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Adata Joins M.3 Party With New IM3P33E1 SSD

LAS VEGAS, NV -- The M.2 specifications have been great for consumer use, but lack some features large enterprise customers want in their pizza box server. The enterprise equivalent to M.2 is the U.2 specification, but that's built on old 2.5" disk drive form factor technology. Flash storage has moved beyond traditional form factors with success, but the consumer M.2 specification doesn't carry over well to the enterprise.

The two M.3 SSDs we've seen thus far from Samsung and now Adata feature a wider (30.5mm vs 22mm) width that gives manufacturers more surface area to mount components. The extra surface area gives the companies more options with NAND packages, host power failure capacitors, and larger controllers.

Adata's IM3P33E1 features a PCIe 3.0 x4 host connector that support hot plug. The drive will enter the market in sizes that range from 240GB to 1.92TB. This is lower than Samsung's, which reaches up to 16TB, but much more economical. Adata claims up to 3,200 MB/s sequential and 1,800 MB/s sequential write speeds over the NVMe 1.3 protocol.

The connector in the server doesn't use an angle when inserting the drive. This direct, straight through connector gives users hot plug capabilities without the use of a complicated mechanism. The only server we've seen with the M.3 form factor puts 34 drive sleds on the front of the 1U chassis. The server consolidates the drives vertically and fits more high-speed storage than possible with 2.5" U.2 ever could in 1.75" height server.

The pin out is the same between M.2 and M.3, but don't expect to use these in your desktop anytime soon. The two M.3 drives we've seen from Samsung and Adata use 12v instead of 5v. Even the name M.3 is not a technically correct term at this time—it's a specification that does not exist. Samsung first used the M.3 name at Flash Memory Summit 2016 but later shifted over to Next Generation Small Form Factor (NGSFF) after catching some heat from the committee that oversees the M.2 specification. With more than one company showing NGSFF drives, we should see some movement on the specification soon.

  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    How can you say that a physically smaller drive (NGSFF/M.3) could fit more memory than a 2.5" drive could? Physically, the 2.5" size is bigger, and you could theoretically fit more components onto the surface area. I know most mfg's have really small boards inside their 2.5" drive sleds, but technically they could fit a lot more than the NGSFF/M.3 size.
    Reply
  • thejorge123
    @2BE_OR_NOT2B 2.5" is using SATA ports which are an old technology that has already reached it's limit for years. M.2, and now M.3 are more recent and built more efficiently to handle faster speeds, bigger capacities, and smaller sizes.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    20599356 said:
    @2BE_OR_NOT2B 2.5" is using SATA ports which are an old technology that has already reached it's limit for years. M.2, and now M.3 are more recent and built more efficiently to handle faster speeds, bigger capacities, and smaller sizes.
    The U.2 interface offers the same PCIe x4 speed as M.2, but in a 2.5" form factor.
    Reply
  • Sakkura
    20599110 said:
    How can you say that a physically smaller drive (NGSFF/M.3) could fit more memory than a 2.5" drive could? Physically, the 2.5" size is bigger, and you could theoretically fit more components onto the surface area. I know most mfg's have really small boards inside their 2.5" drive sleds, but technically they could fit a lot more than the NGSFF/M.3 size.

    It's not the drives that fit more memory, it's the server. You can put a LOT more M.3 drives than 2.5" U.2 drives in a server.
    Reply
  • littleleo
    20599110 said:
    How can you say that a physically smaller drive (NGSFF/M.3) could fit more memory than a 2.5" drive could? Physically, the 2.5" size is bigger, and you could theoretically fit more components onto the surface area. I know most mfg's have really small boards inside their 2.5" drive sleds, but technically they could fit a lot more than the NGSFF/M.3 size.
    Think of it this way, how many M.3 SSDs could you fit in the space of one 2.5" drive physically (not worrying about the bus)?

    Reply
  • bit_user
    So, what's the ruler-shaped form factor called? I think Intel is pushing that one.
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    I was talking about the surface area of the M.3 compared to the M.2. I need to see what edits were made. Also, you can fit more M.3 drives in a 1u server than 2.5" drives. I think SuperMicro has a 1u with 10 2.5" drive bays. There are 34 in the server shown with M.3.
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    20600977 said:
    I was talking about the surface area of the M.3 compared to the M.2. I need to see what edits were made. Also, you can fit more M.3 drives in a 1u server than 2.5" drives. I think SuperMicro has a 1u with 10 2.5" drive bays. There are 34 in the server shown with M.3.

    Gotcha - I see what you mean.

    I could argue that if you had a full-size (length & width) 2.5" board with maxed-out amount of memory modules (not including heat-removal mechanisms) instead of the current way wherein only half (or less) of the interior space is used, then I would think you should be able to get *more* storage. You would have *one* controller with more memory modules than the M.3/NGSFF form factor where the single controller only has the memory modules that can fit onto its small surface area.

    For example, I have one M.3 module with 4 memory chips. If I lay two down side-by-side, let's just say that equals the width of a 2.5" board. So I would have two controllers & 8 memory chips total. However, on the 2.5" board, I only need the one controller, and I can then stuff more memory chips onto the board than just 8 chips -maybe 10-12 total. So physically, I have more memory chips on the same surface area (i.e. more storage space).

    I know the consideration was lining up the M.3/NGSFF drives vertically in a 1U server. Maybe the same could be done if you stacked 2.5"-width boards (sans case), and maybe not. However, my main thought was that physically, a 2.5" board can offer more space for memory modules than a M.3 board.
    Reply