Jim Handy

MLC vs. eMLC – What’s the Difference?

eMLCFrom time to time IT managers ask The SSD Guy if there’s an easy way to compare SSDs made with MLC flash against those made using eMLC flash.  Most folks understand that eMLC flash is a less costly alternative to SLC flash, both of which provide longer wear than standard MLC flash, but not everyone realizes that eMLC’s superior endurance comes at the cost of slower write speed.  By writing to the flash more gently the technology can be made to last considerably longer.

So how do you compare the two?  OCZ introduced MLC and eMLC versions of the same SSD this week, and this provides a beautiful opportunity to explore the difference.

As you would expect, the read parameters are all identical.  This stands to reason, since Continue reading

OCZ Comes Roaring Back with NVMe SSD Debut

The OCZ Z-Drive 6000It’s really something to see a company recover from a big challenge, and signs of that happened this week with OCZ’s introduction of a new NVMe-based PCIe SSD they call the Z-Drive 6000 series.

This replacement for the company’s Z-Drive 4000 series is a complete redesign with an obsession for performance.  OCZ tells me that they moved from a 2-hop design to a 1-hop by using the PMC Princeton PCIe SSD controller, and have passed the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Labs’ compliance tests to NVMe 1.1B compliance.

But how does it perform?  Well the 1-hop design helps reduce latency (which is just starting to overshadow IOPS in users’ minds) and the latency of this SSD is significantly lower than competing NVMe SSDs: between 25-30μs, figures that OCZ tells me are very consistent, a big plus for enterprise applications.  As for IOPS, the device can perform under a 70/30 Read/Write load at 330K.

The 6000 series is provided in both standard MLC and eMLC for those who want the security of eMLC and are willing to sacrifice a little performance to sleep better at night.

This product is a good fit for the market needs, and shows how devoted OCZ and its parent Toshiba are to providing high performance in the SSD marketplace.

 

Baidu Goes Beyond SSDs

Baidu's SDF: Software-Defined FlashI have to admit that it’s embarrassing when The SSD Guy misses something important in the world of flash storage, but I only recently learned of a paper that Baidu, China’s leading search engine, presented at the ASPLOS conference a year ago.  The paper details how Baidu changed the way they use flash to gain significant benefits over their original SSD-based systems.

After having deployed 300,000 standard SSDs over the preceding seven years, Baidu engineers looked for ways to achieve higher performance and more efficient use of the flash they were buying.  Their approach was to strip the SSD of all functions that could be better performed by the host server, and to reconfigure the application software and operating system to make the best of flash’s idiosyncrasies.

You can only  do this if you have control of both the system hardware and software.

The result was SDF, or “Software-Defined Flash”, a card that Continue reading

The Impact of SSDs on Coffee Prices

Coffee 5-year Prices (BarChart.com)A friend who trades in commodities has been having a difficult time lately.  He placed a sizeable bet on coffee futures back in 2011, only to see prices slide from a $314 peak to today’s $151 prices.

So why would this appear in the pages of The SSD Guy blog?

In a nutshell, coffee demand is falling thanks to increased use of SSDs.  It’s not that people were giving their computers coffee to speed them up, nor were managers ladling coffee into their employees to get more out of them when the real problem was slow PC performance.  Instead it’s about boot-up time.

For the past few decades the average worker comes into the office, turns on the PC, then goes to the coffee room to get the morning’s first cup of brew while the PC slowly finds its way to full operation.  While in the coffee room that worker may encounter workmates, and delve into a heady conversation about last night’s TV programs, or a sporting event, or even politics.  This might turn that one-cup coffee-room visit into a 2-cup session.

Now that savvy bosses are Continue reading

SanDisk Rolls Out InfiniFlash

One of SanDisk's InfiniFlash BoardsThe following post is an excerpt of an article Objective Analysis submitted to the Pund-IT Weekly Review for 11 March, 2015.

With a webcast in the style of the big system makers like EMC and Oracle, SanDisk announced its InfiniFlash flash appliance.  InfiniFlash is a box that crams a whopping 500 terabytes into only 3U of rack space.

How big is 500 terabytes?  It’s more bytes than SanDisk’s entire flash output for 2001.

SanDisk boasts that InfiniFlash is a “category-defining product”, and pointed to the fact that IDC, who provided support for the roll-out, created a new “Big Data Flash” storage product category for this device.

The system boasts performance of one million random-read IOPS, which is impressive, but doesn’t give much indication of how it performs in standard enterprise dataflow, which is generally assumed to consist of a 70/30 split of reads and writes.  (I should mention here that Objective Analysis published a survey of users’ IOPS and latency needs which can be purchased on our website.)

Price is a major focus for this product.  SanDisk says that it will sell systems bundled with software at less than Continue reading

IBM Launches All-New FlashSystem Family and Peace of Mind

IBM FlashSystem V9000 and V900This is an excerpt of an article that was originally posted in the 2/25/15 edition of the Pund-IT Weekly Review

IBM has unveiled its new IBM FlashSystem V9000, an all-new offering that supports scale-up and scale-out flash growth models.  The FlashSystem V9000 is an upgrade to the company’s FlashSystem V840 product.  IBM also introduced the new IBM FlashSystem 900, the follow-on generation to the IBM FlashSystem 840.  A full complement of software services (including snapshots and replication) is bundled with the product.

Over 4,000 IBM FlashSystems have shipped since the brand was introduced two years ago causing the company’s bit shipments to outpace the combined shipments of the second and third-ranked flash array providers.

The IBM FlashSystem V9000 comes in a 6U package that incorporates twelve IBM MicroLatency modules that provide 57TB of RAID 5 usable capacity, which then blooms to 285TB with IBM Real-time Compression. The proprietary modules provide more consistent performance than SSD-based systems – the system is as fast when it is 90% full as it is when only 10% of its total capacity is in use.

IBM tells us that the FlashSystem V9000 is not simply a virtualized node built up from a number of IBM FlashSystem 900 systems, but is a single, integrated system purpose-built to address the needs and focus of cloud, analytics, mobile/social and security. It supports seamless concurrent capacity increases up to its 2.2 petabyte upper limit when real-time compression is used.

IBM’s FlashSystem V9000 is currently available and carries a 7-year warranty as well as an optional 5-year “TCO” lease that IBM has priced to be cheaper than the high-performance disk arrays it has been designed to replace.  This is intended to bring peace of mind to skittish would-be flash users.

The SSD Guy has always admired TMS products, and they appear to be getting even better under IBM’s care.  Both systems should provide a pretty important boost to IBM’s competitive positioning.

EMC Chooses EMC Storage!

EMC LogoAn acquaintance pointed out that EMC has published a case study detailing how one of its divisions, EMC Corporate IT, decided to use an EMC Isilon storage system over other competing candidates:

After considering various storage solutions, EMC IT selected EMC Isilon® scale-out storage as the foundation for a new Hadoop-as-a-Service (HDaaS) offering.

My acquaintance wondered exactly which systems EMC IT evaluated before selecting an EMC array, and whether or not there was even the option of choosing a product from any of the numerous competing storage array vendors.  He pointed out how embarrassing it would have been if this case study had been written by a competitor to tout its win at EMC IT.

You really have to wonder why EMC published this case study.  Its customers take it for granted that the company will use its own offerings, and would probably leave in droves if it did not.

To paraphrase an old saying: “No EMC employee ever got fired for choosing EMC!”

What’s In My SSD? SLC, MLC, or TLC?

SLC, MLC, or TLC?Someone recently asked The SSD Guy if there is a way to determine whether an SSD is SLC, MLC, eMLC or TLC.

I found it a little odd to be asked this, since most vendors tell what kind of flash they use in an SSD’s specifications, especially if it’s SLC.

Not finding it there then the next thing I would look at is the price.  Raw SLC NAND flash now sells for about 6-10 times as much as its MLC counterpart, so an SSD with a price of around $1/GB is likely to be MLC and one that sells for around $10/GB is probably SLC.

TLC SSDs are really rare.  There is the Continue reading

Comparing Samsung’s Planar and V-NAND SSDs

Samsung 3D V-NAND Press PhotoSamsung recently introduced  its 3D V-NAND-based 850 SSD which, according to The Tech Report, uses the same MEX controller as the company’s 3-bit planar SSD, the 840, introduced last year.

Samsung said in its keynote speech at the 2013 Flash Memory Summit that V-NAND consumes an average of 27% less power and runs at least 20% faster than its planar counterpart in an SSD application, all while providing ten times the endurance.  It’s only natural to assume that this would allow designers to produce a V-NAND SSD that would significantly outperform its planar NAND counterpart.

The SSD Guy had an opportunity to review Continue reading

SanDisk: We’ll Upgrade Your PCs For You!

SanDisk Tech Assisted Refresh (STAR)In a move that The SSD Guy wishes he had thought of for himself, SanDisk has begun to help corporations upgrade their fleets of notebook PCs by replacing their HDDs with SSDs.

SanDisk calls this program STAR for: “SanDisk Tech-Assisted Refresh”.  According to the press release: “Through the STAR program, SanDisk relieves IT departments of having to manage all aspects of upgrading corporate laptops such as, endpoint inventory analysis, employee service scheduling, system upgrades, data migration, daily progress reporting, post-upgrade analysis and support.”

SanDisk points out that PCs slow down with disk utilization and software updates, lowering users’ productivity.  Often faster storage can solve that problem.

This is not an altogether new Continue reading