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!

How the United States Invests in Supercomputing

November 14, 2018

The CORAL supercomputers Summit and Sierra are now the world's fastest computers and are already contributing to science with early applications. Ahead of SC18, Maciej Chojnowski with ICM at the University of Warsaw discussed the details of the CORAL project with Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov from the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more…

By Maciej Chojnowski

At SC18: Humanitarianism Amid Boom Times for HPC

November 14, 2018

At SC18 in Dallas, the feeling on the ground is one of forward-looking buoyancy. Like boom times that cycle through the Texas oil fields, the HPC industry is enjoying a prosperity seen only every few decades, one driven Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, produ Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

AI Can Be Scary. But Choosing the Wrong Partners Can Be Mortifying!

As you continue to dive deeper into AI, you will discover it is more than just deep learning. AI is an extremely complex set of machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement, and analytics algorithms with varying compute, storage, memory, and communications needs. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

New Data Management Techniques for Intelligent Simulations

The trend in high performance supercomputer design has evolved – from providing maximum compute capability for complex scalable science applications, to capacity computing utilizing efficient, cost-effective computing power for solving a small number of large problems or a large number of small problems. Read more…

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry’s first plug-and-play, portable parallel file system that delivers up to 75 Gb/s per rack on industry standard hardware combined with “enterprise-grade reliability and manageability.” Read more…

By Doug Black

How the United States Invests in Supercomputing

November 14, 2018

The CORAL supercomputers Summit and Sierra are now the world's fastest computers and are already contributing to science with early applications. Ahead of SC18, Maciej Chojnowski with ICM at the University of Warsaw discussed the details of the CORAL project with Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov from the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more…

By Maciej Chojnowski

At SC18: Humanitarianism Amid Boom Times for HPC

November 14, 2018

At SC18 in Dallas, the feeling on the ground is one of forward-looking buoyancy. Like boom times that cycle through the Texas oil fields, the HPC industry is en Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can Read more…

By John Russell

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry’s first plug-and-play, portable parallel file system that delivers up to 75 Gb/s per rack on industry standard hardware combined with “enterprise-grade reliability and manageability.” Read more…

By Doug Black

SC18 Student Cluster Competition – Revealing the Field

November 13, 2018

It’s November again and we’re almost ready for the kick-off of one of the greatest computer sports events in the world – the SC Student Cluster Competitio Read more…

By Dan Olds

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

OpenACC Talks Up Summit and Community Momentum at SC18

November 12, 2018

OpenACC – the directives-based parallel programing model for optimizing applications on heterogeneous architectures – is showcasing user traction and HPC im Read more…

By John Russell

How ASCI Revolutionized the World of High-Performance Computing and Advanced Modeling and Simulation

November 9, 2018

The 1993 Supercomputing Conference was held in Portland, Oregon. That conference and it’s show floor provided a good snapshot of the uncertainty that U.S. supercomputing was facing in the early 1990s. Many of the companies exhibiting that year would soon be gone, either bankrupt or acquired by somebody else. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

Google Releases Machine Learning “What-If” Analysis Tool

September 12, 2018

Training machine learning models has long been time-consuming process. Yesterday, Google released a “What-If Tool” for probing how data point changes affect a model’s prediction. The new tool is being launched as a new feature of the open source TensorBoard web application... Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This