As the sort of person that can get addicted to deep technology discussions about the latest thing, without due care and attention I could easily fall into the pit of storage related technologies. From the storage bits through to software defined cache hierarchy, there is so much to learn and to talk about. Over the last two years, unless you were living under a rock, it would have been hard to miss the level of attention that Intel's 3D XPoint technology (a co-venture with Micron) has been getting. Billed as a significant disruption to the storage market, and claiming an intersection between DRAM and SSDs as a form of non-volatile storage, many column inches have been devoted to the potential uses of 3D XPoint. Despite all this talk, and promises that Intel's Super 7 partners are well under way with qualifying the hardware in their datacenters, we are yet to actually see it come to market - or even be actively demonstrated in any sizeable volume at a trade show. We're expecting more information this year, but while everyone is waiting, Samsung has snuck up behind everyone with their new Z-SSD product line.

The Z-SSD line was announced back at Flash Memory Summit, although details were scant. This was a PCIe NVMe storage technology using Samsung's new 'Z-NAND', which was aimed at the intersection between DRAM and SSDs (sounds like 3D XPoint?). Z-NAND is ultimately still baked in as NAND, although designed differently to provide better NAND characteristics. We still don't know the exact way this happens - some analysts have pointed to this being 3D NAND/V-NAND running in SLC mode, given some of the performance metrics, but this is still unknown.

At Cloud Expo Europe, Samsung had a Z-SSD on display and started talking numbers, if not the technology itself. The first drive for select customers to qualify will be 800GB in a half-height PCIe 3.0 x4 card. Sequential R/W will be up to 3.2 GBps, with Random R/W up to 750K/160K IOPS. Latency (presumably read latency) will be 70% lower than current NVMe drives, partially due to the new NAND but also a new controller, which we might hear about during Samsung's next tech day later this year. We are under the impression that the Z-NAND will also have high endurance, especially if it comes down to fewer bits per cell than current NAND offerings, but at this point it is hard to tell.

Initial reports indicated that Samsung was preparing 1TB, 2TB and 4TB drives under the Z-SSD banner. At present only the 800GB is on the table, which if we take into account overprovisioning might just be the 1TB drive anyway. Nothing was said about other capacities or features, except that the customers Samsung is currently dealing with are very interested in getting their hands on the first drives.

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  • lilmoe - Saturday, March 18, 2017 - link

    Samsung's 3D NAND is 40nm. This might be similar.
  • JKJK - Saturday, March 18, 2017 - link

    It will be interesting to see what samsung Z SSD can achive on QD1 copared head to head with Optane. And what it means in normal use case scenarios for consumers.
    Yes, I'm very interested in enterprise workloads too, but here we allready have quite impressive solutions imo. The consumer side with low QD has a bigger potential for improvement I believe.
    Take pricing in to the equation, and this will be exciting.
  • danielfranklin - Saturday, March 18, 2017 - link

    Well put.
    It doesn't seem any current nand implementations are getting much better at this.
    I think Optane and similar techs are what we are going to need to improve with most important of metrics.
  • beginner99 - Saturday, March 18, 2017 - link

    True. But as we have seen with the 5775c the consumer would profit more probaly for less money with a L4 cache edram. I mean the 5775c especially in games punches way above it's league given it's low clockspeed and TDP. I'm still a little sad i did not buy it.

    Optane will ship as what? 16 and 32 gb caches. That won't really help all that much expect if you have a laptop with a hdd.
  • fanofanand - Monday, March 20, 2017 - link

    Article today (or yesterday) is on X-Point, first drive is 375 Gb and it's not overly impressive.
  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - link

    Actually for target workloads it's quite nice. Consistency is many dozens of times better and latency is a fraction of Datacenter SSDs.
  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - link

    It's not up to Optane SSD levels. They claim 750K/160K read/write IOPs. It has a sequential throughput of 3.2GB/s.

    3.2GB/s equals 800K IOPs. The read is being saturated with random but writes arent. 160K is 640MB/s.

    Optane SSD is at 550/500K with 2.4 and 2GB/s. Write random matches sequential throughput. That's because Optane media is capable of doing more.
  • Visual - Monday, March 20, 2017 - link

    Why is 3.2GB/s hyped as anything close to RAM? It's still 10 to 20 times slower... and that's provided they didn't typo the B from lowercase to uppercase.
  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - link

    You are too focused on bandwidth. Even SDRAM can't be beaten by latest NVMe SSDs in latency. Measured latency on consumer platforms are at lower than 60ns. SSDS best cause is 20us, and average is at 100-200us. RAM is 60-600x faster.
  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, March 25, 2017 - link

    Actually I calculated wrong.

    300x-3000x faster.

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