Where to buy your Samsung 960 EVO or PRO M.2 NVMe SSDs, featuring the latest ordering and availability info

Posted by Paul Braren on Nov 30 2016 (updated on Dec 3 2016) in
  • Storage
  • HomeLab
  • HomeServer
  • My original order for a 960 EVO 1TB was made on samsung.com back on October 17th, the first day pre-orders began anywhere. It's still on backorder. This article is about what's happened since, contents subject to change throughout December. These are affiliate links, for these drives that work great in VMware (built in driver) and Hyper-V (download/install Samsung's NVMe driver). Recent Linux distros that I also tested with NVMe, like RHEL and SLES, provide excellent speeds as well, using native drivers.


    Availability of the 960 series is a mixed bag right now, with many sites improving their ship date estimates by 2 weeks. Yes, on Nov 30th, most ETAs said early January, and one day later, many estimates moved mid-December. I also just discovered that the elusive EVO 1TB can now be pre-ordered at B&H and Newegg, details below. Just placed my new 1TB 960 EVO at B&H order, and once I get ship notification, I'll cancel my other back-order at samsung.com, since they don't charge until they ship anyway. Article title that originally included "ETA 2017?" has now been updated accordingly.

    Order Samsung 960 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD in 250GB, 500GB, 1TB

    • Amazon preorder 250GB, 500GB or 1TB "This item will be released on December 11, 2016."
    • B&H preorder 250GB, 500GB, 1TB "Expected availability: Dec 8, 2016", charged when ordered.
    • Newegg preorder 250GB, 500GB, 1TB "Ships After 12/13/2016", charged when shipped.
    • Samsung can't pre-order 250GB, 500GB, or 1TB "This product is currently out of stock", charged when shipped.

    Order Samsung 960 PRO M.2 NVMe SSD in 512GB, 1TB, 2TB

    • Amazon preorder 1TB, and 2TB "This item will be released on January 1, 2017"
      Can't pre-order 512GB, "Currently unavailable."
    • B&H preorder 512GB, 1TB, 2TB "Expected availability: Dec 8, 2016."
    • Newegg preorder 1TB, 2TB "Release Date: 1/2/2017."
      Can't pre-order 500GB "OUT OF STOCK"
    • Samsung preorder 1TB, "Product will ship week of Jan 1, 2017", charged when shipped.
      Can't pre-order 512GB or 2TB, button says "Where to Buy?" that doesn't work.
    2016-12-03_18-37-48-8us1dNeuv8c
    See Samsung's brief YouTube teaser.

    Backstory

    2016-11-30_21-44-43

    Back in 2015, I fell for the extreme performance of my first and only Samsung 950 PRO M.2 NVMe 512GB SSD, leaving my much slower 9265-8i RAID days behind me. See also World's fastest consumer SSD - Samsung 950 PRO M.2 NVMe benchmark results.

    Given VMware's enterprise and performance focus, they traditionally favored decent RAID adapters with good queue depths, for improved performance over any SATA attached drive for your VMFS datastores. With the arrival of NVMe, this need for RAID controllers in the home lab all changed, as VMware explains very recently:

    NVMe devices are increasingly becoming the primary storage interface for flash-based storages due to its well-designed, low overhead storage protocol and its ability to support scalable IO on multi-core processors.

    Knowing I'd have a second cluster node someday, and being totally spoiled by the speeds, my wait for an affordable and performant second NVMe drive in 1TB capacity began. None existed affordably, only hints the 950 PRO might be made in a 1TB size someday. Turns out that will never happen, not in the 950 PRO series anyway. Samsung's summer 2016 announcement of the new 960 product line cleared up that long mystery, with 1TB and 2TB variants seemingly "coming soon."

    960-EVO-still-of-animated-image
    click to see Samsung's little 960 EVO animation

    VMware Support

    Warning
    These are consumer drives that will likely never join the NVMe based storage on the the vSAN HCL, with things missing, like enterprise prices, and big supercapacitors (for full power loss protection). This doesn't mean you can't try them with vSAN, I'm just talking about support here. That said, these consumer drives have pretty amazing TBW (Terabytes Written) ratings (which enterprise SSDs want, and vSAN needs), checking in at 400 TBW for the 1TB EVO and 1.2PB for the PRO!

    Worry not, either 960 will likely work very well for your normal VMFS datastore usage, given how spectacular the 950 PRO has been for my daily use and abuse. Last I checked, I've only used about 20% of the 400 TBW rating, after 13 months of 950 PRO ownership. Performance holds up with multiple VMs hitting one NVMe based datastore, where SATA3 SSDs and HDDs typically become quite slow.

    Some more NVMe perks:

    1. Since you're not booting from these, you can simplify things and skip searching for boot from nvme or reading my How to boot Windows 10 from NVMe based PCIe storage, featuring Samsung 950 PRO M.2 SSD in a Supermicro SYS-5028D-TN4T article.
    2. With ESXi 5.5 or later, the built-in NVMe driver means it just works, so just install, add datastore/format as VMFS, and you're set! If you're already on ESXi 6.5, pay attention and choose the new VMFS 6. Some upgraders may experience a temporary NVMe slowdown, see TinkerTry's Easy fix for Supermicro and other Xeon D systems experiencing SATA3/AHCI slowdown on ESXi 6.5.

    My original 960 EVO 1TB order status updates

    My Samsung 960 updates were kind of buried under this article:

    so I've also added those updates right below this new article. Figured the info might be helpful to folks interested in the next-generation of M.2 NVMe goodness, for their winter-time home-lab upgrades and/or rebuilds.

    Reviews

    Nov 15 2016 was apparently the day bloggers with early samples had their embargo lifted, giving us a plethora of technical articles and benchmark results that arrived that day, seen here, including:

    And finally, we have Allyn Malventano giving his clear assessment on PC Perspective 425:

    the one I was waiting on, because that's the one that I felt is the real game-changer here, as far as relatively low cost M.2 SSD that uses TLC flash with an SLC cache on it

    IsLABk7k
    PC Perspective Podcast 425 - 11/17/16

    And now, a journey back in time...


    Oct 26 2016 Update

    b01lyrcipg

    Orders for 512GB and 1TB sizes of Samsung 960 PRO are now being taken at:

    Amazon

    Newegg


    Oct 17 2016 Update

    2016-10-17_23-24-01
    Currently only available for pre-order at Samsung.
    samsung-960-specifications

    News broke that the Samsung 960 PRO and EVO are now available for pre-order, but the only source seems to be directly on Samsung's My Orders for now. If you appreciate this article, consider using one of these affiliate shopping links when placing your pre-order, full disclosure details below-right:

    Samsung 960 EVO 1TB ( $479.99)
    Samsung 960 EVO 500GB ( $249.99)
    Samsung 960 EVO 250GB ( $129.99)

    Samsung 960 PRO 2TB ($1299.99)
    Samsung 960 PRO 1TB ( $629.99)
    Samsung 960 PRO 500GB ( $329.99)

    Let's try a different sort order, in ascending cost order.

    Samsung 960 EVO 250GB ( $129.99)
    Samsung 960 EVO 500GB ( $249.99)
    Samsung 960 PRO 500GB ( $329.99)
    Samsung 960 EVO 1TB ( $479.99)
    Samsung 960 PRO 1TB ( $629.99)
    Samsung 960 PRO 2TB ($1299.99)

    Samsung-960-EVO-1TB-rotated

    Which one am I getting? At the loss of about 10% overall performance, I'm going with the biggest size in the EVO line, the 1TB Samsung 960 EVO. Why? It features a humongous 42GB of SLC cache, unlike the lower sizes, explained here. That means an entire VM that I clone can fit in its write cache, which should make for some pretty spectacular performance when deploying VMs from templates. This is a common thing when I'm tinkering in my home lab, enjoying my platinum tier of VMware VMFS datastore. Oh, and it's saving me $150 over the same-size 1TB PRO, and I just cannot justify or afford that 2TB PRO.

    Good to know that Samsung has added a copper layer to the 960 drive labels, to help spread the heat across a larger surface area. This should further reduce the likelihood of that 30% speed degradation that I noticed ONLY when I abused the drive with synthetic benchmarks with the chassis fan set to default noise profile/speeds. This thermal sticker is explained and pictured at PC Perspective here.

    Unlike Intel NVMe drives, it's a nice bonus that Samsung NVMe storage tends to not need any special driver VIB, just the baked-into-ESXi NVMe driver. Sure am looking forward to trying this drive out, hopefully soon!


    See also at TinkerTry