Flash Forward

By Michael Feldman

September 29, 2011

Violin’s Memory’s launch this week of its latest and greatest flash memory arrays for primary storage got me to thinking about how far and how fast solid state storage has traveled over the last few years.

Gone are the days when enterprise-grade flash was only considered for caching hyperactive data, aka tier 0 storage, layered on top of a largely disk-based storage systems. We’re now seeing a much more generalized solid state storage solution, encouraging at least one writer to state the case more starkly with an article titled, Violin Memory: This Is The Impact Event Before The Extinction Of Hard Disks.

While Violin is among the better-known, and more successful solid state storage vendors, it’s certainly not the first to go after tier 1 disks in the datacenter. Both Texas Memory Systems (TMS) and Nimbus Data Systems have SSD boxes that target primary storage.

Those two employ enterprise multi-level cell (eMLC) flash technology to achieve a product that is on par cost wise with 15K disk-based arrays. Compared to single-level cell (SLC) flash, eMLC is somewhat less performant and needs more attentive error correction, but it is much less expensive.

Violin, with its newest 6000 series flash arrays, have both SLC and standard MLC flavors, but wraps a lot of enterprise goodies into the systems, such as high availability, redundancy, and serviceability. Violin is not making pricing public on the new product line, so there is no way to compare its offerings to those of Nimbus and TMS.

Even before Violin’s 6000 boxes were launched, the company was already bumping against (and in some cases, displacing) storage stalwarts like EMC and NetApp, two companies that sprinkle flash atop their disk-based storage. Vendors like Violin, TMS, Nimbus and Huawei Symantec think they can skip that flash-cache approach with their latest all solid state arrays.

These vendors think they’ve solved the up-front cost gap, at least with regard to Fibre Channel and SAS 15K disk systems (but not the lower cost SATA drives). Although the price per GB of flash versus disk componentry is still fairly wide, even for eMLC, once you wrap a complete storage system around it, the price differential shrinks away. Both TMS and Nimbus, for example are in the $12 to $13/GB range for their flash system products.

On the other hand, no one that I know of is arguing that disk storage is going away completely. For capacity storage, especially where the data isn’t in constant read/write demand, disks will be the technology of choice for the foreseeable future. The “flash and trash” model, where all active data will be on flash and the rest will be relegated to low-cost SATA drives, is where a lot of people in the industry think we are headed.

For the high performance computing crowd, the story may be a little different. At the upper edge of HPC, capacities are just too darn big for flash to swallow whole. The just-announced 55-petabyte NetApp storage system for the upcoming Sequoia supercomputer to be installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, could certainly not be accomplished with a solid state setup today. Even at the aforementioned $12/GB price point, such a system would cost well over $600 million.

That said, smaller HPC customers could certainly make flash a bigger part of their lives, as some commercial and government customers are already doing. Nimbus has installed 100 TB of its flash installation at eBay, and Violin has two petabyte-sized deployments of their memory arrays, one at AOL and the other at a US government agency. Given the 10-fold or so cost advantages in power and floor space, even premium-priced flash could make economic sense for reasonably large systems, and especially so for the kinds of data-intensive workloads that are becoming more and more common in HPC.

The largest flash storage deployment in HPC looks like it will be the Gordon supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). That system, built by Appro, will be outfitted with 300 TB of the new Intel iSolid-State Drive 710 Series , enough to deliver 35 million IOPS to data-hungry science applications. According to the press release, “SDSC has taken delivery of Gordon’s 64 I/O nodes equipped with Intel’s 710 Series, and they are already available to users of Dash, a smaller, prototype version of Gordon.”

As announced at IDF, the new Intel SSD parts are based on the less expensive, higher capacity standard MLC technology, but use Intel’s own High Endurance Technology (HET), which the company claim offers “the same high levels of performance as single-level cell (SLC) memory but at a more attractive price point,” which according to various sources, looks to be about $6.45/GB. Keep in mind these are storage drives, not the more full-featured flash SAN boxes mentioned above.

A lot of HPC installations are probably going to gravitate toward these standalone SSDs or even PCIe connected flash devices so that solid state storage can be integrated intimately into the server infrastructure and give the best performance boost for the buck. On the other hand, Nimbus has revealed they have number of HPC customers for their flash storage boxes in oil and gas, financial services, life science, and education. There’s no reason to think that other like-minded users won’t start adopting the technology too as it proves itself.

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!

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in advanci Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ESnet Now Moving More Than 1 Petabyte/wk

December 12, 2017

Optimizing ESnet (Energy Sciences Network), the world's fastest network for science, is an ongoing process. Recently a two-year collaboration by ESnet users – the Petascale DTN Project – achieved its ambitious goal t Read more…

HPC-as-a-Service Finds Toehold in Iceland

December 11, 2017

While high-demand workloads (e.g., bitcoin mining) can overheat data center cooling capabilities, at least one data center infrastructure provider has announced an HPC-as-a-service offering that features 100 percent fre Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Explore the Origins of Space with COSMOS and Memory-Driven Computing

From the formation of black holes to the origins of space, data is the key to unlocking the secrets of the early universe. Read more…

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be carefully woven together by people to create the computational c Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be care Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Spins Cycle Computing into Core Azure Product

December 5, 2017

Last August, cloud giant Microsoft acquired HPC cloud orchestration pioneer Cycle Computing. Since then the focus has been on integrating Cycle’s organization Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE In-Memory Platform Comes to COSMOS

November 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on a mission to accelerate space research. In August, it sent the first commercial-off-the-shelf HPC system into space for testing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Cluster Competition: Who Won and Why? Results Analyzed and Over-Analyzed

November 28, 2017

Everyone by now knows that Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU) took home the highest LINPACK Award and the Overall Championship from the recently concluded SC17 Student Cluster Competition. We also already know how the teams did in the Highest LINPACK and Highest HPCG competitions, with Nanyang grabbing bragging rights for both benchmarks. Read more…

By Dan Olds

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

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

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he 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

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

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

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

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a 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

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