Texas Memory Systems Pushes SSD Envelope

By Michael Feldman

May 18, 2011

Enterprise SSD maker Texas Memory Systems (TMS) has been kicking up some dust lately, announcing record-breaking performance results with its RamSan-630 product and launching its latest PCIe flash offering. Specifically, TMS recently put up some rather impressive numbers in two key benchmarks established by the Storage Performance Council (SPC). And then this week, the company introduced its next-generation PCIe flash memory product, the RamSan-70, which incorporates the latest NAND technology from Toshiba.

First to the SPC results. The TMS RamSan-630, a network-attached 3U enclosure that can hold up to 10 TB of flash memory, was able to deliver a record-setting 400,503 IOPS on the SPC-1 benchmark at a price performance of $1.05/IOPS. That beat the SPC competition by a wide margin, specifically, two disk-based IBM systems that approached the TMS gear in total IOPS, but were far behind in price-performance. In the first case, a 6-node IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller v5.1 hit 380,489 total IOPS, but at $18.83/IOPS, a far cry from the RamSan-630. The less expensive IBM Power 595 with PowerVM delivered 300,993 IOPS, but still at a cost of $10.77/IOPS.

The SPC-1 benchmark is geared for random I/O, so plays into the strength of flash memory, but it’s still a rather grueling test for SSD technology. The workload uses about 60 percent writes and is sustained for eight hours. Also, the device needs to be prefilled with data at the start. That kind of environment is not very SSD-friendly. To get a sense of that, the RamSan-630 SPC-1 result is less than half the peak performance of the 1,000,000 IOPS that TMS claims for the solution.

The SPC-2 benchmark, on the other hand, is geared for sequential I/O workloads like online transaction processing (OLTP), so one wouldn’t expect great results from an SSD setup. (In fact, the RamSan-630 is the first SSD-based system submitted for this SPC benchmark). But the TMS system managed a respectable 8.3 GB/second average over the three SPC-2 workloads: large file processing, large database query and video-on-demand.

That wasn’t as fast as the top-rated IBM System Storage DS8800 system at 9.7 GB/second, but the RamSan-630’s price-performance of $49.37 undercut the $270.38 result for the IBM system rather handily. An HP and Hitachi storage system both delivered about 8.7 GB/second, but at a price-performance of around $187 they were still considerably more expensive that the RamSan box.

According to Jamon Bowen, TMS’s director of sales engineering, the SPC-2 results point to a new use case for enterprise SSD offerings. Whereas before, flash-based systems were only seen as a way to optimize storage IOPS, Bowen says we’re now beginning to see their utility for traditional bandwidth-sensitive workloads, as found in high performance computing and other applications suffering from the data deluge.

Bowen does admit that their SSD box is still going to be about three or four times as expensive as a typical JBOD array built for low cost and MB/second-level bandwidth. But according the him, when you start needing 7 or 8 GB/second for relatively modest-sized storage systems, it’s just cheaper to go the SSD route. “You can now build high bandwidth systems out of SSDs at a lower price than you can disk systems,” he says. “You don’t get the same amount of capacity, but it’s not that far behind.”

Currently there are only a few submissions from SSD vendors to the Storage Performance Council, but at least half of the new members to the group are using flash technology. “I would not be surprised if this becomes the de facto SSD proving ground,” says Bowen.

Besides the network-attached SSD arrays like the RamSan-630, TMS also offers direct-attached flash via its enterprise-class PCIe products like the 450 GB RamSan-20. Those cards are meant to be plugged into workstations and servers for applications that can make use of very fast local storage. For cluster setups, it offers a high performance I/O without the overhead imposed by a network storage solution.

In particular, for large clusters using a shared nothing architecture, the PCIe SSD offer maximum scalability, minimum I/O latency, and the best price-performance. In HPC, these apply to Hadoop-type analytics applications and direct-attached Lustre nodes. In general, any highly parallel application that can partition data along with the computation is ideal for PCIe-based SSDs says Bowen.

This week, the TMS came out with its next-generation PCIe flash card, the RamSan-70. It incorporates Toshiba’s latest 32nm SLC NAND flash chip (which has already been incorporated into the RamSan-630). Compared to the older RamSan-20, the new card delivers about 3 times the performance (330,000 sustained IOPS), twice the usable capacity (900 GB, although a 450 GB version is available too). And because of the smaller NAND geometries, the RamSan-70 takes up half the space of its predecessor and costs about 15 to 20 percent less per GB.

Like many of the latest enterprise-class SSD devices on the market, the RamSan-70 is upping its game in flash longevity and robustness. According to TMS, at 15 percent of the device’s maximum bandwidth (18 TB/day), the RamSan-70 can be expected to last 30 years. Unlike some of its competition, however, all TMS flash management is done with in-house technology. In the case of the RamSan-70, the TMS-developed flash controller logic is implemented with an on-board Virtex-6 FPGA. Bowen says the advantage of such a setup is that the FPGA can be easily reprogrammed — relative to spinning a new ASIC — when new NAND technology is adopted or if new management features are added.

TMS intends to sell the RamSan-70 through an OEM model. In truth, the sales approach is somewhat more loosely defined. According to Bowen, they’ll deal with anyone who can commit to at least 100 cards year. As mentioned before, pricing will be 15 to 20 percent less per GB than the now obsolete 450 GB RamSan-20, which sold for around $18,000. TMS has yet not announced any OEM partners.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visitors to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver for the larg Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some cases, city managers didn’t even know existed. Speaking Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Harness Scalable Petabyte Storage with HPE Apollo 4510 and HPE StoreEver

As a growing number of connected devices challenges IT departments to rapidly collect, manage, and store troves of data, organizations must adopt a new generation of IT to help them operate quickly and intelligently. Read more…

SC17 Student Cluster Competition Configurations: Fewer Nodes, Way More Accelerators

November 16, 2017

The final configurations for each of the SC17 “Donnybrook in Denver” Student Cluster Competition have been released. Fortunately, each team received their equipment shipments on time and undamaged, so the teams are r Read more…

By Dan Olds

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visit Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Keynote – HPC Powers SKA Efforts to Peer Deep into the Cosmos

November 17, 2017

This week’s SC17 keynote – Life, the Universe and Computing: The Story of the SKA Telescope – was a powerful pitch for the potential of Big Science projects that also showcased the foundational role of high performance computing in modern science. It was also visually stunning. Read more…

By John Russell

How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

November 17, 2017

Cities are sensoring up, collecting vast troves of data that they’re running through predictive models and using the insights to solve problems that, in some Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster LINPACK Record Shattered! More LINs Packed Than Ever before!

November 16, 2017

Nanyang Technological University, the pride of Singapore, utterly destroyed the Student Cluster Competition LINPACK record by posting a score of 51.77 TFlop/s a Read more…

By Dan Olds

Hyperion Market Update: ‘Decent’ Growth Led by HPE; AI Transparency a Risk Issue

November 15, 2017

The HPC market update from Hyperion Research (formerly IDC) at the annual SC conference is a business and social “must,” and this year’s presentation at S Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Focuses Its Cloud Containers on HPC Applications

November 14, 2017

Having migrated its top-of-the-line datacenter GPU to the largest cloud vendors, Nvidia is touting its Volta architecture for a range of scientific computing ta Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Launches ARM-based Apollo System for HPC, AI

November 14, 2017

HPE doubled down on its memory-driven computing vision while expanding its processor portfolio with the announcement yesterday of the company’s first ARM-base Read more…

By Doug Black

OpenACC Shines in Global Climate/Weather Codes

November 14, 2017

OpenACC, the directive-based parallel programming model used mostly for porting codes to GPUs for use on heterogeneous systems, came to SC17 touting impressive Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This