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M.2 SSDs - news and perspectives

includes a list of nearly 40 companies which make SSDs in the M.2 form factor (column on the righ)
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Transcend's new M.2 SSD

Editor:- March 27, 2017 - Transcend today launched the MTE850 - a family of PCIe Gen 3 x 4 M.2 SSDs with 512GB of 3D MLC NAND capacity and R/W speeds upto 2.5GB/s and 1.1GB/s, respectively aimed at the consumer market.


M.2 PCIe SSDs for secure industrial / military applications?

Editor:- March 20, 2017 - Do you know who makes M.2 PCIe SSDs which can operate at industrial temperatures and have security strong enough for a military application?

That's a question I was asked recently by a reader in the defense sector.

So I looked into it. He was right. They are hard to find. (Nearly all the industrial M.2 SSDs are SATA and not PCIe.) And the manufacturers' own websites hinder the discovery process.

The only companies which I have been able to confirm in this category (by direct contact rather than a promissory future web note) are:- I became interested in the technical difficulties which might explain why there are so few suppliers right now. Here's what I think is part of the explanation.

As you add operational requirements to the datasheet moving up from consumer to enterprise and then to industrial SSDs you also add circuits and components which compete for physical space, electrical power and cost in the total SSD design budget.
  • use of larger flash memory cell geometry (nanometer generation and coding type - for example SLC rather than MLC, or MLC rather than TLC) to ensure data integrity over a wider range of temperature and power supply quality environments
  • use of different flash SSD controllers

    Consumer and enterprise SSDs can use controllers which use more electrical power than industrial or embedded SSDs due to the ease of fitting the design into the heat rise budget.

    Industrial designs can't afford the same wattage in their controllers - because the heat generated would reduce the reliability of the SSD at the high end of its operating temperature range (70 to 85 degress C and sometimes 95 degrees) - or force the use of more expensive components elsewhere (to cope with the incremental heat rise. The tradeoffs made (typically lower wattage controller) is why industrial SSDs tend not to use CPU intensive data integrity management schemes like adaptive DSP. And that in turn means they need to use intrinsically higher quality memory.
When you add all the requirements together to make an industrial / military SSD capable of working reliably and shrink the size budget from a bigger to smaller form factor (2.5" to M.2) while at the same time asking for high performance too - it's a tough design problem to solve for the first time.

But once such products do became available from multiple sources then demand will grow (due to confidence in the equipment design community that they won't get stuck in an EOL rut from a single source dependency).

If you know of other secure erase, industrial operation M.2 PCIe SSD companies which are shipping products let me know and I'll mention them here.


Recadata enters rugged M.2 SSD market

military storage directory and news
military SSDs
Editor:- December 20, 2016 - The M.2 SSD form factor was originally designed as a mainstream solution for consumer SSDs but in recent years we've seen many new M.2 products appearing in other markets where size matters too.

Today Recadata - which is best known for its rugged SSDs aimed at military systems launched an M.2 SSD product line - the M700 Series M.2 SSD series.


Corsair enters M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD market

Editor:- December 13, 2016 - Corsair today announced its entry into the M.2 SSD market with a new PCIe Gen. 3 x4 product aimed at the consumer upgrade market. The Force MP500 is Corsair's fastest SSD and uses a controller from Phison.


in-situ SSD company enters Top 5 SSD Companies List in Q3 2016

Editor:- November 24, 2016 - NxGn (a pioneer in in-situ processing inside SSDs) achieved its highest ever ranking in the new Q3 2016 edition of the Top SSD Companies published today.


Seagate unveils 2TB enterprise M.2

Editor:- July 26, 2016 - Seagate today unveiled a 2TB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD aimed at the enterprise market. The Nytro XM1440 M.2 - which will ship in November 2016 - will offer 30K IOPS / Watt.


Virtium offers encryption in all its industrial SSD form factors

image shows mouse building storage - click to see industrial SSDs article
industrial SSDs
Editor:- June 28, 2016 - Virtium today announced self-encrypting drive features as options throughout all the form factors in its StorFly range of industrial SSDs.

"These support multiple SATA form factors, including 2.5", 1.8", Slim SATA, mSATA, M.2, and CFast" said Scott Phillips, VP of marketing at Virtium.

Virtium says many industrial-system makers and their customers continue to push functionality closer and closer to the network edge and the end-customer. This puts systems and the data they hold at risk of hacking and data theft. Virtium's new SEDs provide security for data at rest without sacrificing industrial features.


Toshiba launches fast M.2 SSD for notebooks

Editor:- May 19, 2016 - May 24, 2016 - Toshiba today launched its fastest yet SSD for the consumer upgrade market in the US. The OCZ RD400 is an M.2 form factor NVMe PCIe SSD with 0.3 DWPD endurance and sequential R/W of 2,200 / 620MB/s (for the entry level 128GB model).

AMD enters M.2 SSD market

Editor:- May 16, 2016 - AMD is now offering a range of branded M.2 SSDs for the consumer market. A blog on CIO.com discusses the details here.


using M.2 in server slots - article by Liqid

Editor:- January 30, 2016 - An article on the evolution of SSD form factors with reference to M.2 (pdf) - by Liqid - discusses how M.2 SSDs can be used in enterprise PCIe SSD environments which don't have native M.2 PCIe slots - by using add in carrier cards.

evolution of form factors

The image above (from Liqid's article) shows the evolution of SSD and HDD form factors in progressively smaller form factors from 1989 (5¼") to M.2 in 2014.

Although to be fair to the hard drive market the image doesn't show the smallest hard drives - such as the 0.85" hard drive from Toshiba (in January 2004) and 1" hard drive from Cornice (in August 2006).

The 1" HDD market didn't last long.

It was the first hard drive extinction event caused by adoption of flash SSDs. ...read the article (pdf)


new TB PCIe SSD on M.2 from OCZ

Editor:- January 5, 2016 - OCZ says it will show new NVMe PCIe SSDs with 1TB capacity and up to 2.4GB/s of bandwidth on a single M.2 module at CES this week.


dual port GbE with USB in the same M.2 SSD from InnoDisk

Editor:- November 3, 2015 - InnoDisk today announced a product first for the M.2 SSD market in the shape of a dual port isolated GbE compatible model - EGUL-G201 - which also has a USB 3 interface, and fits in a 22x60mm footprint. InnoDisk says the ethernet modules have strong electrical isolation, ESD and surge protection.


Memoright 4 way M2 SSD card1x M.2 NVMe SSD good
4 is better says Memoright


Editor:- September 3, 2015 - Memoright discussed the possibilities arising from using an array of 4x M.2 NVMe PCIe SSDs packed onto a single PCIe switch card as a way of building competitively priced SSD accelerated servers - in a paper Using a PCIe-Based Switch Module to Enhance Enterprise Storage Architecture (pdf) presented at the recent Flash Memory Summit. Each of the new M.2 SSDs from Memoright would have upto 1TB capacity and R/W IOPS upto 81K / 54K respectively.


world's first M.2 MRAM SSD

Editor:- August 13, 2015 - Everspin Technologies and Aupera Technologies today announced the launch of the world's first all MRAM storage module in the M.2 form factor.

The AupM001 is equipped with Everspin's non-volatile, high endurance, 64 Mb DDR3 ST-MRAM devices and a PCIe backhaul interface. AupM001's capacity is 32MB and among other uses is used in Aupera's all Flash Array system for applications that require low latency and high performance.


Seagate promises M.2 NVMe SSDs early next year

Editor:- August 11, 2015 - Seagate today announced details of 2 new families of NVMe SSDs which will be available in 2.5" (October) and M.2 (in early 2016) form factors.

Seagate will demonstrate these new SSDs this week at the Flash Memory Summit.


Lite-On says small NVMe M.2 PCIe SSDs could be a good fit for datacenter

Editor:- August 6, 2015 - Lite-On today unveiled a new NVMe M.2 PCIe SSD for datacenter environments.

The EP2 series delivers R/W IOPS up to 250K /25K respectively and low latencies of 35/35 (µs). It also has power loss protection, scalability, end-to-end data protection, low power consumption, high endurance, sustained performance, and customized firmware.

Editor's comments:- in an earlier press release (in June 2015) about supplying a related product line to an unnamed customer described as "one of the largest cloud service providers" Jeffrey Chang, Lite-On's Technical Product Manager said "The M.2 is perfect for where we believe the future of enterprise SSD cloud storage is going."


Virtium launches industrial M.2 PCIe SSDs

Editor:- July 28, 2015 - Virtium today announced it has expanded its StorFly range of industrial SSDs with new PCIe SSDs (gen 2) available in both M.2 and Mini Card form factors with capacities from 16GB upto 480GB and low power requirements <4W.

Endurance is upto 3.3 petabytes of writes (about 3.7 DWPD for 5 years). Virtium's new SSDs have full BOM control with up to 5 years of uninterrupted product availability.


Phison's SSDs at Computex

Editor:- June 5, 2015 - New SSDs from Phison including models for these markets:- M.2, 2.5" NVMe SSDs and conventional (HHHL) PCIe SSDs are discussed in a new blog - Phison Computex Update on the SSD Review.


cooling fans essential for high speed operation of Samsung's new M.2 PCIe SSDs

Editor:- April 13, 2015 - Samsung's M.2 PCIe SSD - the SM951 - launched in January 2015 (scroll down to see the original news story) is the subject a recent evaluation in the SSD Review. Among other things it was interesting to see how much the temperature of the SSD heated up when operating at high speed and heavy workloads and the importance of accurately designed heat extraction if you plan to use this SSD in such a way.

See also:- other reviews of this product, M.2 SSDs, temperature considerations in SSDs (pdf), industrial SSDs


Sonnet's "Fusion PCIe Flash Drive" has M.2 inside

Editor:- April 7, 2015 - Sonnet Technologies has today launched a new consumer storage module called the "Fusion PCIe Flash Drive" which has an M.2 SSD inside.
sonnet pcie ssd
"The Fusion PCIe Flash Drive leverages the latest advancements in PCIe SSD design and Thunderbolt 2 technology, enabling Sonnet to offer a storage device that fits neatly in the palm of your hand yet delivers the blazing-fast performance of a multi-drive RAID storage system many times its size," said Robert Farnsworth, Sonnet Technologies CEO. "We think this will become an indispensable accessory for the creative professional."

Samsung mass producing gen 3 PCIe SSDs for notebooks
Editor:- January 7, 2015 - 19 months after launching its first M.2 PCIe gen 2 SSDs aimed at the notebook market (the XP941 (pdf) in June 2013) - Samsung said it is now mass producing the follow-up SM951 - which supports gen 3 PCIe.

Samsung says - "For ultra-slim notebooks and workstations the SM951 can read and write sequentially at 2,150MB/s and 1,550 MB/s respectively..."

The SM951 is the first SSD to adopt L1.2 low power standby mode (the PCIe SSD equivalent of the power saving devsleep mode in SATA SSDs) . When hibernating in L1.2 mode, the SM951's power consumption is less than 2mW.


SMART Modular enters the M.2 SSD market

Editor:- November 11, 2014 - SMART Modular today announced it is sampling a new M.2 SATA SSD for enterprise applications with 32GB to 512GB capacity (19nm MLC) and R/W speeds upto 540Mbytes/sec and 320Mbytes/sec, respectively.

See also:- M.2 SSDs - mentions on StorageSearch.com, industrial SSDs


Micron's new M.2 SSDs

Editor:- September 16, 2014 - Micron today launched the M600 SATA SSD family - a low power (150mW typ), range using 16nm flash - and available in M.2, mSATA and 2.5" form factors.


Super Talent joins M.2 PCIe SSD market

Editor:- August 11, 2014 - Super Talent Technology today announced that it has added an M.2 form factor SSD to its NGFF family of SSDs.

Super Talent's PCIe DX1 has a PCIe gen 2 interface, R/W speeds upto 480/400MB/s respectively, capacity upto 256GB MLC and comes with a 128MB DDR3 DRAM cache.


Plextor's M.2 PCIe SSD wins award at FMS

Editor:- August 7, 2014 - Plextor today announced that its M6e - an M.2 PCIe SSD - has won Best of Show for most Innovative flash memory technology at the Flash Memory Summit.

The M6e SSD combines a multi-core Marvell PCIe 9183 controller and Toshiba toggle NAND flash with firmware developed by Plextor's in-house team.

As part of the design verification - Plextor says that 400 units were subjected to 500 hours of extreme tests without error or failure.


NxGn Data exits stealth with promise of in-situ SSD processing

Editor:- July 29, 2014 - NxGn Data today exited stealth mode.

NxGn will use advanced adaptive DSP technology to enable small form factor SSDs (such as M.2) aimed at the enterprise market - using MLC and TLC down to 1z-nm geometries.

Fully functional FPGA-based samples will be available in early 2015, followed by final production samples of SoC-based M.2 solutions in late 2015.

NxGn says it will be the first SSD controller company in the industry with in-storage computation capability - what it calls "In-Situ Processing".

Editor's comments:- Earlier this year I published a couple of reports and mentions about SSD suppliers (LSI and Memblaze) who have modifed their controller firmware to eliminate or bypass functions from the lowest level SSD drive - for large customers like Baidu - who then use their array level software to get better utilization and performance.

And in the industrial market InnoDisk - uses what it calls 3rd generation architecture - to partition intelligent data actions between the controller and software stack.

Until recently - only Fusion-io (in whose products the flash controller and apps server - share the same CPU cores) has been able to maximize high end context intelligence with low level flash block data access at a similar latency level.

But once you've solved the problem of making SSDs reliable and fast - it's tempting to create an SSD instruction set which which focuses on application layer needs too - and not just those of dumb storage.

See also:- Active Flash: Towards Energy-Efficient, In-Situ Data Analytics on Extreme-Scale Machines


M.2 duplicators from Addonics

Editor:- June 5, 2014 - It's been many years since I talked about disk duplicators so it was interesting to see this announcement today from Addonics - which puts a new spin on their reformfactoring technologies.

The gist is - that if you need to duplicate M.2 SSDs - they can supply a duplicator - and carrier kits which convert the M.2 to 2.5". They also have adapters for CF, CFast etc. more details here.


Unigen Announces M.2 SSDs

Editor:- June 3, 2014 - Unigen today announced SLC or MLC NAND flash based M.2 SATA III SSDs in densities ranging from 16GB- 256GB. These small form factor flash modules are used for high reliability storage of critical code and data, in space-constrained embedded, industrial, gaming and networking applications. They are available in both commercial and industrial temperature ranges.


Micron samples Marvell based M.2

Editor:- March 18, 2014 - Micron today announced it's sampling a 512GB M.2 SATA SATA SSD - the M550 (with DEVSLP and 550/500MB/s R/W speeds) - aimed at consumer markets - which is based on Marvell's 88SS9189 controller.


LSI integrates "SSD market on a chip"

Editor:- November 18, 2013 - LSI today launched its 3rd generation SandForce SSD controller family - the SF3700 which - based around a single chip design - spans a wide spectrum of SSD market applications (from consumer to enterprise) - includes native jumper-selectable SATA or gen 2 PCIe interfaces - and incorporates adaptive R/W DSP ECC management.

Editor's comments:- The SF3700 (now sampling) is the most ambitious design of a single chip SSD controller in SSD market history.

Its 14 core design integrates many impressive design and architectural features including:-
  • the ability to efficiently configure as either a small architecture or big architecture SSD controller.

    The SF3700 design can be configured with as little as 3 flash chips in entry level consumer SSDs - or as many as 129 chips when maximally configured in a 9 channel enterprise design which can recover from the complete failure of a memory chip as well as partial failures in other memory chips in the array.
  • dynamically adjusted power islands within the chip - enable a single silicon design to support both the low requirements of deep sleep mode in SATA notebooks as well as the performance requirements of entry level PCIe SSDs.
I recently spoke to Kent Smith at LSI about this new product.

Our conversations about SandForce SSD controllers go back more than 4 years - so we skipped a lot of stuff.

One of the first things I said to Kent - was - I've been nagging you for years and asking - when are you going to do a native PCIe SSD controller?- and for nearly 2 years it's been clear that another big hole in LSI's SSD IP bag has been adaptive R/W - and now you've finally done both at the same time in a single product.

I was also really impressed by the quality of LSI's briefing document on the LSI SandForce SF3700 (pdf) - which explains just about everything you need to know. So I asked Kent - why does he need to waste time talking to editor's like me? - why doesn't LSI just publish the document on the web and let it speak for itself?

I said a lot of publications will simply copy some of your pictures without attribution - and I think readers would find it valuable seeing them too - but I think it would be fairer to the work you've done if I could just make the whole document available - so there was no doubt who had done the hard work of communicating what the design was all about.

He agreed to that - and you can click on the link above to see the original info which I got from LSI.

Some other things I learned from this conversations were:-
  • The SF3700 is a completely new design. - It leverages all the flash related design concepts related to endurance and array level fault management which have been proven in earlier designs and extends them too.

    For example RAISE has been enhanced so that for high-end configurations it can protect against a full memory chip failure as well as multiple block faults - whereas entry level SSDs which need some RAID like features but can't afford an extra memory chip can use fractional RAISE.
  • One of the reference designs which LSI offers for this controller is for an M.2 form factor - which is goiing to be the game changing SSD for the consumer market next year. The card design is the same whether the SSD is being used as a SATA or PCIe SSD. A single jumper sets the configuration at assembly time.

    LSI's 2.5" reference design will also make it easier for oems to produce products for enterprise arrays in the 2.5" PCIe SSD market.
Overall I think the SF3700 is a very ambitious and outstanding SSD controller design - which will elevate LSI's reputation within the SSD industry.


Samsung enters PCIe SSD market

Editor:- June 17, 2013 - Samsung has entered the PCIe SSD market with an M.2 form factor model (80mm x 22mm) aimed at notebooks. Samsung's XP941 - which weighs less than 6g - has a sequential read performance of 1,400MB/s, and capacity up to 512GB.

Editor's comments:- the SSD notebook market began the year before PCIe SSDs started being used in the enterprise.

But in the first 5 years of its history (2006-2010) the notebook SSD market was a disappointment to SSD evangelists like me - because integration with PCs was so bad. And for years on these pages I ranted that notebooks using SSDs would never be able to reach their true potential as long as they were still wasting their inherently light CPU resources and latency advantages by talking to the CPU via old fashioned hard disk interfaces like SATA.

The exciting thing about today's announcement by Samsung is that consumer grade PCIe SSDs for notebooks will enable a dramatically different user experience which will help to create new markets.

Will there be a crossover into the enterprise market?

It's inevitable that some people will ask - what would an array of consumer priced PCIe SSDs look like in a box? And no doubt you will probably see such products coming onto the market. And that might lead to a temporary state of user confusion about expectations for PCIe SSDs.

But setting aside for the moment the obvious considerations at the single drive level of differences in endurance and performance characteristics - I think the key differentiators of enterprise PCIe SSDs compared to consumer PCIe SSDs are the different degree of data integrity (higher for the enterprise), power fail management and support for fault tolerance.
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M2 SSD graphic on StorageSearch.com
size matters
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SSD history
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Are we there yet? - 20 years of SSD articles after
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M.2 SSD manufacturers
This list below includes companies which have been mentioned in M.2 SSD related stories on StorageSearch.com.
ADLINK

Apacer

ATP

Aupera Technologies

Biwin

Corsair

Everspin

Foremay

Innodisk

Intel

KingSpec

Kingston

Lite-On

Longsys

MagicRAM

Memoright

Micron

Mushkin

NxGn Data

OCZ

Patriot Memory

PCcardsDirect

Phison

Plextor

Recadata

SanDisk
Seagate

Silicon Power

SK Hynix

SMART Modular

Super Talent Technology

Swissbit

Toshiba

Transcend

UDinfo

Unigen

Viking

Virtium

Waitan

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SSD ad - click for more info

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M.2 SSDs

a significant new form factor for SSD markets
by Zsolt Kerekes - editor

M.2 SSDs entered the SSD news pages here on StorageSearch.com in 2012.

Within a year this new form factor was clearly identified as being 1 of the 2 most significant emerging new SSD form factors to watch. See what changed in SSD year 2013? for more about this.

Originally created to satisfy the space needs of the consumer SSD market and notebooks - the M.2 form factor has begun creeping into enterprise applications too - and is also likely to become a future standard adopted in industrial markets.

M.2's key attractions are:-
  • the small form factor (about 1/2 the footprint of 2.5" SSDs). The new M.2 size has been optimized for SSDs rather than inherited from the hard drive market
Although smaller sizes for SSDs have been around for over a decade (for example the 1" and BGA sizes) the M.2 size provides better volumetric packing densities for scaling storage capacity by using arrays of M.2 SSDs in the same motherboard - compared to traditional form factors. Therefore it provides an efficient platform which spans many market needs - and is likely to be become as ubiquitous in SSD product diversity as the 2.5" SSD has been.


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SSD ad - click for more info


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"When I hear people call this specification by the name M.2 formerly known as NGFF, I cannot help but think about the time when the rock artist Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and everyone was stuck calling him - the Artist Formerly Known as Prince."
M.2 - is this the prince of SSD form factors? by Kent Smith, Sr. Dir Product Marketing for SandForce Controllers at Seagate Technology



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click to read more

"M.2 is the next generation cost effective SSDs storage. It builds on mSATA but is not limited by mSATA's legacy architecture" - said Rob Callaghan, SanDisk in his Flash Memory Summit paper M.2 use cases and market dynamics (pdf) (August 2014)



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"mSATA effectively evolved to M.2 as the next step form factor. But M.2 has limitations for enterprise computing because the connectors have low insertion ratings and the contacts have extremely small pitch, making hot-plug impossible."
Jon Tanguy, Micron - in Intro to M.2 SSDs (pdf) (May 2014)



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"M.2 will have broad market appeal.

M.2 SSD shipments could reach 7 million units (in the enterprise) by 2018 and over 100 million units in client products."
Jim Handy, Objective Analysis
All About M.2 SSDs (SNIA webcast - pdf)



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"M.2 will become the next popular form factor for industrial applications."
C.C. Wu, Embedded Flash VP of Innodisk- in his paper - PCIe in Industrial Application (pdf) (August 6, 2014) - which among other things includes an authoratative timeline of form factors and interfaces used in the industrial SSD market in past decades.



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"Many customers ask about what interfaces and form factors they should use on their next generation embedded designs.

There is a lot of interest in PCIe and the M.2 form factors, but there is also still a lot of misunderstanding out there too."
M.2 For Next Generation Designs - a blog by Virtium - July 2014