Tag Archives: solidstate

Samsung adds Z-NAND data center SSD

Samsung’s lineup of data center solid-state drives– including a Z-NAND model — introduced this week targets smaller organizations facing demanding workloads such as in-memory databases, artificial intelligence and IoT.

The fastest option in the Samsung data center SSD family — the 983 ZET NVMe-based PCIe add-in card — uses the company’s latency-lowering Z-NAND flash chips. Earlier this year, Samsung announced its first Z-NAND-based enterprise SSD, the SZ985, designed for the OEM market. The new 983 ZET SSD targets SMBs, including system builders and integrators, that buy storage drives through channel partners.

The Samsung data center SSD lineup also adds the first NVMe-based PCIe SSDs designed for channel sales in 2.5-inch U.2 and 22-mm-by-110-mm M.2 form factors. At the other end of the performance spectrum, the new entry-level 2.5-inch 860 DCT 6 Gbps SATA SSD targets customers who want an alternative to client SSDs for data center applications, according to Richard Leonarz, director of product marketing for Samsung SSDs.

Rounding out the Samsung data center SSD product family is a 2.5-inch 883 DCT SATA SSD that uses denser 3D NAND technology, which Samsung calls V-NAND, than comparable predecessor models. Samsung’s PM863 and PM863a SSDs use 32-layer and 48-layer V-NAND respectively, but the new 883 DCT SSD is equipped with triple-level cell (TLC) 64-layer V-NAND chips, as are the 860 DCT and 983 DCT models, Leonarz said.

Noticeably absent from the Samsung data center SSD product line is 12 Gbps SAS. Leonarz said research showed SAS SSDs trending flat to downward in terms of units sold. He said Samsung doesn’t see a growth opportunity for SAS on the channel side of the business that sells to SMBs such as system builders and integrators. Samsung will continue to sell dual-ported enterprise SAS SSDs to OEMs.

Samsung 983 ZET NVMe SSD
The Samsung 983 ZET NVMe SSD uses its latency-lowering Z-NAND flash chips.

Z-NAND-based SSD uses SLC flash

The Z-NAND technology in the new 983 ZET SSD uses high-performance single-level cell (SLC) V-NAND 3D flash technology and builds in logic to drive latency down to lower levels than standard NVMe-based PCIe SSDs that store two or three bits of data per cell.

Samsung positions the Z-NAND flash technology it unveiled at the 2016 Flash Memory Summit as a lower-cost, high-performance alternative to new 3D XPoint nonvolatile memory that Intel and Micron co-developed. Intel launched 3D XPoint-based SSDs under the brand name Optane in March 2017, and later added Optane dual inline memory modules (DIMMs). Toshiba last month disclosed its plans for XL-Flash to compete against Optane SSDs.

Use cases for Samsung’s Z-NAND NVMe-based PCIe SSDs include cache memory, database servers, real-time analytics, artificial intelligence and IoT applications that require high throughput and low latency.

“I don’t expect to see millions of customers out there buying this. It’s still going to be a niche type of solution,” Leonarz said.

Samsung claimed its SZ985 NVMe-based PCIe add-in card could reduce latency by 5.5 times over top NVMe-based PCIe SSDs. Product data sheets list the SZ985’s maximum performance at 750,000 IOPS for random reads and 170,000 IOPS for random writes, and data transfer rates of 3.2 gigabytes per second (GBps) for sequential reads and 3 GBps for sequential writes.

The new Z-NAND based 983 ZET NVMe-based PCIe add-in card is also capable of 750,000 IOPS for random reads, but the random write performance is lower at 75,000 IOPS. The data transfer rate for the 983 ZET is 3.4 GBps for sequential reads and 3 GBps for sequential writes. The 983 ZET’s latency for sequential reads and writes is 15 microseconds, according to Samsung.

Both the SZ985 and new 983 ZET are half-height, half-length PCIe Gen 3 add-in cards. Capacity options for the 983 ZET will be 960 GB and 480 GB when the SSD ships later this month. SZ985 SSDs are currently available at 800 GB and 240 GB, although a recent product data sheet indicates 1.6 TB and 3.2 TB options will be available at an undetermined future date.

Samsung’s SZ985 and 983 ZET SSDs offer significantly different endurance levels over the five-year warranty period. The SZ985 is rated at 30 drive writes per day (DWPD), whereas the new 983 ZET supports 10 DWPD with the 960 GB SSD and 8.5 DWPD with the 480 GB SSD.

Samsung data center SSD endurance

The rest of the new Samsung data center SSD lineup is rated at less than 1 DWPD. The entry-level SATA 860 DCT SATA SSD supports 0.20 DWPD for five years or 0.34 DWPD for three years. The 883 DCT SATA SSD and 983 DCT NVMe-based PCIe SSD are officially rated at 0.78 DWPD for five years, with a three-year option of 1.30 DWPD.

Samsung initially targeted content delivery networks with its 860 DCT SATA SSD, which is designed for read-intensive workloads. Sequential read/write performance is 550 megabytes per second (MBps) and 520 MBps, and random read/write performance is 98,000 IOPS and 19,000 IOPS, respectively, according to Samsung. Capacity options range from 960 GB to 3.84 TB.

“One of the biggest challenges we face whenever we talk to customers is that folks are using client drives and putting those into data center applications. That’s been our biggest headache for a while, in that the drives were not designed for it. The idea of the 860 DCT came from meeting with various customers who were looking at a low-cost SSD solution in the data center,” Leonarz said.

He said the 860 DCT SSDs provide consistent performance for round-the-clock operation with potentially thousands of users pinging the drives, unlike client SSDs that are meant for lighter use. The cost per GB for the 860 DCT is about 25 cents, according to Leonarz.

The 883 DCT SATA SSD is a step up, at about 30 cents per GB, with additional features such as power loss protection. The performance metrics are identical to the 860 DCT, with the exception of its higher random writes of 28,000 IOPS. The 883 DCT is better suited to mixed read/write workloads for applications in cloud data centers, file and web servers and streaming media, according to Samsung. Capacity options range from 240 GB to 3.84 TB.

The 983 DCT NVMe-PCIe SSD is geared for I/O-intensive workloads requiring low latency, such as database management systems, online transaction processing, data analytics and high performance computing applications. The 2.5-inch 983 DCT in the U.2 form factor is hot swappable, unlike the M.2 option. Capacity options are 960 GB and 1.92 TB for both form factors. Pricing for the 983 DCT is about 34 cents per GB, according to Samsung.

The 983 DCT’s sequential read performance is 3,000 MBps for each of the U.2 and M.2 983 DCT options. The sequential write performance is 1,900 MBps for the 1.92 TB U.2 SSD, 1,050 MBps for the 960 GB U.2 SSD, 1,400 MBps for the 1.92 TB M.2 SSD, and 1,100 MBps for the 960 GB M.2 SSD. Random read/write performance for the 1.92 TB U.2 SSD is 540,000 IOPS and 50,000 IOPS, respectively. The read/write latency is 85 microseconds and 80 microseconds, respectively.

The 860 DCT, 883 DCT and 983 DCT SSDs are available now through the channel, and the 983 ZET is due later this month.

Western Digital launches 15 TB enterprise SAS SSD

Ultrafast, NVMe-based PCI Express solid-state drives may represent the future of enterprise storage technology, but drive vendors still see a future in SAS SSDs.

Western Digital this week said it is shipping samples of its highest-density enterprise SAS SSD to OEMs. The new 2.5-inch Ultrastar DC SS530 can store up to 15.36 TB, doubling the capacity over the prior SS300 model, thanks to denser 64-layer 3D NAND flash that can help lower costs. The SS530 is due to be production-ready at the end of this quarter.

“There’s a lot of excitement around NVMe [nonvolatile memory express]. But SAS is still a very trusted, reliable interface. It’s an interface that lets you mix HDDs and SSDs,” said Eddie Ramirez, senior director of product management for enterprise SSDs at Western Digital, based in San Jose, Calif.

SAS SSD demand remains strong in enterprise storage arrays, and on the server side, growth is coming from hyper-converged infrastructure that combines compute, storage and virtualization resources in the same box, Ramirez said. SAS SSDs might serve as the caching layer in front of SAS HDDs, he added.

“For things like hyper-converged infrastructure systems, it’s still a very effective interface, particularly if you want to do hybrid arrays where you’re using both SSDs and HDDs within the same server,” he said.

The Ultrastar DC SS530 enterprise SAS SSD uses 64-layer 3D NAND flash that stores 3 bits of data per cell, known as triple-level cell (TLC). The prior model, SS300, used 32-layer 3D NAND, with TLC in a lower-endurance model and multi-level cell flash that stores 2 bits of data per cell in the higher-endurance options.

Ramirez said Western Digital can use TLC for all of its one-drive, three-drive and 10-drive writes per day (DWPD) SKUs. The one DWPD model targets read-intensive workloads, and the higher-endurance options are designed for caching and write-intensive workloads.

New SAS SSD boosts performance

Western Digital and Intel jointly developed the Ultrastar DC SS530. It improves random write performance by 60% over the prior model, delivering up to 320,000 IOPS in the 10 DWPD SKU. Random read performance is up by 10% to a maximum of 440,000 IOPS.

The new enterprise SAS SSD supports a data transfer rate of 12 Gbps. Western Digital’s roadmap calls for 24 Gbps enterprise SAS SSDs, but Ramirez declined to disclose the timetable.

Samsung’s 31 TB SAS SSD

The Ultrastar DC SS530 is Western Digital’s first SSD with a higher capacity than any of its HDDs. The company’s highest-capacity enterprise HDD is 14 TB. The SS530 is available at capacities ranging from 400 GB to 15.36 TB. But Samsung has Western Digital beat for capacity with its 30.72 TB SAS drive that uses 64-layer TLC 3D NAND flash, which the vendor calls V-NAND.

Ramirez said Western Digital will consider a 31 TB drive in its next-generation product, but “we don’t quite see the market adoption at that high a capacity at this point.”

Western Digital’s new Ultrastar DC SS530 enterprise SAS SSD is dual-ported, in contrast to the single-ported 12 Gbps SAS SSD that rival Toshiba introduced in June. Toshiba’s RM5 SAS SSD is designed as a SATA replacement and targets server-based applications, including software-defined storage and hyper-converged infrastructure. Toshiba claimed the single-port SAS SSD is close in price to SATA SSDs, which max out at 6 Gbps and are typically less expensive than SATA SSDs.

The Western Digital Ultrastar DC SS530 SSD can run in single-port mode, but dual-port SSDs provide redundancy and a performance boost, in some cases, Ramirez said.

“Currently, we feel the market in SAS is still very much looking at dual-ported capability,” Ramirez said. “Typically, in a SAS storage array, you’re using an HBA [host bus adapter] to talk to multiple drives, and you don’t want that HBA to be a single point of failure.”

Ramirez declined to disclose pricing for the SS530 other than to say there’s no difference in the cost per gigabyte in comparison to the prior SS300 model.

Enterprise SAS SSD market

Western Digital is third in the enterprise SAS market, behind Samsung and Toshiba in units and exabytes shipped, according to storage research firm Trendfocus.

Don Jeanette, a vice president at Trendfocus, based in Cupertino, Calif., said Toshiba leads the market, with more than 40% of the units shipped, followed by Samsung with 30% and Western Digital with 23%. Samsung leads in exabytes shipped, with 49% of the market, trailed by Toshiba at 35% and Western Digital with 12%.

Enterprise SAS SSD market share
Enterprise SAS SSD units that shipped increased 8% year over year, and exabytes shipped increased 15% in the first quarter of 2018.

Western Digital had close to half of the market three years ago in units and exabytes, Jeanette said. Samsung came on strong with an aggressive roadmap to pass Western Digital, he added. Western Digital entered the SAS SSD market with the acquisition of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies in 2012.

Jeanette said there’s still a strong market for SAS SSDs, which have more than double the average capacity of PCIe and SATA SSDs.

“There are very few SSD vendors supporting SAS,” Jeanette said. “Everyone’s trying to move to PCIe. SATA’s a legacy protocol out there. But for the ones that did enter SAS a decade ago, they’re going to find that they will have healthy business for a number of years to come.”

New 12 Gbps single-port Toshiba SAS SSD takes aim at SATA

Toshiba is preparing for “life after SATA” with the launch of a single-ported 12 Gbps SAS solid-state drive designed to replace slower SATA drives for server-based applications.

The Serial ATA International Organization (SATA-IO) has long stated that there are no plans to increase SATA bandwidth beyond the current 6 Gbps data transfer rate. The new 12 Gbps Toshiba SAS SSD aims to fill the gap.

“With the SATA roadmap basically not having any future, we see this as life after SATA,” said Cameron Brett, director of marketing for SSD and storage solutions at Toshiba. “There may be a few feature tweaks here and there, but there is no 12 gig on the roadmap.”

Using 12 Gbps SAS, Toshiba’s new 2.5-inch RM5 SSD can offer better I/O consistency and higher mixed workload performance than typical SATA SSDs, according to Steve Garceau, director of enterprise SSD marketing at Toshiba. He said mixed workload performance is especially critical for online transaction processing, financial transactions, email servers, and virtual workloads.

“Many SATA SSDs are deployed in servers with SAS expanders due to cost reasons,” Greg Wong, principal analyst at

Insights, wrote in an email. “SATA SSD performance does not scale, especially in the higher capacities, so RM5 offers a way to increase capacity and performance of the drive.”

New Toshiba SAS SSD capacity

Garceau said the capacity range for the new Toshiba RM5 SSD — ranging from 960 GB to 7.68 TB — is higher than typical SATA

. The RM5 uses the same triple-level cell, 64-layer 3D NAND flash technology that Toshiba’s higher-end dual-ported NVMe-based PCIe and enterprise SAS drives do.

Garceau noted that SATA has been the dominant SSD interface in servers to date, primarily due to its lower cost. But he said analysts predict SATA SSD use will decline over time, as higher performance NVMe-based SSDs start to claim more of the market.

“A natural question is, ‘Hey, if I’m going to leave SATA, why don’t I just go to NVMe?’ The short answer is they will eventually,” Garceau said. “When we’re looking five years and beyond, these servers will have enough PCIe lanes in them to support a robust array of NVMe drives. But today, lanes are rather limited in most server motherboards, and so the average NVMe-capable server costs more than the average SAS-capable server.”

Garceau said the new single-port Toshiba SAS SSD “slots in nicely” in the “near term” – for perhaps two to four years – for legacy SAS-enabled systems. He declined to specify the price range for the RM5 SAS SSD other than to say it would be “close” to the cost of a SATA SSD.

Toshiba SAS SSD pricing

Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist at DeepStorage LLC, said Toshiba told him the new RM5 SAS SSD should be less than a 5% price differential compared to SATA SSDs.

“Because it’s an OEM product, the real question

is how much HPE and Dell and the like mark it up,” he said.

Marks said the most cost-sensitive customers would likely stick with SATA in the short term. But he expects the new single-port Toshiba SAS SSD would hold appeal as a capacity tier in software-defined storage and hyper-converged infrastructure systems, especially if vendors such as VMware, Nutanix and Qumulo start to recommend SAS SSDs. He said, beyond bandwidth, SAS advantages over SATA include a more sophisticated and deeper queueing system and data integrity.

“Ultimately NVMe wins. The question is does that happen at the end of the next server release cycle, which is three to four years from now? Or, does it happen five to seven years from now? I don’t have a bet,” Marks said.

Jim Handy, general director and semiconductor analyst at Objective Analysis, said Toshiba is taking advantage of the fact that 12 Gbps SAS sockets are plentiful in servers by offering the less expensive single-port SAS SSD option before users start to move to NVMe. He expects other vendors would follow Toshiba’s lead with single-port SAS SSDs. But Handy predicted it could be 10 years before NVMe SSDs take over the market.

Toshiba has been showcasing its new RM5 SAS SSD at this week’s HPE Discover show in Las Vegas. The vendor refers to the single-ported RM5 SSD as “value SAS,” in contrast to its dual-ported enterprise PM5 SSDs that are designed for storage arrays equipped with dual controllers for high availability. Toshiba expects to continue to produce both the dual-ported enterprise SAS PM5 SSDs in addition to the single-ported RM5 SSD, according to Garceau.