC health status and refreshes blocks periodically to improve data retention• SmartFlush™ – Minimizes time data spends in cache to ensure data retention in the event of power lossExtreme ControlThe Neutron NX500 SSD with Phison PS5007-E7 controller works with CORSAIR SSD Toolbox.• Drive monitoring – Monitor the health of your Force Series• Secure wipe – For security purposes, completely clear the drive of any recoverable data• Firmware update – Install updated firmware as needed
As the Phison E7 is a new controller, it's worth taking a look at the internals:
Highlights from above are 8 channels to the flash, ONFI 3.2 and Toggle 2.0 support (covering most flash memory types), along with support for all modes (SLC/MLC/TLC).
I haven't seen SSD packaging this nice since the FusionIO ioDrive, and those parts were far more expensive. Great touch here by Corsair.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | August 9, 2017 - 09:19 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: FMS 2017, ssd, S4600, S4500, ruler, pcie, NVMe, Intel, EDSFF
Yesterday we saw Samsung introduce their 'NGSFF' form factor during yesterday's keynote. Intel has been at work on a similar standard, this one named EDSFF (Enterprise & Datacenter Storage Form Factor), with the simpler working name as 'Ruler', mainly because it bears a resemblance:
Note that the etching states P4500 Series. P4500 was launched a couple of days ago and is Intel's next generation NVMe PCIe Datacenter SSD. It's available in the typical form factors (U.2, HHHL), but this new Ruler form factor contains the exact same 12 channel controller and flash counts, only arranged differently.
SFF-TA-1002 connector (aka 'Gen-Z'), shown next to an AA battery for scale. This connector spec is electrically rated for speeds up to 4th and 5th generation PCIe, so future proofing was definitely a consideration here. In short, this is a beefed up M.2 style connector that can handle more throughput and also has a few additional pins to support remote power and power-loss-protection (capacitors outside the Ruler), as well as support for activity LEDs, etc.
Here is a slide showing the layout of the Ruler. 36 flash packages can be installed, with the possibility of pushing that figure to 42.
Thermals were a main consideration in the design, and the increased surface area compared to U.2 designs (with stacked PCBs) make for far cooler operation.
Intel's play here is fitting as much flash as possible into a 1U chassis. 1PB in a 1U is definitely a bold claim, but absolutely doable in the near future.
I'll leave you with the quick sniper shot I grabbed of their demo system. I'll be posting more details on the P4500 and P4600 series products later this week (remember, same guts as the Ruler), so stay tuned!