Tag Archives: 3D XPoint NVM

35: GreyBeards talk Flash Memory Summit wrap-up with Jim Handy, Objective Analysis

In this episode, we talk with Jim Handy (@thessdguy), memory and flash analyst at Objective Analysis. Jim’s been on our podcast before and last time we had a great talk on flash trends. As Jim, Howard and Ray were all at Flash Memory Summit (FMS 2016) last week, we thought it appropriate to get together and discuss what we found interesting at the summit

Flash is undergoing significant change. We started our discussion with which vendor had the highest density flash device. It’s not that easy to answer because of all the vendors at the show. For example Micron’s shipping a 32 GB chip and Samsung announced a 1TB BGA. And as for devices, Seagate announced a monster, 3.5″ 60TB SSD.

MicroSD cards have 16-17 NAND chips plus a mini-controller, at that level, with a 32GB chip, we could have a ~0.5TB MicroSD card in the near future. No discussion on pricing but Howard’s expectation is that they will be expensive.

NVMe over fabric push

One main topic of conversation at FMS was how NVMe over fabric is emerging. There were a few storage vendors at FMS taking advantage of this, including E8 Storage and Mangstor, both showing off NVMe over Ethernet flash storage. But there were plenty of others talking NVMe over fabric and all the major NAND manufacturers couldn’t talk enough about NVMe.

Facebook’s keynote had a couple of surprises. One was their request for WORM (QLC) flash.  It appears that Facebook plans on keeping user data forever. Another item of interest was their Open Compute Project Lightning JBOF (just a bunch of flash) device using NVMe over Ethernet (see Ray’s post on Facebook’s move to JBOF). They were also interested in ganging up M.2 SSDs into a single package. And finally they discussed their need for SCM.

Storage class memory

The other main topic was storage class memory (SCM), and all the vendors talked about it. Sadly, the timeline for Intel-Micron 3D Xpoint has them supplying sample chips/devices by year end next year (YE2017) and releasing devices to market with SCM the following year (2018). They did have one (hand built) SSD at the show with remarkable performance.

On the other hand, there are other SCM’s on the market, including EverSpin (MRAM) and CrossBar (ReRAM). Both of these vendors had products on display but their capacities were on the order of Mbits rather than Gbits.

It turns out they’re both using ~90nm fab technology and need to get their volumes up before they can shrink their technologies to hit higher densities. However, now that everyone’s talking about SCM, they are starting to see some product wins.  In fact, Mangstor is using EverSpin as a non-volatile write buffer.

Jim explained that 90nm is where DRAM was in 2005 but EverSpin/CrossBar’s bit density is better than DRAM was at the time. But DRAM is now on 15-10nm class technologies and sell 10B DRAM chips/year. EverSpin and CrossBar (together?) are doing more like 10M chips/year. The costs to shrink to the latest technology are ~$100M to generate the masks required. So for these vendors, volumes have to go up drastically before capacity can increase significantly.

Also, at the show Toshiba mentioned they’re focusing on ReRAM for their SCM.

As Jim recounted, the whole SCM push has been driven by Intel and their need to keep improving the performance of memory and storage, otherwise they felt their processor sales would stall.

3D NAND is here

IMG_6719Just about every NAND manufacturer talked about their 3D NAND chips, ranging from 32 layers to 64 layers. From Jim’s perspective, 3D NAND was inevitable, as it was the only way to continue scaling in density and reducing bit costs for NAND.

Samsung was first to market with 3D NAND as a way to show technological leadership. But now everyone’s got it and providing future discussions on bit density and number of layers.  What their yields are is another question. But Planar NAND’s days are over.

Toshiba’s FlashMatrix

IMG_6720Toshiba’s keynote discussed a new flash storage system called the FlashMatrix but at press time they had yet to share their slides with the FMS team,  so  information on FlashMatrix was sketchy at best.

However, they had one on the floor and it looked like a bunch of M2 flash across an NVMe (over Ethernet?) mesh backplane with compute engines connected at the edge.

We had a hard time understanding why Toshiba would do this. Our best guess is perhaps they want to provide OEMs an alternative to SanDisk’s Infiniflash.

The podcast runs over 50 minutes and covers flash technology on display at the show and the history of SCM. I think Howard and Ray could easily spend a day with Jim and not exhaust his knowledge of Flash and we haven’t really touched on DRAM. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Jim Handy, Memory and Flash analyst at Objective Analysis.

JH Mug BW

Jim Handy of Objective Analysis has over 35 years in the electronics industry including 20 years as a leading semiconductor and SSD industry analyst. Early in his career he held marketing and design positions at leading semiconductor suppliers including Intel, National Semiconductor, and Infineon.

A frequent presenter at trade shows, Mr. Handy is known for his technical depth, accurate forecasts, widespread industry presence and volume of publication. He has written hundreds of market reports, articles for trade journals, and white papers, and is frequently interviewed and quoted in the electronics trade press and other media.  He posts blogs at www.TheMemoryGuy.com, and www.TheSSDguy.com.

Greybeards talk car videos, storage and IT trends with Marc Farley

In our 30th episode, we talk with 3rd time guest star,  Marc Farley (@GoFarley), Formerly with Datera and Tegile. Marc has recently gone on sabbatical and we wanted to talk to him about what was keeping him busy and what was going on in storage/IT industry these days.

Marc is currently curating a car comedy vlog called theridecast.com. Apparently people, at least in California, are making comedy videos in their cars. They can be quite hilarious, checkout this episode of comedian in cars getting coffee.

While in the storage biz, the industry is getting battered by a number of trends: IT shrinking budgets, vendor proliferation, migration to cloud, and flash becoming old hat. Marc makes multiple points as to why the storage market is undergoing such a major transition these days:

  • Death to tech refresh, long live the cloud –  yes the cloud does upgrade hardware but  planned storage system obsolesce doesn’t happen in the cloud anymore. Cloud providers are  buying new SSDs, disks, white box servers, memory etc,  but not enterprise class storage, server or networking hardware.
  • AFA is boring, but selling – every vendor’s got one , two or sometimes three and they all know how to provide flash storage services. Customers pay extra for AFA, whether they need to or not, because they are swapping out old expensive, enterprise class storage for AFAs that often cost less but still provide better performance..
  • Tail IO latency becoming more important but it’s not understood – when IO response times go from 100µsec to 10msec, it hurts. It doesn’t matter if it’s every 1000 or 10,000 IOs, customers want less performance variability, which is a main reason they move to AFA in the first place. But not all AFA’s perform the same in tail latency and SSD controller/system architecture make a big difference.
  • Hybrid storage survives but only if you go big – hybrid storage economics makes sense only for large, diverse data repositories, that mix user directories, non-performance sensitive apps, and other structured and unstructured data in one data store.
  • Greenfield apps & secondary storage are moving to the cloud but migrating current apps to the cloud is difficult –  for new app development and archive storage, moving to or starting in the cloud is a no-brainer. Transitioning running enterprise class apps to the cloud is tough to do, that requires multiple skill sets and may never be successful. Hybrid  (cloud-on premises) enterprise class apps are too arduous to even contemplate.
  • Realtime analytics is emerging but data needs to be on flash – yes MapReduce is a batch activity which can uses lots of slow disk but there’s more to analytics than MR, and doing log analysis, in anything approaching realtime, one needs flash performance.
  • Optical’s persistence is great but who leaves data on the same technology for  20 years –  with magnetic and electronic storage densities going up every couple of years, who could afford keep data on the same optical technology that was 20 years old. Imagine using microfiche to keep PB of data today, inconceivable.

As for IT in general, one limiter of IT activity will become the lack of skilled engineers, specifically full-stack engineers and data scientists.

We ended our discussions on the economics of Samsung 3D NAND and Intel-Micron (IM) 3D Xpoint non-volatile memories. Both new semiconductor technologies are always long term investments. Today, Samsung is probably losing money on each 3D TLC NAND SSD it sells, but over time, as  fab yields improve, it should become cheap enough to make a profit. Similarly, 3D Xpoint may be costly to produce early on, but as IM perfect  their fab processes, the technology should become inexpensive enough to make oodles of $s for them. And there’s more technology changes to come.

The podcast runs just over 40 minutes and covers a lot of ground. Marc’s been in the IT almost as long as the GreyBeards and has a unique perspective on what’s happening today, having been with so many diverse, major and (minor) startup vendors throughout his tenure in the industry.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Marc Farley


Marc is a storage greybeard who has worked for many storage companies and is currently on sabbatical. He has written three books on storage including his most recent, Rethinking Enterprise Storage: A Hybrid Cloud Model and his previous books Building Storage Networks and Storage Networking Fundamentals.

In addition to his writing books he has been a blogger and podcaster about storage topics while working for EqualLogic, Dell, 3PAR, HP, StorSimple,  Microsoft, and others.

When he is not working, Marc likes to ride bicycles, listen to music, spend time with his family and dote on his cats. Of course there’s that car video curation…

GreyBeards on Storage year end 2015 podcast

In our annual yearend podcast and it’s the Ray and Howard show, talking about storage futures, industry trends and some storage world excitement of- the past year.

We start the discussion deconstructing recent reductions in year over year revenues at major storage vendors. It seems with the advent of all flash arrays (AFA), and all major vendors and most startups now have AFAs, customers no longer feel the need to refresh old storage hardware with similarly (over-)configured new systems. Instead, most can get by with AFA storage, at smaller capacities that provides the same, if not better, performance. Further9, the fact that AFAs are available from so many vendors and startups, customers no longer have to buy performance storage exclusively from major vendors anymore. This is leading to a decline in major vendor storage revenues, which should play itself out over the next 1-2 years as most enterprise storage systems are refreshed.

Recent and future acquisitions also came up for discussion. NetApp’s purchase of SolidFire was a surprise, but SolidFire had carved out a good business with service providers and web-scale customers which should broaden NetApp’s portfolio. In the mean time, the Dell-EMC acquisition takes them out of the competition for new technology acquisitions, at least until it closes. NetApp’s new CEO, George Kurian, appears more willing than his predecessor to go after good storage technology, wherever it comes from.

Software delivered (defined) storage came up as well. With the compute available in todays micro-processors, there’s very little a software delivered storage system can’t do. And with scale-out storage, there’s even more cores to work with. Software delivered storage and scale-out will continue to play a spoiler role, at least in the low to mid-range, in the storage market throughout the next year.

Nonetheless, hardware still has some excitement left. Intel’s recent acquisition of Altera, now makes Xeon/x86 processing available for embedded applications that previously had to rely on ARM and MIPS processing. Now, there’s nothing an FPGA hardware based system can’t do. Look for lot’s more activity here over the long term.

We talked about recent SMR disks coming out and how they could be used in storage systems today.  There was some adjacent discussion on the flash-disk crossover, and conclude it’s unlikely over the next 3-5 years, at least for capacity drives. Although there’s plenty of analyst that say it’s already happened, on a pure $/GB there’s still no comparison.

We then turned to  3D TLC NAND and the  reliability capabilities available from current controlller technologies. Raw planar NAND available today is much less reliable than what we had 1-2 generations back, but the drives, if anything, have gotten more reliable. This is due to the reliability technology inherent in todays SSD controllers.

We had an aside, on SSD overprovisioning and how this should become a customer level option.  Reducing overprovisioning would decrease drive endurance but it’s a tradeoff that the vendors/distributors make for customers today. We feel that at least for some customers, they could make this decision just as well. Especially if drive replacements were a customer maintenance activity with replacement SSDs shipped in a just-in-time manner.

We conclude on 3D XPoint (3DX) non-volatile memory. We both agreed 3DX adoption depends on pricing which will change over time. In the long term, we see the potential for a new storage system with 3DX or other new non-volatile memory as a top performing storage/caching/non-volatile memory tier, 3D TLC NAND as a middle tier and SMR disk as the bottom tier. When is another question.

Our year end discussion always wanders a bit, from high end business trends to in the weeds technologies and everything in-between. This one is no exception and runs over 49 minutes. We tried to do another Year End video this time but neither of our video recording systems worked out, but we had a good audio recording, so we went with the podcast this year. Next year should be back to video.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Howard Marks

Howard Marks is the Founder and Chief Scientist of howardmarksDeepStorage, a prominent blogger at Deep Storage Blog and can be found on twitter @DeepStorageNet.

 

Ray Lucchesi

Ray Lucchesi is the President and Founder of Silverton Consulting, a prominent blogger at RayOnStorage.com, and can be found on twitter @RayLucchesi.