Posts Tagged ‘ssd’
As a result of this impending price war, if you are planning on upgrading your system with an SSD, you might consider waiting for a few months to watch the market and see how much prices fall.
Great analysis and news from Topher Kessler at C|Net regarding competition in the flash memory industry. I have to say keep your eyes peeled between now and September and track those prices closely through both Amazon and Newegg. They are neck and neck when it comes to prices on any of big name brand SSDs. Samsung and Intel would be at the top of my list going into the Fall, but don’t be too quick to purchase your gear. Just wait for it as Intel goes up against OCZ and Crucial and Kingston.
The amount of change in prices will likely vary based on total capacity of each drive (that’s a fixed cost due to the chip count in the device). So don’t expect a 512GB SSD to be dropping by 50% by the end of Summer. It’s not going to be that drastic. But the price premium brought about by the semi-false scarcity of the SSDs is what is really going to be disappearing once the smaller vendors are eliminated from the market. I will be curious to see how Samsung fares in this battle between the other manufacturers as they were not specifically listed as a participant in the price war. However being a chip manufacturer gives them a genuine advantage as they supply many of the people who design and manufacture SSDs with Flash memory chips.
- Low-cost Intel 330 series SSDs sport SandForce SF-2281 SSD Controller (denalimemoryreport.wordpress.com)
- SSD Price Wars (robert.accettura.com)
- SSD Prices To Fall Thanks To Price War (itproportal.com)
Like the native API libraries, directFS is implemented directly on ioMemory, significantly reducing latency by entirely bypassing operating system buffer caches, file system and kernel block I/O layers. Fusion-io directFS will be released as a practical working example of an application running natively on flash to help developers explore the use of Fusion-io APIs.
via (Chris Mellor) Fusion-io shoves OS aside, lets apps drill straight into flash • The Register.
Another interesting announcement from the folks at Fusion-io regarding their brand of PCIe SSD cards. There was a proof of concept project covered previously by Chris Mellor in which Fusion-io attempted to top out at 1 Billion IOPs using a novel architecture where PCIe SSD drives were not treated as storage. In fact the Fusion-io was turned into a memory tier bypassing most of the OSes own buffers and queues for handling a traditional Filesystem. Doing this reaped many benefits in terms of depleting the latency inherent with a FileSystem and how it has to communicate through the OS kernel through to the memory subsystem and back again.
Considering also work done within the last 4 years or more using so-called “in memory’ databases and big data projects in general a product like directFS might pair nicely with them. The limit with in memory databases is always the amount of RAM available and total number of cpu nodes managing those memory subsystems. Tack on the necessary storage to load and snapshot the database over time and you have a very traditional looking database server. However, if you supplement that traditional looking architecture with a tier of storage like the directFS the SAN network becomes a 3rd tier of storage, almost like a tape backup device. Sounds interesting the more I daydream about it.
- Three questions Fusion-io’s rivals face after flash API bombshell (go.theregister.com)
- Fusion-io SDK gives developers native memory access, keys to the NAND realm (engadget.com)
- Fusion-io demos billion IOPS server config – The Register (carpetbomberz.com)
Finally theres talk about looking at other interfaces in addition to SATA. Its possible that we may see a PCIe version of SandForces 3rd generation controller.
Some interesting notes about future directions SandForce might take especially now that SandForce has been bought out by LSI. They are hard at work attempting to optimize other parts of their current memory controller technology (speeding up small random reads and writes). There might be another 2X performance gain to be had at least on the SSD front, but more importantly is the PCI Express market. Fusion-io has been the team to beat when it comes to integrating components and moving data across the PCIe interface. Now SandForce is looking to come out with a bona fide PCIe-SSD controller which up until now has been a roll-your own type affair. The engineering and design expertise of companies like Fusion-io were absolutely necessary to get a PCIe SSD card to market. Now that playing field too will be leveled somewhat and possibly now competitors will enter the market with equally good performance numbers
But even more interesting than this wrinkle in the parts design for PCIe SSDs is the announcement earlier this month of Fusion-io’s new software interface for getting around the limits of File I/O on modern day OSes. Auto Commit Memory: “ACM is a software layer which allows developers to send and receive data stored on Fusion-io’s ioDrive cards directly to and from the CPU, rather than relying upon the operating system”(Link to The Verge article listed in my Fusion-io article). SandForce is up against a moving target if they hope to compete more directly with Fusion-io who is now investing in hardware AND software engineering at the same time. 1 Billion IOPS is nothing to sneeze at given the pace of change since SATA SSDs and PCIe SSDs hit the market in quantity.
The card will use the Marvell 88SE9455 RAID controller that will interface with the SandForce 2200-based daughter cards that can be added to the main controller on demand. This will allow for user-configurable drive sizes from between 60GB and 2TB in size, allowing you to expand your storage as your need for it increases.
I’m a big fan of Other World Computing (OWC) and have always marveled at their ability to create new products they brand on their own. In the article they talk about a new Mac compatible PCIe SSD. It sounds like an uncanny doppleganger to the Angelbird board announced about 2 years ago and started shipping last Fall 2011. The add-on sockets especially remind me of the ugpradable Angelbird board especially. There are not many PCIe SSD cards that have sockets for Flash memory modules and Other World Computing would be the second one I have seen since I’ve been commenting on these devices when they hit the consumer market. Putting sockets on the board makes it easier to come into the market at a lower price point for users where price is most important. However at the high end capacity is king for some purchasers of PCIe SSD drives. So the oddball upgradeable PCIe SSD fills a niche that’s for sure.
Performance projections for this card are really good and typical of most competing PCIe SSD cards. So depending on your needs you might find this perfect. Price however is always harder to pin down. Angelbird sold a bare PCIe card with no SSDs for around $249. It came with 32GB onboard for that price. What was really nice was the card used SATA sockets set far enough apart to place full sized SSDs on the card without crowding each other. This brought the possibility of slowly upgrading to higher speed drives or larger capacity drives over time to the consumer market.
But what’s cooler still is Angelbird’s card allowed it to run under ANY OS, even Mac OS as it was engineered to be a a free standing computer with a large Flash memory attached to it. That allowed it to pre-boot into an embedded OS before handing over control to the Host OS whatever flavor it might be. I don’t know if the OWC card works similarly, but it does NOT use SATA sockets or provide enough room to plug in SSD drives. The plug-in modules for this device are mSATA style sockets used in tablets and netbook style computers. So the modules will most likely need to be purchased direct from OWC to peform capacity upgrades over the life of the PCIe card itself. Prices have not yet been set according to this article.
- Marvell brews ARM-based native PCIe SSD Controller IC: 88NV9145 handles direct PCIe to NAND Flash I/O for high-performance, low-overhead SSD designs (denalimemoryreport.wordpress.com)
- OWC gives Mac Pro users the first PCI Express SSD option (9to5mac.com)
- Angelbird’s Wings PCIe-based SSD preview and benchmarks (engadget.com)
Through first quarter of 2012, Intel will be releasing new SSDs: Intel SSD 520 “Cherryville” Series replacement for the Intel SSD 510 Series, Intel SSD 710 “Lyndonville” Series Enterprise HET-MLC SSD replacement for X25-E series, and Intel SSD 720 “Ramsdale” Series PCIe based SSD. In addition, you will be seeing two additional mSATA SSDs codenamed “Hawley Creek” by the end of the fourth quarter 2011.
That’s right folks Intel is jumping on the high performance PCIe SSD bandwagon with the Intel SSD 720 in the first quarter of 2012. Don’t know what price they will charge but given quotes and pre-releases of specs it’s going to compete against products from competitors like RamSan, Fusion-io and the top level OCZ PCIe prouct the R4. My best guess is based on pricing for those products it will be in the roughly $10,000+ category with an 8x PCI interface and fully complement of Flash memory (usually over 1TB on this class of PCIe card).
Knowing that Intel’s got some big engineering resources behind their SSD designs, I’m curious to see how close they can come to the performance statistics quoted in this table here:
2200 Mbytes/sec of Read throughput and 1100Mbytes/sec of Write throughput. Those are some pretty heft numbers compared to currently shipping products in the upper pro-summer and lower Enterprise Class price category. Hopefully Anandtech will get a shipping or even pre-release version before the end of the year and give it a good torture test. Following Anand Lai Shimpi on his Twitter feed, I’m seeing all kinds of tweets about how a lot of pre-release products from manufacturers off SSDs and PCIe SSDs fail during the benchmarks. Doesn’t bode well for the Quality Control depts. at the manufacturers assembling and testing these products. Especially considering the price premium of these items, it would be much more reassuring if the testing was more rigorous and conservative.
- Intel SSD 710 and SSD 720 benchmarks leak out (electronista.com)
- What To Look For In PCIe SSD (informationweek.com)
- Intel’s 720 PCIe SSD achieves 2.2GB/s read speeds (geek.com)
- Intel’s Knute Grumsrud explains how to get another 20x improvement in SSD performance (eda360insider.wordpress.com)
In the enterprise segment where 1U and 2U servers are common, PCI Express SSDs are very attractive. You may not always have a ton of 2.5″ drive bays but theres usually at least one high-bandwidth PCIe slot unused. The RevoDrive family of PCIe SSDs were targeted at the high-end desktop or workstation market, but for an enterprise-specific solution OCZ has its Z-Drive line.
Anandtech is breaking new ground covering some Enterprise level segments of the Solid State Disk industry. While I doubt he’ll be doing ratings of Violin and Texas Memory Systems gear very soon, the OCZ low end Enterprise PCIe cards is still beginning to approach that target. We’re talking $10,000 USD and up for anyone who wants to participate. Which puts it in the middle to high end of Fusion-io and barely touches the lower end of Violin and TMS not to mention Virident. Given that, it is still wild to see what kind of architecture and performance optimization one gets for the money they pay. SandForce rules the day at OCZ for anything requiring the top speeds for write performance. It’s also interesting to find out about the SandForce 25xx series use of super-capacitors to hold enough reserve power to flush the write caches on a power outage. It’s expensive, but moves the product up a few notches in the Enterprise level reliability scale.
If you want more speed, then you will have to look to PCI-Express for the answer. Austrian-based Angelbird has opened its online storefront with its Wings add-in card and SSDs.
After more than one year of being announced Angelbird has designed and manufactured a new PCIe flash card. The design of which is full expandable over time depending on your budget needs. Fusion-io has a few ‘expandable’ cards in its inventory too, but the price class of Fusion-io is much higher than the consumer level Angelbird product. So if you cannot afford to build a 1TB flash-based PCIe card, do not worry. Buy what you can and outfit it later over time as your budget allows. Now that’s something any gamer fanboy or desktop enthusiast can get behind.
Angelbird does warn in advance power demands for typical 2.5″ SATA flash modules are higher than what the PCIe bus can provide typically. They recommend using their own memory modules to add onto their base level PCIe card. Up until I read those recommendations I had forgotten some of the limitations and workarounds Graphics Card manufacturers typical use. These have become so routine that there are now 2-3 extra power taps provided even by typical desktop manufacturers for their desktop machines. All this to accommodate the extra graphics chip power required by today’s display adapters. It makes me wonder if Angelbird could do a Rev. of the base level PCIe card with a little 4-pin power input or something similar. It’s doesn’t need another 150watts, it’s going to be closer to 20watts for this type of device I think. I wish Angelbird well and I hope sales start strong so they can sell out their first production run.
- What To Look For In PCIe SSD (informationweek.com)
By bypassing the SATA bottleneck, OCZs RevoDrive Hybrid promises transfer speeds up to 910 MB/s and up to 120,000 IOPS 4K random write. The SSD aspect reportedly uses a SandForce SF-2281 controller and the hard drive platters spin at 5,400rpm. On a whole, the hybrid drive makes good use of the companys proprietary Virtualized Controller Architecture.
Good news on the Consumer Electronics front, OCZ continues to innovate on the desktop aftermarket introducing a new PCIe Flash product that marries a nice 1TByte Hard Drive to a 100GB flash-based SSD. The best of both worlds all in one neat little package. Previously you might buy these two devices seperately, 1 average sized Flash drive and 1 spacious Hard drive. Then you would configure the Flash Drive as your System boot drive and then using some kind of alias/shortcut trick have the Hard drive as your user folder to hold videos, pictures, etc. This has caused some very conservative types to sit out and wait for even bigger Flash drives hoping to store everything on one logical volume. But what they really want is a hybrid of big storage and fast speed and that according to the press release is what the OCZ Hybrid Drive delivers. With a SandForce drive controller and two drives the whole architecture is hidden away along with the caching algorithm that moves files between the flash and hard drive storage areas. To the end user, they see but one big Hard drive (albeit installed in one of their PCI card slots), but experience the faster bootup times, faster application loading times. I’m seriously considering adding one of these devices into a home computer we have and migrating the bootdrive and user home directories over to that, using the current hard drives as the Windows backup device. I think that would be a pretty robust setup and could accommodate a lot of future growth and expansion.
- OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid merges 100GB SSD with 1TB HDD for $499 (engadget.com)
OCZ says it is available for evaluation now by OEMs and, we presume, OCZ will be using it in its own flash products. Were looking at 1TB SSDs using TLC flash, shipping sequential data out at 500MB/sec which boot quickly, and could be combined to provide multi-TB flash data stores. Parallelising data access would provide multi-GB/sec I/O. The flash future looks bright.
Who knew pairing an ARM core with the drive electronics for a Flash based SSD could be so successful. Not only are the ARM chips helping to drive the cpus on our handheld devices, they are now becoming the SSD Drive controllers too! If OCZ is able to create these drive controllers with good yields (say 70% on the first run) then they are going to hopefully give themselves a pricing advantage and get a higher profit margin per device sold. This is assuming they don’t have to pay royalties for the SandForce drive controller on every device they ship.
If OCZ was able to draw up their own drive controller, I would be surprised. However, since they have acquired Indilinx it seems like they are making good on the promise held by Indilinx’s current crop of drive controllers. Let’s just hope they are able to match the performance of SandForce at the same price points as well. Otherwise it’s nothing more than a kind of patent machine that will allow OCZ to wage lawsuits against competitors for Intellectual Property they acquired through the acquisition of Indilinx. And we have seen too much of that recently with Apple’s secret bid for Nortel’s patent pool and Google’s acquisition of Motorola.
- OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 and RevoDrive Hybrid hands-on (video) (engadget.com)
- OCZ unwraps self-made Everest controller for fast SSDs (electronista.com)
- OCZ’s Z-Drive R4 PCIe SSD offers 2,800MB/sec, 500,000 IOPS, plenty of thrills (engadget.com)
- New OCZ Z-Drive R4 PCIe SSD Achieves Record (carpetbomberz.com)
- OCZ Z-Drive R4 PCIe SSD Revealed (slashgear.com)
This is the shortest presentation I’ve seen and most pragmatic about what SSDs can do for you. He recommends buying Intel 320s and getting your feet wet by moving from a bicycle to a Ferrari. Later on if you need to go with a PCIe SSD do it, but it’s like the difference between a Formula 1 race car and a Ferrari. Personally in spite of the lack of major difference Artur is trying to illustrate I still like the idea of buying once and getting more than you need. And if this doesn’t start you down the road of seriously buying SSDs of some sort check out this interview with Violin Memory CEO, Don Bazile:
Violin tunes up for billion dollar flash gig: Chris Mellor@theregister.co.uk (Saturday June 25th)
Basile said: “Larry is telling people to use flash … That’s the fundamental shift in the industry. … Customers know their competitors will adopt the technology. Will they be first, second or last in their industry to do so? … It will happen and happen relatively quickly. It’s not just speed; its the lowest cost of data base transaction in history. [Flash] is faster and cheaper on the exact same software. It’s a no-brainer.”
Violin Memory is the current market leader in data center SSD installations for transactional data or analytical processing. The boost folks are getting from putting the databases on Violin Memory boxes is automatic, requires very little tuning and the results are just flat out astounding. The ‘Larry’ quoted above is the Larry Ellison of Oracle, the giant database maker. So with that kind of praise I’m going to say the tipping point is near, but please read the article. Chris Mellor lays out a pretty detailed future of evolution in SSD sales and new product development. 3-bit Multi-Level memory cells in NAND flash is what Mellor thinks will be the tipping point as price is still the biggest sticking point for anyone responsible for bidding on new storage system installs. However while that price sticking point is a bigger issue for batch oriented off-line data warehouse analysis, for online streaming analysis SSD is cheaper per byte per second throughput. So depending on the typical style of database work you do or performance you need SSD is putting the big iron spinning hard disk vendors to shame. The inertia of these big capital outlays and cozy relationships with these vendors will make some shops harder to adopt the new technology (But IBM is giving us such a big discount!…WE are an EMC shop,etc.). However the competitors of the folks owning those datacenters will soon eat all that low hanging fruit a simple cutover to SSDs will afford and the competitive advantage will swing to the early adopters.
*Late Note: Chris Mellor just followed up Monday night (June 27th) with an editorial further laying out the challenge to disk storage presented by the data center Flash Array vendors. Check it out:
What should the disk drive array vendors do, if this scenario plays out?They should buy in or develop their own all-flash array technology. Having a tier of SSD storage in a disk drive array is a good start but customers will want the simpler choice of an all-flash array and, anyway, they are here now. Guys like Violin and Whiptail and TMS are knocking on the storage array vendors customer doors right now.