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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.
Seagate has announced the release of a new HDD aimed at 4 to 16 bay enterprise NAS deployments. The stratification of the NAS market has led to varying HDD products to address the different workloads and performance requirements of each segment. The new Seagate enterprise NAS HDD bumps speed up a notch. Typical consumer NAS models spin at 5,400 RPM, but the new Seagate NAS HDD moves up to 7,200 RPM. WD has already released the WD Red Pro, a 7,200 RPM product, to address larger NAS arrays, as outlined in our WD Red Pro 4TB Enterprise NAS HDD Review.
The WD Red Pro tops out at 4TB, but the Seagate Enterprise NAS HDD comes in 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6TB flavors and features Seagate's NASWorks firmware. NASWorks specifically tailors the drive for NAS usage. The drive also features RAID rebuild technology that supports surgical rebuilds to significantly reduce RAID rebuild time. The drive also features a larger 128MB cache in comparison to the WD Red's 64MB, and a faster transfer speed of 216 MB/s. An optional data recovery service also offers users easy data recovery in the event of a drive failure.
PMC has announced that Lenovo has selected PMC storage solutions for external connectivity in their ThinkServer product line. Lenovo is offering the Lenovo 8885E by PMC for 12Gb/s SAS applications. The low-profile MD2 form factor 8885E is an HBA that provides eight SAS/SATA ports for connectivity. HBA's are becoming more popular in the datacenter as new architectures arise to leverage scale-out storage and advanced erasure coding. PMC Sierra has been very aggressive on the SAS front and recently captured the goal of providing the most SAS ports on a single card. This has led to a leading position in the market, and PMC has currently shipped more SAS ports than their competitors.
The increased density has the side effect of lower power consumption per port, which resonates well in power-constrained datacenters. PMC has measured 40% lower power consumption than their competitors with the same number of devices connected, which results in a tangible TCO reduction for their customers. As a rough guideline most datacenters spec each watt of power as an incremental cost increase of $2 dollars per year. When deploying thousands of SAS adaptors this can lead to a staggering amount of increased cost if there is a difference of a few watts per port.
The quest for more storage has led to revolutionary breakthroughs in HDD technology. SSDs get the most attention in the storage world, but the incredible technology that goes into HDDs has created some of the most refined precision instruments in history. HDD density has increased 500 million fold since the initial designs were released in 1956. During the recent MMM (Magnetism and Magnetic Materials) Conference the ASTC (Advanced Storage Technology Consortium) laid out the continuing path of progress on the HDD front. Acronyms aside, the demand for more storage has resulted in billions of dollars in investments in new technology, and these new techniques are pushing us forward on the path to 100TB HDDs by 2025.
There are already 10TB HDDs on the menu for 2015, but they utilize SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) technology, which has some performance pitfalls. Helium drives have also come to the forefront in the quest for more density, and as demonstrated in our HGST Ultrastar He6 6TB Helium Enterprise HDD Review they deliver increased density, lower power consumption, and don't skimp on performance.
Intel enjoys a 97.8% share of the server CPU market, and with AMD continuing to slide, it hasn't looked like anyone can break Intel's stranglehold. Popular new architectures in the datacenter have brought about customized low-power designs that can handle light-impact workloads. Right-sizing servers to the task at hand lowers cost and eases cooling requirements, and ARM processors have attractive low-power features that have always been an interesting alternative in the datacenter. Some Xeons operate within a TDP envelope of 90 Watts, but many 64-bit ARM designs operate between 10 and 45 Watts. Low cost is also another incentive to use ARM CPUs, but a lack of specialized chips and systems has hampered expansion.
This radical reduction in power consumption has led many enterprise powerhouses, such as Red Hat, to institute development projects to boost software development for 64-bit ARM platforms. Microsoft has even gotten in on the ARM-compatibility act by developing Windows RT. RT has been a failure of sorts, but many consider it to be the gateway to ARM-compatible Windows Server flavors. The expanding ecosystem development to further 64-bit ARM processors in the datacenter has placed the onus on suppliers to step up with competitive ARM offerings. One supplier with considerable heft in the ARM category has remained conspicuously silent on server CPU models, until now.