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Diablo Technologies

Founded in 2003, Diablo is successfully delivering products that enhance the performance and capability of memory system designs.
..... diablo logo - click for more onfo

Since 2010 - Diablo has been developing an SSD technology which the company calls Memory Channel Storage which leverages the disruptive capability of NAND-flash and future non-volatile memory technologies to enable increased levels of application performance supported by a new class of enterprise server and storage system designs.

The Diablo executive management team, now developing its 3rd family of memory interface solutions, has decades of experience in system architecture, chip-set design and software development at companies including Nortel Networks, Matrox Graphics, Goal Semiconductor, BroadTel Communications, ENQ Semiconductor, IceFyre Semiconductor, Mosaid Techologies and Huawei.

see also:- Diablo - editor mentions on StorageSearch.com, Diablo's ULLtraDIMM faqs page

  • editor's comments:- November 2013 - Diablo Technologies has created a new reference architecture for enterprise SSDs - which enables flash memory based SSDs to work in conventional DIMM sockets which were originally designed for DRAM - thereby enabling apps speeds and latencies comparable to the fastest PCIe SSDs - but with a different software paradigm - where the flash aims to transparently emulate DRAM style programmatic access instead of enforcing a storage-centric view for APIs.

    The first products based on this new concept have recently been sampled to customers by Diablo's flash technology collaborator (and route to market) SMART Storage Systems - which was recently acquired by SanDisk.


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Diablo - editor mentions from SSD market history

In November 2012 - Diablo Technologies announced it has closed a $28 million funding round which will help the company bring their Memory Channel Storage concept to market.

In March 2013 - Diablo Technologies announced it has closed an additional $7.5 million of funding, increasing the total equity investment of its most recent round to $36 million.

In April 2013 - Diablo Technologies named SMART Storage as its exclusive flash partner to pioneer a new type of (faster than PCIe SSD) memory channel SSDs.

In August 2013 - SMART Storage Systems announced it had begun sampling the first memory channel SSDs compatible with the interface and reference architecture created by Diablo Technologies.

In January 2014 - IBM launched its first servers - using eXFlash DIMMs - which is IBM's name for the flash SSDs designed by SanDisk which are based on the Memory Channel Storage architecture invented by Diablo. Read more in the article - It's IBM Jim - but not as we know it

Also in January 2014 - Netlist announced it had filed motions to add 2 additional patents to the lawsuits against the previously announced ULLtraDIMM memory module from Diablo Technologies and Smart Storage Systems.
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"Bottlenecks in the pure SSD datacenter will be much more serious than in the HDD world - because responding slowly will be equivalent to transaction failure."
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more money for Diablo
Editor:- March 19, 2013 - It's not unusual in the current SSD market for some companies to have oversubscribed investor funding rounds - and that was the case recently with Diablo Technologies which today announced it has closed an additional $7.5 million of funding, increasing the total equity investment of its most recent round to $36 million. USVP joins previously announced investors.

Editor's comments:- Diablo describes its product as being these categories:- "soon-to-be-announced" and "disruptive".

If you're already interested in PCIe SSDs, InfiniBand or SSDs in RAM module form factors (but which unlike the flash DIMMs from memory makers - might actually emerge from stealth mode attached with a software model) then what Diablo does do with its Memory Channel Storage may impact some of your future long range plans.

Like you - I'm guessing of course. Diablo hasn't ordered any SSD ads yet - although that $7.5 million would come in handy.
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Diablo names SMART Storage as exclusive flash partner to pioneer memory channel SSDs
Editor:- April 25, 2013 - You may remember reading here before about a company called Diablo Technologies - which while in stealth mode - hinted it was working on a new technology which would enable SSDs to run on server motherboards with latency and throughput even better than PCIe SSDs....

Diablo has been creating the interface side of things - but I learned recently that implementing the flash side of this - in a manner which is both effective and affordable - requires a world leading mastery of enterprise flash IP - which Diablo wisely recognized it doesn't have.

So today Diablo has publicly announced an exclusive partnership agreement with SMART Storage Systems which will leverage its flash IP and controller assets to co-design a new family of ultra-low latency SSDs and system accelerators which connect via Diablo's memory channel storage architecture and which will be sold exclusively by SMART but jointly supported by both companies.

Editor's comments:- there are a lot of implications for the future direction of SSD server acceleration if this collaboration succeeds in delivering competitively attractive new types of SSDs. But there are also very difficult technical problems and ecosystems development problems to solve too in order to make it viable.

I discussed these topics in a conversation earlier this week with John Scaramuzzo, President and Esther Spanjer, Director SSD Marketing at SMART.

Among the many questions inspired by that conversation:-
  • how is the new technology different to what has been done before? - particularly with PCIe SSDs and with DIMM class flash?
  • if successful - what impact would memory channel SSDs have on the PCIe SSD market? - and application server architecture?
  • how will the new types of SSDs stretch the demands of flash endurance and latency?
  • how will competitors respond to this new technology? And how much of what they say should you take take on board or disregard?
  • who are going to be the among the first wave of customers to adopt these new SSD?
  • when will the first products be ready?
I've written about these matters and more in a new home page blog on StorageSearch.com - Memory Channel Storage SSDs - will the new ultra low latency SSD concept fly? - should you book a seat yet?
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Diablo sets up advisory team for new SSD interface
"As we prepare to launch our line of Memory Channel Storage products that enable next-generation enterprise server and storage system designs, we have set our sights on unprecedented levels of performance for current and future applications To that end, we have assembled a group of top industry innovators to help refine the development of our revolutionary NAND-flash system solutions...

Maher Amer, CTO Diablo Technologies
January 29, 2013
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New to me in SSD - Diablo Technologies
Editor:- November 8, 2012 - every week I learn about new SSD companies and today one of them was Diablo Technologies - which is working a new high speed direct attach like memory nand flash (and maybe other nvm) SSD controller / product concept which it calls Memory Channel Storage.

Diablo today announced it has closed a $28 million funding round which will help the company bring their concept to market.

With this equity funding we are accelerating the completion of a memory channel-based solid-state storage platform that will deliver breakthroughs in system performance and flash storage density for analytic data processing, web-page serving, cloud computing and other server-based enterprise computing applications said Diablo's CEO and founder - Riccardo Badalone.

The management background is in chips (ASIC+FPGA), telecomms and DRAM memory. I haven't spoken to anyone in the company yet.

But if I had to make a wild guess it would be that Diablo's product may be something like Virident's or other PCIe SSD in architecture - but packaged more like Viking's DIMM compatible flash SSDs in form factor and connectivity.

...Later note:- "What Diablo is doing is effectively creating a new layer in the memory/storage hierarchy" said one of Diablo's investors Alex Benik in his blog today explaining why he likes the company. "Diablos MCS-based products will be dramatically higher capacity than DRAM, persistent, and deliver more IOPS at lower latencies than any other SSD technology."
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"The winners in SSD software could be as important for infrastructure as Microsoft was for PCs, or Oracle was for databases, or Google was for search."
get ready for a new world in which
all enterprise data touches SSDs
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new whitepaper from Diablo looks at the "drawbacks of traditional PCIe SSDs"
Editor:- April 22, 2014 - Diablo Technologies today published a white paper Enterprise Storage Performance: it’s all about the Architecture (and not just the interface) (pdf) - which from the company's perspective - as the creator of Memory Channel Storage (an architecture which supports terabyte class flash SSDs in unmodifed DDR-3 DRAM DIMM sockets and runs within those safe operating electrical power envelopes) looks at the measured performance weaknesses of some specific (but unnamed) PCIe SSDs with respect to their measured performance asymmetries under various loads and then attempts to generalize those weaknesses as part of an argument that MCS is a better solution than PCIe SSDs - because MCS is more scalabe and doesn't suffer from the same kind of architectural bottlenecks.
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Is an ULLtraDIMM fitted? - Add 4.
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Diablo comments on legal barbs cast by Netlist
Editor:- February 14, 2014 - Diablo's CEO and founder - Riccardo Badalone was reported to have said in an interview blog by Willem ter Harmsel today - re the lawsuit launched againts them by Netlist...

"They (Netlist) basically have yet to prove that:- they understand the product, and also that they have found anything Diablo is actually infringing on. We are just going to let this run through the (legal) process and we are confident about the outcome." ...read the article
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Netlist says ULLtraDIMM SSDs infringe patents
Editor:- January 29, 2014 - Netlist today announced it had filed motions to add two additional patents to the lawsuits against the previously announced ULLtraDIMM memory module from Diablo Technologies and Smart Storage Systems.

The 2 newly added patents (U.S. Patent Nos. 7,881,150 and 8,081,536) are generally related to load reduction, a critical feature in low latency memory modules. Netlist has now asserted a total of 7 patents against the ULLtraDIMM, in addition to trade secret theft, trademark infringement and other claims.

"We have spent years developing our industry-leading technology, and are encouraged by the progress we've made defending our intellectual property in these lawsuits," said Netlist President and CEO, C.K. Hong. "We will continue to vigorously defend our IP, uncovering any and all theft of our technology and infringement of our patents, and will not allow others to profit from this unlawful activity."

As reported in its 8-K last December, Netlist says it received a whistleblower letter describing in detail how Diablo "stole Netlist's detailed architecture and design" of its flagship product, HyperCloud, to create the ULLtraDIMM.

Editor's comments:- SanDisk's ULLtraDIMM is a new class of product in which cheap high capacity MLC flash emulates many DRAMs in a module which contains little or no DRAM itself but which nevertheless plugs into a DDR3 module.

In contrast - Netlist's "similar sounding but very different" product families include real DRAMs which accomplish power fail data protection aka non volatility - by means of fast backup and restore to onboard flash - all in the same DDR3 module.

Netlist doesn't appear to be saying that it could design a product like the ULLtraDIMM - because it doesn't to my knowledge have the flash controller IP to do anything remotely similar.

Instead - what Netlist appears to be saying is that techniques in DDR3 design - which enable lots of circuitry to be placed behind a RAM interface - without placing too much load on it and slowing it down - which Netlist has itself patented - are suspected to have been used within the design of the ULLtraDIMM.
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IBM launches first memory channel SSD servers
Editor:- January 16, 2014 - IBM today disclosed preliminary test results comparing the latency of memory channel SSDs to PCIe SSDs - in the launch press release of its new X6 architecture for X86 servers.

IBM said - "Our evaluators are seeing 5-10 microseconds write latency for eXFlash DIMMs in preliminary testing vs. 15-19 microseconds latency for PCIe-based flash storage from Fusion-io, Micron, and Virident, and 65 microseconds latency for Intel S3500 and S3700 SSDs."
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memory channel SSD vs PCIe SSD write latency - initial 3rd party benchmarks
Editor:- November 7, 2013 - Although it's possible to make estimates of how a new type of SSD interface will perform compared to what already exists - the interplay of applications software, systems software and a new controller design - means that initial assumptions can easily be out by a factor of x2.

And even if you have accurately guessed what the weak points and the strong points are in the product's performance symmetries - it's only when you start to see benchmark results that you can have more confidence in your models of what's happening inside.

So if you've been wondering how Diablo's memory channel storage compares with PCIe SSDs - click here to a new whitepaper (pdf) which includes some useful data. The application isn't important but it's the first public glimpse which goes usefully beyond the graphs shown in the product launch documents.

The highlight for me is - a mean write latency of about 30S for MCS compared to about 100S for PCIe SSD- at a particular R/W ratio which may of course look nothing like your own setups.
latency MCS vs PCIe SSD - click to read more
When you stop and think about it - we might see just as large a difference between different models of PCIe SSDs - and as we don't know the identity of the mysterious "PCIe SSD" in this paper - and as we've only got a very limited view of the comparison - you might say this whole paper is null data.

On the other hand - being able to show that in one situation an MCS SSD can be 3x faster than a hypothetical PCIe SSD - suggests that the new MCS SSDs aren't slouches either.

My best guess back in April 2013 was that there would be no material performance difference between an MCS SSD and a best of breed PCIe SSD - when working with best of breed VM optimized software APIs.

I think the differences between memory channel and PCIe for server SSDs shouldn't be seen simply as performance differences (which may indeed not be that significant) but as different integration approaches which offer a different set of branching out directions depending on the software environment and the high availability framework. The 2 types can even work together in the same server in different roles.


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Diablo discusses details of Memory Channel Storage
Editor:- July 30, 2013 - Diablo Technologies today did the public launch of its its new technology - Memory Channel Storage - which repurposes the interface and form factor of server DRAM into a new architecture for ultrafast flash SSDs which the company positions as a competitive alternative to very fast PCIe SSDs.

Editor's comments:- I spoke recently to Diablo's new VP of Marketing - Kevin Wagner about the company's new MCS.

I had already gleaned a heads up on the boundary capabilities and market potential of the new technology in an earlier interview with Diablo's flash partner SMART. So it was natural to ask how Diablo viewed the impending acquisition of SMART by SanDisk?

Not surprisingly Kevin indicated that whereas Diablo already thought it had made the best choice before - the upside potential of having SanDisk as a partner for this memory technology made it 10x better.

Here's what I learned.
  • Diablo's TeraDIMMs are designed to fit standard sockets designed for DDR-3. They are electrically, form factor and power compatible. But instead of RAM - a typical TeraDIMM using today's technology might have 400GB of flash.
  • Diablo's controller architecture means that the host CPU can read and write from memory in the same transparent way as it would talk to RAM.
  • TeraDIMMs can be installed in every set of slots where you'd normally insert RAM. The only limiting factor in the current architecture is that at least one pair of slots has to be RAM. All the rest can be flash.
  • Diablo claims that MCS has better write latency than most PCIe SSDs.

    Specifically MCS has a write latency of 3 to 5 microseconds. This is really a write to the controller.

    TeraDIMMs have a skinny flash cache architecture - which means that apart from a small amount of register memory in the MCS controller itself - no RAM is used in the SSD. The MCS design includes power fail hold up capacitors which guarantee that all data which has been written to the TeraDIMM gets completely saved to flash.
  • From the applications point of view MCS looks like a massive amount of persistent RAM - but with terabytes rather than tens of gigabytes of memory space and with a cost structure closer to the market price of flash than DRAM.
  • Is it bootable? No. Not yet that wasn't regarded as a priority.
Although the product is not yet available - Kevin Wagner told me that Diablo has been getting a lot of interest from server companies. Diablo has been validating software with their ASIC based implementation for several months following good earlier characterizations of the design with FPGA. From the software point of view Diablo's aim was to prioritize a usable design which would work for the market as soon as possible. Obviously many possibilities for leveraging the basic technology spring to mind. I asked for example about preferred models of high availability?

Kevin said that so many companies are interested in what they're doing that they don't have enough resources to talk to them all right now. It won't be long before the company publishes more details of its reference architecture - and conversations have already begun with ISVs and other companies which could be the seeds of a new ecosystem.

But the current design has been designed to work in virtualized and non-virtualized environments and the company has got already got a good idea of how headline big data apps would perform in benchmarks using their technology.

I raised the question of inter-operability with PCIe SSDs (in the same MCS resident servers) and it looks like the guesses I had made about segmentation and collaboration and competition with other SSD types which I've already written about in my earlier article about memory channel SSDs - are still valid. So I won't repeat those points here.

We still have to wait for firm product pricing and configuration details. But if you had any doubts about where the money will be inside servers - MCS provides another new way of packing even more flash SSD capacity in.
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