Sabrent 4TB Rocket NVMe M.2 High Performance SSD - FLIR thermal imagery, firmware tools, and speed tests for VMware ESXi 7.0 VMFS and Windows 10 NTFS

Posted by Paul Braren on Jul 25 2020 (updated on Jul 27 2020) in
  • ESXi
  • HomeServer
  • HomeLab
  • Review
  • Storage
  • Virtualization
  • Samsung-960-PRO-order-Jul-08-2017--TinkerTry

    I've been beating up my Samsung 960 PRO 2TB for a good 3 years now. It's in my daily driver, a Windows 10 VM in my Supermicro SuperServer SYS-5028D-TN4T system with Xeon D-1567 12 core, also known as Bundle 1.

    Shop

    B07ZQSDQDB
    Amazon.
    Event-Viewer-System-disk-error--TinkerTry
    Red Xs in your Windows System log aren't generally a good thing. The driver detected a controller error on DeviceHarddisk1DR1.

    My Bundle 1 has my daily driver workstation on there, a Windows 10 VM that I'll likely want to rebuild from scratch soon due to some issues that inevitably crop up after years of upgrades. It's used for all my content creation, including 4K video editing and rendering, where more cores come in handy.

    The thing is, when you add these factors all up:

    1. strange, bad errors in Windows System log
    2. annoyance of having to shuffle data off every few weeks to get below 90% full so my C: drive doesn't show as red
    3. an interest in whether performant 4TB M.2 drives have finally arrived
    4. an interest in whether they exhibit any strange firmware flaws like the early days of Samsung M.2 drives that had a tendency to disappear (temporarily)
    5. a keen interest on whether dual-sided M.2 drives (DRAM modules soldered on to both sides) would fit, and would stay cool under sustained-write-abuse
    2020-07-25_16-09-45

    it was time to save my pennies and find a larger replacement. Turns out the solution shows a "Date First Available" on Amazon as October 29, 2019, so I figured any glitches in early firmware on older inventory had likely been worked out by now. Also turns out a lot of searching around revealed there were no other TLC-based M.2 drives that I could find readily available here in the US. Not interested in QLC, known for slow throughput during sustained writes, something I do a lot of. So slow they can approach HDD speeds. I'm less interested in fast cache tricks that help for short bursts, I'm interested in top-flight SSD performance that I'm accustomed to.

    Sabrent-shows-as-512e-in-VMware-vSphere-7--TinkerTry
    Tap the image twice to really zoom in and have a look at VMware vSphere Client shows this drive, over in the Storage Devices view, at least when running ESXi 7.0 and ESXi 7.0b

    So imagine my concern, with the 4K camera rolling during my unboxing about 3 days before my return period of this expensive device ended. Yes, the added thrill, aka, stress, of having a deadline to make darn sure this expensive item works will serve my needs well. Like many IT pros, as I had many distractions in my professional and personal life that would prevent me from having the time endless tinkering, should this device not work out well.

    512e

    I had been a bit worried that I might even need to worry about 4K byte sectors with no 512 byte emulation (512e). Or so I thought, it actually shows as "Sector Format" 512e under VMware ESXi 7.0b, and I didn't have to run any conversion, that was straight out of the box. If you want to learn more about 512e, check out KB 2091600:

    2091600
    • FAQ: Support statement for 512e and 4K Native drives for VMware vSphere and vSAN [2091600]:

      Purpose
      This article provides FAQs about support for 512e and 4K Native (4Kn) drives for GA versions of VMware vSphere and VMware vSAN (formerly known as Virtual SAN).

      Note:

      • This article applies to Direct attached HDD drives.
      • This article does not apply to external storage arrays as long as LUNs presented to ESXi initiators use 512 logical sector size (READ_CAPACITY should report 512 logical block).
      • 512e SSDs/NVMe drives are supported with all supported ESXi releases as long as the controller supporting these SSD/NVMe drives is listed on vSphere VCG. Please check with your vendor if their listed controller supports SSD/NVMe drives.

    Enough already, how did it go? In a nutshell, very well thankfully, exceeding my expectations, and quickly earning my trust.

    Video

    This 4K video may still be rendering, come back later and refresh.

    TinkerTry - Jul 22 2020 - Sabrent 4TB Rocket NVMe M.2 SSD thermals, firmware, and speed tests on VMware ESXi 7.0 & Windows 10

    Performance

    I first tested the drive in its intended use-case, as a VMFS datastore running under VMware ESXi 7.0 hypervisor. I realize synthetic benchmarks aren't intended for such VMs, but ATTO did quickly give me a visual sense of whether the drive seemed to be performing better than my lab's 256 Samsung 970 EVO 256 M.2 NVMe SSD in my 8 core Bundle 2 test system, and indeed it did. the handy part is that it can be run under native Windows too, which is exactly what I did as a point of comparison.

    In the end, based on the numbers I saw here, it sure seems the Sabrent is up to the challenge of replacing my 2TB Samsung 960 PRO in my 12 core Bundle 1, one more home lab tinkering success that I'm happy to share with you!

    Sabrent-4TB-Rocket-without-heatsink-running-in-Windows-10-VM---TinkerTry
    Win10 VM running in ESXi 7.0b, Sabrent w/out heatsink
    Sabrent-4TB-Rocket-with-heatsink-running-in-Windows-10-VM--TinkerTry
    Win10 VM running in ESXi 7.0b, Sabrent with heatsink
    Sabrent-4TB-Rocket-with-heatsink-running-in-Windows-10-physical--TinkerTry
    Win10 running natively, Sabrent w/ heatsink

    Firmware

    firmware-determination--TinkerTry

    When using my own article How to find NVMe SSD firmware versions on VMware ESXi using ESXCLI to determine the firmware version from within ESXi, here's what I learned I'm at:

    Firmware Revision: RKT343.1

    Then on Sabrent's Firmware Updates page, I navigated my way to Rocket Nano/Rocket Pro Firmware Update
    oh dear, it's a Windows executable, this is how it often goes with lesser known brands of SSD. Yes, there's no preconfigured ISO for you to temporarily from, you'll need to remove this drive and put it into a Windows system, or you'll need to use something like Windows PE to boot Windows and run this Sabrent tool from there. Honestly, I'm probably not going to bother. I'll make sure my daily backups of all data I put on this speedy and massive are functional.

    So I booted the same Xeon D system over to Windows 10 instead of from ESXi 7.0, and poked around further to find the firmware update utility, only to strike out, there area apparently no newer firmware levels available than the RKT343.1 mine was already at. It's all in the video.

    Sabrent-firmware-RKT343.1
    Firmware RKT343.1

    Sabrent Product Details

    ROCKET-NVME
    Sabrent ROCKET capacities and speeds.

    Product Name:
    SB-ROCKET-4TB

    Product Page with specifications:

    Product Downloads:

    At one point, after a bit of a struggle to locate firmware updaters for my drive, I found that the Sabrent firmware update utility v4.0.30319 crash ed on me with the following error in Windows Event Viewer / Windows Logs / Application:

    Event 1026, .NET Runtime
    Application: Sabrent Rocket Control Panel.exe
    Description: The process was terminated due to an unhandled exception.
    Exception Info: System.Threading.ThreadAbortException
    but I launched it again, and all was well, no problem. Important to note that you'll need to boot over to Windows installed bnatively (bare metal) on the system for the firmware update utility to work. Just like with other brands of consumer SSDs, you are unlikely to be able to update the firmware from within VMware ESXi.

    Choose wisely

    Because the black-label versions of the ROCKET line are based on top-flight-performance of TLC (Triple Level Cell) NAND, they can can handle demanding workloads such as sustained writes that virtualization tends to require. You know, common operations like cloning that I demonstrated in the video below, and/or snapshot operations. So I'd caution you notice that the Sabren'ts QLC (Quad Level Cell) based 4 TB and 8TB SSDs are very different animals which I did not test:

    • Rocket Q 8TB NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 Internal SSD Solid State Drive (SB-RKTQ-8TB)
    • Rocket Q 4TB NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 Internal SSD Solid State Drive (SB-RKTQ-4TB)

    I'll also point out that PCIe 4.0 capable NVMe drives are now emerging on the market lately, but you'll need a new motherboard to possibility realize any small gains in performance from these newer, even pricier SSDs.

    Samsung Product Details

    Comparative specifications for other popular SSDs mentioned in the video:

    • Samsung 960 PRO 2TB:

      SEQUENTIAL READ - Up to 3,500 MB/sec
      SEQUENTIAL WRITE - Up to 2,100 MB/sec

    • Samsung 970 EVO 250GB:

      SEQUENTIAL READ - 250GB, 500GB, 1,000GB: Up to 3,400 MB/s
      SEQUENTIAL WRITE - 250GB: Up to 1,500 MB/s


    Jul 27 2020 Updates

    Added specs for Samsung devices that were featured in the video, and fixed the captions for the ATTO speed tests in the screenshots above. Also edited the article for clarity, adding warnings about TLC vs QLC.


    See also at TinkerTry

    check-nvme-ssd-firmware

    See also