IT/Datacenter News - Page 6
NVM Express has announced the new NVMe 1.2 specification, and many of the features are aligned to increase adoption in mobile designs, such as laptops and ultrathins. NVMe is a new storage protocol that provides amazing performance and low latency in comparison to legacy approaches, but while we have seen some amazingly fast enterprise SSDs hit our labs, NVMe hasn't quite made it to the consumer space. New power management features will allow NVMe SSDs to kick into lower power states, which will increase battery life for mobile applications.
Another new feature can also help to make SSDs more affordable. The NVMe specification now supports a host-based memory buffer. With the notable exception of SandForce devices, current SSDs use DRAM for caching. This extra DRAM component adds cost, draws more power, and takes up space on the SSD. NVMe 1.2 allows the SSD to use the computers RAM for SSD management, which means simpler, and cheaper, SSD designs. The smaller form factors will also lend themselves well to ultra-thins, 2-in-1's, and tablets. One neat aspect is that the SSD can request varying amounts of DRAM from the host system. This DRAM is typically utilized for translation tables for the FTL, but it isn't hard to imagine some uses for caching actual data in the future. Enhanced temperature management will keep the SSD from overheating, which is also a key feature in cramped laptops and ultra-thins. If the SSD reaches a high temperature it can simply throttle performance to cool down. These new features are welcome additions, and new NVMe SSDs will speed their way into your home computer or mobile device soon.
The Intel DC S3500 series competes in the price-sensitive segment and is geared for read-intensive and mixed workloads. The DC S3500 (evaluated here) doesn't sport quite the performance of its older brother, the DC S3700 (evaluated here), but provides plenty of performance and endurance for many workloads. Today Intel is announcing the release of 1.2 and 1.6TB variants, along with a new M.2 design. Expanded capacity is coupled with low power consumption that delivers reduced TCO. The DC S3500 has an active read power below 1.3 Watts. A sprinkling of other datacenter-specific technologies provide resiliency and a 0.3DWPD (Drive Writes Per Day) endurance limitation. End-to-end data protection, data redundancy technology, AES encryption, and power loss protection, ensure data safety.
Intel 20nm MLC NAND and a new 8-channel controller drive the DC S3500 models. Details are scant on the new Intel-proprietary controllers, but we will update readers as more information becomes available. We can expect to see the same consistent performance from the new drives, with a .5ms latency maximum for 99.9% of 4k random read IOPS. There are 10 capacity points available for the 2.5 drives, allowing users to tailor capacity for their specific needs. The high-capacity 2.5" variants feature up to 500/460 MB/s of sequential read/write speed and up to 65,000/18,500 random read/write IOPS. The larger pool of flash provides a bit more performance for the high-capacity variants, but the entire DC S3500 range features varying speeds based upon capacity.
The M.2 design relies upon the SATA interface and comes in 80, 120, and 340GB capacities. The performance of the M.2 variant seems tuned for slightly more random write speed than the similar capacity 2.5" variants, but slightly lower read speed. Intel is expecting the compact M.2 design to make a big splash in embedded applications, such as digital signage and slot machines. The M.2 design will also work well for server boot volumes. The ultra-dense design is particularly well-suited for blade and microserver designs, and some OEMs are in the process of developing systems with multiple M.2 connectors.
SMART Modular Technologies has announced the new M.2 SATA XR+ with SafeDATA power loss protection technology. SMART Modular Technologies, part of the larger SMART consortium of companies, is a privately-held company that has been in the electronics industry for over 25 years. Their products are usually confined to the OEM market, where they create custom designs for varying applications. The double-sided M.2 design is available in capacities from 32 to 512GB. These SSDs are designed to meet the needs of Tier 1 OEM customers and sport sequential read/write speeds of 540/320 MB/s.
SafeDATA consists of power loss detection and hold-up circuitry, in addition to advanced controller firmware, to flush all data to the underlying NAND in the event of a host power loss event. Power loss protection is a critical requirement in enterprise and embedded applications, and fusing that functionality onto a slim M.2 design opens up new applications for the dense design. The product is sampling now, and volume production begins in Q1 of 2015.
HGST led the way with 6TB drives by developing their HelioSeal technology, which fills the HDD with helium and seals the drive. This delivers a number of benefits, lower internal air resistance reduces flutter and allows use of thinner and lighter materials. With less air resistance the drive also doesn't have to work as hard to spin the platters, even while increasing the platter count to 7, thus producing radical reductions in power consumption. HGST is leveraging the benefits of HelioSeal technology to move forward with the new He8, an 8TB version of the previous-generation drive.
In a sign that 8TB drives will experience a rapid uptake, Aberdeen announced today they are integrating the new He8 into their AberNAS and storage server products. This will provide increased density for their customers and also tremendous reductions in power consumption. The He8 drive will deliver instant benefits and boost capacity of just one 4U rackmount up to 192TB. We took a deep-dive with the first commercially-available helium drive in our HGST Ultrastar He6 6TB Helium Enterprise HDD Review, and found it to deliver on its promises.
Seagate has announced their Kinetic HDD, which connects via dual Ethernet ports and leverages the Seagate Kinetic Open Storage platform. Seagate has developed an entire ecosystem to support the new approach, which removes the need for a dedicated storage tier. The goal is to reduce the price of infrastructure to realize a TCO reduction of 50%. The open-source Kinetic API utilizes object storage, which circumvents the hindrances of normal file system architectures. This removes the software stack and allows applications to communicate directly with the Kinetic HDD.
Kinetic HDDs reside in backplanes that have two embedded Ethernet connections for each drive. This provides a dual port active/active connection. The typical deployment then utilizes two 10Gbe Ethernet connections to communicate with the server. HDDs can also speak directly to each other, without going through the operating system, streamlining operations such as disk-to-disk replication and minimizing overall network traffic to the server. Ethernet is widely deployed and presents the ability to use existing infrastructure for IP-based management.
The Kinetic platform also provides performance benefits. Seagate has observed a 4X increase in random write speed, due to the lack of metadata and queuing processes from legacy filesystems and operating system interaction. The new 4TB Kinetic drive is available for customer qualification now, and general availability begins at the end of November.
Enmotus has announced the general availability of their FuzeDrive server software, which provides software-defined storage acceleration for server-side SSD and NVDIMM deployments, which are becoming more popular in clustered servers and hyper-converged architectures. FuzeDrive's MicroTiering storage algorithms load-balance data across devices, and allows the use of standard SSDs to provide seamless caching for server-side flash deployments.
Andy Mills from Enmotus demonstrated the actual use of FuzeDrive software for us at the 2014 Flash Memory Summit. FuzeDrive provides easy management capability integrated into the operating system's native file browsing tools. FuzeDrive also allows for file-pinning in the cache, which keeps desired data constantly in the SSD cache to deliver maximum performance acceleration for critical files. Users can also use a real-time at-a-glance visual mapping tool to monitor performance. FuzeDrive differentiates itself from caching solutions by providing low-impact acceleration that doesn't eat CPU cycles. In come configurations caching software can chew up to 50% of the host CPU cycles running cache management tables and algorithms, and also have limits on the amount of addressable flash capacity. Enmotus is currently working with a select number of solution and channel partners to make the technology available.
Marrying the capacity of HDDs with the performance of flash is one of the most common use-cases for server-side flash deployments, specifically because it can reduce network traffic, or even take the SAN out of the picture entirely. Samsung recently purchased Proximal Data to expand its base of technology, and other players in this space have already made significant investments in various caching/tiering software companies. It wouldn't be entirely surprising to see Enmotus acquired in the near future.
HGST has added another design win to the long list of FlashMAX design wins. StoneFly, a leading supplier of SAN systems, has announced integration of the HGST FlashMAX II into the flash-based version of their USS Hyper-Converged appliances. StoneFly's USS solution can be configured as iSCSI, Fibre Channel, or NAS (CIFS/SMB and NFS), and the hypervisors allow multiple VM's to run on a single physical host.
StoneFly runs all control logic as a software-based service on HGST FlashMAX II SSDs. The virtual storage controllers run on each cluster node to improve scalability and resilience. StoneFly USS appliances can begin with a single node configuration and then nodes can be added in increments as small as 2U (12 drive bays) to 4U (24 Drive bays). Each appliance can be scaled up to support a total of 256 drives per node. Cluster nodes and their expansion nodes can be seamlessly added one at a time with zero downtime. This provides a time to value deployment of under 30-minutes, with no disruption to ongoing operations.
The HGST FlashMAX II is a great fit for this type of deployment, we recently posted in-depth competitive performance analysis in our HGST FlashMAX II 2.2TB Enterprise PCIe SSD Review. One of the strongest features of the FlashMAX II lies in their enhanced software offerings that radically redefine typical expectations from a PCIe SSD. Advanced software features provide a host of new capabilities, which we cover in great detail in the article.
Memblaze has just announced their latest and greatest, the behemoth 8TB Eblaze4. Memblaze is one of the world's largest PCIe SSD suppliers, but their focus on the China market has kept them out of the limelight in North America. The release of the EBlaze4 continues the introduction of more Memblaze products into the North American and European markets. This PCIe SSD comes in the standard HHHL form factor and also is available in a 2.5" design. We recently took a close look at the PBLaze3L and found it to offer great performance and a wide variety of capacities to fit any environment.
The new EBlaze4 has a feature set geared specifically for SDS and hyperscale deployments. The EBlaze4 provides greater control through customization and programmability that manages the device down to a granular level. Users can tailor certain functions, such as garbage collection and wear leveling, to preferred settings, tying them closely to application requirements.
The EBlaze4 comes in 500, 700, and 900 Series and sports the NVMe interface. The 500 and 700 Series offer up to 3.6 and 3.2TB of capacity, respectively, and sequential speeds weighing in at 2.5/1.8 GBps read/write over a PCIe 3.0 x4 connection. The 500 Series offers 500,000/40,000 read/write IOPS, and the 700 series expands that to 500,000/150,000 read/write IOPS. The mammoth 900 Series brings a whopping 8.0TB onto a single device with blistering sequential speeds of 4.5/2.5 GB/s read/write. Yes, you read that right, 4.5 Gigabytes per second of read speed, easily the fastest on the market.
Perhaps most impressive is another industry-first speed rating for the Eblaze4 900 Series. It delivers a whopping 900,000 random read IOPS, beating even the fastest PCIe offerings. Random write speed is equally impressive at 250,000 IOPS. The Eblaze4 900 Series is also the first PCIe SSD, at least to our knowledge, that utilizes a x8 PCIe 3.0 connection. Merging this wide data pipe with NVMe goodness yields impressive results, to say the least.
In many ways modern vehicles are much like rolling computers. Navigation and infotainment applications, such as 3D mapping, environmental reporting (e.g., infrastructure, traffic, meteorological) car radio, multimedia, satellite radio, E-call and voice recognition, and interaction with the drivers phone, are all handled via on-board computer systems. Just like any other computer these require storage, and much like typical computers the majority of these systems still rely upon HDDs. When the driver starts the vehicle a boot up process begins, and this can take a few moments as the drive spins up and delivers data to the on-board computer. There is a huge market for automotive-class HDDs that have enhanced vibration resistance and other features, such as expanded operating temperatures and humidity ranges, to tailor them for the mobile environment.
Micron aims to bring the same SSD benefits to vehicles with their new industry-first automotive-grade SSD, the M500IT line. SSDs will bring nearly instantaneous boot up times to the vehicle, increase the response, and perhaps even enable other features that weren't previously possible with increasingly complex vehicle computer systems. SSDs also tolerate much more vibration and shock, and environmental factors aren't nearly as much of a concern.
It seems to be a no-brainer to bring SSDs into vehicles, and by utilizing AEX-Q100-compliant eMMC 5.0 memory in 60GB to 240GB mSATA SSDs, Micron can keep costs low enough to attract auto manufacturers. The M500IT also includes several features we are accustomed to seeing on Micron's enterprise-class SSDs, such as hardware-based encryption, data-at-rest protection from power loss, and an adaptive thermal monitoring system to expand the thermal operating envelope. Microns Micron's eMMC products are fully managed NAND solutions with built-in controllers and industry-standard interfaces, simplifying hardware and software integration and streamlining the development and qualification process for designers.
Samsung has formally announced their purchase of Proximal Data for their innovative server-side caching software. As enterprise SSD manufacturers continue to mature we have witnessed a string of acquisitions of various caching companies. Caching technology provides HDD capacity and the speed of flash, and also provide companies with a clear differentiator for their products. Samsung originally purchased NVELO in 2012, and their caching solution was quickly merged into Samsung's client offerings as RAPID caching technology.
Proximal Data is geared for virtualized environments. Their award-winning AutoCache software embeds I/O intelligence inside the hypervisor to cache hot I/O onto server-side flash. It's intelligent and selective caching removes the I/O bottleneck and improves VM density and efficiency. As with all caching software your mileage may vary, but typical AutoCache implementations sport 2x to 3x performance improvements.