| leading the way to the
new storage frontier||...|
|after AFAs -
what's the next box?
a winter's tale
of SSD market influences
hold up times in 2.5" military SSDs
where are we
heading with memory intensive systems?
risk reward with big memory "flash as RAM"
CPUs for use with SSDs in the 3rd Era of SSD Systems
|"We are at a junction
point where we have to evolve the architecture of the last 20-30 years. We can't
design for a workload so huge and diverse. It's not clear what part of it runs
on any one machine. How do you know what to optimize? Past benchmarks are
Vaid, Distinguished Engineer, Azure Infrastructure - quoted in a blog
by Rambus -
new memory tiers for the data center (February 21, 2017)|
Mitigation for PCM and STT-RAM|
|Editor:- February 21, 2017 - There's a vast body
of knowledge about data integrity issues in
nand flash memories. The
and fixes have been one of the underpinnings of
SSD controller design.
But what about newer emerging nvms such as PCM and STT-RAM?|
know that memories are real when you can read hard data about what goes wrong -
because physics detests a perfect storage device.
A new paper -
a Survey of Soft-Error
Mitigation Techniques for Non-Volatile Memories (pdf) - by Sparsh Mittal,
Assistant Professor at Indian Institute of
Technology Hyderabad - describes the nature of soft error problems in
these new memory types and shows why system level architectures will be needed
to make them usable. Among other things:-
- scrubbing in MLC PCM would be required in almost every cycle to keep the
error rate at an acceptable level
- read disturbance errors are expected to become the most severe bottleneck
in STT-RAM scaling and performance
|He concludes:- "Given the energy
inefficiency of conventional memories and the reliability issues of NVMs, it is
likely that future systems will use a hybrid memory design to bring the best of
NVMs and conventional memories together. For example, in an SRAM-STT-RAM hybrid
cache, read-intensive blocks can be migrated to SRAM to avoid RDEs in STT-RAM,
and DRAM can be used as cache to reduce write operations to PCM memory for
avoiding WDEs. |
"However, since conventional memories also have
reliability issues, practical realization and adoption of these hybrid memory
designs are expected to be as challenging as those of NVM-based memory designs.
Overcoming these challenges will require concerted efforts from both academia
...read the article (pdf)
comments:- Reading this paper left me with the confidence that I was in
good hands with Sparsh Mittal's identification of the important things which
need to be known.
If you need to know more he's running a one day
Advanced Memory System
Architecture March 4, 2017.
See also:- an earlier paper by Sparsh
Mittal - data
compression techniques in caches and main memory
|Getting acquainted with the
needs of new big data apps |
|Editor:- February 13, 2017, 2017 - The nature of
demands on storage and big memory systems has been changing.|
new storage applications by Nisha Talagala,
VP Engineering at Parallel
Machines provides a strategic overview of the raw characteristics of
dataflows which occur in new apps which involve advanced analytics,
machine learning and deep learning.
It describes how these new
trends differ to legacy enterprise storage patterns and discusses the
convergence of RDBMS and analytics towards continuous streams of enquiries.
And it shows why and where such new demands can only be satisfied by large
capacity persistent memory systems.
|Among the many interesting observations:-
- Quality of service is different in the new apps.
is rare. Instead the data access patterns are heavily patterned and initiated by
operations in some sort of array or matrix.
concludes "Opportunities exist to significantly improve storage and memory
for these use cases by understanding and exploiting their priorities and
non-priorities for data." ...read
- Correctness is hard to measure.
And determinism and repeatability
is not always present for streaming data. Because for example micro batch
processing can produce different results depending on arrival time versus event
time. (Computing the right answer too late is the wrong answer.)
SSD software news
where are we
heading with memory intensive systems?
|Xitore envisions NVDIMM
tiered memory evolution |
|Editor:- February 7, 2017, 2017 - "Cache
based NVDIMM architectures will be the predominant interface overtaking NVMe
within the next 5-10 years in the race for performance" - is the concluding
message of a recent presentation by Doug Fink , Director of
Product Marketing - Xitore
Generation Persistent Memory Evolution - beyond the NVDIMM-N (pdf)|
Among other things Doug's slides echo a theme discussed
before - which is that
new memory media (PCM, ReRAM, 3DXpoint) will have to compete in price and
performance terms with flash based alternatives and this will slow down the
adoption of the alt nvms.
comments:- Xitore (like others in the
SCM DIMM wars
market) is working on NVDIMM form factor based solutions and in this and
they provide a useful summary of the classifications in this module
However, the wider market picture is that the retiring and
retiering DRAM story cuts
across form factors with many other permutations of feasible implementation
So - whereas the NVDIMM is a seductively convenient form
factor for systems architects to think around - the competitive market for big
memory will use anything from SSDs on a chip upto (and including) populations of
entire fast rackmount SSD boxes as part of such tiered solutions - if the
economics, scale, interface fabric and
software make the
cost, performance and time to market sums emerge in a viable zone of business
risk and doability.
ain't what it used to be
|Micron's SSDs tough enough for army use|
February 25, 2017 - Micron
isn't a name that would sping to mind when thinking about
military SSDs. Which
is why I found a new applications white paper from Micron interesting.
IT SSDs withstand DRS' Toughest Tests (pdf) describes how DRS (which
a military SSD company) requalified an industrial SSD -
- which had originally been designed for the automotive market so that it
could be used in a large Army program. ...read
the article (pdf)
Symbolic IO reveals more
Editor:- February 25, 2017 -
Symbolic IO is a company of
interest which I listed in my blog -
shining companies showing the way ahead - but until this week they haven't
revealed much publicly about their technology.
Now you can read
details in a new blog -
IO reveals tech - written by Chris Mellor at
the Register who saw a
demo system at an event in London.
As previously reported a key
feature of the technology is that data is coded into a compact form -
effectively a series of instructions for how to create it - with operations
using a large persistent memory (supercap protected RAM).
things Chris reports that the demo system had 160GB of raw, effectively
persistent memory capacity - which yielded with coding compression - an
effective (usable) memory capacity of 1.79TB.
Security in the system is
rooted in the fact that each system evolves its own set of replacement codes
computed on the fly and held in persistent memory - without which the raw data
is meaningless. A security sensor module located in a slot in the rack "the
Eye" can erase the data relationships codes based on GPS and other
boundary conditions being crossed (as in some
fast purge SSDs).
Editor's comments:- The data compaction and
therefore CPU utilization claims do seem credible - although the gains are
likely to be applications dependent.
Throughout the data computing
industry smart people are going back to first principles and tackling the
embedded problems of inefficiencies and lack of intelligence which are buried in
the way that data is stored and moved. The scope for improvement in CPU and
storage utilization was discussed in my 2013 article -
meet Ken - and the
enterprise SSD software event horizon.
The potential for
improvement is everywhere - not just in pre SSD era systems. For example
Radian is picking away
caused within regular flash SSDs themselves by stripping away the FTL.
is aiming to push the limits of processing with new silicon aimed at
memory centric systems. For a bigger list of companies pushing away at
datasystems limitations you'd have to read the
SSD news archive
for the past year or so.
But all new approaches have risks.
think the particular risks with Symbolic IO's architecture are these:-
- Unknown vulnerability to data corruption in the code tables.
this would be like having an encrypted system in which the keys have been lost -
but the effect of recovery would be multiplied by the fact that each raw piece
of data has higher value (due to compacting).
leverage decades of experience of data healing knowhow (and
We don't know enough about the internal resiliency architecture in Symbolic
It's reasonable to assume that there is something there.
But all companies can make mistakes as we saw in server architecture with
cache memory problem and in storage architecture when
Cisco discovered common
mode failure vulnerabilities in
WhipTail 's "high availability"
I expect that Symbolic will be saying much more about its reliability and data
corruption sensitivities during the next few years. In any case - Symbolic's
investment in its new data architecture will make us all rethink the bounds of
what is possible from plain hardware.
- Difficult to quantify risk of "false positive" shutdowns from the
This is a risk factor which I have written about in
the context of the fast
purge SSD market. Again this is a reliability architecture issue.
NxGn Data is now called NGD Systems
22, 2017 - NGD Systems
(formerly called NxGn Data) today
availability of a new product aimed at the
PCIe NVMe SSD market.
The Catalina SSD has 24TB of 3D TLC flash which the company says uses less
than 0.65 watts per terabyte.
Editor's comments:- I couldn't
see any mention of DWPD or performance or price on the NGD Systems web site.
This is reminiscent of consumer
product launches in which the picture supposedly tells the story rather than
serious enterprise / cloud marketing.
MRAM's fitness for high altitude and hot environments discussed
in a blog by Everspin
Editor:- February 22, 2017 - A new blog -
earns its stripes in HiRel applications - by Duncan Bennett, Product
Marketing Manager at Everspin
lists some of the intrinsic characteristics of MRAM and their advantages for
roles in aerospace applications. Among other things Duncan Bennett says:-
- "MRAM memory bits are immune to the effects of alpha particles."
- "MRAM outperforms other non-volatile memory technology when it comes
to data retention at high temperatures."
Editor's comments:- this article only talks
about the virtues of MRAM but another recent paper which I
recently in SSD news (see sidebar left) -
a Survey of Soft-Error
Mitigation Techniques for Non-Volatile Memories (pdf) - raised doubts
about the simplicity of using MRAM due to its soft error sensitivity to
read disturb errors. Admittedly this was looking at an enterprise memory
context where the more memory you have the sooner you are likely to witness such
errors. But it's just my way of reminding you that there are no magic products
in the memory ecosystem.
To be fair Everspin's article also mentioned
that some mission critical customers use screening processes to select "hardened"
MRAM - because - just as with traditional memories - some devices are just
better than others.
PS - A useful sanity check in this context is a
(2013) paper -
Technology Status (pdf) - by Jason Heidecker at
JPL NASA which includes a history of
MRAM upto the first commercial product availability and anecdotal data about the
space readiness of the technology based on data integrity tests in various
the article (pdf)
is Toshiba salami slicing its memory heirloom?
February 14, 2017 - Toshiba
has today, again, topped mainstream media tech headlines due to the resignation
of the company's chairman. In recent weeks - were I so inclined (to fan the
flames of rumor) - I could have inserted
about the sale of Toshiba's semiconductor business in this news page every
Instead I came to the conclusion that the real story was that
there probably wouldn't be a single big story because the sale of the entire
memory systems business to a single buyer (most likely another memory or SSD
company) would inevitably introduce a delay due to antitrust hurdles. And
Toshiba needs financial bandaids now.
Therefore, what we've been
seeing is a fragmented approach - which on linkedin I described as "salami
slicing" the memory business heirloom. Western Digital got some - but no
one will get it all quickly due to caution about the impact of
SanDisk announces the arrival of flight 2.5 NVMe
February 10, 2017 - SanDisk
recently recycled the "Skyhawk" SSD brand - which had previously
been associated with a
product (launched in
from Skyera -
another SSD company - like SanDisk - which was
Western Digital and by coincidence whose founder's new company emerged from
stealth this week. (See the story about Tachyum after this.)
is aimed at the 2.5"
NVMe PCIe SSD market.
SSD brand names can
be important the significant thing about SanDisk's new Skyhawk is that it
fixes a longstanding strategic weakness in its enterprise PCIe SSD product
line which I commented on in
(when WD announced it would acquire SanDisk).
The irony is that
created the enterprise
PCIe SSD market and by whose acquisition SanDisk hoped in
June 2014 to
broaden its flash presence in the enterprise market) had been one of the
earliest companies to demonstrate a prototype 2.5" PCIe SSD (in
May 2012). But
Fusion didn't productize that concept and chose instead to move upscale in form
factor to boxes.
Decoupling from the complex legacy of the past is
why it has taken nearly 5 years for SanDisk to
its me too Skyhawk 2.5" NVMe SSD now.
our impact could be 100x SandForce - says cofounder of Tachyum
February 8, 2017 - Tachyum
emerged from stealth mode today
announcing its "mission to
conquer the performance plateau in nanometer-class chips and the systems they
Tachyum (named for the Greek
"tachy," meaning speed, combined with "-um," indicating an
element) was cofounded by Dr. Radoslav "Rado"
Danilak, who has invented more than 100 patents and spent more than
25 years designing state-of-the-art processing systems and delivering
significant products to market.
Among other things Rado founded or
cofounded 2 significant companies in
- an ultra efficient petabyte
scale rackmount SSD company
2014 - and
designed the most widely deployed
SandForce was acquired by LSI
for $322 million in 2011
and in 2014
LSI's SSD business was acquired by
past work in processor applications include:- at Wave Computing where he
architected the 10GHz Processing Element of their deep learning DPU.
the technology void and market gap which Tachyum will focus on Rado said -
"We have entered a post-Moore's Law era where performance hit a plateau,
cost reduction slowed dramatically, and process node shrinks and CPU release
cycles are getting longer. An innovative new approach, from first principles is
the only realistic chance we have of achieving performance improvements to rival
those that powered the tech industry of past decades, and the opportunity is a
hundred times greater than any venture I've been involved in."
comments:- on linkedin I said "I don't know any details but with so
many physics rooted data agility problems still needing to be solved anything
that Rado Danilak does will be worthy of our future attention."
replied - "Like always you are right on target. In fact Tachyum is 100x of
SandForce opportunity and impact."
who's well regarded in networked storage?
February 1, 2017, 2017 - IT Brand Pulse
the results of its recent survey covering brand perceptions in the networked
Among other things:- "By nearly a 2-to-1 margin,
Seagate, outperformed second-place challenger (Western Digital) to capture its
5th Market Leader award for Enterprise HDDs.)" ...read
in the SSD Market, Storage
|What happened before?
Michelangelo found David inside a rock.
Megabyte was looking for a solid state disk.
- the next box|
| Throughout the
the data storage market we've always expected the capacity of enterprise user
memory systems to be much smaller than the capacity of all the other attached
storage in the same data processing environment. |
new blog on the home page of StorageSearch.com
adapted memory systems - asks (among other things) if this will always be
Like many of you - I've been thinking a lot about the
evolution of memory technologies and data architectures in the past year. I
wasn't sure when would be the best time to share my thoughts about this one.
But the timing seems right now. ...read the
|controllernomics - joins
the memory latency to do list|
|Editor:- February 20, 2017 - As predicted 8 years
ago - the widespread adoption of SSDs signed the death warrant for hardware
RAID controllers. |
of hand tricks which seemed impressive enough to make hard drive arrays (RAID) seem fast in the
1980s - when viewed in slow motion from an impatient SSD perspective - were
just too inelegant and painfully slow to be of much use in true
The confidence of "SSDs everywhere"
means that the data processing market is marching swiftly on - without much
pause for reflection - towards memory centric technologies. And many old
ideas which seemed to make sense in 1990s architecture are failing new tests
of questioning sanity.
For example - is
DRAM the fastest main
- not when the capacity needed doesn't fit into a small enough space.
the first solutions of "flash as RAM" appeared in
PCIe SSDs many years
ago - their scope of interest was software compatibility. Now we have solutions
appearing in DIMMS in the memory channel.
This is a context where
software compatibility and memory latency aren't the only concerns. It's
understanding the interference effects of all those other pesky controllers in
the memory space.
That was one of the interesting things which emerged
in a recent conversation I had with Diablo Technologies
about their Memory1. See what I learned in the blog -
and user risk reward with big memory "flash as RAM"
back, 5 years forward |
February 2012 -
that the percentage of its enterprise SSD systems which were pure RAM SSDs had
declined to 10%. And 45% of the systems it was shipping (at that time) were
all flash arrays.|
That was a useful way of assessing progress in the
succession of flash
in the enterprise over the original
RAM SSD market.
the perspective of 2017 we now see of course that what was good for storage
(capacity and IOPS) is
good too for
latency - as flash has started replacing DRAM as random access memory in
high capacity RAM systems ranging from single servers to multiple racks.
because the low energy requirement of nvms (which don't need gas guzzling
refresh) means you can fit more raw memory capacity into a single motherboard.
And even the higher raw access times of flash (compared to DRAM) look good in
comparison to box hopping fabrics.
(And other cost savings kick in
One day in the future on this page we will be reporting when DRAM
(in external chips and DIMMs) has reached the point where it is only 10% of all
native main memory too.
|"We are morphing from
a storage hierarchy to a memory hierarchy. This is why I choose to work where I
do. Memory rules."|
Peglar, Senior VP & CTO, Symbolic IO in a
LinkedIn (February 2, 2017).|
|Memory1 beats DRAM in big
data multi box analytics|
|Editor:- February 7, 2017 - The tangible
benefits of using flash as RAM in the DIMM form factor are illustrated in a
Spark Graph Performance with Memory1 (pdf) - published today by Inspur Systems (the largest server
manufacturer in China) in collaboration with Diablo Technologies.
The memory intensive tests were run on the same cluster of five
servers (Inspur NF5180M4, two Intel Xeon CPU E5-2683 v3 processors, 28 cores
each, 256GB DRAM, 1TB NVME drive).
The servers were first configured
to use only the installed DRAM to process multiple datasets. Next, the cluster
was set up to run the tests on the same datasets with 2TB of Memory1 per server.
The k-core algorithm (which is typically used to analyze large
amounts of data to detect cross-connectivity patterns and relationships) was
run in an Apache Spark environment to analyze three graph datasets of
varying sizes upto a 516GB set of 300 million vertices with 30 billion edges.
times for the smallest sets were comparable. However, the medium-sized sets
using Memory1 completed twice as fast as the traditional DRAM configuration (156
minutes versus 306 minutes). On the large sets, the Memory1 servers completed
the job in 290 minutes, while the DRAM servers were unable to complete due to
lack of memory space.
Editor's comments:- As has been noted in
previously published research by others - being able to have more RAM emulation
flash memory in a single server box can (in big data computing) give similar
or better results than implementing the server set with more processors and more
DRAM in more boxes.
This is due to the traffic controller and fabric
latencies between server boxes which can negate most of the intrinsic
benefits of the faster raw memory chips - if they are physically located in
The key takeaway message from this benchmark is that a
single Memory1 enhanced server can perform the same workload as 2 to 3 non
NVDIMM enhanced servers when the size of the working data set is the
More useful however (as you will always find an
ideal benchmark which is a good fit to the hardware) is that the Memory1 system
places lower (3x lower) caching demands on the next level up in the
storage system (in this case the attached NVMe SSDs). This provides a higher
headroom of scalability before the SSDs themselves become the next critical
about Memory1 enhanced servers Inspur give another example of the advantages of
this approach - quoting a 3 to 1 reduction in server footprint and faster
job completion for a 500GB SORT.
the road to DIMM
you ready to rethink RAM?