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linking Diablo to A3CUBE

"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"

So said Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com on September 23, 2014.

The context was 2 news stories (archived below) which linked Diablo to A3CUBE.
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Diablo is the #1 SSD company being followed up in recent weeks

Editor:- September 23, 2014 - StorageSearch.com doesn't publish a regular list of the Top SSD Companies searched for by readers in the 1st 3 weeks of September. That's because 7+ years of Top SSD company tracker company history has demonstrated that 3 month (quarterly) sampling periods are more reliable (than 3 weeks). But if we did - a 3 week tracker - the #1 company this month would be - Diablo.

In particular readers are looking at Diablo's FMS 2014 presentation (pdf) from which I extracted these key features in earlier memory channel SSDs news coverage in August.
  • Diablo's converged memory architecture (flash tiered with DRAM) is planned to support 700 million random cachelines / sec.
  • Latency of each cacheline is about 48 nanoseconds.
  • Diablo's NanoCommit supports byte addressable small writes to flash with high transaction rates and the ability to mirror the DRAM contents to persistent storage.
  • The combination of technologies would enable something like a 1U server with 25TB of converged memory.
Editor's comments:- I only mention it - because of the scale of interest involved.

One reason may be that - as you'll see in the next news story below - 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.

BTW - A3CUBE is #2 in September reader followups so far - and this is due to the story below.


A3CUBE - first US customer shipments soon

Editor:- September 18, 2014 - earlier this week A3CUBE effectively announced imminent US customer shipments of its PCIe connected shared reflective memory fabric - with the unveiling of the system software which works with its previously announced RONNIEE Express platform.

The Fortissimo Foundation software (overview pdf) is the new management and OS software which enables application agnostic hardware based memory synchronization of DRAM memory blocks across multiple servers (scalable to thousands) which are connected via a PCIe fabric with worst case access times under 1 micro-second (which includes operating system and software overhead). This enables access to all the resources in the cluster as if they were local.
concept diagram - click for more info

Editor's comments:- Before talking to Emilio Billi, Founder - A3CUBE last week about the new Fortissimo - 3 ideas popped into my head.
  • modeling the application performance

    I realized that in the absence of any other data (at this stage of the product's life cycle)- a good predictive analog for the usability of this remote shared memory system would be Diablo's memory channel SSD architecture.

    The key difference being that the 1st generation MCS has typical latencies around 3 to 5 microseconds (compared to 800nS RONNIEE Express), and MCS is operating with flash - whereas RE operates with DRAM. But as a first order approximation -my thinking was that any app which works well with MCS in a local server - will work just as well - or better - in a remote server connected by RE.
  • the importance of strategic software standard support

    My guess is that for many smaller developers of large memory architecture systems - SanDisk's ZetaScale (and related) APIs will come to be regarded as a "safe" hardware independent SSD software platform for flash. So - if it was easy to integrate A3CUBE's Fortissimo / RE within such APIs - that would provide a gateway to a much bigger market.
  • beyond legacy storage and SSD fabrics

    Obviously to get business now - A3CUBE has to demonstrate that their products can be useful and competitive when used with existing storage and SSD installations and architectures.

    But as more of the installed base moves towards new dynasty (always intended to include SSDs at the outset), and in the next 5 to 10 years as we see the current new generations of "software as something useful in an SSD server" - give way to new SSD software ecosystems - developed by stealth mode companies like Primary Data - whose products don't even exist yet (except as tantalizing investment objects and patent applications) - I could see that the A3CUBE style of connection - would still fit in well - because the ability to replicate and synchronize remote memory in multiple servers at latencies which are closer to hardware than software - isn't going to go oyt of fashion.
So I mentioned all those things to Emilio when we spoke. And this is what I learned.
  • Emilio said Diablo was one of the first external companies to recognize the work that A3CUBE was doing. And he said that Diablo's APIs should work easily with A3CUBE's platform (just as many other memory intensive apps).

    And - as I speculated before our conversation - the ability to seamlessly converge remote low latency RAM with remote flash across an almost unlimited set of servers - is a mind boggling ecosystem enabler. Because we should now view SSD memory products which do useful things locally in a single server - as simply a subset of a continuum which can span racks and cabinets - and change not only cost dynamics - but the very determination of what type of apps are possible.
  • Emilio said a significant bottleneck in all previous fabric systems was the mechanism of metadata synchronization.

    That's traditionally done in software - and no matter how many hundreds or thousands of servers you have in your installation - the scalability of those systems ultimately comes back to the software mechanism of how fast 2 servers can replicate or share a set of data.

    In A3CUBE's RE platform - the ability to broadcast an identical content of shared memory across hundreds or thousands of connected nodes is done in silicon.
  • re reliability? - I put it to Emilio that everything was being staked on the reliability of the RE platform - and I asked more about that.

    Emilio said that the Fortissimo / RE system can be configured to drop back to an ethernet fabric if the core RE fails - but if budget allows - then it can fall back to another RE. In neither event do you lose data or access to data. A3CUBE has been collecting reliability data from their early access systems - and will publish more about that later.
  • re when can customers order these systems?

    Emilio said that the first production system is already scheduled for delivery to a US customer next month.

    So to my way of looking at it - the general availability issue just seems to be related to how many of the software features are nice to have versus essential. That will depend on what the applications are.
  • re my other points - Emilio said that legacy big memory software platforms are already supported by Fortissimo (see their site for more details) and we found a lot to agree about re the other things I mentioned above.
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today's SSD news
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In September 2005 - SimpleTech (STEC) launched the world's first dual interface SSD. At launch time the Zeus Dual Interface SSD, with both a USB and SATA interface, offered capacities up to 192GB in a 3.5-inch form factor, and sustained read/write rates of 60 MBytes per second.
SSD market history
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"I think SanDisk's ZetaScale could be one of the most significant SSD software products launched in 2014 - because of the freedom it will give big memory customers about how they navigate their tactical choices of low latency flash SSD hardware."
Zsolt Kerekes, editor - StorageSearch.com - SSD news (July 8, 2014)



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PLX started out with the intention of using the ExpressFabric box as a system design tool to help server oems and PCIe SSD designers get a feel for how they could expand their product offerings by scaling the fabric using PCIe instead of ethernet or InfiniBand.
An SSD conversation with PLX - June 5, 2014



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