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A3CUBE

A3CUBE, based in San Jose, CA, was founded in 2012 as a result of more than 5 years of advanced research and development.
.. A3CUBE logo

The company has assembled an elite team of highly skilled and experienced engineers in hardware, firmware, software and system design engineering and management with proven track records of success in supercomputing and HPC environments. Every member of the A3CUBE team has deep-domain expertise in complex hardware-firmware product development, testing and commercialization. All A3CUBE design and development activities are internal to the company in order to maintain complete control of all aspects of the company's products..

See also:- A3CUBE's news page, A3CUBE - mentions on StorageSearch.com


A3CUBE and memory fabrics....

A3cube and NVMeEditor:- January 10, 2017 - When A3CUBE started talking about big memory fabrics - there weren't too many other choices out there.

Now in 2017 the SSD and SCM news pages are awash with announcements about big memory systems. And growing industry support for NVMe over Fabric was one of the big market developments in 2016.

We're already seeing signs of clear fragmentation in the memory fabric market (mostly via server based interface expansion preferences such as PCIe, IB and GbE but some of the memory applications are also being cannibalized by tiered memory, new semiconductor memory solutions and DIMM wars.)

In this context it was interesting to see a recent video (January 2017) from A3CUBE which shows how their PCIe connected shared memory fabric can work with NVMe components too.

Click on the link or image below to see more.

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A3cube and NVMe

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who's who in SSD? - A3CUBE

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - May 1, 2014

A3CUBE designs and builds a fast low latency shared memory system (with sub microsecond replication and broadcast features) which connects via the PCIe interface - and which is intended to be used as the basis of a PCIe fabric for large scale enterprise and server deployments.

A3CUBE says its architecture is scalable to thousands of connected servers and storage racks.

The idea of connecting remote servers to a low latency shared memory system isn't new in computer architecture. And it wasn't even a new idea back in 1994 when Texas Memory Systems was selling its SAM-2000 8GB fast shared memory which had adapters to various remote busses such as SBus, VMEbus and HIPPI.

And the idea of using PCIe as a fabric - instead of Gbe or Infiniband isn't new either.

For example PLX has been talking about the idea for years - and has been sampling an early access development system for a single cabinet scale of ExpressFabric to enable developers to test out the concepts.

What is new and different from A3CUBE - however - is that it offers an architecture which scales from the entry level which you might find in a typical enterprise - right up to the 10,000 node level of web scale companies - and offers a true alternative to traditional fabrics.

A3CUBE is one of the rare companies which has entered the Top SSD Companies list within a single quarter of exiting stealth mode or launching their first product.

Other companies in this exalted category include:- Fusion-io, SandForce, Skyera and DensBits.

That's an early indicator that there is already significant industry interest in A3CUBE's concepts.

notes added later

You might ask - how does a memory fabric architecture which inserts latency of around one microsecond into its requests of external memory not interfere significantly with legacy applications?

Part of the answer is that DRAM system latency on server motherboards is different to the raw organic latency inside a single memory chip.

The causes and boudaries of these "hidden latencies" are discussed in my blog - latency loving reasons for fading out DRAM in the virtual memory slider mix
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A3CUBE unveils PCIe memory fabric for
10,000 node-class PCIe SSD architectures
Editor:- February 25, 2014 - PCIe SSDs can now access a true PCIe connected shared memory fabric designed by A3CUBE - which exited stealth today with the launch of their remote shared broadcast memory network - RONNIEE Express - which provides 700nS (nanoseconds) raw latency (4 byte message) and which enables message throughput - via standard PCIe - which is 8x better than InfiniBand.

Editor's comments:- I spoke to the company's luminaries recently - who say they intend to make this an affordable mainstream solution.

The idea of using PCIe as a fabric to share data at low latency and with fast throughput across a set of closely located servers isn't a new one.

The world's leading PCIe chipmaker PLX started educating designers and systems architects about these possibilities a few years ago - as a way to elegantly answer a new set of scalability problems caused by the increasing adoption of PCIe SSDs. These questions include:-
  • how do you make this expensive resource available to more servers?
  • how do you enable a simple to implement failover mechanism - so that data remains accessible in the event of either a server or SSD fault?
In the least year or so - we've seen most of the leading vendors in the enterprise PCIe SSD market leverage some of the new features in PCIe chips - to implement high availability SSDs with low latency.

But although there are many ways of doing this - the details are different for each vendor.

And - until now - if you wanted to share data at PCIe-like latency across a bunch of PCIe SSDs from different companies - located in different boxes - the simplest way to do that was to bridge across ethernet or infiniband. - And even though it has been technically possible with standard software packages - the integration, education and support issues - compared to legacy SAN or NAS techniques would be extremely daunting.

That's where A3CUBE comes into the picture. Their concept is to provide a box which enables any supported PCIe device to connect to any other - at low latency and with high throughput - in an architecture which scales to many thousands of nodes.

At the heart of this is a shared broadcast memory window - of 128Mbytes - which can be viewed simultaneously by any of the attached ports.

If you've ever used shared remote memory in a supercomputer style of system design at any time in the past 20 years or so - you'll know that the critical thing is how the latency grows as you add more ports. So that was one of the questions I asked.

Here's what I was told - "The latency is related to the dimension of the packet for example: In a real application using a range of 64-256 bytes of messages the 3D torus latency doubled after 1,000 nodes. With larger packets, the number of nodes to double the latency becomes grater. But the real point is that the latency of a simple p2p in a standard 10GE is reached after 29,000 nodes.

"A more clear example of the scalability of the system is this. Imagine that an application experiences a max latency of 4 us with 64 nodes, now we want to scale to 1,000 nodes the max latency that the same application experience will became 4.9 us. 0.9 us of extra latency for 936 more nodes."

Editor again:- Those are very impressive examples - and demonstrates that the "scalability" is inherent in the original product design.

A3CUBE didn't want to say publicly what the costs of the nodes and the box are at this stage. But they answered the question a different way.

Their aim is to price the architecture so that it works out cheaper to run than the legacy (pre-PCIe SSD era) alternatives - and they're hoping that server oems and fast SSD oems will find A3CUBE's way of doing this PCIe fabric scalability stuff - is the ideal way they want to go.

There's a lot more we have to learn - and a lot of testing to be done and software to be written - but for users whose nightmare questions have been - how do I easily scale up to a 10,000 PCIe SSD resource - and when I've got it - how can I simplify changing suppliers? - there's a new safety net being woven. Here are the essential details (pdf).


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Here are some more SSD articles

new thinking inside the box - explores the many exciting new directions in rackmount SSDs.

Hostage to the fortunes of SSD - why are so many companies piling into the SSD market - when even the leading enterprise companies haven't demonstrated sustainable business models yet?

Where are we now with SSD software? - (And how did we get into this mess?)

7 tips to survive and thrive in enterprise SSD - In SSDs - rules are made to be broken.

meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon - what will happen as SSD utilization rates in the enterprise get better? - Consequences for SSD vendors and HDD makers examined.
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A3CUBE was one of the rare companies which entered the Top SSD Companies list within a single quarter of exiting stealth mode or launching their first product.

That was in Q1 2014.

Now in 2016 it has become easier for more us to appreciate how the 700nS typical internode memory latency (headline figure quoted by A3CUBE) is more than "good enough" to work with many applications.

The article - latency loving reasons for fading out DRAM in the virtual memory slider mix - shows the underlying applications latency seen and tolerated in enterprise DRAM. The same statistical spread of "real" legacy latencies seen at the local level which enables flash to cannibalize DRAM also supports extendable DRAM fabrics too. They're different architectural approaches which leverage the same opportunities.
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is data remanence in NVDIMMs a new risk factor?
maybe the risk was already there with DRAM
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"Latency is the application stealth tax, silently extending the elapsed times of individual computational tasks and processes, which then take longer to execute."
Latency Matters - a blog by A3CUBE

See also:- the latency themed SSD bookmarks from IBM
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RAM used to be a component. Now RAM is whatever the software is happy to greet by that name. The economic impact of SSDcentric software and systems architecture is nearly as important to the RAM (which you think you're working with) as the raw nanometer layout of the memory cells.
RAM in an SSD context
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Having SSDs located in a DIMM socket in one server - no longer precludes that very same data being accessed by another server as if it were just a locally installed PCIe SSD.
Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com

The context was an SSD news story - which linked A3CUBE to Diablo based on a conversation with A3CUBE's founder at the launch of the company's Fortissimo Foundation software - in September 2014.
concept diagram - click for more info
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In the 2nd quarter of 2014 - A3CUBE moved into the Top 10 SSD Companies List - which showed that the SSD industry was becoming interested in learning about a new network model which had at its core PCIe fabric connectivity.
the Top SSD Companies - 2014 Q2
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Anyone who has been reading articles by PLX knows that for the past 2-3 years they've been talking about the possibilities of using PCIe as a box to box fabric.
An SSD conversation with PLX (June 2014)
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"In modern petabyte scale-out storage systems the focus must be on the architectural organizations of the entire system and all related performance dimensions."
Emilio Billi, Founder - A3CUBE in his paper - Architecting a Massively Parallel Data Processor Platform for Analytics (pdf) (March 2014)
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how fast can your SSD run backwards?
SSDs are complex devices and there's a lot of mysterious behavior which isn't fully revealed by benchmarks, datasheets and whitepapers.

Underlying all the important aspects of SSD behavior are asymmetries which arise from the intrinsic technologies and architecture inside the SSD.
SSD symmetries article Which symmetries are most important in an SSD?

That depends on your application. ...click to read the article

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