SSD news roundup

The NexGen n5 Storage System (c) 2011 NexGen Storage, All Rights Reserved
The NexGen n5 Storage System (c) 2011 NexGen Storage, All Rights Reserved

NexGen comes out of stealth

NexGen Storage a local storage company came out of stealth today and is also generally available.  Their storage system has been in beta since April 2011 and is in use by a number of customers today.

Their product uses DRAM caching, PCIe NAND flash, and nearline SAS drives to provide guaranteed QoS for LUN I/O.  The system can provision IOP rate, bandwidth and (possibly) latency over a set of configured LUNs.    Such provisioning can change using policy management on a time basis to support time-based tiering. Also, one can prioritize how important the QoS is for a LUN so that it could be guaranteed or could be sacrificed to support performance for other storage system LUNs.

The NexGen storage provides a multi-tiered hybrid storage system that supports 10GBE iSCSI, and uses MLC NAND PCIe card  to boost performance for SAS nearline drives.  NexGen also supports data deduplication which is done during off-peak times to reduce data footprint.

DRAM replacing Disk!?

In a report by ARS Technica, a research group out of Stanford is attempting to gang together server DRAM to create a networked storage system.  There have been a number of attempts to use DRAM as a storage system in the past but the Stanford group is going after it in a different way by aggregating together DRAM across a gaggle of servers.  They are using standard disks or SSDs for backup purposes because DRAM is, of course, a volatile storage device but the intent is to keep all in memory to speed up performance.

I was at SNW USA a couple of weeks ago talking to a Taiwanese company that was offering a DRAM storage accelerator device which also used DRAM as a storage service. Of course, Texas Memory Systems and others have had DRAM based storage for a while now. The cost for such devices was always pretty high but the performance was commensurate.

In contrast, the Stanford group is trying to use commodity hardware (servers) with copious amounts of DRAM, to create a storage system.  The article seems to imply that the system could take advantage of unused DRAM, sitting around your server farm. But, I find it hard to believe that.  Most virtualized server environments today are running lean on memory and there shouldn’t be a lot of excess DRAM capacity hanging around.

The other achilles heel of the Stanford DRAM storage is that it is highly dependent on low latency networking.  Although Infiniband probably qualifies as low latency, it’s not low latency enough to support this systems IO workloads. As such, they believe they need even lower latency networking than Infiniband to make it work well.

OCZ ups the IOP rate on their RevoDrive3 Max series PCIe NAND storage

Speaking of PCIe NAND flash, OCZ just announced speedier storage, upping the random read IO rates up to 245K from the 230K IOPS offered in their previous PCIe NAND storage.  Unclear what they did to boost this but, it’s entirely possible that they have optimized their NAND controller to support more random reads.

OCZ announces they will ship TLC SSD storage in 2012

OCZ’s been busy.  Now that the enterprise is moving to adopt MLC and eMLC SSD storage, it seems time to introduce TLC (3-bits/cell) SSDs.  With TLC, the price should come down a bit more (see chart in article), but the endurance should also suffer significantly.  I suppose with the capacities available with TLC and enough over provisioning OCZ can make a storage device that would be reliable enough for certain applications at a more reasonable cost.

I never thought I would see MLC in enterprise storage so, I suppose at some point even TLC makes sense, but I would be even more hesitant to jump on this bandwagon for awhile yet.

Solid Fire obtains more funding

Early last week Solid Fire, another local SSD startup obtained $25M in additional funding.  Solid Fire, an all SSD storage system company,  is still technically in beta but expect general availability near the end of the year.   We haven’t talked about them before in RayOnStorage but they are focusing on cloud service providers with an all SSD solution which includes deduplication.  I promise to talk about them some more when they reach GA.

LaCIE introduces a Little Big Disk, a Thunderbolt SSD

Finally, in the highend consumer space, LaCie just released a new SSD which attaches to servers/desktops using the new Apple-Intel Thunderbolt IO interface.  Given the expense (~$900) for 128GB SSD, it seems a bit much but if you absolutely have to have the performance this may be the only way to go.



Well that’s about all I could find on SSD and DRAM storage announcements. However, I am sure I missed a couple so if you know one I should have mentioned please comment.

Initial impressions on Spring SNW/Santa Clara

I heard storage beers last nite was quite the party, sorry I couldn’t make it but I did end up at the HDS customer reception which was standing room only and provided all the food and drink I could consume.

Saw quite a lot of old friends too numerous to mention here but they know who they are.

As for technology on display there was some pretty impressive stuff.

Verident card (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc.
Verident card (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc.

Lots of great technology on display there.

Virident tachIOn SSD

One product that caught my eye was from Virident, their tachIOn SSD. I called it a storage subsystem on a board.  I had never talked with them before but they have been around for a while using NOR storage but now are focused on NAND.

Their product is a fully RAIDed storage device using flash aware RAID 5 parity locations, their own wear leveling and other SSD control software and logic with replaceable NAND modules.

Playing with this device I felt like I was swapping drives of the future. Each NAND module stack has a separate controller and supports high parallelism.  Talking with Shridar Subramanian, VP of marketing, he said the product is capable of over 200K IOPS running a fully 70% read:30% write workload at full capacity.

They have a Capacitor backed DRAM buffer which is capable of uploading the memory buffer to NAND after a power failure. It plugs into a PCIe slot and uses less than 25W of power, in capacities of 300-800GB.  It requires a software driver, they currently only support Linux and VMware (a Linux varient) but Windows and other O/Ss are on the way

Other SSDs/NAND storage

Their story was a familair refrain throughout the floor, lots of SSD/NAND technology coming out, in various formfactors.  I saw one system using SSDs from Viking Modular Systems that fit into a DRAM DIMM slot and supported a number of SSDs behind a SAS like controller. Also requiring a SW driver.

(c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc.
(c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc.

Of course TMS, Fusion-IO, Micron, Pliant and others were touting their latest SSD/Nand based technology showing off their latest solutions and technology.   For some reason lots of SSD’s at this show.

Naturally, all the other storage vendors were there Dell, HDS, HP, EMC, NetApp and IBM. IBM was showing off Watson, their new AI engine that won at Jeopardy.

And then there was cloud, …

Cloud was a hot topic as well. Saw one guy in the corner I have talked about before StorSimple which is a cloud gateway provider.  They said they are starting to see some traction in the enterprise. Apparently enterprise are starting to adopt cloud – who knew?

Throw in a few storage caching devices, …

Then of course there was the data caching products which ranged from the relaunched DataRAM XcelASAN to Marvel’s new DragonFLY card.  DragonFLY provides a cache on a PCI-E card which DataRAM is a FC caching appliance, all pretty interesting.

… and what’s organic storage?

And finally, Scality came out of the shadows with what they are calling an organic object storage device.  The product reminded me of Bycast (now with NetApp) and Archivas (now with HDS) in that they had a RAIN architecture, with mirrored data in an object store interface.  I asked them what makes them different and Jerome Lecat, CEO said they are relentlessly focused on performance and claims they can retrieve an object in under 40msec.  My kind of product.  I think they deserve a deeper dive sometime later.


Probably missed a other  vendors but these are my initial impressions.  For some reason I felt right at home swapping NAND drive modules,…



Chart of the month: SPC-1 LRT performance results

Chart of the Month: SPC-1 LRT(tm) performance resultsThe above chart shows the top 12 LRT(tm) (least response time) results for Storage Performance Council’s SPC-1 benchmark. The vertical axis is the LRT in milliseconds (msec.) for the top benchmark runs. As can be seen the two subsystems from TMS (RamSan400 and RamSan320) dominate this category with LRTs significantly less than 2.5msec. IBM DS8300 and it’s turbo cousin come in next followed by a slew of others.

The 1msec. barrier

Aside from the blistering LRT from the TMS systems one significant item in the chart above is that the two IBM DS8300 systems crack the <1msec. barrier using rotating media. Didn’t think I would ever see the day, of course this happened 3 or more years ago. Still it’s kind of interesting that there haven’t been more vendors with subsystems that can achieve this.

LRT is probably most useful for high cache hit workloads. For these workloads the data comes directly out of cache and the only thing between a server and it’s data is subsystem IO overhead, measured here as LRT.

Encryption cheap and fast?

The other interesting tidbit from the chart is that the DS5300 with full drive encryption (FDE), (drives which I believe come from Seagate) cracks into the top 12 at 1.8msec exactly equivalent with the IBM DS5300 without FDE. Now FDE from Seagate is a hardware drive encryption capability and might not be measurable at a subsystem level. Nonetheless, it shows that having data security need not reduce performance.

What is not shown in the above chart is that adding FDE to the base subsystem only cost an additional US$10K (base DS5300 listed at US$722K and FDE version at US$732K). Seems like a small price to pay for data security which in this case is simply turn it on, generate keys, and forget it.

FDE is a hard drive feature where the drive itself encrypts all data written and decrypts all data read to from a drive and requires a subsystem supplied drive key at power on/reset. In this way the data is never in plaintext on the drive itself. If the drive were taken out of the subsystem and attached to a drive tester all one would see is ciphertext. Similar capabilities have been available in enterprise and SMB tape drives is the past but to my knowledge the IBM DS5300 FDE is the first disk storage benchmark with drive encryption.

I believe the key manager for the DS5300 FDE is integrated within the subsystem. Most shops would need a separate, standalone key manager for more extensive data security. I believe the DS5300 can also interface with an standalone (IBM) key manager. In any event, it’s still an easy and simple step towards increased data security for a data center.

The full report on the latest SPC results will be up on my website later this week but if you want to get this information earlier and receive your own copy of our newsletter – email me at