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The Evolution of Solid State Arrays
Solid state storage continues to evolve

In the first wave of solid-state storage arrays, we saw commodity style SSDs (solid state drives) being added to traditional storage arrays. This solution provided an incremental benefit in performance over spinning hard drives, however the back-end technology in these arrays was developed up to 20 years ago and was purely focused around driving performance out of the slowest part of the infrastructure – the hard drive.  Of course SSDs are an order of magnitude faster than HDDs so you can pretty much guarantee SSDs in traditional arrays results in underused resources, but is premium priced.

Wave 2 of SSD arrays saw the development of custom hardware, mostly still continuing to use commodity SSDs.  At this point we saw full exploitation of the solid state capabilities, with architecture designed to provide the full performance capabilities of solid state drives.  These arrays removed unnecessary or bottlenecking features (like cache) and provided much more back-end scalability.  Within the wave 2 group, Nimbus Data have chosen a hybrid approach and developed their own solid state drives.  This gives them more control over the management functionality of the SSDs and subsequently more control over performance and availability.

Notably, some startup vendors have taken a slightly different approach.  Violin Memory have chosen from day 1 to use custom NAND memory cards called VIMMs (Violin Intelligent Memory Module). This technology removes the need for NAND to emulate a hard drive and for the interface between the processor/memory & persistent memory (e.g. the NAND) to go across a hard drive interface like SAS using the SCSI protocol.  Whilst it could be debated that the savings from removing the disk drive protocol could be marginal, the use of NAND that doesn’t emulate hard drives is about much more than that.  SSD controllers have many features to extend the life of the drive itself.  This includes wear levelling and garbage collection, features that could have a direct impact on device performance.  Custom NAND components can, for instance allow wear levelling to be achieved across the entire array or for individual cell failures to be managed more efficiently.

Building bespoke NAND components isn’t cheap.  Violin have chosen to invest in technology that they believe gives them an advantage in their hardware – no dependency on SSD manufacturers.  The ability to build advanced functionality into their persistent memory means availability can be increased (components don’t need to be swapped out as frequently – failing components can be partially used).

At this point we should do a call out to Texas Memory Systems, recently acquired by IBM.  They have also used custom NAND components; their RamSan-820 uses 500GB flash modules using eMLC memory.

I believe that the third wave will see many more vendors looking to move away from the SSD form factor and building bespoke NAND components as Violin have done.  Currently Violin and TMS have the headstart.  They’ve done the hard work and built the foundation of their platform.  Their future innovations will probably revolve around bigger and faster devices and replacing NAND with whatever is the next generation of persistent memory.

Last week, HDS announced their approach to full flash devices; a new custom-build Flash Module Drive (FMD) that can be added to the VSP platform.  This provides 1.6TB or 3.2TB (higher capacity due March 2013) of storage per module, which can then be stacked into an 8U shelf of 48 FMDs in total – a total of 600TB of flash in a single VSP.  Each FMD is like a traditional SSD drive in terms of height and width, but is much deeper in size.  It appears to the VSP as a traditional SSD.

The FMD chassis is separate to the existing disk chassis that are deployed in the VSP and so FMDs can’t be deployed in conjunction with hard drives.  Although this seems like a negative, the flash modules have higher specification back-end directors (to fully utilise the flash performance), which, in addition to their size, explains why they wouldn’t be mixed together.

Creating a discrete flash module provides Hitachi with a number of benefits compared to individual MLC SSDs including:

  • Higher performance on mixed workloads
  • Inbuilt compression using the onboard custom chips
  • Improved ECC error correction using onboard code and hardware
  • Lower power per TB consumption from higher memory density
  • > 1,000,000 IOPS in a single array

The new FMDs can also be used with HDT (dynamic tiering) to cater for mixed sub-LUN workloads and of course Hitachi’s upgraded microcode is already optimised to work with flash devices.

The Architect’s View
Solid state storage continues to evolve.  NAND flash is fast and has its foibles but this can be overcome with dedicated NAND modules.  Today, only four vendors have moved to dedicated solid-state components while the others continue to use commodity SSDs.  At scale, performance and availability, when viewed in terms of consistency become much more important.  Many vendors today are producing high performance devices, but how well will they scale going forward and how resilient will they be?  As the market matures, these differences will be the dividing line between survival and failure.

Disclaimer: I recently attended the Hitachi Bloggers’ and Influencers’ Days 2012.  My flights and accommodation were covered by Hitachi during the trip, however there is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time when attending the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Related Links

Comments are always welcome; please indicate if you work for a vendor as it’s only fair. If you have any related links of interest, please feel free to add them as a comment for consideration.

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Cloud Expo - Cloud Looms Large on SYS-CON.TV


Cloud Expo 2013 East Opening Keynote by IBM
In this Cloud Expo Keynote, Danny Sabbah, CTO & General Manager, Next Generation Platform, will detail the critical architectural considerations and success factors organizations must internalize to successfully implement, optimize and innovate using next generation architectures.
Lisa Larson, Vice President of Enterprise Cloud Solutions of Rackspace Hosting Live From New York City
In the old world of IT, if you didn't have hardware capacity or the budget to buy more, your project was dead in the water. Budget constraints can leave some of the best, most creative and most ingenious innovations on the cutting room floor. It's a true dilemma for developers and innovators – why spend the time creating, when a project could be abandoned in a blink? That was the old world. In the new world of IT, developers rule. They have access to resources they can spin up instantly. A hybrid cloud ignites innovation and empowers developers to focus on what they need. A hybrid cloud blends the best of all worlds, public cloud, private cloud and dedicated servers to fit the needs of developers and offer the ideal environment for each app and workload without the constraints of a one-size-fits-all cloud.

Keynote: Driving Cloud Innovation: SSDs Change Cloud Storage Paradigm
Cloud is a transformational shift in computing that can have a powerful effect on enterprise IT when designed correctly and used to its full potential. Join Citrix in a discussion that centers on building, connecting and empowering users with cloud services and hear examples of how enterprises are solving real-world business challenges with an architecture and solution purpose-built for the cloud.

Go Beyond IaaS to Deliver "Anything As a Service"
Many organizations want to expand upon the IaaS foundation to deliver cloud services in all forms—software, mobility, infrastructure and IT. Understanding the strategy, planning process and tools for this transformation will help catalyze changes in the way the business operates and deliver real value. Join us to learn about the new ITaaS model and how to begin the transformation.


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Digital Transformation is the ultimate goal of cloud computing and related initiatives. The phrase is certainly not a precise one, and as subject to hand-waving and distortion as any high-falutin' terminology in the world of information technology. Yet it is an excellent choice of words to describe what enterprise IT—and by extension, organizations in general—should be working to achieve. Digital Transformation means: handling all the data types being found and created in the organizat...
Chuck Piluso presented a study of cloud adoption trends and the power and flexibility of IBM Power and Pureflex cloud solutions. Prior to Secure Infrastructure and Services, Mr. Piluso founded North American Telecommunication Corporation, a facilities-based Competitive Local Exchange Carrier licensed by the Public Service Commission in 10 states, serving as the company's chairman and president from 1997 to 2000. Between 1990 and 1997, Mr. Piluso served as chairman & founder of International Te...
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One of the hottest areas in cloud right now is DRaaS and related offerings. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Dale Levesque, Disaster Recovery Product Manager with Windstream's Cloud and Data Center Marketing team, will discuss the benefits of the cloud model, which far outweigh the traditional approach, and how enterprises need to ensure that their needs are properly being met.
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New York City Expo Floor Plan Revealed
Cloud Expo New York
[June 11-14, 2012]

Floor Plan Revealed


Introducing Big Data Expo
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There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Get a jump on that rapidly evolving trend at Big Data Expo, which we are introducing in June at
Cloud Expo New York.

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Testimonials
Cloud Expo was a fantastic event for CSS Corp - we easily exceeded our objectives for engaging with clients and prospects."
AHMAR ABBAS
SVP, Global Infrastructure Management, CSS Corp.
 
With our launch at Cloud Expo, we successfully transformed the company from a relatively unknown European player into the dominant player in the market. Our competitors were taken by surprise and just blown away. We got a huge number of really high quality leads..."
PETE MALCOLM
CEO, Abiquo
 
We were extremely pleased with Cloud Expo this year - I’d say it exceeded expectations all around. This is the same info we got from partners who attended as well. Nice job!"
MARY BASS
Director of Marketing, UnivaUD
 
Cloud Expo helps focus the debate on the critical issues at hand in effect connecting main street with the next frontier."

GREG O’CONNOR
President & CEO, Appzero


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@CloudExpo Blogs
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, examineed the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps still in...
Full 360 uses big data and analytics to improve their applications support services for the financial industry -- and beyond.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly become the next “be all to end all” in information technology. Touted as how cloud computing will connect everyday things together, it is also feared as the real- life instantiation of The Terminator’s Skynet, where sentient robot team with an omnipresent and all-knowing entity that uses technology to control, and ultimately destroy, all of humanity.
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
Big Data is the revolution the business world has been waiting for. The transformation that has taken place among many companies due to the adoption of Big Data analytics simply can’t be understated. Organizations of all types have looked into the many ways in which big data can help them change how they do things for the better, cultivating more success as businesses look to the future. For all the benefits that big data provides companies, the main goal is, of course, to make money. In fact, with all the capabilities that come from using big data, if a business isn’t utilizing it to make mon...
Snagajob – one of the largest hourly employment networks for job seekers and employers – uses big data to finally understand their systems' performance in action. The next BriefingsDirect analytics innovation case study interview explores how Snagajob in Richmond, Virginia – one of the largest hourly employment networks for job seekers and employers – uses big data to finally understand their systems' performance in action. The result is vast improvement in how they provide rapid and richer services to their customers.
It’s not hard to feel sorry for Chief Information Officers (CIOs) – the levels at which they need to operate change all the time… and depth and granularity of the dataflows that present themselves change all the time. Just when we thought we had the whole client-server model worked out, along came the Internet and cloud and the data center.
We Need a Holistic Network Infrastructure: Why Controllers Are Not Cutting It For years, we've relied too heavily on individual network functions or simplistic cloud controllers. However, they are no longer enough for today's modern cloud data center. Businesses need a comprehensive platform architecture in order to deliver a complete networking suite for IoT environment based on OpenStack. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dhiraj Sehgal from PLUMgrid discussed what a holistic networking solution should really entail, and how to build a complete platform that is scalable, secure, agile and auto...
Knowledge management, in business terms, refers to saving, developing, sharing, and effectively using knowledge for the benefit of organization. It refers to a multi-disciplined approach of achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge. Scientia potentia est (Latin proverb meaning "knowledge is power") attributed to 16th century philosopher Sir Francis Bacon is nowadays more valid than ever. Knowledge is power and knowledge management is the key to success. Knowledge management, in business terms, refers to saving, developing, sharing, and effectively using knowledg...
One of the first considerations that IT managers struggle with is how to handle security and compliance. Both security and compliance are aspects of a larger, more strategic concern: governance. Governance essentially represents a set of processes for creating, communicating, and enforcing policies across an organization — including security and compliance policies.
The Federal Government’s “Cloud First” policy mandates that agencies take full advantage of cloud computing benefits to maximize capacity utilization, improve IT flexibility and responsiveness, and minimize cost. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) is a mandatory government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Advantages for business include being able to market to many federal agencies after a single FedRAMP review following the government’s “approve once...
Business and IT leaders today need better application delivery capabilities to support critical new innovation. But how often do you hear objections to improving application delivery like, "I can harden it against attack, but not on this timeline"; "I can make it better, but it will cost more"; "I can deliver faster, but not with these specs"; or "I can stay strong on cost control, but quality will suffer"? In the new application economy, these tradeoffs are no longer acceptable. Customers will abandon your brand forever for a slow response or a privacy breach; competitors will steal critical ...
Traditionally IT has been seen as a cost center with nothing but a cost associated with enabling, supporting and maintaining anything IT. IT on the other hand is an integral part of today’s enterprise that often does not have a replacement. IT can however be turned into a powerful profit center. IT can be empowered by giving it tools and mechanisms to enable chargebacks to work as an independent entity within an enterprise and offer services to its stakeholders. Powered by Solgenia’s revolutionary Cloud Monetization platform Powua, Enterprise IT can now create chargebacks to the granularity of...
Much has already been written about the virtues of Docker, and containers in general like CoreOS or Kubernetes. How life-changing Docker is, how innovative, etc. However, the real secret to Docker's success in the marketplace is the hidden retribution of innovation. Innovation and R&D is the lifeblood of today's technology success. Companies, no matter how large, must iterate constantly to stay ahead of their legacy competitors and new upstarts risking disruption. The rise of Agile methodologies and DevOps teams comes with the expectations of more releases, more features, and ultimately a bett...
Alibaba, the world’s largest ecommerce provider, has pumped over a $1 billion into its subsidiary, Aliya, a cloud services provider. This is perhaps one of the biggest moments in the global Cloud Wars that signals the entry of China into the main arena. Here is why this matters. The cloud industry worldwide is being propelled into fast growth by tremendous demand for cloud computing services. Cloud, which is highly scalable and offers low investment and high computational capabilities to end users by eliminating the need to buy costly infrastructure and instead rent it from cloud providers, i...
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What The Enterprise IT World Says About Cloud Expo
 
"We had extremely positive feedback from both customers and prospects that attended the show and saw live demos of NaviSite's enterprise cloud based services."
  –William Toll
Sr. Director, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
Navisite
 


 
"More and better leads than ever expected! I have 4-6 follow ups personally."
  –Richard Wellner
Chief Scientist
Univa UD
 


 
"Good crowd, good questions. The event looked very successful."
  –Simon Crosby
CTO
Citrix Systems
 


 
"It's the largest cloud computing conference I've ever seen."
  –David Linthicum
CTO
Brick Group