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PMC-Sierra has joined the OpenPOWER Foundation, which is dedicated to developing advanced server, networking, storage and acceleration technology, along with open source software. The open source movement is radically altering the design of hyperscale and cloud data centers by providing more efficiency at lower cost.
The OpenPOWER group makes POWER hardware and software available to open development for the first time, as well as making POWER intellectual property licensable to others, greatly expanding the ecosystem of innovators on the platform. PMC will leverage their deep knowledge of SAS and NVMe controllers to help develop new I/O interfaces by sponsoring a new I/O workgroup, along with IBM, Emulex, QLogic and Mellanox.
Crossbar has recently made some encouraging gains in the path to commercializing 3D RRAM by 2016. 3D Resistive RAM (RRAM) promises to break the barriers associated with the reduced endurance of NAND as the lithography shrinks. While the best-in-class SLC NAND can pull off 100,000 write-erase cycles, 3D RRAM can deliver an exponential gain to a mind-boggling 100 million write cycles. 3D RRAM is also denser, up to 10X per chip compared to NAND, and provides speeds up to 20 times that of flash. As an added bonus, it draws less power. Seems to be too good to be true, right? Basically unlimited endurance, faster performance, lower power consumption, and it's all wrapped up in one amazingly dense 1TB chip the size of a postage stamp? Providing a product with the performance of RAM, but the persistence of NAND, is the Holy Grail. But is it feasible?
Crossbar believes they are on the cusp of delivering this almost too good to be true product. Crossbar outlined some of the latest advancements at the 2014 International Electron Devices Meeting. Crossbar has patented their Field Assisted Superlinear Threshold Selector, which overcomes the limitations of a sneak path current issue. Sneak path current disrupts the reading of data from RRAM's cells. By eliminating the problem Crossbar has made a huge breakthrough that will see wearable products entering the market in 2016, at least by their estimates, and SSDs roughly 18 months after. We would assume they mean late 2016.
Toshiba has announced the release of their latest datacenter HDD, the 6TB MG04 series. The MG04 comes in SAS and SATA flavors and also touts a 30% increase in the sustained data rate. The models also feature Toshiba's persistent write cache technology. This technology persists data to the storage medium by utilizing the rotation of the disk platters during a power loss event to generate enough power to flush the data. This power loss protection technique lends another layer of protection for key business-critical storage systems.
The MG04 spins at 7,200 RPM to deliver nearline-class seek performance, and the increased storage density delivers 50% better power efficiency, on a watts-per-TB basis, than previous 4TB models. The drives use 4K native and 512e sector lengths, and models are available with ISE (Instant Secure Erase) functionality. The SAS drives also sport a 12Gb/s connection for compatibility with the latest hardware. The competition in the HDD arena is heating up as we move to denser HDD storage solutions, and the continued advances in HDD technology compliment Toshiba's vast flash-based product portfolio.
WD has announced the all-cash purchase of Skyera, a leading all-flash array vendor. The Skyera acquisition will be folded into HGST, which is fast becoming the flash arm of WD. The purchase of Skyera has larger implications to the world of flash storage as a whole, as it embodies the movement of HGST up the stack to delivering fully-functional storage subsystems.
HGST has been making several key moves in recent years as it solidifies its position as a flash power house. HGST recently brought in Virident and sTEC for their broad storage portfolios and IP, and Velobit was also added to increase their capabilities in the flash-based software acceleration space. These acquisitions have cost WD a whopping $1.4 billion, but solidify their position in the expanding flash market.
Skyera has powerful 1U skyHawk products on the market that pack 136TB of flash, and skyEagle is in the works to provide up to 500TB. These high-powered all-flash arrays lead the market in density and pack quite the performance punch. Skyera was co-founded by Radoslav Danilak, who also pioneered SandForce controllers. Radoslav recently stepped down to become the CTO of the company while Frankie Roohparvar stepped in as CEO. Financial details of the deal are not being disclosed, but estimates run from $200 to $500 million.
The world of NVMe is expanding at a rapid clip. More devices are becoming certified every week that support the optimized register interface, which radically boosts performance with non-volatile memory devices of all flavors. As outlined in our Defining NVMe Article, NVMe delivers on its promises and has the potential to revolutionize how we address flash storage.
OCZ Storage Solutions, a Toshiba Group Company, joins the fray with the new Z-Drive 6000. The Z-Drive 6000 is a high-performance datacenter SSD that features a PCIe 3.0 connection in a 2.5" enclosure. This is made possible by the SFF-8639 connector, which brings front-bay access and serviceability to PCIe connection. Obtaining the NVMe 1.1b certification from the UNH-IOL interoperability lab guarantees that the Z-Drive 6000 is fully functional and NVMe compliant. Many of the current shipping NVMe products are compliant with older versions of the NVMe specification, and new features with NVMe 1.1b offer enhanced compatibility and capabilities.
Avago has announced the expansion of their successful 9300 HBA series to include two new 12Gb/s SAS 16-port models. The ever-changing datacenter has necessitated high port-count solutions to address DAS and external configurations. The 9300-16i and 9300-16e address these requirements with 16 native ports in internal and external flavors. Avago has accomplished this feat by merging two SAS 3008 controllers onto the same device. Each of these controllers, in tandem with the Fusion MPT 2.5 architecture, deliver plenty of grunt power to handle challenging workloads.
In aggregate both controllers deliver nearly 2 million IOPS for the HBA. The HBA's connect to the host via an x8 PCIe 3.0 connection and are backwards compatible with previous SAS and SATA revisions. The Fusion MPT (Message-Passing Technology) architecture leverages in-box drivers for ease of deployment and wide compatibility while delivering maximum host CPU offload capability.
The pressing need for more storage at an affordable price point has just been addressed by Seagate. Numerous online vendors have begun posting pricing and shipment information for the new Seagate Archive 8TB HDD. This new drive will be available to Amazon customers on Jan 7th, 2015, and comes with a shockingly low price tag of only $267 each. Seagate has claimed that their new Archive series 8TB will offer the industries best cost per GB and watt, and from the current pricing it seems they will deliver.
The SATA 6Gb/s Archive HDDs come in 5, 6, and 8TB capacities and offer 1.33TB of storage per platter. These drives are geared for storage over performance and feature a spindle speed of 5,900 RPM. Another key point with these drives is the SMR technology that delivers astounding density. SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) overlaps tracks on the platter to produce more storage capacity. Due to SMR architecture there are a few drawbacks, notably in performance and compatibility. There are two flavors of SMR coming to the forefront, drive-managed and software managed. Software-managed products require an associated API or software to allow proper function, but drive-managed offerings handle all SMR processing internally. The Seagate Archive HDD features a drive-managed format that delivers excellent out-of-the box compatibility. The Seagate DiskWizard software allows installation of the massive drives in Windows even without an UEFI BIOS.
NVM Express, or NVMe, is an optimized interface designed specifically for non-volatile memories, such as flash. As detailed in our Defining NVMe article, NVMe offers unparalleled performance over the PCIe bus. The NVMe specification lays the groundwork for the base technology, but complementary technologies are entering development to further enhance its capabilities. One particularly promising specification is the NVMe Over Fiber standard. This allows for end-to-end NVMe over Infiniband, Ethernet with RDMA, and Intel's Omni Scale Fabric.
Flash has long been confined inside the server in DAS (Direct Attached Storage) configurations. This keeps the SSD as close to the processor as possible, and eliminates network latency. NVMe Over Fibre offers refined performance by removing the SCSI translation layer, which adds latency when communicating over the network. According to recent surveys, network congestion is the most pressing issue for IT professionals. The NVMe Over Fibre standard will refine communication between clusters, and SSDs can be addressed from remote servers as if the PCIe SSD were plugged directly into the server. Qlogic is one of the leading suppliers of server networking products, and their entrance into the NVM Express consortium will likely speed development and adoption of NVMe Over Fibre as well.
Toshiba has been aggressively pushing further in to the datacenter SSD market. Toshiba is surfing the wave of flash pouring into the datacenter, and they recently posted a 70.5% quarter over quarter jump in Q2 2014. There are other sharks swimming in the same pool, and competition for slots has been tough as Intel, Micron, and Samsung also have very competitive products. Toshiba has a long history with flash, they actually invented it, but they also have an often-overlooked advantage of being the only fab-enabled SSD manufacturer with HDD manufacturing as well. This provides them a complete portfolio in the two backbones of enterprise storage.
NVMe and PCIe are hot topics as of late, but SATA SSDs are also one of the fastest growing segments in the datacenter. Toshiba has announced two new SSDs to address this market. The HK3E2 is a value-endurance 6Gb/s SATA SSD that offers 3 DWPD (Drive Writes Per Day) of endurance, tailoring it well for mainstream enterprise applications such as exchange mail servers, web servers, database servers, indexing servers and data center storage workloads. Power loss protection is included and the HK3E2 sports speeds of 75,000/30,000 random read/write IOPS. The HK3E2 also features sequential read/write speeds of 500/400 MiB/s.
PMC Flashtec controllers are powering the next generation of Memblaze PCIe SSDs. The Memblaze PBlaze 4 is designed for hyperscale and Open Compute Project architectures. The Flashtec controllers on the PBlaze 4 provide up to 850,000 IOPS for random read workloads, and 265,000 IOPS for random writes. Sequential performance is equally impressive, with up to 3.2 / 2.5 GB/s read/write available. NVMe provides the lowest CPU load and includes a number of architectural improvements for high-performance storage products. We recently took a deep-dive on the new NVMe specification in our Defining NVMe article.
The Flashtec controller can address up to 8TB of flash and features 16 and 32 channel variants. Dual-port functionality provides enterprise-class high-availability features. Memblaze differentiates their products with multiple capacity points and solutions tailored for specific workloads. Memblaze utilizes NAND from several vendors, and Flashtec NVMe controllers provide a flexible architecture that supports a wide variety of NAND vendors.