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editor - StorageSearch.com
|Every year I learn 2 new
important new ideas about SSDs. But every year I also have to remember to forget
or discard 1 old idea which was vital to know before because it's no longer
useful, valid or true|
lessons from 2013|
|About 7 years ago I started
publishing a new series - the Top SSD Companies which has been seen by over 5
million readers and is now regarded by many key people in the SSD industry (and
their investors and biggest customers) as one of the most useful SSD articles
which influences their thinking.|
|the Top SSD Companies|
|3D NAND flash challenges|
|Editor:- February 6, 2014 - The best article
I've yet seen about the practical implications of increasing the adoption of 3D
NAND flash is this...|
At The Table: Commercial potential and production challenges for 3D NAND memory
technology - published by Semiconductor
Manufacturing and Design.
Among the many practical
considerations discussed in this article was the question of - "how is the
semi industry preparing for the transition to 3D memory?"
issue of scalability limits and market pacing - the article reveals that
vertical scalability currently appears feasible in roadmaps upto about 100 cell
But the rate of 2D shrinks in successive 3D designs
will slow down from the recent historic average of 20% per generation to 5% -
due to the problems of registration which accumulate as you add more layers.
StorageSearch.com is published by
ACSL. © 1992
to 2014 all rights reserved.
Editor's note:- I currently talk to
more than 600 makers of SSDs and another 100 or so companies which are
closely enmeshed around the SSD ecosphere.
Most of these SSD
companies (but by no means all) are profiled here on the mouse site.
I learn about new SSD companies every day, including many in stealth mode. If
you're interested in the growing
big picture of
the SSD market canvass - StorageSearch will help you along the way.
Many SSD company CEOs read our site too - and say they value our thought leading
SSD content - even when we say something that's not always comfortable to hear.
I hope you'll find it it useful too.
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|PCIe SSDs /
SSDs / fastest SSDs|
1.8" SSDs /
2.5" SSDs /
/ MIL SSDs
availability SSDs /
rackmount SSDs /
SSD controllers /
SSD reliability /
introducing SSDserver 0 - 7by Zsolt Kerekes,
editor - March 5, 2014
|In this article I
propose a new shorthand terminology which can usefully describe any
enterprise server in an SSD architecture - by a single lean rating number -
from 0 to 7. |
The need for a precise but efficient way to describe any
server (in a cluster, array, farm or cloud) from an
operational context - has become clear in recent conversations I've had about
clusters and groups of SSD enhanced servers - when trying to define briefly and
concisely what the exact minimum characteristics of each server has to be to
support various software defined configurations.
When you're having a
conversation - about complex SSD configurations on the web - or in an email - or
in a voice conference - it's important to be sure that everyone has the same
mental picture of what's going on.
With existing terminology - there
are important factors which become cumbersome when building up layers of these
concepts. Words get in the way. Pictures can help. But they become messy too -
as you scale up the numbers of servers which you're talking about.
article will propose a simple scheme which enables the essential
characteristics of an SSD enhanced server to be communicated in a simple manner.
It's aimed at architects who need to specify the assumptions they're making
about servers in the base sets of new system configurations. Hopefully it will
be useful to marketers and users too - when they have dialogs about the entry
level configuration assumptions for new software products and projects.
SSD market is good at this.
We've already invented lots of
the jargon - it's impossible to build on new concepts.
The new server
language is easy and doesn't require any knowledge about flash technology or
It has 2 variations:-
- a lean description - which says whether a function is available or not, and
The language also extends to include
boot options and fabrics.
- a rich description - which includes more detail - which may be needed in
complex high availability groups
The starting principle is to condense the
essential characteristics of any server into a number - which is extracted
from a matrix of key characteristics.
The example below gives you
the basic idea of the lean model.
There are 3 main columns which define
the main types of SSDs which may or may not be in the system, differentiated by
latency and market characteristics:-
channel SSD - low latency fast flash SSD which fits into a DDR3, DD4 or HMC
socket. (This excludes those NV DIMMs which are merely backup and restore for
DRAM. - Such products are covered by the boot extension.)
- PCIe SSDs - any
type of fast PCIe SSD. The fabric and boot options go in a different place.
- SAS SSDs and
SATA SSDs - these are
both in the same column - because from the apps architecture point of view -
they have similar connections and latency. Differences in porting and HA options
will go into a different part of the label.
|SSDs inside this server?
means no, 1 - means yes
||SAS / SATA
|what do these lean SSDserver
||how to read it|
||This server has no SSDs installed in the usual
It maybe only has a hard drive, or maybe boots from the
network or another type of (slower) SSD - like USB. A type "0" server
can play a part in some HA SSD configurations, as we'll see later.
||This server has SATA or SAS SSDs installed.|
software architect can depend on an entry level class of apps performance
||This server has PCIe SSDs installed.|
this part of the dscription we don't know what it boots from. But the software
architect can rely on a PCIe SSD type of performance.
||This server has both PCIe SSD and SATA/SAS SSD
It may be that the software architect is specifying this option
because they can tier between these different types and price bands of SSD. Or
it may be that the SATA/SAS SSDs are required for boot.
||This server only has memory channel SSDs
We might guess that it boots from the network or a hard
drive. We can infer this server is aimed at high performance.
||This server has memory channel and SATA/SAS SSD
At this stage we may guess that the different SSDs are tiered,
or maybe the slower SSD is simply there for boot and housekeeping.
||This server has memory channel and PCIe SSD
At this stage we may infer that the SSDs are tiered. It's
possible that the PCIe SSDs are also part of a fabric or HA scheme. We'll
confirm that in the next part of the identification scheme.
||This server has memory channel and PCIe SSD and
Although this looks like an unlikely configuration -
it may be that neither the memory channel nor PCIe SSDs are assumed to be
|adding more details|
lean rating above - 0 to 7 - is just one part of the picture.
- a higher number means - more assets installed, higher cost and more
On the other hand - if your software works in a lowly
rated SSDserver number - that means it will be affordable by more user
future-proofing the matrix
computer architects create an entirely new type of bus or socket into which a
different type of SSD can be installed - which is much faster say - than memory
channel - and which has markedly different characteristics - what can you do?
answer might be to add another column to the left - which means the numbers
would be in the range from 0 to F (hex), instead of 0 to 7.
the numbering scheme backwards compatible too.
What about the
In the market today - we have 4 general fabrics for SSD
So we can simply append these letters to the
server's lean number as in the following examples.
- GbE - Ethernet
- FC - Fibre-Channel
- IB - Infiniband
- PCIe - PCI Express
1/GbE (or I
prefer 1/E as the "Gb" is assumed by the context - is a
server with SAS / SATA SSD specified which uses ethernet as the fabric.
minimum configuration for a typical software defined storage cluster - might
look like this:-
Cluster(1E, 1E, 0E) - is a 3 server ethernet linked
cluster which includes 2 servers with SAS/SATA SSD inside plus a 3rd server
with either HDD or no drives.
2/E is a server which has PCIe
SSD inside - but which uses ethernet as the fabric.
2/FC is a
server which has PCIe SSD inside - but which uses fibre-channel as the fabric.
get the general idea.
how do we describe high availability?
it comes to specifying the assumed requirements to support the software in a
context - we need to be more specific about the number of devices we're saying
which must be present.
That's where the "rich" version of the
SSDserver description comes in.
For simplicity - we can use the same
type of table to construct the numbers - but instead of using binary values
in each cell we populate the matrix with the minimum number which is
required by the architecture definition.
What the system architect is
saying here is - you can have more - but the software won't deliver the quality
of services if you have less.
Here are some examples of how to create
the rich SSDserver shorthand base numbers.
|SSDs inside this server?
number required to support system
||SAS / SATA
|what do these rich SSDserver
number examples mean?|
||how to read it|
||This server has no SSDs installed in the usual
||This server has at least 1 SATA or SAS SSD
If this is also part of a high availability configuration -
you can infer something useful about the protection scheme by the fact that only
a single SSD is atached to this server.
||This server has at least 1 PCIe SSD but also 2
(or more) SATA/SAS SSD too.|
Is the architect saying that this server
is offering some kind of simple failover within the server at the SATA/SAS
drive level? That's when you need to read the detailed architecture notes.
||This server has at least 2 PCIe SSDs.|
1 is enough for speed - 2 is telling you that there's something else going on in
this system. Maybe the dual PCIe SSDs are supporting failover - or fabric. Time
to read the detailed plan.
level - if all your SSD projects look the same - the suggestions in this
article are simple and trivial.
But if you spend all day discussing the
design options for new system architectures - or if you're planning an entirely
new software package - and arguing about the merits and complexities of drawing
the support line at different sets of minimum capability boundaries - then
having a simple language on your whiteboard to describe the key SSD variations
in your server boxes - is essential.
the next level?
next level of abstraction is when you start with a population of SSDservers and
start to add different types of SSD system software.
That's the reason
you need to get the hardware level clear.
Because when you start to
analyze the business and market permutations you can get by installing
different "software defined functions" to different classes of
SSDserver boxes (some of which are viable but some of which aren't) you need
to be clear about the fundamentals.
As to what we'll be calling all
those new arrays of software defined SSD enhanced servers - when they work
together in tandem... and as to which ones merely emulate what has been
before - and which ones are indeed a new way of doing data processing
Those debates are still to come.
If you've found any of these ideas
interesting - then feel free to spread the word around and credit me and
I don't expect this to be the last word on this
subject. Rather, I hope it may be another new beginning.
replace words with numbers in a systematic way which enables useful analysis
- then complex "what-if" problems - become easier to talk about.
RAM cache ratios in
introduction to enterprise SSD silos
how fast can your SSD
analysis in SSD market forecasting
Why size matters in
SSD controller architecture
ratios and the enterprise software event horizon
|Hmm... it looks like you're seriously
interested in SSDs. So please bookmark this page and come back again soon. |
|About the publisher - 22
years guiding the enterprise market|
| "Across the whole
enterprise - a single petabyte of SSD with new software could replace 10 to
50 petabytes of raw legacy HDD storage and still enable all the apps to run
|the enterprise SSD
software event horizon|
|You may judge the lofty
scale of Coho's ambitions by this market soothsayer quote which they integrated
in the launch press release...|
"By 2017, Web-scale IT will be an
architectural approach found operating in 50% of Global 2,000 enterprises."
|SSD cloud news - (March
|LSI blog discusses
customer driven technology changes in the hyperscale datacenter |
|Editor:- March 4, 2014 - "Its no longer
enough to follow Intel's
ticktock product roadmap" - says Rob Ober,
Processor and System Architect LSI - in his new blog
the datacenter ecosystem - in which he goes on to say...|
cycles for datacenter solutions used to be 3 to 5 years. But these cycles are
And when talking about rack scale
architectures - Rob says "Traditionally new architectures were driven by
OEMs, but that's not so true anymore." ...read
|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
which arise from the intrinsic technologies and architecture inside the SSD.
|"I had the benefit of
the brick wall of ignorance. Not knowing what couldn't be done."|
|Skyera's CEO, in
the article - scary
|Fast Purge SSDs -
||The need for fast
and secure data erase - in which vital parts of a flash SSD or its data are
destroyed in seconds - has always been a requirement in military projects.
Take a look at the
Fast purge / secure erase
SSDs directory on StorageSearch.com
|"A critical test of
whether you really understand the dynamics of a complex market like enterprise
SSDs - is whether you can predict what rational buyers might do when offered new
product options at the extreme limits of - for example - price."|
Analysis in SSD Market Forecasting|
|Raw speed is no longer the
same guarantee to market success for SSDs as it once used to be. But since you
|the Fastest SSDs |
|An SSD ASAP is something
which you install between 2 storage systems which have vastly different latency
Historically the slow end was legacy RAID built from arrays of
rotating rust platters.
But in more modern systems both ends can
|Need SSD Acceleration
Say "hello" to SSD ASAPs
| "Being late to
market doesn't count as a mortal sin in the SSD marketing lexicon right now
because first mover advantage assumptions aren't valid in this phase of the
|VMware enters the SSD
market (March 2014)|
|"why are so many
companies piling into the SSD market - when even the leading enterprise
companies haven't demonstrated sustainable business models yet?"|
|Hostage to the
fortunes of SSD|
|IBM Redbook places memory
channel SSDs in server context |
|Editor:- March 6, 2014 - IBM recently published a
new free 28 page ebook (aka Redbook) -
IBM eXFlash Memory-Channel Storage in Enterprise Solutions (abstract) / (pdf) -
which describes how
SSDs fit into the concept of servers relative to the other types of SSDs
already available. |
Editor's comments:- I've been writing
about this technology since the time it was being developed and have been well
briefed by the original developers - so this paper didn't have any great
surprises to me - but I think this document presents a balanced introduction
to this technology and a contextualized analysis of how it compares to the
other well established SSD acceleration options which are available for use
key takeway - in my view is table 2 - in which you can see a hierarchy of write
latencies which are approximately 5x longer in each case as you
progress up the flash SSD steps from
SSDs then PCIe SSDs
and finally SAS SSDs.
While bearing in mind that SSD data write latency is not the same
as apps performance latency (because the integration of R/W data flow
patterns with the software
plays a significant part too) and also remembering that
some products in
the market will blur the ratio of the latency boundaries for these 3
different SSD types - you can, nevertheless see why memory channel has a
distinct slot within the onboard SSD acceleration options which you need to
think about in servers.