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ONFI 3.0 NAND standard promises faster SSDs

ONFI 3.0 NAND standard promises faster SSDs

Even new SSDs such as OCZ's Vertex 3 won't support ONFI 3.0.

The Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) Working Group has just announced the latest ONFI 3.0 NAND Flash standard, which will dictate the specifications and speeds of NAND memory used in future high-performance SSDs

The jump to ONFI 3.0 represents the largest step up in specification for some time, increasing the maximum transfer rate per channel from DDR 200 (200MB/sec) to DDR 400 (400MB/sec). There's also support for lower I/O signalling voltage and on-die termination, which improves signal integrity and enables faster transfer speeds.

Of course, SSDs such as OCZ's Vertex 3 already surpass these speeds, despite using ONFI 2.1 NAND, by addressing multiple NAND channels simultaneously. However, with the further increased bandwidth of ONFI 3.0 NAND, we should be set for yet another huge step forward in SSD performance.

We won't be seeing ONFI 3.0 NAND in SSDs anytime soon, though. The latest SSDs based on SandForce and Marvell controllers are all designed and optimised for ONFI 2.1 and 2.2 NAND, and even the SATA 6Gbps standard itself will begin to cap out at around 700MB/sec. We can't blame the ONFI for being ambitious and forward-thinking, though. After all, SATA isn't the only option.

Are you amazed at the pace at which SSD technology is advancing? Do SSDs really need to be that much faster? Let us know in the forums.

14 Comments

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Arkanrais 16th March 2011, 14:14 Quote
Soon we might need to dedicate several PCIe channels to storage for these SSD's, similar to PCIe 4x/8x RAID cards, but hopefully less expensive.
luciferon 16th March 2011, 14:19 Quote
Very good news for my texture and data heavy mmos!
SSD already gives me the step ahead of everyone in my clan, imagine the possibilities!
azazel1024 16th March 2011, 14:39 Quote
SATA 6Gbps is a theoretical maximum of 750MB/sec and a real world maximum more like 575-600MB/sec. I think in the near future we are going to see SATA done away with. Now I could be wrong and we'll see an SATA 9Gbps, or 12Gbps or whatever. However, I think to drive lower latencies and higher bandwidth, and customized bandwidth, I think we are just going to see PCI-e interfaces. Now I am not talking PCI-e storage, I mean a 1.8/2.5/3.5" storage drive, but the interface uses some SATA like connector, but connects directly through PCI-e lanes. Something similar to how OCZ's HSDL seems to work and how Thunderbolt also seems to work.

It does mean a lot more PCI-e lanes are going to be needed in future chipsets and onboard CPU controllers. I don't think the next generation, or at most the generation after next, is going to be able to get away with just 16 lanes anymore. I think we are going to need at least 32 or even 40 lanes as a minimum to get by.

I could see a lovely standard where you connect as many cables as you need speed for on the device. Each one uses maybe x1 PCI-e 3.0 lanes (1,000MB/sec each lane). On a "slower" device, you hook up just the same plain old SATA power connector you have right now (I see nothing wrong with it) and a single PCI-e data connector. You have a really fast SSD attached, maybe you hook up two cables and you have two lanes of PCI-e 3.0 for the device. Of course the downside to this would be physical space constraints on the device by needing to hook up multiple cables. However, even a 2.5" drive has space currently for an SATA power connector and a pair of SATA connectors. If you can make the connector size a little smaller, you could probably shoehorn in 3 connectors. A 3.5" device could fit a lot more than that on there.

Or hey, just go with two lanes per connector or four lanes (and maybe still allow multiple connectors). How often would you need to push data from all connected devices at once? You could still have 6 storage devices with 4 lanes each use only maybe 8 lanes total, you just wouldn't have 100% through-put if you tried to pull data from/too all the devices at once if the devices could saturate the 4 lanes each is in theory given. Heck, you could probably get away with an 8 or 10 lane bus for 6 devices on basic boards. two devices copying one to another would utilizes 8 lanes, leave maybe 2 spare for "slower speed" connections with a 3rd device to be putting data through the bus at the same time. Server and enthusiast chipsets might have more lanes dedicated to the storage devices (maybe 4 lanes for each connected device full time).

Just some thoughts I've been having on the subject recently.
Lazy_Amp 16th March 2011, 14:45 Quote
I used to be all on board the SSD bandwagon, until I picked up a cheap one (120$ for a 64Gig drive) for myself almost 2 years ago, when there was much less information on them to distinguish which were good and bad. Perhaps the new ones are far superior (well, anything that has trim support would be, darn Gskill for not supporting any firmware updates), but I'm much more skeptical now.

For enthusists now, I suppose there is much more information/reviews out there to allow one to make a selection. But actually there's an information overload. When SSD's switch over to this new NAND standard, how much performance increase would there be? Like this article says, SSD's surpass these speeds on already The reviews on bit tech are fairly in depth, but there are a still parts of SSD's which are hard to test, especially maximum lifetime, which has me fairly worried about the state of the tech right now.

I suppose the Crucial drives have been highly recommended recently, but I'm now just kind of sick of having to juggle a hundred different variables when looking for a good SSD. There's no way the mainstream market can get behind SSD's until the performance analysis is simplified and we get rid of all the nonsense naming schemes. I like WD for their Hard Drive naming scheme: Green for reduced performance/lower power consumption, Blue for mainstream use, Black for higher performance (and the Raptors for the crazies, haha, joking a little, but at least that is distinct branding). How about we look at OCZ SSDs hmm? According to their site we have:

Value Solid State Drives: Onyx
Mainstream Solid State Drives: Vertex
High performance SSD: Vertex 2, Agility2
Maximum-Performance: Vertex 2 EX, Vertex 2 Pro

These names answer none of the questions that go into to SSD purchasing, and actually raise more. Which controllers do each drive use? Which drives will be supported by firmware updates? Why does the Agility 2 actually say 'Mainstream performace' in the specifications?

In fact, to get all their data you have to examine this document: http://www.ocztechnology.com/res/manuals/OCZ_SSD_Breakdown_Q1-11.pdf
And still these are theoretical performance numbers! You actually have to look at tests and reviews to see how much performance loss these things have in normal use!

Alright, end of ranting. I thank you Bit Tech for actually giving us SSD recommendations through all the baloney, cause I'm sick of keeping up with all the bloody minutiae.
devdevil85 16th March 2011, 15:09 Quote
Yes, I am amazed at the rate of advancement and, yes, I want faster speeds. How could faster ever be a bad thing in storage terms? Loading times suck.
l3v1ck 16th March 2011, 21:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arkanrais
Soon we might need to dedicate several PCIe channels to storage for these SSD's
I tend to agree. At the current rate of development, SSD's will easily reach the limit of SATA 6Gbit/s before the next generation of SATA comes out. PCIe SSD's will become common place in a few years IMO.
greigaitken 16th March 2011, 22:14 Quote
I think we'll just continue for some time to see big speed increases until they hit a wall like cpu's. By then though - we'll be too busy drewling over the new gpu brain connector.
Saivert 16th March 2011, 23:09 Quote
yes. I don't see why we need so many different data connections, USB, SATA, Firewire, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort.
They are all the same.
Why not unify it under one standard. I'm all in with Thunderbolt.
metarinka 17th March 2011, 01:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
yes. I don't see why we need so many different data connections, USB, SATA, Firewire, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort.
They are all the same.
Why not unify it under one standard. I'm all in with Thunderbolt.

transfer standards are built to different engineering assumptions given the usage model. That is to say, think like HDMI DVI, Display are mono directional or thereabouts and have massive parallelism as composed of things like USB or SATA that are more generic and have diverse queuing and data management needs.

I agree there could be fewer, but due to price, use, power consumption ownership etc. It's simpler to have a few more standards. Wasn't the rage about lightpeak in that it could replace USB Sata and firewire?
metarinka 17th March 2011, 01:11 Quote
I was also gonna say that we'll look back in a few years and say wow 400 mb/sec is slow. I mean even by today's standards that's not all that fast for a bus? or am I missing something
Bakes 17th March 2011, 01:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazy_Amp
I used to be all on board the SSD bandwagon, until I picked up a cheap one (120$ for a 64Gig drive) for myself almost 2 years ago, when there was much less information on them to distinguish which were good and bad. Perhaps the new ones are far superior (well, anything that has trim support would be, darn Gskill for not supporting any firmware updates), but I'm much more skeptical now.

For enthusists now, I suppose there is much more information/reviews out there to allow one to make a selection. But actually there's an information overload. When SSD's switch over to this new NAND standard, how much performance increase would there be? Like this article says, SSD's surpass these speeds on already The reviews on bit tech are fairly in depth, but there are a still parts of SSD's which are hard to test, especially maximum lifetime, which has me fairly worried about the state of the tech right now.

I suppose the Crucial drives have been highly recommended recently, but I'm now just kind of sick of having to juggle a hundred different variables when looking for a good SSD. There's no way the mainstream market can get behind SSD's until the performance analysis is simplified and we get rid of all the nonsense naming schemes. I like WD for their Hard Drive naming scheme: Green for reduced performance/lower power consumption, Blue for mainstream use, Black for higher performance (and the Raptors for the crazies, haha, joking a little, but at least that is distinct branding). How about we look at OCZ SSDs hmm? According to their site we have:

Value Solid State Drives: Onyx
Mainstream Solid State Drives: Vertex
High performance SSD: Vertex 2, Agility2
Maximum-Performance: Vertex 2 EX, Vertex 2 Pro

These names answer none of the questions that go into to SSD purchasing, and actually raise more. Which controllers do each drive use? Which drives will be supported by firmware updates? Why does the Agility 2 actually say 'Mainstream performace' in the specifications?

In fact, to get all their data you have to examine this document: http://www.ocztechnology.com/res/manuals/OCZ_SSD_Breakdown_Q1-11.pdf
And still these are theoretical performance numbers! You actually have to look at tests and reviews to see how much performance loss these things have in normal use!

Alright, end of ranting. I thank you Bit Tech for actually giving us SSD recommendations through all the baloney, cause I'm sick of keeping up with all the bloody minutiae.

I'm sure that WD were all too happy to quickly show you the specific types of motor used in their different drives as well?

You got burned a year or two ago - but SSDs weren't even really recommended then. IIRC, they were just expensive toys that weren't quite ready for the primetime. Manufacturer naming schemes have always been crazy - and really unless you can see past the marketing crap, you're always going to be suckered.

btw, maximum lifetime depends on the kind of work you do. If you wanted, you could burn out a top end SSD in between 10 days and a month - it's really just destruction testing and considering the manufacturer usually asks for the hardware back after reviewing, you can expect bit-tech to not do this.
Waynio 17th March 2011, 11:39 Quote
But will big ssd's ever be an affordable option as a games drive, until that day comes I'll stick with a 60gb ssd just for the os.
azazel1024 17th March 2011, 12:42 Quote
Well how much do you need on your game drive? I've got a 60GB Vertex as my boot and App drive. I have steam on it as well with HL2, DOD source and CS source with about 20GB free. I also have a 30GB vertex that I use as an app drive and spill over for Steam to leave more room free on my boot drive. I've got about 22GB free on that. Sure I don't have 30 games installed, but frankly I don't play more than 2-3 games in a given week at most. Worst comes to worst I just reinstall a game from steam once I have the hankering to play it again.

Unless you go nuts I just don't see why you need more than about 100GB, maybe 120GB of storage on SSDs unless you want to use one for data or database storage, unless you have to have every game and application you've ever met stored on one.

For the new ONFI 3.0 standards. 400MB/sec is for ONE channel. Older controllers like the Indilinx barefoot I believe used 12 channels (or maybe they were 8) and the newer ones like the Sandforce controllers use 8 channels.

So, that is in theory 8 channels times 400MB/sec...that is a hell of a lot of speed. Of course you need NAND that actually supports that much speed, but this spec will help in designing NAND that can go that fast.
Dragon7Samurai 17th March 2011, 17:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by azazel1024
Well how much do you need on your game drive? I've got a 60GB Vertex as my boot and App drive. I have steam on it as well with HL2, DOD source and CS source with about 20GB free. I also have a 30GB vertex that I use as an app drive and spill over for Steam to leave more room free on my boot drive. I've got about 22GB free on that. Sure I don't have 30 games installed, but frankly I don't play more than 2-3 games in a given week at most. Worst comes to worst I just reinstall a game from steam once I have the hankering to play it again.

Unless you go nuts I just don't see why you need more than about 100GB, maybe 120GB of storage on SSDs unless you want to use one for data or database storage, unless you have to have every game and application you've ever met stored on one.

For the new ONFI 3.0 standards. 400MB/sec is for ONE channel. Older controllers like the Indilinx barefoot I believe used 12 channels (or maybe they were 8) and the newer ones like the Sandforce controllers use 8 channels.

So, that is in theory 8 channels times 400MB/sec...that is a hell of a lot of speed. Of course you need NAND that actually supports that much speed, but this spec will help in designing NAND that can go that fast.

Alot more than you think... TF2 ~ 10GB, MW2 ~8GB, WOW ~10GB those 3 alone with Win7 and a few office apps and its getting a bit tight on a 60GB drive
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