Archive for October 2010
Building upon the original 1st-generation RevoDrive, the new version boasts speeds up to 740 MB/s and up to 120,000 IOPS, almost three times the throughput of other high-end SATA-based solutions.
One cannot make this stuff up, two weeks ago Angelbird announced its bootable PCI Express SSD. Late yesterday OCZ one of the biggest 3rd party after market makers of SSDs announces a new PCI Express SSD which is also bootable. Big difference between the Angelbird product and OCZ’s RevoDrive is the throughput on the top end. This means if you purchase the most expensive fully equipped card from either manufacturer you will get 900+MBytes/sec. on the Angelfire versus 700+MBytes/sec. on the Revodrive from OCZ. Other differences include the ‘native’ support of the OCZ on the Host OS. I think this means that they aren’t using the ‘virtual OS’ on the embedded chips to boot so much as having the PCIe drive electronics make everything appear to be a real native boot drive. Angelbird uses an embedded OS to virtualize and abstract the hardware so that you get to boot any OS you want and run it off the flash memory onboard.
The other difference I can see from reading the announcements is that only the largest configured size on the Angelbird that gets you the fastest throughput. As drives are added the RAID array is striped over more available flash drives. The OCZ product also does a RAID array to increase speed, however they hit the maximum throughput at an intermediate size (~250GByte configuration) and at the maximum size too. So if you want an ‘normal’ to ‘average’ size storage but better throughput you don’t have to buy the maxed out most expensive version of the OCZ RevoDrive to get there. Which means this could be a more manageable price for the gaming market or for the PC fanboys who want faster boot times. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not recommending buying an expensive 250GByte RevoDrive if a similarly sized SATA SSD costs a good deal less. No far from it, the speed difference may not be worth the price you pay. But, the RevoDrive could be upgraded over time and keep your speeds at the max 700+MBytes/sec. you get with its high throughput intermediate configuration. Right now, I don’t have any prices to compare for either the Angelbird or OCZ Revodrive products. I can tell you however that the Fusion-io low end desktop product is in the $700-$800 range and doesn’t come with upgradeable storage, you get a few sizes to choose from, and that’s it. If either of the two products ship at a price significantly less than the Fusion-io product everyone will flock to them I’m sure.
Two other significant features touted by both product announcements are the SandForce SF-1200 flash controller. Right now that controller is the de facto standard high throughput part everyone is using for the SATA SSD products. There’s even an intermediate part on the market called the SF-1500 (their top end offering). So it’s de rigeur to include the SandForce SF-1200t in any product you hope to sell to a wide audience (especially hardware fanboys). However, let me caution you that in the flurry of product announcements and always keeping an eye on preventing buyers remorse, SandForce did announce very recently a new drive controller they have labelled the SF-2000 series. This part may or may not be targeted for the consumer desktop market, but depending on how well it performs once it starts shipping you may want to wait and see if the revision of this crop of newly announced PCIe cards adopts the SandForce controller chip to gain the extra throughput it is touting. The new controller is rated at 740MBytes/sec. all by itself, with 4 SSDs attached to it on a PCIe card, theoretically four times 740 equals 2,096 and that is a substantially large quantity of data coming through th PCI Express data bus. Luckily for most of us the PCI Express interface on a 4X (four lane) data bus has a while to go before it gets saturated by all this disk throughput. The question is how long will it take to overwhelm the a four lane PCI Express connector? I hope to see the day this happens.
Intel, Dell, EMC, Fujitsu and IBM are forming a working group to standardise PCIe-based solid state drives SSD, and have a webcast coming out today to discuss it.
Now this is interesting in that just two weeks after Angelbird pre-announces its own PCIe flash based SSD product, now Intel is forming a consortium. Things are heating up, this is now a hot new category and I want to draw your attention to a sentence in this Register article:
By connecting to a server’s PCIe bus, SSDs can pour out their contents faster to the server than by using Fibre Channel or SAS connectivity. The flash is used as a tier of memory below DRAM and cuts out drive array latency when reading and writing data.
This is without a doubt the first instance I have read that there is a belief, even just in the minds of the author of this article, that Fibre Channel and Serial Attached SCSI aren’t fast enough. Who knew PCI Express would be preferable to an old storage interface when it comes to enterprise computing? Lookout world, there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is PCIe SSD. This product category though will be not for the consumer end of the market at least not for this consortium. It is targeting the high margin, high end, data center market where interoperability keeps vendor lock-in from occurring. By choosing interoperability everyone has to gain an advantage not through engineering necessarily but through firmware most likely. If that’s the differentiator than whomever has the best embedded programming team will have the best throughput and the highest rated product. Let’s hope this all eventually finds a market saturation point driving the technology down into the consumer desktop, thus enabling a next big burst in desktop computer performance. I hope PCIe SSD’s become the next storage of choice and that motherboards can be rid of all SATA disk I/O ports and firmware in the near future. We don’t need SATA SSDs, we do need PCIe SSDs.
From Tom’s Hardware:
Extreme SSD performance over PCI-Express on the cheap? There’s hope!
A company called Angelbird is working on bringing high-performance SSD solutions to the masses, specifically, user upgradeable PCI-Express SSD solution.
This is one of a pair of SSD announcements that came in on Tuesday. SSDs are all around us now and the product announcements are coming in faster and harder. The first one, is from a British company named Angelbird. Looking at the website announcing the specs of their product, it is on paper a very fast PCIe based SSD drive. Right up there with Fusion-io in terms of what you get for the dollars spent. I’m a little concerned however due to the reliance of an OS hosted in the firmware of the PCIe card. I would prefer something a little more peripheral like that the OS supports natively, rather than have the card become the OS. But this is all speculative until actual production or test samples hit the review websites and we see some kind of benchmarks from the likes of Tom’s Hardware or Anandtech.
Iomega threw itself into external solid-state drives today through the External SSD Flash Drive. The storage uses a 1.8-inch SSD that lets it occupy a very small footprint but still outperform a rotating hard drive:
Read more: http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/10/15/iomega.outs.external.usb.30.ssd/
The second story covers a new product from Iomega where we have for the first time an external SSD from a mainstream manufacturer. Price is at premium compared to the performance, but if you like the looks you’ll be willing to pay. It’s not bad speeds for reading and writing, but it’s not the best compared to the amount of money you’re paying. And why do they still use a 2.5″ external case if it’s internally a 1.8″ drive? Couldn’t they shrink it down to the old Firefly HDD size from back in the day? It should be the smaller.
Tuesday Samsung announced that it had begun mass-producing the industry’s first 3-bit-per-cell, 64 Gb (8 GB) MLC NAND flash chip using 20-nm-class processing. The news follows Samsung’s introduction of 32 Gb (4 GB) 3-bit NAND flash using 30-nm-class processing last November, and the company’s 32 Gb MLC NAND using 20-nm-class processing unleashed in April.
Samsung’s product development keeps arriving faster and harder each revision of the product cycle. And competition is not slowing down. There are at least two other big flash memory manufacturers who are moving into the ~20nm-class of flash memory too. So three big manufacturers all manufacturing roughly the same ‘feature size’ and Apple sucking up all the supply. If it’s possible for an oversupply to occur it won’t be until next year I am sure and then hopefully prices will start to fall somewhat for the SSD market. Also add to this the Apple style packaging of multiple 64Gbit chips sandwiched one on top of the other to keep everything tidying in one small footprint and you have got ultra dense chips going into products now. In the iPhone and iPad they can layer up to 8 or 16 of those chips into one physical package to save room. This means we could see iPhones hitting 64Gbytes of storage and the iPad could reach 128Gbytes. It will truly be a new day once both of these devices hit these levels of storage. Consider my Mac mini from 2008. It has a spinning hard drive that is only 80Gbytes total. That my friends is a revolution in the making.
SandForce has now announced an SF-2000 controller that doubles up the I/O performance of the SF-1500. The new product runs at 60,000 sustained read and write IOPS and does 500MB/sec when handling read or write data. It uses a 6Gbit/s SATA interface and SandForce says it can make use of single-level cell flash, MLC or the enterprise MLC put out by Micron.
Sandforce is continuing to make great strides in its SSD disk controller architecture. There’s no stopping the train now. But as always read the fine print on any SSD product you buy and find out who manufactures the drive controller and what version it is. Benchmarks are always a good thing to consult too before you buy.
“We believe the issue is resolved as we have expanded the database threshold to more than 1 trillion records. In the meantime, we are working with Microsoft to develop a warning system on database thresholds so we can anticipate these issues in the future.”
This is the key phrase regarding the recent event where BI stopped sending out alerts for the criminals it was tracking on behalf of police departments around the country. A company like this should do everything it can to design it’s systems for tracking so an eventuality like this doesn’t happen. How long before they bump up against the 1 Trillion record limit? I ask you. Let’s go back to the original article as it was posted on the BBC Online:
Thousands of US sex offenders, prisoners on parole and other convicts were left unmonitored after an electronic tagging system shut down because of data overload.
BI Incorporated, which runs the system, reached its data threshold – more than two billion records – on Tuesday.
This left authorities across 49 states unaware of offenders’ movement for about 12 hours.
BI increased its data storage capacity to avoid a repeat of the problem.
Prisons and other corrections agencies were blocked from getting notifications on about 16,000 people, BI Incorporated spokesman Jock Waldo said on Wednesday.
So the question I have a question as to how 16,000 people results in 2 Billion records in the database? Is that really all they are doing? How much old junk data are they keeping for legal purposes or just because they can keep it for potential future use? And how is it that a company depends on Microsoft to bail them out of such a critical situation. These seems like a very amateurish mistake. And could have been avoided by anyone with the title of Database Administrator who monitors the server on a regular basis. They should have known this thing was hitting an upper limit months ago and started rolling out a new database and moving records into it. This also shows the fundamental flaw in using SQL based record keeping for so-called real time data. Facebook gave up on it long ago as did Google. Rows and Tables and real time updates, doesn’t scale well. And if you cannot employ a Database Administrator to tell you when you are hitting a critical limit, but are dumping it off on the vendor, well good luck with that one guys.
Microsoft hasnt been granted the patent despite it having been first filed in September 2004, but it may face challenges to the claims from companies that began using GPU video encoding independently after the patent application was filed but before it was published.
Given that it took nVidia quite a while before they got any developers to work on shipping products that took advantage of their programmable GPUs (the CUDA architecture), it’s a surprise to me that Microsoft even filed a patent on this. Previously I have re-posted some press releases surrounding the products known as Avivo (from ATI/AMD) and Badaboom, which was designed to speed up this very thing. You rip a DVD and you want to save it to a smaller file size or one that’s compatible with a portable video player. But it takes forever on your computer, so what’s a person to do? Well thanks to nVidia and product X you just add a little software and speed up that transcoding to .mp4 format. It’s like discovering your car can do something you didn’t know was even possible, like turning into a Corvette on straight flat roadways. Now be advised not all roads are straight or flat, but when they are Boom! You can go as fast as you want. That’s what having an accelerated video encoding is like. It’s specialized but when you use it, it really works and it really speeds things up. I think part of why Microsoft wants to enforce this is in the hope of possibly getting licensing fees but part of it is also maintaining it’s bullying prowess on the desktop computer. They own the OS right? So why not remind everyone that were it not for their generosity and research labs we would all be using pocket calculators to do our taxes. This is one case, a premiere example of how patents are stifling innovation. And I would love to see this patent never be enforced or struck down.