IT/Datacenter News - Page 7
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 - 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 - The list of software caching solutions is expanding rapidly as manufacturers, and software vendors, try to make their way into this expansive market. Deploying flash is great, but deploying it in a manner that accelerates existing infrastructure is even better. Very few will totally replace spinning disk in their datacenter deployments, so marrying the capacity of HDD with the performance of SSDs is the current go-to solution.
Cachebox wades into this large market with a new method of caching. The CacheAdvance software uses an ASM (Application Specific Module) that analyzes what is important to the application and provides seamless acceleration based upon application-centric performance profiles. The system has predefined knowledge of existing popular programs, but also adjusts to the specific environment.
One of the advantages of application-centric caching is that it doesn't accelerate any unwanted processes or applications, such as backup operations. This maximizes the capacity of the underlying flash solution. Users can use any block-level device for caching, so there is hardware independence from specific vendors and the system is also interface agnostic. PCIe, SAS, SATA, NVDIMMS, and UltraDIMMS can all play equally. Any block-level device is fair game. One particularly exciting aspect of the flexible design is that it will also allow for future storage technologies as well.
Another strength is that CacheAdvance is totally transparent to the application, minimizing disruption in the existing environment. The system is flash-friendly and uses techniques, such as taking random data and writing it sequentially to flash, to minimize flash wear and increase longevity.