The march to U.2 adoption is slow but coming - it is already more successful than SATA Express ever was. Consumer motherboards are now coming equipped with slots, and we've seen a single vendor supply drives to the consumer space - a number of players behind the scenes are shipping to enterprise users, and are expected to launch consumer grade products at some point in the next twelve months. While not specifically aimed at consumers, we got word that this week Super Talent has added a family of SSDs with U.2 connector into its lineup of products. Their new PCIe Nova drives will be aimed at servers and workstations first, and will offer capacities up to 2TB as well as high quoted performance. In fact, the new SSDs will be the fastest drives in Super Talent’s lineup and will compete against high-end drives from companies like Intel and HGST.

The Super Talent PCIe Nova SSDs with a U.2 (SFF-8639) connector and PCIe 3.0 x4 interface will be based on MLC NAND memory and will be offered in various configurations, initially starting with 120 GB, up to 1920 GB. The manufacturer does not disclose the exact model of the controller or the exact type of flash it uses to build the devices, but it claims that the drives have maximum sequential read speed of 3 GB/s and maximum sequential write speed of 2.2 GB/s. Super Talent also does not specify endurance of the SSDs, but declares a mean time between failures (MTBF) at 1 million hours, which is in line with consumer storage devices.

Super Talent PCIe Nova SSD General Specifications
Capacity 120 GB 240 GB 480 GB 960 GB 1920 GB
Model Number FPG120PS2B FPG240PS2B FPG480PS2B FPG960PS2B FPG1T9PS2B
Controller unknown
NAND Flash MLC NAND, unknown manufacturer
Sequential Read Up to 3 GB/s
Sequential Write Up to 2.2 GB/s
Form-Factor 2.5"/9.5mm
Interface U.2 with PCIe 3.0 x4
MTBF 1 million hours

As for dimensions, all drives come in 2.5”/9.5 mm form-factor, rather than 7mm. They are still compatible with almost all desktops, servers, workstations as well as other applications with large storage bays and U.2, however some mobile devices might have limitations. Keep in mind that Super Talent officially positions its PCIe Nova drives for servers and workstations, despite the consumer based MTBF and no listed enterprise features.

The U.2 connector has still got some traction to gain in the desktop space, with about a dozen motherboards currently supporting the native connector and over 100 others suitable via M.2 to U.2 converter cards. On the enterprise side, companies like Intel and HGST have released a number of SSDs for servers and workstations featuring this interface and server/storage systems makers like Supermicro support U.2 with their latest SuperServer and SuperStorage solutions, including features such as the NVMe 1.2 protocol as well as hot-swapping.

The main driving force for U.2, at least publicly, has so far been Intel and its DC P3xxx-series SSDs. For workstations, Intel also released its SSD 750-series drives with the SFF-8639 connector in 2015. As a result, Super Talent’s PCIe Nova SSDs will not have a lot of competitors. At this time, Super Talent has not disclosed prices for the PCIe Nova line, but enterprise customers can contact their local ST reps for more info.

Source: Super Talent

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  • Impulses - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    Interesting... Not in any rush to upgrade my SM951 but I'm glad U.2 is making inroads... One those M.2/U.2 adapters started showing up it seemed inevitable, it's a shame Samsung hasn't jumped on it.
  • etamin - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    I'd be interested in seeing a comparison between NVMe drives over CPU PCI-E lanes vs chipset PCI-E lanes vs U.2 on chipset PCI-E lanes. Will the DMI be limiting at any point?
  • LukaP - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    Only in benchmarks really. These super fast drives dont really offer any noticable speed improvement over something like an 850 Pro anymore (and no, booting in 3.9 seconds instead of 4 doesnt count).

    Where the DMI will become limiting in a generation or two (assuming intel doesnt do something in the mean time) will be workloads that are dependent on large sequential transfers, like media storage. But then again, PCIe 4.0 is coming, and with it, faster DMI. (or just add more lanes to the DMI link and voila.
  • amnesia0287 - Friday, July 22, 2016 - link

    it depends what you are doing. For your basic boot system drive, sure. But there is a MASSIVE difference if you are leveraging NVMe drives for virtualization. You can run a LOT of VMs off an NVMe drive without really slowing down too much.

    Not to mention for SAN replacement applications such as Storage Spaces Direct where NVMe drives function as a cache for all the disks underneath them.

    Fortunately, DMI is only an issue for boot drives.
  • extide - Saturday, July 23, 2016 - link

    U.2 drives are no different than other PCIe SSD's that are add-in-cards or M.2 -- just a different physical form factor -- so really there are only 2 test cases -- PCIe SSD's on CPU lanes vs DMI lanes.
  • evancox10 - Thursday, July 28, 2016 - link

    There may be some second order effects that come into play. For example, an add-in card might have more area and thus better thermal dissipation.

    But ignoring issues like that, yes they should be identical.
  • ddriver - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    Impressive figures, but the brand has been known for cheap garbage, and I mean the bad aspect of cheap. Also the numbers - overly broad - "up to 3 GB/s" could mean a lot, especially in that capacity range... and no prices... meh.
  • ltcommanderdata - Thursday, July 21, 2016 - link

    Are U.2 drives backwards compatible with SATA Express? The device side connector on U.2 drives can mechanically fit the device side connector of a SATA Express cable. With the Z170 now supporting PCIe 3.0 from the chipset, the 2 GB/s from PCIe 3.0 x2 may bottleneck sequential reads from the fastest drives, but should be plenty for sequential writes and random read/writes.
  • extide - Saturday, July 23, 2016 - link

    Yeah so I guess it's a matter of if the pinouts are different -- because it's just PCIe in both cases under the hood -- so maybe you'd need an adapter in the worst case. I have heard of using SATAe ports for front panel USB ports and stuff (basically using it as a raw PCIe and putting a USB controller on it) so I am sure it could be done. It would definitely add some life to those ports that ended up on SO many mobo's.
  • epobirs - Tuesday, July 26, 2016 - link

    ASROCK makes a package to give you two USB 3.1 ports up front, one of them Type C. I've installed one and it works fine but it can be tricky to secure it in some cases intended for toolless installs of optical drives and similar form factor items. It makes a very nice way to exploit an external SSD with SATA being the limiter rather than USB 3.0, as would be the case on most existing PCs.

    Connecting a U.2 drive to a SATA Express port would be a real waste. The bandwidth is so much less than intended and not all that great an improvement over SATA due to the lack of native support. If the U.2 drives were both low cost and backward compatible, it might be worthwhile but I neither is the case AFAIK.

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