Micron Announces Enterprise 9100 and 7100 NVMe PCIe SSDs

NVMe has been hailed as the next big storage protocol supplanting the aging ACHI that many SSDs still use. While NVMe is still slowly making its way into the consumer market, the enterprise segment has been readily moving forwards. In light of this Micron is updating their P420m and P320h lineup of SSDs with the new 9100 and 7100 series of drives with NVMe support.

With the larger model number, the 9100 is the higher performing and more costly model. It comes with a PMC-Sierra controller and boasts a high 27W TDP. The drive comes in both PCIe 3.0 x4 or U.2 formats with peak reads and writes at 3.0 GB/s and 2.0 GB/s respectively. Capacities range from 800GB to 3.2TB. Random read/writes are even more impressive at 750k/160k IOPS.

The Micron 7100 is a more mainstream product, utilizing a  Marvell 88SS1093 controller. This is Marvell’s first NVMe PCIe 3.0 controller and uses Micron’s custom firmware. The form factors and capacities are different too, with M.2 and U.2  peaking at 960GB and 1.92TB respectively. Speeds are respectable as well, peaking at 2.5GB/s and 900MB/s for read and write respectively. Random read/writes are pretty good at 235K/40K for the fastest variant though the large capacities suffer due having to use higher capacity NAND dies, reducing parallelism.

Lastly, Micron has chosen to use their latest 16nm MLC. I suppose their 3D NAND isn’t quite ready for prime time and TLC wouldn’t do for enterprise drives. Micron expected their 3D NAND enterprise SSDs to drop in the second half of 2016. You can find more information at Micron’s press release here.

Plextor Announces M7V Value SSD Range

Solid state drives have progressed at an extraordinary pace during the last few years and the latest NVMe products are capable of read speeds well beyond 2000MB/s. In comparison, the traditional SATA interface has a theoretical limit of 6Gb/s and offers significantly lower numbers than extreme M.2 drives. This is evident by the price differences between fairly affordable SATA SSDs and extreme grade NVMe products. Even though SATA drives with capacities up to 500GB can be relatively cheap, it’s still a significantly greater price to capacity ratio when compared to mechanical hard disks.

As a result, enthusiasts often purchase a 250-500GB SSD as a boot drive and mechanical disk for mass storage purposes. This exemplifies the fact that it’s going to be a while before high-capacity solid state drives become the norm and supersede mechanical alternatives. Furthermore, user data demands are increasing at a rapid rate due to 4K video and complex games. Despite this, Plextor is trying to offer more affordable options and decided to launch the M7V range. The drives are available in either an M.2 or 2.5-inch form factor and utilize the SATA3 interface. Plextor will launch 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB products which all use a Marvell 88SS1074B1 processor, wired to Toshiba 15 nm TLC NAND flash memory, and DDR3 DRAM caches of 256 MB, 512 MB, and 768 MB, respectively.

The 512GB M.2 variant features a higher 1GB DRAM cache and each model offers impressive transfer rates. More specifically, each model can achieve sequential reads up to 560MB/s and a maximum write of 500MB/s, 530MB/s and 530MB/s across each capacity. Depending on the capacity, you get a manufacturer rated TBW tolerance of 80 TB, 160 TB, or 320 TB.

Despite the budget focus, Plextor didn’t provide any details about the M7V’s pricing. Although, I expect this information to be revealed soon once it hits retail channels.

Lexar 512GB Portable SSD D512 USB 3.0 Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Today we are taking a closer look at fast external storage, more specifically Lexar’s newest portable SSD called the D512. Lexar also offers the drive in a smaller D256 version with 256GB capacity, but I have the pleasure to have to big 512GB model on the test bench today.

Right away we see that we have a small and compact drive which is perfect for a portable unit. On top of that, it is also a very light drive that you barely will notice when you have it packed next to the rest of your items. So we have a strong portable drive right of the start, but what about the performance. Performance has to match and that’s where a portable SSD shines over a flash drive. Both types of drives use NAND technology, but other than that there are big differences.

Lexar’s portable SSD is capable of sequential transfer speeds up to 450MB/s when reading and 245MB/s writing which is pretty nice for a portable storage solution that is as small and light as the D512. The is no official rating for random performance, but we’ll naturally have a look at that once we get the benchmarks rolling.

The tiny D512 provides plenty of space for you while you are on the go and travel about. Whether you want to take along you movie collect, music library, and photos, you’re covered with plenty of storage. It is also an optimal drive to unload all your vacation photos onto from memory cards and portable capture devices.

One of the unique things that come with the D512 is the capacity meter on the front. The first five LEDs act as such and will light up as the drive gets filled with data. This allows you an instant view on the drive fillage as soon as you plug it into your system. The second unique feature works in conjunction with Lexar’s other Workflow products. The new portable SSD uses the same form factor and connector which makes it compatible with the Workflow drive hubs. Just plug the drive in and you are good to go. I love the Workflow system so much and use it almost every day for my work here at eTeknix.

The drive is also highly compatible when it comes to volume setup as it supports both NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. On its own, the drive is fully plug-and-play and doesn’t require any drivers or tools of any sort. This naturally originates from USB standard that is plug-and-play by definition.

Lexar is part of the Micron Group which also means that the drive is equipped with some of the best NAND flash on the market and that has undergone high-grade quality checks before assembly.

Feature Highlights

  • SSD-level performance — up to 450MB/s read and 245MB/s write speeds
  • Sleek and compact design
  • Available in 256GB and 512GB capacity options
  • LED capacity meter displays available storage space
  • Great for use with Lexar Professional Workflow line products
  • Two-year limited warranty

Package and Accessories

Lexar packed the 512GB Portable SSD in a neat white box that shows the drive’s look and basic specifications on the top.

The bottom of the box also has the system requirements, which is a USB port, as well as the basic specification again, but in several languages.

Inside the box, you will find the portable SSD itself as well as a USB 3.0 cable.

Both sides of the drive are covered with a protective plastic film to make sure it arrives scratch-free in your hands. It also gives you that little bit of joy it is to remove the film from your brand new device.

Seagate Reveals 10GBps NVMe SSD

Even though they are one of the Big 2 HDD manufacturers, Seagate has not neglected the growing importance of NAND and flash storage. Starting off with their Seagate 600 series of SSDs, the company has focused on bringing their brand to the enterprise flash storage segment. In line with that, Seagate has just revealed what is most likely the fastest SSD made yet. With up to 10GBps of throughput, the new Nytro SSDs will be fastest yet.

Using the NVMe storage protocol, the top model uses PCIe 3.0 x16 for peak performance. This gives the drive 15.75GBps of bandwidth though peak performance is limited to 10Gbps. This is well beyond what other NVMe SSDs, even those utilizing PCIe 3.0 use. In fact, the Nytro will likely be twice as fast as it’s competitors, most of whom can’t even saturate PCIe 3.0 x4, let alone PCIe 3.0 x8.

For the more power and price sensitive customers, Seagate will be introducing a toned down version using PCIe 3.0 x8, with 7.88GBps of bandwidth and 6.7Gbps of peak sequential throughput. Despite being the second tier of performance, this model should still give most of Seagate’s competitors a run for their money, with few drives being capable of even theoretically matching it.

For now, there is no word on pricing but given the performance and enterprise segment, expect a hefty price tag. There is no word yet on the controller or NAND used nor random performance, a more important metric for SSDs than sequential performance.

SSD Reliability Study Shows SLC No Better than MLC

The first SSDs we had all used SLC or single level cell, holding 1 bit per cell. As SSDs grew more and more common and advanced,  different tech like MLC (multi-level cell) and TLC (triple-level cell) grew more common, with 2 and 3 bits per cell respectively. While consumers have mostly used MLC and TLC due to cost reasons, some, especially in the enterprise have stuck with SLC due to performance or reliability concerns. From a recent study though, it looks like the second factor really isn’t all that different between SLC and MLC.

According to the researchers from the University of Toronto and Google, over a 6 year period, SLC and MLC drives failed at about the same rate. This meant that despite a significantly lower durability to writes for MLC, it was still able to keep up with SLC. The biggest reason for failures was due to the age of the SSD and not the number of writes. This is somewhat expected as many SSD durability experiments have shown, that controller, firmware, NAND defect or other failures are more likely to take place before the NAND actually dies from too many writes.

The study also found that Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate specifications weren’t useful at all while Raw Bit Error Rate was, though the manufacturers were too conservative with their estimates. The biggest concern is that 30-80 percent of SSDs develop at least one bad block and 2-7 percent develop at least one bad chip in the first four years of deployment. This means while SSDs are unlikely to lose all their data at once like HDD failure does, they do tend to lose snippets of data here and there.

All this being said and done, most SSDs should be able to recover data from bad blocks and have enough spare that it doesn’t matter too much. The study was also done with enterprise drives which are used more often and hit harder. One big takeaway is that unless you want speed MLC is the way to go. The biggest takeaway is that instead of worrying about writes to your SSD, worry more about its age and keep a good backup plan going.

Western Digital Sticks to SanDisk Buyout as Chinese Investor Exits

Despite a major investor dropping out hard disk giant Western Digital(WD) is forging ahead with their plans to acquire fellow storage firm SanDisk. Originally announced 4 months ago, the original plan was for Western Digital to shell out $19 billion to take over SanDisk. That deal however, was contingent on Western Digital getting a $3.775 billion investment from the Chinese firm Unisplednour for a 15% stake, a deal that has now been terminated.

Under the original plan, WD would have paid $85.10 per SanDisk share, a figure that has dropped to $67.50. WD will be shelling out a bit more stock though since this backup plan was put in place as WD probably didn’t have enough cash on hand without the Unisplendour investment. The Chinese firm dropped its plans to take a 15% stake due to a investigation launched by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to determine if there was a national security risk in letting Western Digital and SanDisk come under Chinese influence.

While the new deal will see WD foot more of the bill, the investment does make a lot of sense. Even as HDDs remain relevant today, NAND and other forms of storage are growing stronger every day. If Western Digital is to remain relevant, it has to diversify and who better than SanDisk, a firm that ranks third in the NAND business along with it’s current and future partner Toshiba.

Samsung 750 EVO SATA SSD Goes Global

After introducing their latest SSD two months ago in China and Japan, Samsung is bringing their latest drive to the rest of the world. Based off of the long-standing TLC tradition at Samsung, the 750 EVO uses the latest planar 16nm TLC NAND to bring a more budget solution to the masses. Coming in the more budget oriented 120 and 250GB capacities, the latest drive will hit lower price points than it’s faster 850 EVO cousin. While the industry is starting to transition to 3D or V-NAND.

While the industry is starting to transition to 3D or V-NAND, planar NAND is still very much relevant and Samsung’s 16nm process is their latest. As the 850 and 850 EVO demonstrated, V-NAND carries a strong speed benefit over planar NAND, leading to better performance. Plain old TLC drives like the 840 tended to be slower than their MLC counterparts. Despite this, the use of the familiar SLC cache allows the 750 EVO manages to mask most of the performance differences compared to V-NAND, allowing it to match the 850 EVO in short, bursty workloads.

Still, a heavier workload would likely overwhelm the SLC cache and cause performance to drop to TLC levels. Other noteworthy specifications include the dual core MGX controller, 256MB of DDR3 cache and improved LDPC ECC and 256Gbit dies. Overall, by releasing a 16nm planar NAND based SSD will help Samsung develop and prepare for the day when 3D-NAND scales down to 16nm or even lower. Hopefully, the 750 EVO won’t inherit the read speed issue faced by the 840 EVO and the still unfixed 840.

Flash Memory Density Surpasses Traditional Hard Drives

SSDs are most definitely on the rise, being the go-to source of faster boots and the best loading experience for software and games. Traditional disk-based hard drives have always continued to rule the domain of mass storage, having advantages over SSDs in both areal density and price per Gigabyte. One of these advantages is about to become history now, with Micron revealing at the 2016 IEEE International Solid State Circuits Conference that its NAND flash storage had areal density beyond that of hard disk drives.

Micron is far from the only company aiming to improve the performance and density of flash storage. SSD market leader Samsung revealed in 2015 that their flash storage offerings had as much as 1.19Tbits per square inch (Tbpsi), predicting that by 2016, this could reach as much as 1.69Tbsi. Micron’s revelation of their 3D NAND technology had smashed the aims of Samsung, having reportedly demonstrated density as high as 2.77Tbpsi in their laboratory tests. This puts the 3D NAND head-and-shoulders above the densest HDDs around, which only offer around 1.3Tbsi, with many consumer drives offering as little as 850Gbsi despite using techniques like shingled magnetic recording to increase density.

Of course, many of the super-high density flash devices shown at ISSCC are definitely laboratory pieces and not consumer devices, SSDs that are on the market are definitely not far behind. Samsung announced last year that they had plans to release a 16TB SSD and Fixstars already offer a 13TB SSD costing a whopping $13,000. And while price per GB, HDDs still hold an advantage, the tables could be turned as soon as 2017, with the tumbling price of SDDs vastly outstripping the relatively stable price of hard drives.

What this all means is that the future could be bleak for the hard drive. With its main advantages of density and price set to vanish in the next few years, it is likely that we will see more and more SSDs appearing in both desktops and laptops. I for one look forward to the mass adoption of flash memory technology over the traditional hard drive as I doubt many will miss the times waiting for their hard drive to spin up or the painful sounds of their parts failing.

Image credit to Micron

Sony Enters SSD Market with Budget Offering

As SSDs become ever more mainstream, more and more mainstream companies are starting to jump into the market. So far, we’ve already seen AMD and Panasonic jump aboard with OCZ based SSDs and the market is getting a little more crowded with a new entrant. Sony has just announced their first consumer SSD, the simply named SLW-M. The drive comes in 2 capacities so far with 240 and 480GB options to test out the waters.

Based off of the Phison PS3110-S10 controller, the SLW-M uses Toshiba A19 TLC NAND backed by a 128MB DRAM cache. Phison is likely providing the whole solution to Sony with firmware and design bundled in. While sequential speeds are standard at 560 MB/s read and 530 MB/s write, the use of TLC with the already budget S10 controller reveals the budget nature of this drive. Expect performance to be similar to the OCZ Trion 100 but maybe a bit lower unless pseudo-SLC caching is enabled as well. Compared to HDDs though, the SLW-M should still be light years ahead.

One advantage Sony has is the pricing which is at $90 and $150 respectively for the 240 and 480GB models. While a bit higher than comparable drives, we can likely expect retail pricing to be a bit lower if history has taught us anything. Accessories include Sony’s SSD ToolBox which is a rebranded Phison ToolBox, Acronis True Image 2015 and a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter. Most importantly, the drive carries Sony’s brand which still carries a lot of weight in the Asian markets the drive currently sells in.

Toshiba Drops Chip Production in Favour of NAND

Even with the accounting scandal 6 months behind it, Toshiba is still finding its actions limited by the fallout. As a result of discovering that profits from many divisions had been exaggerated, the Japanese conglomerate has been cutting out parts that it once thought were profitable but actually weren’t. The latest cut comes as the LSI (Large Scale Integration) segment of chip production is being sold off and funds diverted to support more NAND investment.

Part of the LSI division was already pawned off last year when Toshiba sold their imaging sensor business to rival Sony. The company is facing financial troubles after posting a massive loss last year and sees NAND as the best bet going forward. The Development Bank of Japan has reportedly shown interest in purchasing the LSI business. This means Toshiba will no longer manufacture controllers for things cars, fridges, home appliances and industrial machinery.

Placing their bet in the NAND industry does make a lot of sense along with partner SanDisk, they among the elite 4 in NAND production. Their LSI business has just been costing them tons of money and marketshare isn’t that great. With purchases like OCZ, Toshiba stands a much better chance with NAND as the flash storage continues to grow in volume. It is unknown at this time if Toshiba will retain control of their chip production for their SSD controllers.

Lexar Releases A Bunch of New Flash Products

Lexar released a bunch of new flash-based products and we naturally also want to update you on these. While HDDs are the go-to medium for NAS and SSDs for the PC systems, we shouldn’t forget about our portable storage and mobile devices.

The drive pictured above is the first of Lexar’s new flash drives and it is actually an SSD, just an external one. We have previously reviewed Lexar’s Professional Workflow SSD in the same form factor and that is compatible with the Workflow drive dock system, and this new Lexar Portable SSD is compatible to that system too despite not being from the Professional Workflow series.

The compact and durable drive reads with up to 450MB/s and writes with up to 245MB/s, making it quick and easy to take your files on the go. The LEDs on the front work as capacity meter and the drive is available as 256GB and 512GB models. Since it’s a full-fledged SSD, the drive supports NTFS, FAT, and exxFAT without any trouble. The Lexar Portable SSD will be available in Q1 2016 with MSRPs of £120.99 (256GB) and £200.99 (512GB), a more than fair price.

The second new Lexar product is the 1800x microSD card with impressive speeds that hold up to even the most demanding tasks. The Lexar 1800x is available as 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB models and it leverages Ultra High Speed II (U3 technology) to provide you with the best experience. The card is capable of speeds up to 270MB/s read speeds and is designed for high-speed capture of extended lengths of 4K, 3D, and 1080p full-HD video and high-quality images.

Lexar’s Professional 1800x microSD UHS-II cards are already available with an MSRP of £65.99 (32GB), £109.99 (64GB), and £219.99 (128GB).

The next new Lexar product is quite ingenious. Whether you’ll want to call it a 3-in-1 drive or an Apple Lightning charging cable with built-in flash storage, you’d be right. The JumpDrive C20i is all that and also a USB 3.0 flash drive at the same time, completing the 3-in-1 scenario. The drive can read with up to 95 MB/s and write with up to 20 MB/s for easy expansion of your iPhone or iPad memory. The new JumpDrive C20i flash drive will be available in Q1 of 2016 and have MSRPs of £28.99 (16GB), £39.99 (32GB), £56.99 (64GB), and £79.99 (128GB).

The last new Lexar drive is a little more traditional and it is called the JumpDrive S45. The tiny nano-styled drive is designed for a plug-and-stay setup with its low profile. It is capable of speeds up to 150MB/s reading and 45MB/s writing and be available in capacities up to 128GB. An impressive capacity for a nano-drive. Depending on the capacity, the JumpDrive S45 comes in different colours: Orange, Blue, Teal, and black. Along with the JumpDrive S45, you also get the EncryptStick Lite software for 256-bit AES encryption of your content. The flash drive has MSRPs of £7.99 (16GB), £10.99 (32GB), £18.99 (64GB), and £28.99 (128GB) and will be available in Q1 2016.

Fixstars Launches World’s First 13TB SSD

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Fixstars has unveiled the world’s first 13TB 2.5-inch solid state drive, more than doubling the capacity of the next largest SSD of 6TB. There is a catch, however, and it’s a pretty big one: the Fixstars SSD-13000M will be priced at approximately $1-per-gigabyte, putting the cost of the 13TB drive at around $13,000, according to spokesperson Shien Zhu (via PC World).

The drive uses a SATA 6Gbps interface and is based around 15nm MLC NAND flash technology from Toshiba – a minority shareholder in Fixstars – but with a proprietary Fixstars controller that boasts faster sequential read and write speeds of up to 580/520 MB/s. The random read/write speeds are yet to be revealed.

The SSD-13000M will be sold directly via the Fixstars website, and not through other retailers. While Fixstars sees the drive as appealing to enterprise and business customers, anyone with $13k to burn can get their hands on one.

Competitors in the SSD market have indicated that they don’t plan to release a drive to compete with Fixstars’ 13TB drive in the immediate future, with SanDisk launching 6TB and 8TB SSDs this year, and Samsung releasing a 4TB SSD.

Fixstars has also revealed a 10TB iteration, the SSD-10000M, which is also expected to be priced at around $1-per-gigabyte. The release date for both SSDs is yet to be confirmed.

Transcend Introduces Full SLC SSD Lineup

Transcend revealed their SSD570 almost three months ago and now they’re ready with the full lineup surrounding the SSD570 SLC SSD and with most current form factors. SLC NAND has quite a few advantages over MLC and TLC NAND, but it also comes at a higher price and with less capacity. MLC NAND is used in mainstream and enthusiast drives while TLC NAND is used in the newer budget oriented drives for three times the capacity per chip used over SLC.

But Transcend’s new lineup is full of SLC drives that have the superior performance and reliability. There are normal 2.5-inch slim SSD drives and half sized case-less drives as well as mSATA and M.2 of various sizes. The 2.5-inch, half-slim, and mSATA versions come as both SATA3 and SATA2 drives while the M.2 come in two different lengths, 42 and 80 mm, but both SATA3 models and the default 22mm wide.

SLC NAND has a higher durability than MLC that is found in most consumer products and SLC can withstand up to 50,000 program and erase cycles at the same time as it can perform with up to three times the speed of MLC flash. On top of that comes a lower power consumption and error rates, making these perfect for mission critical applications.

The drives feature all the normal features such as S.M.A.R.T. function to monitor the drives health status, but they also feature more advanced features such as DevSleep. DevSleep is the newest power saving feature that sets the drive into the lowest possible power state. Transcend also added error correction code (ECC) and wear-leveling algorithms to these SLC SSDs. The final feature is necessary when we’re talking mission critical data, and that is the Power Shield function that ensures data integrity in the event of a sudden power loss.

The new line contains the SATA3 SSD570K and SATA2 SSD520 2.5-inch drives, the HSD570 SATA3 and SSD25H-S SATA2 half-slim SSDs. The SATA 2 and SATA3 mSATA SSDs are called MSA520 and MSA570 respectively while the M.2 drives are called MTS870 and MTS470.

Transcend Develops SuperMLC NAND Technology

Here I sat thinking that I knew all the terms for the different NAND technologies and then Transcend comes along with a new one that they have called SuperMLC. SuperMLC was developed as a more cost effective solution to SLC NAND with a performance that comes very close. In fact, the write performance is up to four times better than traditional MLC-based products.

Okay, I have to be honest right away and say that this technically isn’t a new form of NAND, we’re still dealing with Multi-Level Cell NAND chips. The difference comes down to how this NAND is handled by the SSD controller and its firmware. By using high-quality NAND chips and reprogramming the firmware, Transcend essentially created a cell-based RAID setup where the same data is stored in both bits in the same cell instead of having different data stored in the two. This naturally decreases the available capacity per NAND chip by half, but it also allows the drives to deliver a much better performance. In fact, the new SuperMLC has up to four times the sequential write performance when compared with traditional MLC NAND. It also brings better lifetime expectancy with up to 30,000 P/E cycles.

Transcend will release new drives based on this technology in early 2016 and they are all aimed at the enterprise sector where both initial costs and total costs of ownership really matters. That doesn’t mean that you can’t purchase these drives and use them in your personal setup, if that is something you are considering. Among the upcoming products with this brand new SuperMLC technology are a 2.5-inch SSD (SSD510K), an mSATA SSD (MSA510), a half-slim SSD (HSD510), and two M.2 SSD models. (MTS460 & MTS860).

What do you think of this way to utilize the NAND chips? Would this be an option you would be interested in, or do you prefer the normal MLC NAND for capacity or SLC NAND-based products for their reliability and performance? Let us know in the comments.

Micron Forecasts Surprise Loss In Current Quarter

Being one of the biggest DRAM and NAND manufacturers in the market, Micron have chugged along steadily, with the rise of smartphones and tablets helping offset the losses on the PC side. This is set to change very soon though with them forecasting a loss in the current quarter (Q4 2015), the first in a long while. The loss comes due to the naturally weak first quarter of the year, increased investments, pricing pressure and low demand.

Overall, they are expecting to lose between $50 to $120 million, or about 5-12 cents per share. This comes as revenues are expected to fall about $200 million short of analysts expectations. This comes after the company have made a number of acquisitions including Tidal Systems for their SSD controller and Inotera for their DRAM business. Micron is also investing heavily into TLC NAND, 3D XPoint and 3D NAND so it’s not as bad as it first may seem as the investments will hamper their fiscal results, but ultimately should pay off if the investments go as expected.

Coupled with the expected low PC demand, they are also facing heavy pricing pressure from competitors that has led huge price drops for both SSDs and DDR4 over the past few months. This is great news for consumers making DDR4 based systems much more affordable and open to a mini price-war involving Micron and their competitors. With increasing expenses in a time of falling revenues, it’s not surprising that Micron is facing some immediate trouble. The incoming investments though should help bump Micron back into the black soon enough and we will be monitoring this story closely as it develops in the near future.

Do you own any Micron products yourself? The company portfolio includes Crucial for consumer based memory and storage, Micron themselves for enterprise and business class products and Lexar Media who manufacturer flash memory for cameras and recording equipment.

ADATA Launches the ICFS332 CFast Card with SLC and 560MB/s Throughput

Industrial grade products gain their name because they are able to work in much harsher environments than ordinary parts and that is no different when it comes to storage. AData just released a new ICFS332 industrial grade CFast card for that delivers SSD performance and reliability in a very compact form factor.

The ICFS332 CFast card utilizes the SATA3 interface to deliver speeds up to 560MB/s while reading and impressive 400MB/s when writing. The ICFS332 uses SLC NAND that also provides the best reliability, also visible in the 2 million hour mean time before failure rating.

As previously mentioned, industrial applications are run in environments that are a lot harsher, which isn’t a problem for the Adata ICFS332 CFast card that can operate in temperatures between minus 40 degrees and plus 90 degrees Celcius. The cards allow for long-term deployment in these conditions, making the optimal system drives here.

The AData ICFS332 is available in 4GB to 64GB capacities and employs a full range of technologies including ECC and S.M.A.R.T. for high-reliability data transfer and improved security, but also more advanced wear leveling technology to extend the longevity. They come with open API (application programming interface) support that allows customer implementation of intuitive interfaces to easily manage data, monitor storage health, customize features, and integrate web services.

Corsair Silently Launched Force LE SSD Product Page

As I was surfing around the internet tonight, looking what’s new and what I might have missed, I came across a product page that I hadn’t seen before. I quickly checked my press releases and couldn’t find anything there either and that is rare. The new product that Corsair silently listed on their website is the Corsair Force LE solid state drive built with the latest TLC NAND technology.

Triple-Level-Cell NAND allows for bigger drives at a lower cost without sacrificing much performance, allowing more users to enter the world of SSDs and reap the benefits of solid storage over mechanical ones. The Corsair Force LE is listed with great features such as SmartECC and SmartRefresh for reliable data retention and error correction, low power consumption thanks to TLC and DEVSLP power saving mode as well as dynamic wear-leveling and garbage collection. Corsair’s SSD Toolbox software is also listed to be compatible with these new drives.

You will be able to get the Corsair Force LE with 240GB, 480GB, and 960GB capacity and the series is rated for up to 560MB/s sequential reads and 530MB/s writes. The random QD32 performance is rated at 85K IOPS reading and 60K IOPS writing; those aren’t bad figures at all.

The drive is backed by a 3-year warranty and the 960GB model has a TBW rating of 240TB, 0.87 drive writes per day (DWPD). There was no price or availability listed on the product page.

Western Digital Just Bought SanDisk

Western Digital is one of the leading factors in traditional storage, both for consumers and enterprises alike, but a lot of the future will be in solid state drives and they naturally don’t want to be left out of that race. Western Digital isn’t entirely new to the solid state area and they already have products that utilize NAND. That position should be strengthened even more now that they have acquired SanDisk. The purchase is composed of both cash and stock.

“The offer values SanDisk common stock at $86.50 per share or a total equity value of approximately $19 billion, using a five-day volume weighted average price ending on October 20, 2015 of $79.60 per share of Western Digital common stock. If the previously announced investment in Western Digital by Unisplendour Corporation Limited closes prior to this acquisition, Western Digital will pay $85.10 per share in cash and 0.0176 shares of Western Digital common stock per share of SanDisk common stock; and if the Unisplendour transaction has not closed or has been terminated, $67.50 in cash and 0.2387 shares of Western Digital common stock per share of SanDisk common stock. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies.”

At around 19 billion, this is certainly no small deal. Western Digital will gain a company with 27-years of experience in some of the best and most impressive NAND products and create a stable future for the company where they can compete on all fronts, including the NVMe based drives that we’d all like to have these days. With 15 thousand combined patents between them, they also have a strong foundry against the fierce competition in the storage market.

The transaction is still subject to approval by SanDisk shareholders, but both boards of directors in the two companies have agreed. The deal is expected to get finalized in the third quarter of 2016.

Transcend Launches CFast 2.0 CFX700 Memory Cards

Transcend’s newest memory card may not be the largest with a capacity of just 16GB and 32GB, but it is definitely a fast one with transfer speeds of up to 530MB/s and the new Transcend CFX700 memory cards based on the new CFast 2.0 technology can be proud of that.

The new memory cards are built using SLC NAND and utilize the SATA3 interface, which is why they can perform as great as they do. The sequential read speed can reach up to 530 MB/s and the sequential write reaches 260 MB/s on the 32GB Transcend CFX700 memory card. The cards also come with a lot of features you normally find in SSDs, such as S.M.A.R.T., global wear leveling, built-in ECC functionality, and Device Sleep.

The new Transcend CFX700 series is designed for use in embedded systems where they can enhance the overall performance greatly. They are also designed to run in harsh environments and have a working temperature between  -5°C and 70°C. The memory cards provide superb performance here and would be optimal suited as a boot disk, making it a great alternative of a SSD in regards to its lower power consumption and higher portability while they still perform just as good.

Transcend’s CFast 2.0 CFX700 memory cards are available in 16GB and 32GB capacities and are backed by a three-year limited warranty. If you rather want a card with MLC NAND instead, Transcend already has that covered with the CFX600 memory cards.

 

Tsinghua Group Look to Acquire SanDisk and Toshiba

China is looking to expand heavily into the storage industry with the latest acquisition rumour. According to the report, Tsinghua Group, a Chinese government-controlled investment group is looking into acquiring either SanDisk or Toshiba to get access to their NAND technology. Both Toshiba and SanDisk currently work together in a joint venture to research, develop and produce NAND memory. Other notable NAND firms are Intel and Micron (IMFT), Samsung and SK Hynix.

Tsinghua Group had earlier been looking to buy up Micron Technologies, another major NAND player. Those talks over a $23 billion deal fell apart after the US government stepped in over national security concerns. This time around, the United States won’t be able to intervene as neither firms are American. SanDisk a South Korean firm while Toshiba is Japanese. Still both of those countries may still have some issues about national security.

Of the two, it is most likely for a South Korean SanDisk deal to go through. Those two nations are on friendlier terms relatively speaking and South Korea still has Samsung and SK Hynix to rely on for national security procurement. Whether or not South Korea will want to see on their tech firms go foreign is an entirely different matter.

Thank you DigiTimes for providing us with this information 

Micron Buys Tidal Systems – Acquires In-House SSD Controller

Right after announcing their 16nm TLC plans, Micron has acquired an SSD controller firm. Tidal Systems, made up of engineers from Link-A-Media Devices (LAMD) and SandForce was founded last year and has managed to create 2 of their own SDD controllers already. With in-house controllers, Micron will be able to iterate more quickly and provide a more unified SSD platform.

For the longest time, Micron has had to rely on third-party controllers to power their SSDs. While Silicon Motion does provide a somewhat complete controller and firmware package, Micron’s main supplier Marvell does not. This has meant that Micron has long had to write their own firmware for most of their SSDs. With the controller now in-house as well, Micron has room to reduce costs and also build on their long expertise in writing firmware.

Tidal Systems also brings their expertise around Low-Density Parity Check (LDPC) to the table. As NAND transitions to use TLC (Triple-Level Cell) and QLC (Quad-Level Cell) on ever smaller lithographies, the number of errors is sure to go up. With LDPC, SSD makers will be able to offset some of the error and endurance issues.

Even with Tidal Systems in-house now though, don’t expect any Micron drives to ship with the new controllers anytime soon. Toshiba took quite a while to integrate their OCZ controllers with their drives. With this purchase, it only leaves SanDisk as a major NAND and SSD producer without their own controller. It is critical though that SanDisk has been able to do the most with Marvell controllers, leveraging their in-house firmware to eek out performance that rival’s Samsung’s.

Thank Tom’s Hardware for providing us with this information 

Micron to start selling TLC SSDs this quarter

Micron Technologies is finally moving into the TLC (Triple-Level Cell) NAND market, with shipments of consumer SDDs starting in Q4 this year. TLC is generally cheaper than MLC, holding up to 3 bits compared to the 2 with the older technology. This allows for cheaper SSDs as it requires fewer NAND dies to reach a certain capacity compared to MLC. By Q3 2016, Micron is expecting about 50% of their SSDs will be using TLC.

Along with Intel, Micron’s joint venture IMFT has largely focused on shrinking the process with MLC in order to gain die savings. IMFT was one of the earliest NAND producers to reach 20 and 16nm. On the other hand, SanDisk/Toshiba and Samsung have long been using TLC in their SSDs, preferring to move to new processes slower. Samsung for instance, released their first TLC  drive back in 2013 and SanDisk their’s in 2014.

Combining their leading 16nm process with TLC should offer great savings for SSD buyers. TLC does come with a number of drawbacks though, most notably lower endurance and performance. TLC generally only can last 1,000 P/E (program/erase) cycles while MLC dos much better at 3,000. Even with only 1,000 cycles though, TLC should be more than enough for most consumers, especially if a bit of extra NAND is set aside. On the performance front, a caching system like those used in the Samsung 840/850 EVO or SanDisk Ultra II can mitigate most of the issues. Micron first trialed their caching system with the MX200 which should be a great starting point to work from for the TLC drives.

Micron has not yet revealed any details for their TLC drives. Intel too, given their joint IMFT venture may be trying out TLC drives in the near future. Combined with 3D XPoint and 3D NAND from SanDisk/Toshiba, 2016 should be a pretty good year for SSDs.

Toshiba Introduces Q300 and Q300 Pro SSDs

Toshiba announced two new internal solid state drive series with large capacity and great performance. The two new drives are the Q300 series built for a balance of performance and value and the Q300 Pro series aimed at the enthusiasts and gamers. Both drives are built with Toshiba’s own controllers and NAND, and they use Adaptive Sized SLC cache technology to increase the performance.

The Toshiba Q300 series is built with Triple-Level-Cell (TLC) NAND and it uses the TC358790 controller. The Q300 comes with capacity options up to 960GB, making it an ideal upgrade from that old, slow, and loud mechanical hard drive. This SSD delivers quiet operation, low power consumption, and tough shock resistance for greater long-term durability. All in a 7mm 2.5-inch design and backed by a 3-year warranty.

The Toshiba Q300 Pro series is built for those that need that extra bit of performance. It has a Toshiba TC58NC1000 controller and Toshiba’s own 2-bit MLC NAND on the insides. That brings greater performance over the TLC NAND, but also a capacity reduction and the Q300 Pro is only available up to a size of 512GB.

The sequential performance is almost equal between the two drives. The Q300 can read with 550MB/s and write with 530MB/s while the Q300 Pro reads and writes with 550MB/s and 520MB/s. When we look at the random performance, we see that the drives aren’t so equal anymore. The Q300 has a random performance rating up to 87K/83K IOPS read/write where the Q300 Pro does 92K/63K IOPS.

The endurance rating is another place where the two differentiate. The 512GB Pro model has an endurance of 320TB total bytes written while the Q300 480GB drive only has a rating of 120TB total bytes written. That is a difference. The Pro model also consumes less power, making it a more optimal choice for notebook users. The last difference between the two is the warranty and the Q300 Pro offers an additional 2-years, making it 5-years in total for the Q300 Pro versus the 3-years for the Q300.

The new Toshiba Q300 and Q300 Pro series SSDs are available now. The MSRP for the Q300 Pro Series is $124.99 for 128GB, $199.99 for 256GB, and $389.99 for 512GB. The Q300 Series has an MSRP of $99.99 for 120GB, $159.99 for 240GB, $309.99 for 480GB, and $449.99 for 960GB.

OCZ RevoDrive 400 Revealed: NVMe Speeds for M.2

While we’ve long had M.2 SSDs, those drives have often been limited to either SATA speeds or suffered from the legacy AHCI protocol. In order to get around the legacy standard, consumer SSDs are starting to pick up NVMe, a new storage protocol designed for flash. OCZ is set to bring their own contender to the M.2 market by offering the OCZ RevoDrive 400, the first NVMe M.2 SSD.

We’ve seen what NVMe is capable of with the PCIe version of Intel’s 750. Now with 4 lanes of PCIe 3.0 through the M.2 connector, the RevoDrive can finally make use of those M.2 slots on many motherboards, giving much-needed speed without having to use up a PCIe slot. Read speeds are set to hit  2000MB/s and write speeds around 1600MB/s – 2000MB/s, pretty close to the Intel 750.

Given that OCZ is now owned by Toshiba, it’s interesting that this comes so soon after Toshiba announced their own M2. NVMe SSD from the BG1 family. Those drives however, were targetted more for OEMs and enterprise rather than consumers. At this point, all we know about the RevoDrive 400 is that it uses a Toshiba controller and 15nm MLC NAND.

No word is available on pricing but we can expect prices to probably fall near the Intel 750 so don’t expect this to be a budget drive. Intel does have one important advantage as the RevoDrive 400 maxes out at 1TB while the 750 goes a bit higher; it’s not quite fair to compare the two different form factors, though. No launch date has been revealed at this time.

Thank you TechReport for providing us with this information 

Intel Projects 100TB+ SSDs by 2019

Intel IDF 2015 is the gift that just keeps on giving. We’re still going through all the information Intel released during the event and now we have a prediction on the future of SSDs. As many of you know, Intel is quite active in the SSD market, with their enterprise and consumer drives. Intel also has a stake in IMFT, a joint venture with Micron to produce NAND. Given this, Intel is projecting that SSDs will be over 30TB by 2018 and surpass 100TB in 2019. Compared to Toshiba’s expectations, these are pretty conservative.

In order to drive demand for such huge drives, Intel is expecting datacentres and the enterprise segment to adopt more and more flash storage. Right now, SSDs are generally only used to cache “hot” data, with the majority of storage still being hard drives. As workloads change, Intel is expecting SSDs to be used more and more as speed and latency become more important and replace hard drives for data storage. Another aspect is that as NVMe gains traction, the reduced overhead and better speeds/latency will further exaggerate the differences between SSDs and HDDs.

With the arrival of 3D Xpoint and faster 3D NAND technologies, it looks like Intel is planning on moving SSDs to both replace some of what DRAM does while also replacing hard drives. With SSDs taking the consumer and enterprise segments by storm, hard disk drive manufacturers should probably hurry with their HAMR developments. Even if SSDs are wildly successful, I don’t see hard drives disappearing just yet as long as they can compete on price. You can find Intel’s full presentation here.

SK Hynix Earmarks $26 Billion for Capacity Expansion

With the many stories about SSD price parity and the ever increasing size of SSDs, one imagines that NAND production will have to increase dramatically to fuel such gains. This is just the case as SK Hynix just announced plans to spend $26 billion to build 2 new semiconductor manufacturing facilities. This investment comes on top of an already large $13 billion investment in the new M14 DRAM facility set to come online in 2017. SK Hynix is expecting the two new facilities to be operational by 2024.

Even with such large investment from SK Hynix and competitors like Samsung, SanDisk/Toshiba and IMFT, analysts are not predicting a sharp drop in DRAM or NAND prices. On one hand, there is the fact that the few players aren’t keen to enter into a destructive race to the bottom just yet as along as their marketshare remains stable. It’s only once the NAND and DRAM markets stop growing will we see a massive price war start up. Given the increasing adoption of both mobile computing devices and SSDs in general, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Even without a massive price drop, NAND and DRAM prices should continue to fall as manufacturers transition to 3D NAND and ever lower processes. The biggest question is if 3D Xpoint will revolutionize the industry or not.

Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information 

Toshiba Wants 128TB SSDs with QLC and BiCS by 2018

 

Remember those 6TB and 8TB SSDs some vendors have planned for next year? You can ignore those, because pretty soon, we’re going to get drives that are going 16x as large. At least that is what Toshiba is planning on releasing in 2018. With capacities like those, hard drives will lose both the capacity and speed wars, relying solely on their price to compete. With enterprise 128TB drives being the norm then, maybe consumer grade drives will also benefit from a price drop as well.

In order to get to those unprecedented sizes, Toshiba is banking on two “new” developments, quad-level cell (QLC) and  BiCS (bit cost scalable) 3D NAND, to drop the price of flash enough to make these drives both possible technically and financially. It looks like price parity will be coming pretty close to on time if Toshiba and other NAND producers manage to master both QLC and BiCS .

QLC as the name implies allows NAND cells to store 4 bits per cell, doubling capacity over current MLC and adding 33% more over TLC. BiCS (bit cost scalable) 3D NAND is Toshiba and SanDisk’s 3D NAND offering with the stacking of layers to improve density without raising the cost too much. With 3D NAND, older processes can be used and more bits stuffed into each die. Combined with QLC, this can create pretty high density per die. The decreased performance and durability of QLC compared to MLC and TLC can also be partially offset by the use of 3D NAND.

Besides having to develop all new controllers to address all that capacity, Toshiba will probably have to make improvements throughout their SSDs. Datacenters will also have to figure out new ways to utilize such large SSDs and it’s possible a new connection protocol will have to be developed as well, though PCIe 4 might suffice. Even if there are some delays and technical difficulties, HDDs are going to have a hard time competing with these SSDs. Seagate and WD will have to hope HAMR does pan out or their business may soon end.

Thank you Nordic Hardware for providing us with this information