Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ICY DOCK

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction

ICY DOCK has made themselves into a sort of Swiss Army knife of dockable and hot-swappable storage solutions. From multi-bay desktop external devices to internal hot-swap enclosures, these guys have just about every conceivable way to convert storage form factors covered. We’ve looked at some of their other offerings in the past, but this week we will focus on a pair of their ToughArmor series products.

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As you can no doubt see here, these two enclosures aim to cram as many 2.5” x 7mm form factor devices into the smallest space possible. They also offer hot swap capability and feature front panel power + activity LEDs. As the name would imply, these are built to be extremely durable, with ICY DOCK proudly running them over with a truck in some of their product photos.

Read on for our full review of the ICY DOCK ToughArmor MB998SP-B and MB993SK-B!

Seagate Begins Volume Shipment of 10TB Helium-Filled Enterprise Capacity 3.5" HDD

Subject: Storage | April 29, 2016 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, helium, hdd, Enterprise Capacity 3.5, 10TB

We’ve seen a ramp up of Helium filled-hard drives lately, first with HGST, and more recently with Western Digital Red 8TB and Gold 8TB. It seems Seagate also wants in on the fun:

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This drive was initially paper-launched back in January, but now Seagate claims it is shipping in volume. While that original release and today’s update both lack performance specs, there are a few interesting tidbits sprinkled in there:

  • This is a CMR drive, not SMR, meaning that it can be written randomly without any of the batch write penalties of Shingled Magnetic Recording.
  • ‘Advanced write caching capabilities’ hints at a form of the media cache tech present in the HGST He6/He8 and also recently adopted by the WD 8TB Gold.
  • The Seagate 10TB release from earlier this year stated that his model will be a 7-platter design with 14 heads. Helium enables thinner platters, and 7-platter designs began appearing in the HGST He6.
  • At nearly 1.5TB per platter and an assumed spindle speed of 7200 RPM, we can infer that the base specs should be reasonably impressive.

New press blast appears after the break. Original launch blast is linked here.

Coming up on electronic hoarders, the Seagate 8TB NAS drive

Subject: Storage | April 26, 2016 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, 8TB, NAS

Seagate is not to be outdone by Western Digital and their 8TB Red drive and have released their own 8TB NAS HDD. The model which eTeknix reviewed is designed for SMBs and users that have a huge amount of content they plan to store in the long term.  That results in a 3 year warranty, a limit of 8 drives in a NAS and rated workload of 180TB per year, somewhat less than the Enterprise model, however it is also less expensive.  eTeknix uses a different battery of tests than we do here at PCPer, you can see how the drive is rated in AIDA, Anvil, Crystaldisk and others over in their full review, the numbers are similar to the WD Red drive even with the lack of a rarefied atmosphere.

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"Just as you wouldn’t use a low-end graphics card for high-end usage, you shouldn’t use the wrong hard disk drive in your storage system either. There is a reason for every product and you should always pick the one suited for the task at hand, especially when you deal with your storage. Today I’m taking a closer look at Seagate’s impressive 8TB NAS HDD and we will take a look at how well it performs."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: eTeknix

Yes it's Apple but OWC does good work, meet the Aura 1TB PCIe SSD

Subject: Storage | April 20, 2016 - 05:40 PM |
Tagged: owc, apple, PCIe SSD, Aura, 1TB, mlc

It has been a while since we heard from OWC, over a year since Al saw their offerings at Storage Vision, so it is interesting to see a new PCIe SSD from them.  Their days of Sandforce are over, two SMI 2246 XT 4-channel controllers are paired with a Marvell 9230 RAID controller which allows the four unbranded 256GB MLC flash chips to act as a 1TB RAID 0 drive.  The SSD Reviews found the Macbook Air upgrade drive to run slightly slower than the original 256GB SSD but with quadruple the storage the slight slow down is offset by the extra space.  Check out the Aura drive if you have a Mac in need of upgrade, or if you are simply interested in a tiny 1TB SSD.

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"Because of its limited storage capacity and Apples horrendous cost for upgrades, it was very close to being replaced, at least until OWC contacted me a week ago asking if we might like to review their latest 1TB Aura PCIe SSD replacement for mid-2013 and later MacBooks."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

DroboAccess Enables SSL Encrypted Remote File Access for Drobo 5N and B810n

Subject: Storage | April 19, 2016 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: SSL, remote access, NAS, DroboAccess, drobo, B810n, 5N

We are currently testing a round of Drobos here at PC Perspective, and Drobo recently rolled out a new feature that I thought would be better written up as a quick news post. This is a remote access feature that applies to the NAS-style models, specifically the 5N and B810n, and leverages the Drobo Apps capabilities of these devices. If you are a current 5N or B810n owner, you can update your Dashboard application and firmware to unlock this newly announced ‘DroboAccess’ feature.

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DroboAccess falls under the ‘myDrobo’ category of Drobo Apps. These are apps developed and supported by Drobo (as opposed to coming from a third party). With Drobo more involved in the end-to-end aspect of this process, they were able to work some additional magic into their implementation:

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After a Drobo owner registers their device, they can install any/all of the supported apps (DroboAccess, Koken, and Wordpress). Upon registering, each app prompts for a public URL (a subdomain of .mydrobo.com). Drobo handles the behind-the-scenes registration of a 2k SSL certificate which is installed in the chain, which means that any browser access to the new subdomain is over an SSL (HTTPS) end-to-end encrypted connection. Drobo has set up a relay server that manages incoming internet connections to the 5N or B810n. Home NAT routers are not an issue as the device running the app maintains an outbound link to the same relay server. This eliminates any custom router configurations / port forwarding necessary on the user-side of things, and that free SSL cert keeps prying eyes out of the data coming across the wire. I stepped through this process myself and it was about as simple and seamless as it could possibly be. Once set up, I could browse to (chosen subdomain).mydrobo.com from any internet-connected browser and see the files on the B810n:

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The interface is similar to what you’d see from other remote access apps (Dropbox, etc). There is also an iPhone and Android app available, but Drobo has chosen to charge $0.99 for this app - an odd choice given the vast majority of remote file access companion apps are free downloads. I spent some time with the iOS app and while functional, I found it a bit clunky in its current form. As an example, sending a photo to DroboAccess from the iOS Share Menu gave an ‘Upload to’ prompt with no ability to choose a destination folder (images were simply dumped in the root, which is *not* mountable on the local network - only subdirectories of root are mountable on the LAN). This means that you would have to log into the Drobo via web browser to access those uploads and move them to shares so they would be visible to local SMB-connected machines.

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In testing browser access, I discovered a few more issues:

  • The data throughput rate appears to be capped at 8 Mbps by the myDrobo relay server.
  • Downloading files >2GB failed silently, resulting in a 0-byte file placed on the host.

…so while things are a bit rough around the edges right now, the setup was quick and painless, which was Drobos initial goal for this feature roll out. We’ve fed back our findings thus far, and I suspect the other parts should receive more polish and tweaking over the coming weeks. I’ve include Drobo’s press blast for DroboAccess after the break.

Source: Drobo

Western Digital Reworks Enterprise Lineup, Launches 8TB Gold Datacenter HDD

Subject: Storage | April 19, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: Xe, western digital, wdc, WD, se, RE, Media Cache, hgst, HelioSeal, gold, 8TB

Western Digital rolled out their Se / Re / Xe branding back in mid-2013. Since that time, a lot has changed in the rapidly evolving enterprise storage industry. SSDs are encroaching into more of the data center rack space out there, and the need for small capacity 10k and 15k RPM drives is dropping substantially in favor of more power efficient (in power and capacity per dollar), larger spinning disks.

With these winds of change comes today’s announcement from Western Digital:

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The new Gold lineup appears to be a merging of old and new product lines. The 6TB and below Re series are essentially being absorbed under the new Gold label, but 6TB will no longer be the top capacity offered to WD enterprise customers. A new 8TB capacity will be offered in the form of a HelioSeal drive. The 8TB model will share more parts with the HGST He8 than WD’s previously released 8TB Red, including HGST’s Media Cache architecture, which should yield a nice boost to sustained random write performance over drives lacking this technology.

The press release does not state this, but I suspect WD will be phasing out their Se and Xe product lines over the coming months in favor of Helium-filled drives of the 5400 (Red) and 7200 (Gold) RPM variety. Fewer lines to manage should help them tighten things up a bit and reduce costs even further over time.

We’ll be reviewing the new 8TB Gold just as soon as samples arrive for testing, so stay tuned!

Full press blast appears after the break.

Sony's Optical Disc Archive Storage Reaches 3.3 TB

Subject: Storage | April 18, 2016 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: storage, sony, optical disc archive, optical disc, ODA, hard drives, backup, Archival

Sony has developed a higher-capacity version of their Optical Disc Archive (ODA), which now allows up to 3.3 TB of archival storage with the promise of 100-year retention.

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Sony ODS-D280U (Image credit: Sony via Computer Base)

Of course the viability of such a system in the next century is unknown, and a working cartridge (which is similar to the multi-CD systems found in cars a few years ago) would be needed to access the data. The idea is certainly interesting considering the potential for failure with traditional hard drives, though hard drives are relatively inexpensive and offer more utility, unlike the write-once Sony ODA cartridges.

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Cartridge exploded view (Image credit: Sony via Computer Base)

For those seeking pure read-only archival storage, the higher capacity of the second-generation Sony ODA at least brings it closer to parity with current hard drive storage.

IDF Shenzhen: Intel Demos 3D XPoint Optane File Copy at 2 GB/s

Subject: Storage | April 14, 2016 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: Optane, NVMe, Intel, idf

At IDF Shenzhen, Intel talked more about 3D XPoint (spoken cross-point). Initially launched in July of last year, 3D XPoint is essentially a form of phase change memory which has speeds closer to that of DRAM.

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It can be addressed at the byte level, unlike flash which transfers in pages (~8KB) and erases in blocks (~6MB). There have been a few demos since the initial launch, and this morning there was another:

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It is great to see XPoint / Optane technology being demonstrated again, but as far as demos go, this was not the best / fairest example that Intel could have put together. First of all, the 'NAND SSD' they are using is a Thunderbolt 3 connected external, which was clearly bottlenecked badly somewhere else in the chain (when was the last time you saw a 6 Gbit SATA SSD limited to only 283 MB/s?). Also, using SATA for the NAND example while using PCIe x4 NVMe for the Optane example seems a bit extreme to me.

The Optane side of the demo is seen going 1.94 GB/s. That is an impressive figure for sure, but it is important to note that a faster Intel 'NAND SSD' product has already been shipping for over a year:

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Yes, the P3700 (reviewed by us here), can reach the speeds seen in this demo, as evidenced by this ATTO run on one of our 1.6TB samples:

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Looking at the P3700 specs, we can see that the 2TB model performs even better and would likely beat the Optane SSD used in today's demo:

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Further, in the IDF 2015 demo (where they launched the Optane brand), Intel showed off Optane's random IO performance:

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This demo showed 464,300 4K random IOPS, and if you do the math, that works out to 1.9 GB/s *worth of random IO*, which is far more impressive than sequentials that basically match that of the current generation NVMe product of the same form factor and interface.

I'm still happy to see these demos happen, as it means we are absolutely going to see 3D XPoint in our hands sooner than later. That said, I'd also like to see demos that better demonstrate the strengths of the technology, because if today's demo was comparing apples to apples, it would have shown a P3700 matching the speed of Optane, which does not make the previously stated 1000x speed improvement nearly as obvious as it should be presented.

SanDisk's X400 series brings security as well as a more efficient controller

Subject: Storage | April 13, 2016 - 05:18 PM |
Tagged: sandisk, x400, tlc, M.2 SATA, 88SS1074-BSW2

SanDisk have updated their SSD lineup with the X400 family, available in sizes of 128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB all of which are available in 2.5" and M.2 form factors.  They have continued their tradition of adding a small SLC flash cache to the drive, with the majority of storage being TLC.  Inside you will find Marvell's 88SS1074-BSW2 four channel controller and 256MB of DDR3L-1600 and as you can see, a lot of extra space.  SanDisk also united their SSDs lines in the 400, with 256-bit AES on these drives there is unlikely to be a new generation of the 300s.  Check out KitGuru for the full performance numbers of this consumer level SSD.

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"The X400 family features SanDisk’s 6th generation 15nm Triple Level Cell TLC NAND and just like the previous X300 uses SanDisk’s nCache technology where some of the NAND runs in SLC mode to bolster performance."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: KitGuru

Micron and Intel Launch a Wave of Enterprise Storage Products

Subject: Storage | April 12, 2016 - 11:30 AM |
Tagged: vmware, ssd, S600DC, S3100, P3520, P3320, Nexenta, micron, Intel, D3700, D3600, Ceph, 9100, 7100, 5410s, 540s, 5400s

There has been a lot of recent shuffling about in the world of enterprise storage. I’m writing up this post from a Micron product launch event in Austin, Texas. Today they are launching a round of enterprise SSD products. These lines cover the full storage gamut from M.2 to U.2 to HHHL. While prior Micron SSDs were bottlenecked by AHCI and PCIe 2.0, these new lines are using Marvell controllers and are capable of PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds (plus NVMe).

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The workhorse of the lineup is the 9100, which will be available in HHHL and U.2 2.5” 15mm form factors.

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Lighter workloads are handled by the 7100 series, which is available in U.2 2.5” 7mm and M.2 22110. The slower serial bus remains covered by their S600DC SAS SSDs.

Micron is not the only company pushing further into this space. Less than two weeks ago, Intel ran their ‘Cloud Day’ event, where they launched a new Xeon CPU and a plethora of new SSDs, some of which were based on IMFT 3D NAND tech (SSD DC P3320). Intel also launched the client 540s and business 5400s product lines, which are based on Silicon Motion SM2256 controllers driving SK Hynix hybrid (SLC+TLC) flash. While these controllers and flash are coming from external sources, they must still pass Intel’s rigorous qualification and compatibility validation testing, so failure rates should be kept to a minimum.

Another aspect of this Micron launch day is their push into the production of not only SSDs, but all-flash storage devices. Dubbed ‘Micron Accelerated Solutions’, these are devices built, serviced, and supported by Micron. They naturally contain Micron SSDs, but also draw on other vendors like Supermicro and Nexenta. The products range from VMware SANs, to Ceph solutions capable of 1 million IOPS and 140 Gbps, to software-defined storage. I’ll be sitting through briefings and asking questions about these products when this post is set to go live, and I will update this space with any additional juicy tidbits once we wrap up for the day.

**Update**

Apparently we are going to see consumer IMFT 3D TLC NAND *this month* in the form of a Crucial MX300!

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...and in a couple of months we will see Crucial M.2 PCIe SSDs:

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There was also some discussion on XPoint (spoken 'cross point') and where Micron sees this new storage being implemented. Expected to see scaled production in 2017 and 2018, XPoint is non-volatile (like flash) but extremely fast (like DRAM). There was not much said beyond generalities, but they did have a wafer, and you know I love die shots:

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I was not permitted to get a better die shot of the wafer at this event, as the Micron rep specifically requested that journalists only use photos that were shot from stage distance. Fortunately, this was not the only event where I have photographed a XPoint wafer. Here is a photo I caught at a prior event:

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**End update**

Here is a quick breakdown of the products launched by both Intel and Micron over the last two weeks:

Intel:

  • SSD DC P3520 and P3320
    • First SSDs to use 256Gbit/die 32-layer IMFT 3D NAND.
    • PCIe 3.0 x4 HHHL and 2.5” U.2
    • 450GB-2TB
  • SSD DC D3700 and D3600
    • PCIe 3.0 x4 2.5” U.2 dual-port design.
      • Dual-port means two hosts can access a single SSD through the use of a special backplane that merges the PCIe lanes from two separate systems into a single U.2 connector. This is a move for increased redundancy, as one system can fail and the same flash storage will still be available to the failover system.
    • 800GB-1.6TB
  • SSD DC S3100
    • SATA 2.5” SLC+TLC hybrid for enterprise
      • Intended for boot OS / caching / index storage duties
    • 120GB-1TB
  • SSD 540s and Pro 5400s
    • Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix SLC+TLC hybrid flash
    • Pro 5200s adds Intel vPro / OPAL 2.0 and Microsoft eDrive support
    • 120GB-1TB
  • SSD E 5400s and E 5410s
    • Silicon Motion SM2256 + SK Hynix flash
    • Small capacity M.2 2280 and 2.5” SATA
    • 48GB-180GB

Micron:

That’s a whole lot of flash related product launches in a very short period of time. I’m excited to see large pushes into the enterprise because that means we will see this tech trickle down to consumers and power users that much sooner!

The Micron NVMe press release was a bit light on details, so I’ve included their Accelerated Solutions release after the break.

Source: Micron