Enterprise SSDs

High Availability in an m.2 Format

Photo of finger pusing on hinge in center of m.2 HA SSDThe m.2 SSD format has become wildly successful in the data center for use as a boot drive and even in SSD arrays.  The m.2 format supports either the SATA or the NVMe interface,  Something that has been missing, however, is a version of this format for high-availability (HA) systems.  These are mission-critical systems that cannot fail, no matter what.

Until today HA systems had to use the SAS interface which supports two independent ports, or the new dual-port NVMe SSDs that come in either a 2.5″ U.2 or the AIC format.  Both of these offer redundant ports but, unfortunately, both U.2 and AIC SSDs are considerably larger than the m.2 format.

Despite its small size m.2 has so far not been considered as a candidate for dual-port SSDs.  This is because the m.2 format uses a card edge connection it must be inserted by sliding the narrow end of the card into the socket.  A dual-port version needs to have connectors at both narrow ends, making it impossible to plug the SSD into a pair of board-mounted sockets.

Today a revolutionary new company called Kowabunga Data is introducing its ingenious solution to the problem.  Yes, it is indeed an Continue reading

Does Persistent Memory Improve Performance? Ask Oracle!

A model-by-model timeline of Oracle's Exadata product introductions with key specifications.At last month’s SNIA Persistent Memory Summit Oracle presenter Jia Shi, Sr. Director of Exadata Development, shared some statistics on the Exadata system’s history over the past ten years.  (Click on the graphic to the left to see the timeline.)  The speaker highlighted the fact that the system’s I/O performance has grown from 0.05 million IOPS ten years ago to 16 million IOPS today, a 320X improvement!  Shi said that Exadata was designed to be “the ideal database hardware with smart system software and automated management.”  There’s every reason for her to be proud of her own work with this product!

The most recent iteration of the system, X8M, released last September, takes advantage of Persistent Memory (PM) in the  form of Intel’s new Optane DIMMs (formally called “The Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory module”).  The presenter said she was diligently working on this new approach at this time last year – so diligently, in fact, that she was unable to attend the 2019 Persistent Memory Summit even though she was working on a pioneering implementation of PM technology!

While the timeline in this post’s graphic doesn’t Continue reading

SNIA Webcast: Emerging Memories

This shows the cover slide for the SNIA webcast presentation titled "What a Year it Was and Where We Need To Go in Emerging Memory"On Tuesday, January 14, Tom Coughlin and I were featured in a BrightTalk webinar hosted by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).  A recording of this webinar has been posted so that you can view it at your convenience.

This webinar looks at emerging memories and where they now stand, giving a glance at the ground that has yet to be covered before these new memories gain widespread acceptance as persistent memory in general-purpose computing.

The content of the presentation is excerpted from a 172-page report jointly published by Objective Analysis and Coughlin Associates that covers the gamut of emerging memory technologies, the companies involved (49 of them!), and predicts how the market for these new memories should develop with forecasts for the memories, as well as for the equipment used to manufacture them.  This is the 2019 update of a very well-received report originally published in 2017.

The webinar is a little less than an hour long, and about half of it consists of audience questions which we address in the second half.

You can view and listen to it by clicking HERE.

And, if you’re interested in the report, you can purchase a copy for immediate download from the Objective Analysis website by clicking HERE.

 

Micron’s New XPoint SSD Finally Arrives

Micron X100 3D XPoint SSDAt its October Insight Conference Micron Technology finally revealed its 3D XPoint SSD, dubbed the X100.

While the company didn’t disclose too much about the device, it did brag about its speed, claiming that the X100 is the world’s fastest SSD, running three times faster than the fastest NAND flash SSDs and almost three times the speed of other XPoint SSDs.  The product is said to provide a very impressive 2.5 million IOPS for 4kB random reads at a queue depth of 1 and to support a 9GB/second bandwidth in read, write, and mixed traffic.  (NAND flash SSDs perform much better at reads than at writes due to the underlying NAND chips’ extraordinarily lopsided read and write specifications, among other quirks.)

Just as Intel has done, Micron plans to introduce storage products first, before bringing out a memory module to fit into a DIMM slot.

How did Micron achieve this impressive level of performance?  Well, in addition to Continue reading

The Memory/Storage Hierarchy

Memory/Storage ThumbnailIt recently dawned on me that one of the charts that I most frequently use in my presentations has never been explained in The SSD Guy blog.  This is a serious oversight that I will correct with this post.

The Memory/Storage Hierarchy (also called the Storage/Memory Hierarchy, depending on your perspective) is a very simply way to explain why there are multiple memory and storage types within a system: Why is there a cache memory, or a DRAM, or an HDD?  The simple answer is that you can improve the system’s cost/performance ratio of you break the system down into an appropriate mix of fast & slow, expensive & cheap memory or storage.

To explain this I go way back to the 1960s and review the concept of “Virtual Memory”.  This concept was first commercialized by computer maker Burroughs, although it was first implemented by the University of Manchester in England.  The basic concept was to provide programmers with an extraordinarily large memory in which to run their programs by fooling the program into thinking that the memory was as large as the magnetic disk.

I actually look at it from Continue reading

Podcast: Flash Memory Summit 2019

GreybeardsThose of you who enjoy listening to podcasts may want to hear Ray Lucchesi (Silverton Consulting) and Keith Townsend (The CTO Advisor) interview The SSD Guy for their series “Greybeards on Storage.”

This interview is the series’ 86th episode covering the world of storage.  These guys do a fantastic job of probing this industry with great enthusiasm and insight.

This episode is a 40-minute compendium of the sights and goings-on at the August 2019 Flash Memory Summit along with observations on the industry in general.  It’s not strictly structured, and not strictly serious, but just three industry insiders having a lot of fun sharing their observations.

Some of the broad range of subjects that Continue reading

Start-Up Fadu Launches New SSD Controller

Fadu, a startup out of Korea, made a big  splash at the Flash Memory Summit to announce its new NVMe SSD controllers that don’t compromise speed to achieve low-power operation.

The company’s products are focused on quality of service (QOS) in enterprise-style 24/7 workloads with the aim of enabling the transition to NVMe in Enterprise and Hyperscale data centers, the fastest-growing segments in the SSD market.  Some readers may recall that Fadu won the 2018 FMS Best-of-Show award in the “Most Innovative Flash Memory Technology” category for an earlier generation of products.

The company’s founding team comes from Samsung and Hynix with a CEO (Jihyo Lee) from Bain Capital.  Lee gave a keynote address at the Flash Memory Summit simply titled: “Enterprise SSD: The Future”

The new SSD controller, Annapurna, is a Continue reading

Intel’s Optane: Two Confusing Modes. Part 4) Comparing the Modes

Exploding HeadThis post completes The SSD Guy’s four-part series to help explain Intel’s two recently-announced modes of accessing its Optane DIMM, formally known as the “Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory.”

Comparing the Modes

In the second and third parts of this series we discussed Intel’s Memory Mode and the company’s App Direct Mode.  This final part aims to compare the two: When would you use one and when the other?

There’s really no simple answer.  As with all benchmarks, certain applications will perform better with one mode than with another, while other applications will behave the opposite way.  Adding to the problem is the fact that App Direct Mode actually supports not one but four different access methods, which will be further explained below.  As a rule of thumb performance for large serial accesses might be Continue reading

Failure is Not an Option — It’s a Requirement!

I was recently reminded of a presentation made by GoDaddy way back in the 2013 Flash Memory Summit in which I first heard the statement: “Failure is not an option — it is a requirement!”  That’s certainly something that got my attention!  It just sounded wrong.

In fact, this expression was used to describe a very pragmatic approach the company’s storage team had devised to determine the exact maximum load that could be supported by any piece of its storage system.

This is key, since, at the time, GoDaddy claimed to be the world’s largest web hosting service with 11 million users, 54 million domains registered, over 5 million hosting accounts, with a 99.9% uptime guarantee (although the internal goal was 99.999% – five nines!)

The presenters outlined four stages of how validation processes had Continue reading

Intel’s Optane: Two Confusing Modes. Part 3) App Direct Mode

Exploding HeadThis post is a continuation of a four part series in The SSD Guy blog to help explain Intel’s two recently-announced modes of accessing its Optane DIMM, formally known as the “Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory.”

App Direct Mode

Intel’s App Direct Mode is the more interesting of the two Optane operating modes since it supports in-memory persistence, which opens up a new and different approach to improve the performance of tomorrow’s standard software. While today’s software operates under the assumption that data can only be persistent if it is written to slow storage (SSDs, HDDs, the cloud, etc.) Optane under App Direct Mode allows data to persist at memory speeds, as also do other nonvolatile memories like NVDIMMs under the SNIA NVM Programming Model.

App Direct Mode implements the full SNIA NVM Programming Model described in an earlier SSD Guy post and allows software to Continue reading