TORONTO – With its ULLtraDIMM SSD gaining traction and its recent acquisition of Fusion-io, SanDisk appears well-poised to tackle enterprise latency challenges from more than one angle.
At this year’s recent Flash Memory Summit, the company announced that its UlltraDIMM SSD would be shipping with Supermicro’s Green SuperServer and SuperStorage platforms. Supermicro tested the 200GB and 400GB capacities of the ULLtraDIMM SSD under a variety of enterprise workloads and end-user scenarios and found the ULLtraDIMM SSD provides the lowest latency storage option available, according to SanDisk.
The ULLtraDIMM SSD incorporates Diablo Technologies’ memory channel storage (MCS) architecture and connects NAND flash directly to the CPU through a server’s memory bus; persistent memory is essentially attached to the host processors of a server or storage array. SanDisk’s ULLtraDIMM can be integrated into an existing DIMM slot, and additional SSDs can also be added to available DIMM slots.
SanDisk first announced shipping of the enterprise-grade SSDs at the beginning of the year, with IBM as the first vendor to offer the drives under the eXFlash brand, its sixth-generation x86-based server and storage architecture, through an OEM arrangement. The eXFlash DIMM is an option for IBM’s System x3850 and x3950 X6 servers providing up to 12.8 TB of flash capacity.
Manuel Martull, SanDisk’s director of enterprise storage solutions, said the ULLtraDIMM SSD enables Supermicro to offer in-memory computing optimized for mission-critical, data-intensive workloads including datacenter, cloud computing, financial services, and high performance computing applications. He said UlltraDIMM reflects the company’s ongoing focus on expanding its enterprise SSD market, which also includes its CloudSpeed SATA SSDs.
Eric Burgener, research director for IDC’s storage practice, said the Supermicro announcement is in an indication there’s a benefit to systems vendors for shipping these types of configurations, if only for niche applications such as in-memory computing, databases, and big data applications such as SAP HANA. He expects that all major server vendors will have some sort of similar offering within the next 12 to 18 months. “I don’t see this technology going mainstream like SSDs, but it’s a fast growing segment that will be around for the long-term as a niche market.”
Burgener said the Diablo technology is the only one shipping in this space at the moment, but it’s likely that other major SSD vendors, such as Toshiba and Samsung, will look to address the market in the near future. For SanDisk, UlltraDIMM is an example of how the company is moving away from just offering components, relative to say an Intel or a Micron. The Supermicro deal also complements the IBM partnership, as the former is more aimed at the OEM space, enabling customers to build their own systems.
While SanDisk ULLtraDIMM’s latency makes it substantially faster than PCIe, it hasn’t kept the company from investing that technology. The company announced its acquisition of Fusion-io in June for $1.1 billion in cash. Burgener said these two technologies complement each other and each makes sense depending on the use case.
Micron has approached the big data problem from another perspective, noted Burgener, with its Automata processor. The company unveiled the technology at Supercomputing 2013. Automata is different than conventional CPUs in that its computing fabric is made up of tens of thousands to millions of processing elements that are interconnected. Its design is based on an adaptation of memory array architecture, exploiting the inherent bit-parallelism of traditional SDRAM.
Aimed specifically at advanced computing capabilities such as analytics, the architecture organizes conventional SDRAM into a two-dimensional array of rows and columns and accesses a memory cell for any read or write operation. However, rather than store data the memory is used to stream back analysis of data. The Automata Processor architecture uses a DDR3-like memory interface and will be made available as single components or as DIMM modules.
Another company Burgener called out was Atlantis Computing. Its ILIO USX in-memory software-defined storage offering enables enterprises create hybrid, hyper-converged, and all-flash storage by pooling, accelerating, and optimizing existing SAN, NAS, RAM, and any type of direct attached storage, including SSD, flash, and SAS.