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!

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hedge Funds (with Supercomputing help) Rank First Among Investors

May 22, 2017

In case you didn’t know, The Quants Run Wall Street Now, or so says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. Quant-run hedge funds now control the largest Read more…

By John Russell

IBM, D-Wave Report Quantum Computing Advances

May 18, 2017

IBM said this week it has built and tested a pair of quantum computing processors, including a prototype of a commercial version. That progress follows an an Read more…

By George Leopold

PRACEdays 2017 Wraps Up in Barcelona

May 18, 2017

Barcelona has been absolutely lovely; the weather, the food, the people. I am, sadly, finishing my last day at PRACEdays 2017 with two sessions: an in-depth loo Read more…

By Kim McMahon

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

US, Europe, Japan Deepen Research Computing Partnership

May 18, 2017

On May 17, 2017, a ceremony was held during the PRACEdays 2017 conference in Barcelona to announce the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between PRACE in Europe Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NSF, IARPA, and SRC Push into “Semiconductor Synthetic Biology” Computing

May 18, 2017

Research into how biological systems might be fashioned into computational technology has a long history with various DNA-based computing approaches explored. N Read more…

By John Russell

DOE’s HPC4Mfg Leads to Paper Manufacturing Improvement

May 17, 2017

Papermaking ranks third behind only petroleum refining and chemical production in terms of energy consumption. Recently, simulations made possible by the U.S. D Read more…

By John Russell

PRACEdays 2017: The start of a beautiful week in Barcelona

May 17, 2017

Touching down in Barcelona on Saturday afternoon, it was warm, sunny, and oh so Spanish. I was greeted at my hotel with a glass of Cava to sip and treated to a Read more…

By Kim McMahon

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Launches Servers, Services, and Collaboration at GTC

May 10, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today launched a new liquid cooled GPU-driven Apollo platform based on SGI ICE architecture, a new collaboration with NVIDIA, a Read more…

By John Russell

IBM PowerAI Tools Aim to Ease Deep Learning Data Prep, Shorten Training 

May 10, 2017

A new set of GPU-powered AI software announced by IBM today brings automation to many of the tedious, time consuming and complex aspects of AI project on-rampin Read more…

By Doug Black

Bright Computing 8.0 Adds Azure, Expands Machine Learning Support

May 9, 2017

Bright Computing, long a prominent provider of cluster management tools for HPC, today released version 8.0 of Bright Cluster Manager and Bright OpenStack. The Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling Read more…

By Steve Campbell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Eng Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular Read more…

By John Russell

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu's Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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