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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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New York City Expo Floor Plan Revealed
Cloud Expo New York
[June 11-14, 2012]

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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
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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


Who Should Attend?
Senior Technologists including CIOs, CTOs, VPs of technology, IT directors and managers, network and storage managers, network engineers, enterprise architects, communications and networking specialists, directors of infrastructure Business Executives including CEOs, CMOs, CIOs, presidents, VPs, directors, business development; product and purchasing managers.


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@CloudExpo Blogs
Read more about how AppDynamics helps foster DevOps and take five minutes to get complete visibility into the performance of your production applications with AppDynamics Pro today!
"The next generation of technology solutions will transform lives, businesses and economies."
This is the theme at this year's Dell World opening keynote and this view is supported by Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015:

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When I took my operating systems fundamentals course in college I was taught that an operating system provides very specific capabilities that provides users with access compute resources for building and running applications. Over time as networking capabilities and bandwidth increased, the notion of a set of modules that interface between the user and the… Read More »
Over the last decade, cloud computing has undeniably become a critical component of the modern enterprise. It has evolved past Software-as-a-Service for a select number of enterprise applications to encompassing entire business platforms, spanning various business devices and operating systems, and can virtually enable new ventures to pop up overnight. The state of cloud computing today is now a crowded field of vendors, providing anything and everything as-a-service – from security and management solutions for the cloud, to converged solutions and virtualization offerings, to public, privat...
Thoroughly knowing the difference between the three prominent types of datacenter storage will help you immensely in job interviews, product pitches and tech conferences. Server storage is typically stored in one of three different methods. Since each acronym is similar, it is imperative for you to know the stark differences when discussing DAS, SAN and NAS.
Bitium, based in Santa Monica, CA, works in the cloud to provide secure management of an enterprise's applications, users, and passwords in one place. We asked company Co-founder and CEO Scott Kriz a few questions about the company's vision and strategy. Cloud Computing Journal: What was the inspiration behind starting the company? Scott Kriz: Both Erik Gustavson, Bitium Co-founder and CTO, and I have started and worked for multiple tech companies throughout our professional careers. Most recently we ran product and engineering at a company called Fastpoint Games. We used a ton of SaaS ...
For the third year in a row, we worked together with Pacific Crest Securities, an investment banking firm with a specific focus on SaaS, to survey 306 SaaS companies. This represents nearly double the # of respondents from last year, giving us deeper benchmarking data and insights to share on the growth and operations of […] Oct. 17, 2014 02:15 PM EDT  Reads: 1,889
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Appcore aims to simplify private cloud through Apache CloudStack solutions. Nate Gordon serves as the Des Moines, IA-based company's Director of Technology, in its effort to enhance Apache CloudStack and Citrix CloudPlatform for its customers. We had a few questions for him, and this is what he told us: Cloud Computing Journal: What have your customers found to be the advantages of using Apache CloudStack? Nate Gordon: Appcore understands that there are a lot of orchestration platforms in the market to chose from. Before we committed to one platform or the other, we did an extensive anal...
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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