Event Coverage

Showcase: Be prepared for lightning-fast transfer speeds, thanks to NVMe SSDs

By Ian Chee & Vijay Anand - 21 Aug 2015

Showcase: Be prepared for lightning-fast transfer speeds, thanks to NVMe SSDs

Intel's very own SSD 750 series was one of the earliest NVMe drives out for consumers, but there's a lot more on the horizon from other SSD vendors for both enterprise and consumers.
 

All hail NVMe SSDs

You know SSDs are awesome storage drives (minus their cost). By now, you would have been attuned to seeing SATA and PCIe-based SSD drives, but what’s an NVMe drive? If you haven’s heard, NVMe is Intel’s new protocol to replace the aging AHCI protocol by increasing parallelism and allowing more commands to be queued simultaneously. With SSDs getting ever faster, especially when the high-end ones are now using the PCIe interface, a more efficient protocol is crucial to avoid bottlenecking the SSD. Think of it as a traffic signaling system that got upgraded to cope with larger volumes of traffic. But which platform supports this? Fairly new platforms like the Intel 9-series of chipsets (such as those from ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte) and most definitely the just launched Intel Z170 chipsets for Skylake processors.

At the IDF 2015 vendor showcase area, we caught sight of a few upcoming NVMe compliant drives that are undergoing customer sampling currently, and will be in mass production or in retail by the last quarter of this year.

Hynix

The PC300 is their new NVMe protocol compliant M.2 SSD and it will be available sometime in the next quarter.

Hynix is a well known supplier of DRAM and storage options for mobile computing, so it was great to see them promoting their upcoming PC300 client NVMe SSD. It will be available in the M.2 2280S form factor and uses a PCIe x4 PCIe Gen. 3.0 interface. Here’s a performance estimation compared to their own PCIe x4 Gen 2.0 M.2 AHCI device:-

More specifications for the various drive capacity options in the PC300 NVMe client SSD.

 

OCZ

You can’t talk about the SSD scene without mentioning OCZ. We spotted three new products, one for consumers and the other pair for enterprise. First off, meet the RevoDrive 400:-

The RevoDrive 400 is an M.2 form factor PCIe NVMe SSD. It will be available in capacities up to 1TB.

For systems that don’t have an M.2 slot, you can get the an optional M.2 to PCIe adaptor card.

The next pair is designed for compute-intensive, analytical, online transactional and cloud-based enterprise applications – the Z-Drive 6000 that’s tuned for more read-intensive applications, while the Z-Drive 6300 is designed for a mixed read/write workloads. Both drives use the NVMe protocol and are natively designed for a PCIe x4 Gen 3.0 electrical interface. As expected of this class of drives, power loss protection (PLP) is a key feature and are rated for up to 2,900MB/s sequential read (128KB) and up to 1,900MB/s sequential writes (128KB). Random 4KB reads and writes are rated up to 700 IOPS and 160 IOPS respectively.

These drives are also support dual-port functionality, which means up two host system can concurrently access data from the same drive, thus delivering excellent availability – a factor that will concern enterprise environment and deployment. 

Left: OCZ Z-Drive 6300 in an add-in card form factor. Right: OCZ Z-Drive 6000 hot-swappable 2.5-inch small form factor drive is only available in this form.

The OCZ Z-Drive 6000 hot-swappable 2.5-inch drive looks a lot chunkier than consumer grade SSDs because of the over-provisioning of electrical components such as super capacitors to ensure all data gets written to disk in the event of a power failure. These small form factor drives use the new U.2 connector.

Although the main difference between the Z-Drive 6000 and the Z-Drive 6300 is the NAND memory tuning for intensive reads or mixed workloads respectively, only the 6300 model is available in a 2.5-inch form factor and as an add-in card. Of which, only the latter variety is rated for up to three disk writers per day (DWPD). The 2.5-inch form factor 6000 and 6300 are both rated for one DWPD. This rating signifies the endurance of the drive over a typical 5-year cycle.

No word yet on all OCZ drives as they’ve yet to hit the market. They are currently undergoing customer sampling and testing, which means it’s only a matter of months before they become available.

 

Seagate

An unshielded Segate Nytro XF1440 2.5-inch form factor enterprise SSD.

Like OCZ, Seagate’s presence at IDF 2015 was more about enterprise computing support than of consumer-grade drives. They introduced two new Nytro class NVMe PCIe Gen.3.0 drives to bridge the gap between traditional hard drives and ultra high-end PCIe accelerators. Pitched as low-power enterprise SSDs (no more than 12.5 watts per unit) for high density data centers, the Nytro XF1440 series is designed as a 2.5-inch hot-swappable U.2 connector (SFF-8639) based drive, whereas the Nytro XM1440 is a more compact M.2 2210 form-factor drive.

Both models are available in read-intensive and mixed-workloads options, thus each offering a different level of DWPD endurance and even capacity points.

Availability and pricing details will be released later in the year as they are currently undergoing customer sampling and feedback.