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This channel features the latest computer hardware related articles.
  1. TYAN introduced its first server and its first motherboard for AMD’s new EPYC processors. The company decided to take a cautious approach to AMD’s EPYC, and the initial machine will be a single-socket server for high-performance all-flash storage applications. Meanwhile, the new platforms from TYAN will be among the first applications to support OCuLink connections.

    The first TYAN platform based on the AMD EPYC 7000-series processor capitalizes on the CPU’s primary advantage besides its core count (up to 32): the number of integrated PCIe 3.0 lanes (up to 128) that can be used to connect NVMe SSDs without any external switches or controllers. The TYAN TN70A-B8026 server is based on the S8026 motherboard that has 16 DDR4 DIMMs slots (two modules are supported per channel, 1 TB of DDR4 in total), two M.2-22110 slots for SSDs (PCIe 3.0 x4) as well as eight SFF-8611 PCIe/OCuLink x8 connectors for 24 hot-swap SSDs in U.2 form-factor. In total, the server supports 26 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs as well as two SATA devices.

    The platform also supports five PCIe 3.0 x8 slots via 2U risers (these slots function when storage drives are not using their PCIe connections) as well as one PCIe 3.0 x16 OCP 2.0-capable slot for an EDR InfiniBand or a 100 GbE card. To support even the most power hungry components, TYAN equips its TN70A-B8026 with a redundant 770 W power supplies. As for management and networking, the machine is equipped with the AST2500 BMC with iKVM & Redfish support, two GbE ports (Broadcom BCM5720) for connectivity and one GbE for IPMI.

    TYAN does not say which SSDs it's going to use for the TN70A-B8026 and how many terabytes of storage in total the machine can support. What the company does say is that a pair of SFF-8611 OCuLink x8 connectors can be re-configured (from BIOS) to support up to 16 SATA 6 Gbps drives, which provides flexibility to server makers or value-add resellers, who plan to use the TYAN S8026 motherboard or the TN70A-B8026 server barebones. In fact, the latter fits into regular E-ATX supporting cases, so it can be used to build workstations with enhanced storage capabilities.

    TYAN TN70A-B8026 Server Barebones SKUs
      PCIe Slots Storage Bays PSU UPC
    B8026T70AV16E8HR 6 16 × 2.5" SATA
    8 × 2.5" NVMe
    770 W redundant 635872043727
    B8026T70AE24HR 2 24 × NVMe 635872043734

    TYAN did not announce MSRP or ETA for its TN70A-B8026 server as well as the S8026 motherboard. Since the server can be equipped with different CPUs and SSDs, its price can vary by orders of magnitude and it does not make a lot of sense to make guesses at this point. Considering that high-endurance/high-capacity SSDs are quite expensive, a fully populated TYAN TN70A-B8026 machine can easily cross the $100K mark.

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  2. ​Content creators in the field often have to deal with large amounts of data spread over multiple flash media. Importing them into a computer for further processing has always been a challenge. Casual users can connect the cameras directly to a PC, while some might prefer taking the card out and using a card reader for this purpose. There are a multiple options available in the card reader market. However, professionals who value cutting down the media import time need to opt for readers with a USB 3.0 and/or Thunderbolt interface. Lexar has a range of card readers and a 4-bay hub (the Lexar Professional Workflow HR2) to go with them. In addition to reviewing the hub, we also take the opportunity to develop a framework for reviewing flash-based storage media for non-PC applications in this piece.

  3. The fate of Imagination Technologies has become something of a saga in recent months. The prolific IP vendor, Apple’s right-hand supplier for GPU designs and IP over the last decade, found itself on the rocks in April, when Apple announced they would be transitioning away from using Imagination’s IP and designs. Then in May, the company announced that they would be doubling-down on the GPU business – their strongest business – by selling off their remaining Ensigma communications and MIPS CPU businesses. Now this morning, the company has announced that they have decided to instead focus on going another route, and will be putting the entire company up for sale.

    While the company as a whole was not formally up for sale until today, as you’d expect for a company in difficult circumstances like Imagination, that option has unofficially been on the table since the start. To that end, Imagination has reported that a number of parties have expressed an interest in buying the entire company. As noted in Imagination’s press release:

    Imagination Technologies Group plc (LSE: IMG, “Imagination”, “the Group”) announces that over the last few weeks it has received interest from a number of parties for a potential acquisition of the whole Group. The Board of Imagination has therefore decided to initiate a formal sale process for the Group and is engaged in preliminary discussions with potential bidders.

    At this time Imagination is not naming any suitors – and indeed is warning that a sale may not go through at all – though at this stage it’s difficult to imagine someone not taking advantage of the situation. Imagination’s PowerVR GPU IP alone is valuable to virtually all of the major SoC vendors, not to mention IP powerhouses and former customers such as Qualcomm, Intel, Samsung, and of course, Apple.

    Meanwhile the MIPS and Ensigma business have yet to be sold, and a buyer could opt to pick those businesses up too. Otherwise, for the time being, Imagination is continuing their efforts to sell of those businesses, and they have already received proposals for both.

    As for a potential price for the company, assuming Imagination were purchased wholesale, after today’s announcement the company’s market cap has jumped to £400M (~$500M USD). At about half of the company’s 52-week high, this would be significantly cheaper than had anyone attempted to purchase the company before the Apple split. The final price tag then would be somewhat higher, as a sale would almost certainly come with a premium over the company’s current stock price.

    Finally, while the company looks for potential buyers, they are also continuing their dispute with Apple. At last report, the companies were still going through their contractual dispute resolution process. It’s not clear whether this process would be completed before Imagination finds a buyer.

  4. After posting a teaser video last week, MSI has followed up by announcing their latest ultra-high-end Lightning-branded graphics card: the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti LIGHTNING Z. The triple-slot-width, triple-fan, and triple-8-pin power connector card comes equipped with all the latest in thermal solutions, overclocking design, and shiny colors. Yes, for those hoping that ‘Lightning’ correlates with ‘lighting,’ the LIGHTNING Z comes LED-strewn and slickly-hewn with Mystic Light RGB control, backplate, and alternate colored shroud highlights.

    A key feature of the LIGHTNING Z is a BIOS switch that toggles “LN2 Mode,” which lifts power/current and thermal limits. The allure here is that for extreme overclockers used to hard volt-modding (with pencil or otherwise) can simply flick the switch when necessary. At the same time, MSI also advertises Military Class 4 components, as well as card features such as V-Check Points, a hardware-based voltage measurement design, and Quadruple Overvoltage, a specialized auxiliary voltage system.

    MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti LIGHTNING Z
    Boost Clock 1721MHz (Lightning Mode)
    1695MHz (Gaming Mode)
    1582MHz (Silent Mode)
    Base Clock 1607MHz (Lightning Mode)
    1582MHz (Gaming Mode)
    1480MHz (Silent Mode)
    Memory Clock 11124MHz (Lightning/Gaming Mode)
    11016MHz (Silent Mode)
    VRAM 11GB GDDR5X
    (352-bit)
    TDP 250W
    Outputs 2x DP1.4, 2x HDMI2.0b, 1x DL-DVI-D
    Power Connectors 3x 8pin
    Length 320mm
    Width 2.5 Slot (61mm)
    Weight 1.7kg
    Cooler Type Open Air
    Price TBA

    Keeping the beast cool is MSI’s Tri-Frozr design, armed with 3 TORX 2.0 Fans (1 x 9cm, 2 x 10cm). Alongside the main heatsink/heatpipe complex, the card has a flatter memory/MOSFET heatsink and heatpipe, as well as a rear heatpipe in between the PCB and backplate. The custom PCB itself possesses 10 layers, 14 GPU power phases, and 3 memory power phases.

    And as for Mystic Light, MSI’s LED control software enables users to synchronize and adjust lighting across devices, other components, and peripherals, even changing color schemes from the luxury of your smartphone.

    MSI has not released pricing information at this time. The LIGHTNING Z is “expected to be available in July.”

    Source: MSI

  5. Toshiba has selected a consortium as their preferred bidder in the sale of Toshiba's memory business. The consortium is led by the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, an investment partnership between the Japanese government and 26 Japanese corporations. Toshiba hopes to have an agreement in place in time for their June 28 annual shareholder meeting and to close the deal by March 2018.

    Besides the Innovation Network Corp. of Japan (INCJ), the consortium also includes the Development Bank of Japan as well as Bain Capital Private Equity. INCJ is a public-private investment company owned by the government and 19 private corporations; it was established in 2009 with the purpose of revitalizing industry in the country. The company played a key role in establishment of Japan Display Inc. (JDI), which absorbed LCD divisions of Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi. Development Bank of Japan is an investment and financial services organization that is expected to be privatized eventually, but is currently used to fund everything from reinforcing competitiveness of enterprises to disaster relief. For Bain Capital Private Equity a partial acquisition of Toshiba's memory business would be the first investment in semiconductors as previously the company focused primarily on software and services (e.g., Symantec, Myob, etc.). From reports, it appears that Bain itself is being further backed by none other than Toshiba's rival in the memory business, SK Hynix.

    Investments Planned to be Made by Members of the Consortium
    Name Investment in ¥ Investment in $
    Bain Capital Private Equity ~¥425 billion ~$3.806 billion
    SK Hynix (will invest with Bain Capital) ~¥425 billion ~$3.806 billion
    INCJ ~¥300 billion ~$2.687 billion
    Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (will invest with INCJ) ~¥550 billion ~$4.927 billion
    Development Bank of Japan ~¥300 billion ~$2.687 billion
    TOTAL ¥2 trillion ~$17.9 billion
    Source: Reuters

    Toshiba said that the consortium presented the best proposal “not only in terms of valuation, but also in respect to certainty of closing, retention of employees and maintenance of sensitive technology within Japan.”

    Meanwhile, Western Digital continues to object to Toshiba's efforts to spin off and sell their portion of the Toshiba–SanDisk joint venture. Western Digital has not been able to keep pace in the bidding war for Toshiba's memory business, and they are seeking to intervene in any attempt by Toshiba to conduct a sale without consent from Western Digital's SanDisk subsidiary. In May, Western Digital initiated arbitration proceedings against Toshiba, and last week Western Digital filed for a preliminary injunction to prevent Toshiba from selling the memory business until the arbitration is resolved. A hearing on the injunction request is scheduled for July 14.

    A profitable sale of the memory business is crucial to Toshiba's financial health as other portions of the conglomerate are deeply troubled. Toshiba's Westinghouse nuclear power subsidiary filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year after an annual loss of around $9 billion. Those losses and continued effects from previous accounting scandals forced Toshiba to put their thriving flash memory manufacturing business on the market as the only way to raise enough money in a short timeframe. The winning bid for Toshiba's memory business is expected to be at least $18 billion. No matter who ends up buying the Toshiba memory business, the landscape of the flash memory market will be very different. Toshiba is currently the second-largest manufacturer of NAND flash memory, behind Samsung, with the sale coming at a time when all memory prices are spiking due to high demand.

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