Remember when buying a Blu-ray reader would double the value of your PC?

Subject: Storage | August 29, 2011 - 05:19 PM |
Tagged: plextor, PX-LB950UE, bluray, external drive

That isn't the case anymore as you can pick up the Plextor PX-LB950UE for $220 and plug it in externally to burn single or dual layer Blu-ray disks, as well as DVDs.  With both USB 3.0 and eSATA connections you should have no trouble with compatibility and you will want the fast transfer rates due to the volume of data that Blu-ray can handle.  Unfortunately PCStats could not get the Plextor to play back the movie that they were using for testing, no matter what software they tried to use to play it.  A diagnostic showed nothing wrong with the disk nor with the player and a Google search showed that many people have similar problems with a wide variety of disks and players.  They did have a very early version of the firmware; perhaps an updated version will resolve that particular problem.  Certainly something to keep in mind before picking up this external drive.

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"In recent weeks the talk of the town has been a sleek black external 12x Blu-ray WRITER from the folks at Plextor. The Plextor PX-LB950UE connects via USB 3.0 or eSATA cables and is capable of burning single layer Blu-ray Disk (BD) media at 12x, double layer BD media at 8x and DVD-R media at 16x speeds. In addition, it supports the playback of Blu-ray 3D movie titles. The bonus to going the Blu-ray writer route, is that BD-R media is even more useful than DVD media for archiving MASSIVE amounts of data."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: PC Stats

IBM Developing 120 Petabyte Water Cooled Storage Array

Subject: Storage | August 26, 2011 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: storage, Hard Drive, IBM, array

IBM knows how to go big or go home, and their Almaden, California research lab’s current storage project exemplifies that quite nicely. With a data repository that dwarfs anything we have today, IBM is designing a 120 Petabyte storage container. Comprised of 200,000 hard drives, the new storage device is expected to house approximately 1 trillion files or 24 billion 5MB MP3 files. To put that in perspective, Apple has sold 10 billion songs as of February 24, 2010; therefore, you could store every song sold since the Itunes Store’s inception twice and still have room for more!

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More specifically, the Almaden engineers have designed new hardware and software techniques to combine all 200,000 hard drives into horizontal drawers that are then all placed into rack mounts. In order to properly cool the drives, IBM had to make the drawers “significantly wider than usual” to cram as many disks as possible into a vertical rack in addition to cooling the disks with circulating water. On the software side of things, IBM has refined their disk parity and mirroring algorithms such that a computer can continue working at near-full speed in the event a drive fails. If a single disk fails, the system begins to pull data from other drives that held copies of the data to write to the replacement disk, allowing the supercomputer to keep processing data. The algorithms control the speed of data rebuilding, and are able to adapt in the event multiple drives begin failing.

In addition to physically spreading data across the drives, IBM is also using a new file system to keep track of all the files across the array. Known as the General Parallel File System (GPFS), it stripes files across multiple disks so that many parts of a files can be written to and read from simultaneously, resulting in massive speed increasing when reading. In addition, the file system uses a new method of indexing that enables it to keep track of billions of files without needing to scan through every one. GPFS has already blown past the previous indexing record of one billion files in three hours with an impressive indexing of 10 billion files in 43 minutes.

The director of storage research for IBM, Bruce Hillsberg stated to Technology Review that the results of their algorithms enables a storage system that should not lose any data for a million years without compromising performance. Hillsberg further indicated that while this 120 Petabyte storage array was on the “lunatic fringe” today, storage is becoming more and more important for cloud computing, and just keeping track of the file names, type, and attributes will use approximately 2 Terabytes of storage.

The array is currently being built for a yet-to-be-announced client, and will likely be used for High Performance Computing (HPC) projects to store massive amounts of modeling and simulation data. Project that could benefit from increased storage include global weather patterns, seismic graphing, Lard Hadron Collider (LHC), and molecular data simulations

Storage research has an amazing pacing, and seems to constantly advance despite pesky details like heat, fault tolerance, aerial density walls, and storage mediums. While this 120 Petabyte array comprised of 200,000 hard drives is out of reach for just about everyone without federal funding or a Fortune 500 company's expense account, the technology itself is definitely interesting and will trickle down advancements to the consumer drives.

Image Copyright comedy_nose via Flickr Creative Commons

Who will be the best USB 3

Subject: Storage | August 24, 2011 - 11:40 AM |
Tagged: usb 3.0, USAP, NEC/Renesas, fresco logic, etron, asmedia, amd

VR-Zone gathered every USB 3.0 controller they could get their hands on, including AMD's A75 chipset, the ASMedia ASM1042, the Etron EJ168A, the Fresco Logic FL1009, the NEC/Renesas µD720200, the Renesas µD720201 and the VLI VL800 ... everyone but TI essentially.  The NEC/Renesas is a bit different from the other controllers as it has implemented a not quite finished standard called USB Attached SCSI Protocol or UASP, something none of the other controller support.  That introduced some interesting results as not all USB 3.0 drives can support the protocol.  Another fly in the ointment were the cables, it seems that not all USB 3.0 cables are equal and some will cause you great frustration.  By the end of the review you will have a lot of data on how the controllers perform and the hit your CPU will take, but with no clear winner it is hard to hand out a performance crown.

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"Believe us when we say that this is one of the most epic reviews we've ever put together. Not because it was the hardest roundup we've ever done, but it's by far the most time consuming one and it doesn't even have anything to do with the benchmarks we ran. We thought it'd be a good idea to do a comparative review of the various USB 3.0 host controllers out there, as by now we've finally reached a stage where there's some competition in the market with at least three major players and a couple of smaller ones. VR-Zone is also proud to have a world exclusive first review of the upcoming Renesas D720201 host controller which is launching later this year as part of this roundup."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: VR-Zone

Drobo Improves Storage with new App-Driven Delivery

Subject: Storage | August 24, 2011 - 10:03 AM |
Tagged: drobo, SAS, BeyondRAID

SAN JOSE, Calif. – August 24, 2011 – Drobo, makers of award-winning data storage products for businesses and professionals, today introduced a new Drobo for business solution, the Drobo B1200i, which features technological breakthroughs and an unprecedented combination of automation, affordability and application awareness for the small and medium business (SMB) market.

The new 12-bay Drobo provides business customers with a unique storage solution for VMware, Microsoft Exchange and other business applications – offering advanced and sophisticated capabilities for customers without large enterprise budgets or deep storage expertise. The new Drobo takes an application-driven approach to storage, cutting cost and complexity while automating modern data protection, capacity planning and application performance.

The new Drobo B1200i builds on Drobo’s track record of providing “Small Box, Big Storage” by delivering a solution that is uniquely:

Automated

  • Automated BeyondRAID™ technology optimizes advanced data protection without the need for specific storage expertise or configuration
  • Automated thin provisioning and reclamation delivers enterprise-class expandability and storage utilization features in a simplified, automated manner
  • New, automated data-aware tiering solves performance tuning issues that have traditionally taken storage administrators weeks or months to address

Application-Driven

  • Adjusts in real-time to changes in application workload, without the need for user or admin intervention and tuning
  • Uniquely utilizes SSD technology in the same pool as conventional disk drives to accelerate the most demanding operations – automatically, based on application workload Affordable
  • Available at prices starting under $10,000 for 12 TB of SAS storage
  • The most efficient and cost-effective way to utilize SSD technology – unlike traditional tiering or SSD solutions, Drobo allows customers to incrementally add SSD drives in the same box and in the same storage pool as traditional media – resulting in optimal price-performance
  • Designed, like all Drobos, to be the easiest to use and most automated product in the market, resulting in reduced configuration and tuning time, and lower operating costs

 

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Availability
The new Drobo 12-Bay iSCSI SAN storage for business model B1200i is available now for purchase at http://www.Drobo.com and through select partners and resellers.

Source: Drobo

Kingston joins the SandForce club

Subject: Storage | August 19, 2011 - 12:03 PM |
Tagged: kingston, ssd, sandforce, SF-2281 controller

Kingston has moved on to the new SandForce 2281 controller and synchronous flash memory with their new series of HyperX SSDs.  Like previous models, cables and brackets and sometimes even ghosting software are included in the packaging in addition to a 3 year warranty.  The drive comes in two varieties of package, one is intended for those planning a complete reinstall of Windows when they add the SSD to their system.  The other is an upgrade kit, which has everything you need to move your OS onto the SSD, up to and including a USB casing to ease the transfer.  [H]ard|OCP has the scoop here.

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"Kingston's move into the SandForce SSD market is great news for the consumer. With its new HyperX branded solid state drives in hand, we take a look at these amazingly fast SSDs and examine if an SSD from Kingston should be on your short list for your next storage purchase."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Corsair Unveils Two New 90GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDs, A World's First

Subject: Storage | August 19, 2011 - 02:35 AM |
Tagged: ssd, ONFI, Force Series 3, corsair, asynchronous NAND, 90GB

Corsair recently added two new solid state drives to its SSD lineup. The new drives weight in at 90 GB, and make an interesting choice for those that need a bit more space than Corsair’s 60 GB drives provide but not enough to justify a higher priced 120 GB drive. Of the two drives, one will be labeled a Force Series 3 drive, and the other will be a Force Series GT SSD. Tweaktown quoted Corsair in stating:

“We're happy to add the world's first 90GB SSD to our product lineup. With 50% more storage capacity than our 60GB models and at pricing significantly lower than our 120GB models, they help make the Force Series 3 and Force Series GT among the most robust and flexible SSD lines on the market.”

The new 2.5” drives are powered by Sandforce 2281 controllers, and the SATA 3 (6Gb/s) interface. Using the benchmarking utility IOMeter 08, Corsair measured the IOPS (input/output operations per second) of the two drives to be 85,000. The Force Series 3 90GB SSD uses asynchronous NAND, and is capable of sequential read and write speeds of 550MB/s and 500MB/s respectively. On the other hand, the Force Series GT 90GB SSD uses ONFI synchronous flash, and features a slight performance edge with sequential reads of 555MB/s and sequential writes of 505MB/s.

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The 90GB SSDs supports SMART monitoring, the TRIM command, and have a MTBF (mean time before failure) of 2 million hours. Further, the drives carry a three year warranty. The drives are available now from authorized retailers with an MSRP of $159 for the Force Series 3 drive and $199 for the Force Series GT SSD.

Source: Tweaktown

Samsung Announces New 830 SATA 3 SSDs for Consumers

Subject: Storage | August 17, 2011 - 07:08 AM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, mlc, 830 SDD

Samsung today announced a new lineup of consumer solid state drives (SSD) with the SATA 3 (6Gb/s) interface called the SSD 830 Series. We reported last week on this series of SSD's OEM variant, the PM830 Series, and this week is the unveiling of the consumer versions.

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The new 830 SSD series builds on its Samsung 470 predecessors while upgrading the controller interface to SATA 3 (6Gb/s), providing twice the amount of available bandwidth. Further, the consumer drives differentiate themselves from the PM830 OEM versions in three distinct manners, including capacity sizes, exterior design, and bundled components.

On the aesthetic front, the 830 drives have a dark brushed aluminum body with a silver colored Samsung logo and orange corner accent, while the OEM PM830 drives are more simple in design with a dark casing and information sticker.

Further proving that the drives are meant for consumer usage, Samsung provides a full upgrade bundle that (in addition to the SSD itself) includes a copy of Norton Ghost to image an old drive onto the new SSD, a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter bracket, all the necessary cables, and detailed instructions on how to use the drive. A notebook oriented upgrade bundle will also be available that includes the SSD itself, manuals, Norton Ghost software, and a USB to SATA adapter to image the old drive onto the new SSD before switching the new drive into the laptop.

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The full upgrade kit for desktops.

The new 830 SSD lineup will come in consumer friendly capacities of 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB (for comparison, the OEM PM830 versions only come in capacities greater than 128GB).

Unfortunately, Samsung has not yet announced pricing or detailed specifications on the new drives, instead opting to withhold that information until the official product launch in October 2011. If the OEM versions are any indication on the speed front; however, the consumer versions are looking at MLC NAND capable of respectable 500MB/s read and 350MB/s write speeds.

Update 8/25/2011:  We recently came across a few more tidbits of information on the Samsung 830 consumer SSDs.  Specifically, the drives will be powered by a triple ARM9 based controller that is similar to their previous generations.  The NAND flash that the drives will use is 20nm class rated, which is marketing speak for any NAND manufacturing node that is between 20nm and 29nm.  In Samsungs case, they are likely utilizing 25nm MLC NAND for their 830 series drives.  Finally, the company will be releasing their own "software toolbox" to keep the SSDs healthy by performing secure erase, monitoring, and user adjustible over-provisioning.  Over-provisioning is a process that reserves a specificied amount of NAND cells so that the SSD controller can replace bad and/or worn out cells and keep performance and capacity at stable levels.

End of Update.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information on the new drives as we get closer to the official launch date.

Image credit: Samsung

Intel Releasing Firmware Fix For 8MB SSD Bug In Two Weeks

Subject: Storage | August 16, 2011 - 04:07 AM |
Tagged: ssd, Intel, firmware bug, 320

We reported a few weeks ago that Intel was able to reproduce the 8MB firmware bug in it's lab and was working on a fix.  Officially called the Bad Context 13x Error, the 8MB bug is a rather serious firmware issue that a small percentage of users ran into when their drives unexpectedly lost power due to improper shutdown procedures or power outage at an especially wrong time.  Once the drives were powered on again, they reported a capacity of 8MB to its users, who were able to restore the drive using secure erase but not the data.

Fortunately, a fix is on its way very soon, as Computer World quoted Intel in stating "the new firmware update is in final validation testing and is targeted for release on Intel Communities within the next two weeks."

Further, users will be able to apply the firmware fix without needing to secure erase the drive; however, none of the lost data can be recovered.  As with any drive, SSD or otherwise, be sure to perform regular backups to mitigate the amount of data one can lose in drive failure.  Intel is also recommending that users ensure they shut down their computers properly and to avoid unplugging the SSD from a powered on machine.

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information on the Bad Context 13x Error as it develops.  Until then, rest assured that a fix is on the way soon.

The Good, the bad and the ugly of SSDs

Subject: Storage | August 15, 2011 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: ssd, SF-2281 controller, sata 6Gps

The good and the bad are obvious, unparalleled transfer speeds and a very high price per gigabyte are familiar to anyone keeping up with the new storage medium.  The ugly is the reliability, as we have seen a variety of manufacturers and controllers spawn significant problems for users.  That is before you consider how long an SSD will last, something that we have yet to fully see the scope of as niether the technology nor the drives have been on the market long enough for MTBF to be tested in the real world.

If you are willing to risk the possible failures that some users have been seeing with the SF-2281 controller, AnandTech have rounded up several drives which use that specific controller.  Head over to see if you can pick a winner in this incredibly close race.

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"It's a depressing time to be covering the consumer SSD market. Although performance is higher than it has ever been, we're still seeing far too many compatibility and reliability issues from all of the major players. Intel used to be our safe haven, but even the extra reliable Intel SSD 320 is plagued by a firmware bug that may crop up unexpectedly, limiting your drive's capacity to only 8MB. Then there are the infamous BSOD issues that affect SandForce SF-2281 drives like the OCZ Vertex 3 or the Corsair Force 3. Despite OCZ and SandForce believing they were on to the root cause of the problem several weeks ago, there are still reports of issues. I've even been able to duplicate the issue internally."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: AnandTech

Samsung Announces New High Performance SSDs for Mobile

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2011 - 05:32 PM |
Tagged: ssd, SATA3, Samsung, mobile

Samsung recently announced volume production of a new lineup of SSDs using the fast SATA 3 (6Gb/s) interface and will be available in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB capacities.  The new SSDs are called the PM830 series, and Samsung expects the drives to replace their SATA 2 (3Gb/s) drives by year-end.

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Wanhoon Hong, executive vice president, memory sales & marketing, Device Solutions, Samsung Electronics stated that Samsung's new SSDs "will raise the performance bar to the next level for ultra-slim notebooks and tablets."  In addition, he believes that the new high capacity drives will spur competition in that segment and increase market interest in SSDs with greater-than 256GB capacities.

The new PM830 drives use Samsung's 20nm class (their term for a process node somewhere between 20 and 29), 32 Gigabit MLC NAND flash with a toggle DDR interface in addition to a proprietary controller.  Samsung claims that the controller and flash are able to take advantage of the SATA 6Gb/s interface by delivering 500MB/s sequential read speeds and 350MB/s sequential write speeds.  Further, the drive uses AES 256-bit encryption to secure private and corporate data.

The new SATA 6Gb/s solid state drives are targeted at OEMs for use in notebooks and tablets.  They are currently only available to OEMs; however, a consumer variant of the drive is forthcoming and will be announced at a later date.

Source: Samsung