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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.
Flash Memory Summit 2014 - ST-MRAM is one of the front-runners to power the future of the datacenter. Everspin is the only company in the world producing Spin-Torque MRAM, and at the Flash Memory Summit they announced that they are ramping their 64Mb DDR3 Spin-Torque MRAM. This is the world's first commercially viable product that has been released utilizing ST-MRAM.
ST-MRAM provides RAM-like performance, but with the persistence of a non-volatile memory technology. ST-MRAM will initially be used as a complimentary technology to other storage technologies until it gains in density. Everspin actually has working MRAM in production already, products in the field, and a whopping 600 active patents in their portfolio.
Flash Memory Summit 2014 - Jay Prassl, the VP of MArketing with SolidFire, stopped by to chat with us on the unique features of their all flash arrays. SolidFire arrays come in a slim 1U chasis and are designed to be aggregated in scale-out architectures. A focus on a compelling mix of high-availability features, predictable performance, and automated management has made SolidFire the top choice for large customers, such as EBay.
Protecting data is always the most important task of any storage system, and SolidFire handles this with a shared-nothing architecture that stripes data across multiple nodes. An entire node can go offline and the system still chugs along at the same performance level. They also have other unique features, such as backing up and restoring from object storage environments.
Flash Memory Summit 2014 - One of the most interesting conversations we had at the Flash Memory Summit came from Dr. Simon Sze directly after he won a lifetime achievement award for co-inventing the floating gate back in 1967. Interestingly enough the very first floating gate was deployed in the original Nintendo game system.
According to our rough calculations there are over 1 pentillion floating gates in use in the world today. Or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 floating gates, for those keeping exact track. Dr. Simon Sze has an interesting story, and continues to teach in a university to this day.
Flash Memory Summit 2014 - Scott Shadley stopped by our booth to discuss Micron's latest products at the Flash Memory Summit. Micron's ability to create their own NAND provides them a huge advantage over many non-fab competitors. The consumer SSD market is extremely competitive of late, and Crucial (Micron's consumer arm) leads the pack with some of the lowest price points available. Another key advantage is the use of their 16nm NAND. This allows them to retain a pricing advantage (The MX100 is a perfect example), and its solid performance also keeps Micron's SSDs among the best in price v performance metrics.
Moving to the enterprise side, Micron is very competitive in the value segment and high-end PCIe SSDs. The M500DC sports impressive performance at an equally impressive price point for the 2.5" segment. The P420m fills the role of an affordable PCIe SSD with chart-topping performance, and for those in need of the ultra-high-end, the Micron P320h still holds the overall crown. It doesn't get better than durable SLC NAND paired with speed fast enough to saturate the PCIe 2.0 bus with random data. If we had an SSD Hall of Fame, the P320h would be the first drive in the door.
Of course Micron isn't resting on their laurels. They are releasing their NVMe PCIe and 2.5" SSDs early next year. Much of the secret sauce that provides Micron's chart topping performance with the existing PCIe SSDs is likely due to NVMe knowledge; they are one of the founding members of the NVMe consortium. Micron helped define expectations for high-performance PCIe SSDs, which leads to some excitement to see what Micron brings with their new NVMe SSDs.
Flash Memory Summit 2014 - ADATA has a long history in the consumer space with their SSD and RAM offerings. The desktop SSD market is becoming more challenging for manufacturers as large fab-enabled companies are becoming extremely competitive on price. The desktop market is also relatively stagnant, while the datacenter SSD market continues to experience solid growth.
ADATA is changing with the times to address new market segments. Their newest venture is expansion into the enterprise space, where they are designing new SSD products to address datacenter applications. ADATA is currently utilizing AHCI protocol SSDs in the M.2 form factor, and moving forward with NVMe designs. ADATA is also working on 2.5" SSDs with the SFF-8639 connector. This allows the drive to be used as either a PCIe or a SATA connection.