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SSD news - June 8 - 14, 2011

world's first PCIe PCM SSD

Editor:- June 14, 2011 - NVSL ( the Non-Volatile Systems Lab at UCSD) recently demonstrated a prototype PCIe PCM (phase-change memory) SSD - with R/W speeds upto 1.1GB/s and 327MB/s respectively and 8GB usable capacity.

A spokesperson for the Moneta SSD design team - Professor Steven Swanson said "...Moneta gives us a window into the future of what computer storage systems are going to look like, and gives us the opportunity now to rethink how we design computer systems in response."

Swanson says he hopes to build the 2nd generation of the Moneta storage device in the next 6 to 9 months and says the technology could be ready for market in just a few years as the underlying phase-change memory technology improves.

Editor's comments:- in a white paper Protoype PCM Storage Array (pdf) the team outlines the design and architecture of their PCM SSD prototype and also compares aspects of performance with entry level PCIe flash SSDs from Fusion-io. In a recent article I warned that you should not pay too much heed to comparative PCIe SSD benchmarks - because from different arbitrary selected angles they can "prove" different arbitrary performance rankings. I wouldn't be surprised if some investors take fright that a PCM SSD scored higher than a Fusion-io SSD in some of the published graphs. But for those who understand SSD architecture it doesn't reveal anything new.

In my view this prototype clearly demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of PCM as an SSD technology.

PCM SSD strengths vs flash

The granularity of writes in PCM is smaller and faster - which means that small R/W operations have higher IOPS. If you have apps where that is important you can simply buy SSDs with various ratios of integrated RAM cache. That would give you small block IOPS better than PCM - end of story. PCM has higher endurance than SLC - which means that the SSD controller overhead applied to endurance can be lighter than in most flash systems. Hence potentially faster latency through to the media.

PCM SSD weaknesses vs flash

The prototype PCIe SSD card provides capacity which is similar to RAM SSD density - but with a large block R/W throughput which is much lower than flash arrays. This implementation used 16MB PCM chips.

Flash allows higher capacity writes to a single chip - and this gives better peak performance results than PCM when exploited in parallel architecture arrays. You can't get those flash peak performance numbers from a PCM array in the same board footrpint - because many PCM chips have to be written to concurrently to achieve the same capacity R/W as a single flash chip. That means with today's technologies - flash SSDs have a higher proportion of ready to write memory chips in the same chip count population as PCM SSDs.

For more about alternative SSD technologies - see SSD's past phantoms.

SANBlaze ships PCIe to 1.8" SSD RAID adapter

June 13, 2011 - SANBlaze Technology is shipping a new rear transition module which connects upto 8x 1.8" SSDs to PCIe with RAID options.

BiTMICRO - update from an SSD pioneer

Editor:- June 13, 2011 - BiTMICRO was one of the original flash SSD pioneers in the 1990s - and they did a lot to advance the notion of using flash SSDs to accelerate servers.

In a 2004 case study they showed how a single 3.5" flash SSD speeded up a 25,000 user server by 15x compared to the previous HDD storage system.

But I hadn't heard much from them in recent years. So I welcomed the chance of getting an update from the company.

I asked BiTMICRO's Marketing Manager - Cecilia Martorillas to tell me where they are on the MLC / SLC flash question - as most of their business now seems to be in the industrial / military market. You can see what Cecilia said and learn more about BiTMICRO by clicking here.

Compliance issues in Cloud Storage

Editor:- June 10, 2011 - A recent article in discusses the use of cloud storage for archiving.

Among other things - the author George Crump warns that - "The deletion of data from the cloud may be the most overlooked consideration." the article

Editor's comments:- - judicious deletion is also a strategic issue for long established web sites too. GerryMcGovern discussed that in his classic article - the Business case for deleting content.
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