SSD Interfaces

What is an SSD Trim Command?

TrimmerAlthough the Trim command has been defined for nearly a decade, for some reason I have never written a post to explain it.  It’s time for that to change.

Trim is something that was never required for HDDs, so it was a new command that was defined once SSDs became prevalent.  The command is required because of one of those awkward encumbrances that NAND users must accommodate: Erase before write.

NAND flash bits cannot be altered the same way as an HDD.  In an HDD a bit that’s currently set to a “1” can be re-written to a “0” and vice versa.  Writing a bit either way takes the same amount of time.  In NAND flash a 1 can be written to a zero, but the opposite is not the case.  Instead, the entire block (4-16k bytes) must be erased at once, after which all bits are set to a 1.  Once that has been done then zeros can be written into that block to store data.  An erase is an excruciatingly slow operation, taking up to a half second to perform.  Writes are faster, but they’re still slow.

Let’s say that a program needs to Continue reading

IBM Aligns Itself with High Speed NVMe-based Storage

NVMe LogoIBM has announced that it is developing Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) solutions to provide significantly lower latency storage.

NVMe is an interface protocol designed to replace the established SAS and SATA interfaces that are currently used for hard drives and SSDs. Coupled with the PCIe hardware backplane, NVMe uses parallelism and high queue depths to significantly reduce delays caused by data bottlenecks and move higher volumes of data within existing flash storage systems.

IBM has set itself to the task of optimizing the entire storage hierarchy, from the applications software to flash storage hardware, and is re-tooling the end-to-end storage stack to support NVMe. The company recognized years ago that both hardware and software would need to be redesigned to satisfy the needs of ultra-low latency data processing.

The company last year released products with Continue reading

NGD’s 24TB SSD Is Just The First Step

NGD LogoWith the tagline: “Bringing intelligence to storage” start-up NGD Systems, formerly known as NexGen Data, has announced a 24 terabyte SSD that the company claims to be the highest-capacity PCIe/NVMe device available.

The read-optimized Catalina SSD employs a lot of proprietary NGD technology: Variable rate LDPC error correction, unique DSP (digital signal processing) algorithms, and an “Elastic” flash transition layer (FTL), all embodied in an NGD-proprietary controller.  This proprietary technology allows Catalina to offer enterprise performance and reliability while using TLC flash and less DRAM than other designs.

NGD claims that the product is already shipping and is being qualified by major OEMs.

Based on some of the company’s presentations at past years’ Flash Memory Summits the controller has been carefully balanced to optimize cost, throughput, and heat.  This last is a bigger problem than most folks would imagine.  At the 2013 Hot Chips conference a former Violin Memory engineering manager told the audience Continue reading

Micron Unveils New 5100 Enterprise SSDs

Micron's 5100 SSD FamilyMicron has announced a new line of Enterprise SSDs that it has named the 5100 family.  The three members of the family are designated by different suffixes: 5100 ECO, 5100 PRO, and 5100 MAX, as listed in the table below.

The three models support the same maximum read IOPS performance, but have a wide range of write IOPS figures, endurance (measured in DWPD = Drive Writes per Day), and maximum capacities.

All of these SSDs are based on Micron’s 3-bit 3D NAND.  Micron has been aggressively ramping its 3D NAND technology since it began shipments in earnest last June.

The three SSD models are designed using the same fundamental firmware architecture, which Micron has named FlexPro, to yield consistent performance and reliability across the family, and with the hopes that customers will be able to qualify all three models in a single effort, which would provide one more reason for users to source their Continue reading

Why 3D XPoint SSDs Will Be Slow

SNIA: Sources of SSD LatencySomething that has been confusing a number of people is the performance of Intel’s 3D XPoint-based SSDs.  Why are they so slow?

Let me back up a little – they’re not really slow.  When Intel compared its standard NAND flash based PCIe SSD to a similar SSD based on 3D XPoint memory, the XPoint model ran 7-8 times faster, which is very impressive.  Intel demonstrated that at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) last August and several times since then.

But Intel and Micron have been boasting since its introduction that 3D XPoint Memory is 1,000 times as fast as NAND flash.  How do you get from a 1,000 times speed advantage down to a speed improvement of only 7-8 times?

That’s what the graphic in this post will explain.  The small rendition above is just Continue reading

Is an HDD/SSD Price Crossover Coming Soon?

Western Digital's 10TB Ultrastar He HDDThe SSD Guy was recently asked whether HDDs would continue, at least through 2019, to remain preferable to SSDs as cost-effective high-capacity storage.  The answer was “Yes”.

Longtime readers will note that I steadfastly maintain that HDD and SSD gigabyte prices are unlikely to cross for a very long time.  Historically, a gigabyte of NAND flash has cost between ten to twenty times as much as a gigabyte of HDD.  Let’s look at where Objective Analysis expects things to go by 2019.

Our current projections call for NAND price per gigabyte to reach 4.4 cents in 2019.  I would expect for HDD to still be 1/10th to 1/20th of that price.  Most likely 1/10th, since we expect for NAND flash to be in a significant oversupply at that time and will be selling at cost.

If HDD prices continue to hover around $50, then a 2019 HDD price of 0.44 to 0.22 cents per gigabyte (1/10th to 1/20th of the price of NAND flash) would imply an average HDD capacity of 11-23TB.

A couple of weeks ago, on December 2, 2015, Western Digital’s HGST introduced its 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.

 

Where does NVRAM Fit?

AGIGARAM DDR4 NVDIMM (Photo Courtesy of AgigA Tech)There’s been a lot of interest in NVRAM recently.  This technology has been lurking in the background for decades, and suddenly has become very popular.

What is NVRAM?  Quite simply, it’s DRAM or SRAM that has a back-up flash memory a small controller, and a battery or super-capacitor.  During operation the DRAM or SRAM is used in a system the same way that any DRAM or SRAM would be used.  When power is interrupted the controller moves all of the data from the DRAM or SRAM to the flash using the backup power from the battery or super-capacitor.  When power is restored, the controller moves the contents of the flash back into the SRAM or DRAM and the processor can resume operation where it left off.

In some ways it’s storage and in some ways it’s memory, so Continue reading

White Paper: Matching Flash to the Processor

Moving flash into the memory channel to get fast parallel performance I have just added a new white paper onto the Objective Analysis website: Matching Flash to the Processor – Why Multithreading Needs Parallelized Flash.

This document examines the evolution of today’s CPUs, whose clock frequencies have stopped increasing, but now exploit parallelism to scale performance.  Multiple DRAM channels have also been added to performance computing to add parallelism to the memory channel.

Storage hasn’t kept pace with this move to parallelism and that is limiting today’s systems.

New NAND flash DIMMs recently introduced by Diablo, SanDisk, and IBM, provide a reasonable approach to adding parallel flash to a system on the its fastest bus – the memory channel.  This white paper shows that storage can be scaled to match the processor’s growing performance by adding flash DIMMs to each of the many DRAM buses in a performance server.

The white paper is downloadable for free from the Objective Analysis home page.  Have a look.

LSI SandForce SSD Controllers Move the Knee in the Curve

LSI SandForce SF3700 Controller DuraWrite ImprovementsLSI’s SandForce has just rolled out its SF3700 family of four SSD controllers aimed at the Entry Client, Mainstream Client, Value Enterprise, and Enterprise Storage marketplaces. Performance is impressive, with worst-case random PCIe IOPS at 150K read/81K write and 94K/46K for the SATA interface.

The SF3700 family builds on the division’s first two product families by adding a choice of PCIe or SATA interfaces, LDPC error correction, and a boosted set of flash management features.  The SSD Guy will explore this last point after highlighting the other two.

By providing both PCIe and SATA interfaces LSI is directly addressing the future: PCs are aiming to move to the m.2 SSD specification rather than Continue reading