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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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Cloud Expo was a fantastic event for CSS Corp - we easily exceeded our objectives for engaging with clients and prospects."
AHMAR ABBAS
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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..."
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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!"
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@CloudExpo Blogs
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When something as simple as an API can integrate massive amounts of data into, and through, a wide variety of applications, any company can be a digital enterprise. There is a perception that some industries are using technology to innovate, while others languish in antiquated ways of running their business. But in our massively connected age, it’s rare to find examples where technology isn’t making an impact on helping organizations grow and become more efficient. John Deere is one of the world’s largest and most successful manufacturers of agricultural machinery, and it’s not a stretch to s...
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I just published a series of 2015 cloud predictions, as have many fellow bloggers.  So to complement these predictions let me offer my 2013 and 2014 predictions, along with 2015.  I’ll let you decide which ones I got right and which ones I missed as we look to 2015: Dec 2012: Top Five Cloud Predictions for 2013 Hybrid […]
Increased Security: Perhaps the most controversial benefit of SDS is that it offers increased security. Hardware enthusiasts will argue that there is nothing stronger than the sticks and bricks of the physical data center and the metal of the hardware devices. But this is not necessarily so. Mathematics, and especially when mathematical proof is available, is more resilient than hardware. And some companies, with limited resources, cannot create the kind of physical security that SDS offers.
Software-defined architectures are critical for achieving the right mix of efficiency and scale needed to meet the challenges that will come with the Internet of Things If you've been living under a rock (or rack in the data center) you might not have noticed the explosive growth of technologies and architectures designed to address emerging challenges with scaling data centers. Whether considering the operational aspects (devops) or technical components (SDN, SDDC, Cloud), software-defined architectures are the future enabler of business, fueled by the increasing demand for applications.
In the last year, conversations about In-Memory Computing (IMC) have become more and more prevalent in enterprise IT circles, especially with organizations feeling the pressure to process massive quantities of data at the speed that is now being demanded by the Internet. The hype around IMC is justified: tasks that once took hours to execute are streamlined down to seconds by moving the computation and data from disk, directly to RAM. Through this simple adjustment, analytics are happening in real-time, and applications (as well as the development of applications) are working at-pace with this...
Fog Computing is a paradigm that extends Cloud computing and services to the edge of the network. Similar to Cloud, Fog provides data, compute, storage, and application services to end-users. With the concept of Fog Computing, where by the network locally analyze the IoT data and take a decision on what data to be passed on to cloud. It's a concept called fog computing. And Cisco makes it possible today with the Cisco IOx platform. Cisco IOx takes the best of Cisco IOS Software capabilities, combines them with compute, storage, and memory at the network edge.
Gordon E. Moore's famously predicted tech explosion was prophetic, but it may have hit a snag. While the number of transistors on integrated circuits has doubled approximately every two years since his 1965 paper, the ability to process and transact on data hasn't. We're now ingesting data faster than we can make sense of it, leaving computing at an impasse. Without a new approach, the innovation promised by the combination of big data and internet scale may be like the flying cars we thought we'd see by 2014. Fortunately, this is is not the case, as in-memory computing offers a way to bridge...
DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo 2014 Silicon Valley was a terrific event for us. The Qubell booth was crowded on all three days. We ran demos every 30 minutes with folks lining up to get a seat and usually standing around. It was great to meet and talk to over 500 people! My keynote was well received and so was Stan's joint presentation with RingCentral on Devops for BigData. I also participated in two Power Panels – ‘Women in Technology’ and ‘Why DevOps Is Even More Important than You Think,’ both featuring brilliant colleagues and moderators and it was a blast to be a part of.
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Past SYS-CON Events
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2011west.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcexpo
2011east.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2010west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualization
2010west.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2010.
sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcomputingexpo
2010east.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo East
virtualizationconference
2010east.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2009west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualizationconference
2009west.sys-con.com
    GovIT Expo
govitexpo.com
 
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2009.sys-con.com
 

Cloud Expo 2011 Allstar Conference Faculty

S.F.S.
Dell

Singer
NRO

Pereyra
Oracle

Ryan
OpSource

Butte
PwC

Leone
Oracle

Riley
AWS

Varia
AWS

Lye
Oracle

O'Connor
AppZero

Crandell
RightScale

Nucci
Dell Boomi

Hillier
CiRBA

Morrison
Layer 7 Tech

Robbins
NYT

Schwarz
Oracle

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