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MRAM has the ability to fundamentally change the way we use memory by combining the speed and endurance of DRAM with the data storage characteristics of NAND. ST-MRAM (Spin-Torque Magnetoresistive Random-Access Memory) retains data without power, which removes the need for complex capacitor arrangements and the associated firmware enhancements. MRAM has already been used in small quantities as data buffers in some cutting-edge SSDs and other applications. In spite of billions of dollars in research by several industry heavyweights, Everspin Technologies is the only company in full commercial production with MRAM.
The only thing holding MRAM back from wider acceptance is density. Higher density allows for wider application and also reduces cost. Everspin has over 600 patents and has been in production for over five years at their own facilities, but bringing Global Foundries in as a manufacturing partner is sure to speed advancements in the technology. Global Foundries will initially produce ST-MRAM on 300mm CMOS wafers with a 40nm lithography, but plans are already in place to move to a 28nm process soon, underlining the accelerated advance of ST-MRAM products. Other competitors are falling further behind Everspin at this point, with other manufacturers slated to begin production of MRAM in 2018.
Lite-ON is launching their latest line of enterprise SSDs at Dell World 2014. The new EP1 Series leverages the M.2 connection with 4 lanes of PCIe 2.0 speed. The EP1 series is designed for the enterprise space and features power loss protection to guard against data loss during unsafe shutdowns. The new modules can cram up to 1TB of fast storage onto a relatively tiny M.2 form factor SSD, yet still deliver incredible performance. The EP1 series SSDs will top out at 150,000 4k read IOPS, and 44,000 write IOPS.
The PCIe connection also enables ultra low latency of 40/30 microseconds for read/write transactions. Customized firmware will also include multiple layers of protection from data loss, and tailors the device for application workloads such as online transaction processing (OTP), financial transactions, E-commerce, SQL logging, collaboration, and email servers.
Lite-ON isnt skimping on endurance either, with a 1 DWPD (Drive Write Per Day) threshold and an MTBF of 2 million hours.
PMC-Sierra has announced a new line of embedded I/O controllers that offer double the density and a 40% power consumption reduction compared to competing solutions. These new controllers differentiate themselves by offering the only 16-port 12Gb/s SAS and 6Gb/s SATA option for OEM and ODM applications. These controllers address expanding Open Compute, Windows Cloud Server, OpenStack and Project Scorpio designs. The emergence of easy-to-use cluster-in-a-box solutions and the enhanced functionality of Windows Storage Spaces also provide exciting new possibilities for I/O controllers, which do not provide RAID functionality.
The controllers offer the choice of either SAS or SATA, and are fully compatible with Adaptec's burgeoning product stack, which includes RAID adapters and HBA's, SAS Expanders, and the emerging Flashtec NVMe solutions. Two 16-port controllers, the 12Gb/s SAS PM8076 and 6Gb/s SATA PM8006, offer 16 ports of connectivity; and the 12Gb/s SAS PM8074 offers a scaled back 8-port design. All three controllers are pin-compatible, allowing OEM's and ODM's to offer purpose-built solutions based upon similar designs.
Reducing the number of components required to manage ever-growing numbers of storage devices is an important consideration. The PMC controllers can remove the requirement for plug-in RAID controllers, HBA's, and expanders. This delivers the lasting advantage of lower power consumption and reduced design complexity. Bringing these features onto the motherboard enables the ultra-dense designs becoming more commonplace in hyperscale deployments.
The new family of products offers impressive performance up to a million IOPS and a blistering 6GB/s of throughput via a x8 PCIe 3.0 connection. PMC has developed robust operating system drivers and also offers open source Linux code for custom applications. PMC also provides reference firmware and software to ease integration into a wide variety of platforms. Look for these new controllers to begin shipping in October of 2014.
HGST Press and Industry Analyst Briefing - HGST has announced a new line of PCIe SSDs for the datacenter with their Ultrastar SN100 Series. This new series of PCIe SSDs offers the new NVMe standard as the backbone for communication with the host system. For an in-depth look at the NVMe specification, from top to bottom with testing included, take a look at this recent article in our IT/Datacenter section.
NVMe has many advantages over proprietary software implementations, but the vFAS structure employed with HGST's FlashMAX line (Product evaluation here) is particularly strong. The FlashMAX II offers multiple software features that make it a compelling offer in many environments, and after speaking with HGST executives at the event we were assured that these same software capabilities will be extended to the Ultrastar SN100 line of products.
HGST is also announcing a new FlashMAX III, so the two product lines, with both vFAS and NVMe, will continue to have a place in the HGST product stack. Performance specifications and endurance information will hash out the differences between the two PCIe SSD offerings from HGST, but at this point there aren't any related publicly available specifications for either new product. We will keep our readers updated as more information becomes available.
HGST Press and Industry Analyst Briefing - HGST has announced the extension of their fruitful Joint Development Agreement (JDA) with Intel for their SAS SSDs. This is an important agreement due to the sharing of important NAND and engineering expertise. The JDA also affords HGST with a guaranteed NAND flash supply for HGST's SAS SSDs, a paramount need in today's SSD market. The details of the arrangement aren't entirely public, of course, but we do know that both HGST and Intel have already leveraged the existing relationship to develop the fastest SAS SSDs on the market.
The JDA began in 2008, and HGST first began to offer SAS SSDs in 2010. Intel flash and controller technology has provided the base components, but the real engine lies in HGST's SAS design, firmware, reliability, qualification and system integration. Intel does not sell SAS SSDs, instead relying upon the JDA with HGST to provide high-quality SAS offerings. The cooperation has led to four generations of successful SAS SSDs. The agreement is slated to continue for three more years, and we look forward to seeing the exciting new products that will come as a result of the JDA.
Amplidata, a software provider in the nascent object storage market, has received $10 million in a latest round of funding by Western Digital Capital. In the announcement regarding the investment, Amplidata also announced that HGST, a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Digital Corp., will jointly develop a suite of storage solutions built on the Amplidata Himalaya software.
Exactly what product will result from the HGST partnership is still an unknown. According to the press release, "The companies will partner to create solutions that will dramatically improve the storage economics for the Exabyte-scale needs of the world's largest businesses." The future products are described as being "ultra-dense storage solutions" which most likely translates to a total external storage solution, no longer just components from HGST. This is interesting to note since HGST was acquired by WD in 2012 and has remained mostly a hard drive manufacturer until now. It appears that they now aim to enter the space of their ex-parent, Hitachi (owner of HDS), and provide total solutions to the enterprise market.
SanDisk and Dell are announcing the integration of the SanDisk DAS Cache software into the next generation Dell PowerEdge Servers. SSDs feature extreme performance specs, but unfortunately they continue to carry a price premium over hard disk storage. One of the challenges has been to find an easy method to marry the capacity of hard disk drives with the speed of SSDs. SanDisk DAS Cache software boosts hard drive performance by accelerating frequently used data in an SSD cache layer.
Using flash-based caching techniques can radically alter workload performance in a production environment. The SanDisk DAS Cache software is based off of the popular SanDisk FlashSoft product line. The easy-to-use interface and seamless performance acceleration software is battle tested in thousands of deployments across the world, bringing a level of confidence in the software that allows Dell to offer it as an OEM solution. When users purchase a PowerEdge server with flash and HDD storage they are automatically given the software as a default option.
There are several different approaches to SSD-based caching techniques from a number of players. Many involve hardware-based implementations that typically execute the caching algorithms and functionality on a RAID card connected to both the HDD's and SSDs. This can limit choice and also can bring about vendor lock-in concerns.
Flash Memory Summit 2014 - Ryan Smith, the Senior Manager of SSD Product Marketing for Samsung Semiconductor, Inc. (and Samsung Semiconductor's 2014 Employee of the Year in the U.S.), stopped by the booth to discuss the changing face of flash memory. Samsung have made tremendous waves in the last few years as they led the charge with 3bit MLC NAND (TLC) into the general computing space, and they are also the first to deliver TLC NAND products into the datacenter (product evaluation here). Many of Samsung's latest products focus on delivering cost-effective solutions to foster NANDs expanding footprint in the datacenter .
Samsung is also the first to market with 3D NAND (V-NAND), and has already progressed through 24 and 32-layer revisions. Standard MLC V-NAND was quite the accomplishment, and Samsung is building on that success by offering a TLC V-NAND product. Samsung has experienced plenty of success with TLC planar (2D) NAND, and the natural evolution to TLC V-NAND will strengthen their portfolio of TLC products. We have several product evaluations of Samsung SSDs in our IT/Datacenter Storage and Consumer Storage sections, and stay tuned for future evaluations as we receive products.
Flash Memory Summit 2014 - HGST had a busy booth at the Flash Memory Summit as they displayed the world's fastest SSD. The design utilizes Phase Change Memory (PCM) to deliver speeds up to 3 million IOPS and 1 microsecond latency. The PCM drive isn't likely to enter the market anytime soon, but it is encouraging to see work already underway future storage solutions. A key advantage of working on radical new designs is the engineering required to provide earth-shattering performance can be applied to current products as well.
Another important announcement from HGST centers around their third-generation FlashMAX III product. We recently evaluated the FlashMAX II PCIe SSD here and found it to be a very competitive solution which differentiates itself from other players via their expansive software offerings. The FlashMAX III builds on that legacy and also offers enhanced software functionality, such as the new ServerCache 4.0 that was recently announced. HGST is always-on the move, stay tuned as more updates emerge.
Flash Memory Summit 2014 - Tom Coughlin is the General Chairman of the Flash Memory Summit, which is the world's largest flash memory conference. Tom has presided over an intense period of growth for the show, which mirrors the growth of the flash ecosystem as a whole. The last year has seen a dizzying amount of news coming from the flash memory industry, so we set down with Tom Coughlin to talk about the future of the storage industry, and how flash memory fits into that picture.
Tom Coughlin also writes books, writes for Forbes, and runs the Coughlin and Associates consulting firm. We will see Tom again soon at the Storage Visions conference in Vegas right before CES, so we will touch base with him again soon on the state of the storage industry.