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    What a Solid State We Store In

    June 30th, 2014

    Note:  This blog entry is authored by SNIA Solid State Storage Initiative Governing Board member Gilda Fosswho serves on the SNIA Solid State Storage Initiative [SSSI] Governing Board as well as her role as Industry Evangelist in the CTO Office at NetApp, Inc

    Solid state drives use semiconductor chips, as opposed to magnetic media, to store data.  The chips that solid state drives use are non-volatile memory meaning that the data remains even when the system has no power.  I’ve written about solid state drive technology in the past and I will continue to, for it represents the first major advancement in primary storage in a very long time.  Serving on the Governing Board of the SNIA Solid State Storage Initiative, it allows me to help foster the growth and success of the market for solid state storage in both enterprise and client environments. Our goals are to be the recognized authority for storage made from solid state devices, to determine and document the characteristics of storage made from solid state devices, and to determine and document the impact of storage made from solid state devices on system architectures.

    So what can you expect if you were to ever upgrade to an SSD?  Well, for starters your computing experience will be transformed with screaming fast random access speeds, multi-tasking proficiency, as well as fantastic reliability and durability… and you can choose between an external SSD or even a hybrid drive so you’ve got some options.  A new SSD will make your system faster because the boot times will decrease, launching apps will be lightening fast, opening and saving docs will no longer drag, copying and duplicating file speeds will improve, and overall your system will have a new ‘pep in its step’.  Furthermore, to promote being green, SSDs consume far less power than traditional hard drives, which means they also preserve battery life and stay cooler.  Who doesn’t want and need that? They’re also very quiet, with none of the spinning and clanking you get with HDDs – for obvious reasons. SSDs are cooler and quieter, all the while being faster.

    Since modern SSDs are Flash-based, there is no real hard-defined difference between Flash and SSD.  Rather, as mentioned previously, Solid State Disk is essentially storage that doesn’t require moving parts and Flash is what allows that to exist.  SSDs use Flash instead of RAM these days, since it’s a type of memory that’s super fast and doesn’t require continuous power, making it non-volatile.  A match made in solid-state heaven.

    There are some fundamental aspects that folks expect from a robust flash-based storage solution.  First off, I/O performance and efficiency for many applications, including database acceleration, server and desktop virtualization, and cloud infrastructure.  You should also expect to speed up overall IT performance, boost responsiveness of performance-critical applications, and reduce power costs and over-provisioning.  Furthermore, you will obviously use more high-capacity, low-cost SATA drives while improving utilization of your data center space.  If you can achieve all your flash-based goals without changing your IT infrastructure management processes, then you’ve really got it good.

    Flash storage has customarily had substantial aging issues. In a nutshell, a user could only write to the memory a certain number of times before they would just lose that section of the drive coupled with the fact that performance would degrade over time, too.  However, a lot of these issues were resolved and companies started manufacturing SSDs out of Flash memory instead of out of RAM.

    I’ve stated in the past that many people in the industry believe that flash SSDs will eventually replace traditional hard drives.  By the time this happens other characteristics, such as slower write time and added cost, will likely have been eradicated or significantly diminished. Even today, an SSD can extend the life of a laptop battery, reduce the weight of the system, make it quieter, and increase read performance.  When properly and optimally engineered, SSDs are now at least as reliable as traditional spinning hard drives.  Relating to the faster speed, think of one starting up in seconds versus minutes. Even the slowest current SSD gives you much improved real-world performance than does the fastest conventional hard drive, perhaps even 100x as fast.  This allows for better user productivity, allowing for more work to get done in a fraction of the time.  Furthermore, using flash in enterprise storage servers means you can support more users, do more work, and use less power so it’s no wonder that it’s become an important technology for business transactions.   It’s a solid win-win-win.

    SSSI’s 2014 Mission

    This SNIA initiative was formed in September 2008 and its mission is to foster the growth and success of the market for solid state storage in both enterprise and client environments. Our goals are to be the recognized authority for storage made from solid state devices, to determine and document the characteristics of storage made from solid state devices, and to determine and document the impact of storage made from solid state devices on system architectures.  Additionally, the SSSI collects solid state technical requirements of storage system vendors and communicate to SSD manufacturers for common features, behavior, and robustness.  The initiative collaborates with academia and the research labs of member companies to understand how advances in solid state memory will impact storage made from solid state memory as well as to educate the vendor and user communities about storage made from solid state devices.

    The SNIA SSSI also coordinates education activities with the Education Committee, performs benchmark testing to highlight the performance advantages of solid state storage, create peer reviewed vendor neutral SNIA Tutorials, and create vendor-neutral demonstrations.  The SSI also leverages SNIA and partner conferences, collaborate with industry analysts, perform market outreach that highlights the virtues of storage made from solid state devices.  The initiative determines what technical work should be performed within SNIA technical working groups to further the acceptance of storage made from solid state devices.  Furthermore and very importantly, the SSSI determines the standards that will be necessary to support the industry usage of SSDs by performing interoperability plug-fests as necessary in support of standards development.

    Collaboration between other SNIA organizations is also key.  The SSSI works with the Storage Management Initiative (SMI) to understand how SMI-S can be used to manage storage made from solid state devices.  We also work with the Green Storage Initiative (GSI) to understand how storage made from solid state devices will impact energy use in computer systems.  The work that the SSI does with the Technical Council helps create the desired technical working groups and provides external advocacy and support of these technical working groups.

    Finally, the SSSI collaborates with other industry associations via SNIA’s Strategic Alliances Committee (SAC) on SSD-related technical work in which they are involved as well as coordinates with SNIA Regional Affiliates to ensure that the impact of the SSS Initiative is felt worldwide.  For more information, please visit http://www.snia.org/forums/sssi


    It’s “All About M.2 SSDs” In a New SSSI Webcast June 10

    June 4th, 2014

    Interested in M.2, the new SSD card form factor?

    The SNIA Solid State Storage Initiative is partnering with SATA-IO and NVM Express to give you the latest information on M.2, the new SSD card form factor.  Join us “live” on Tuesday, June 10, at 10:00 am Pacific time/1:00 pm Eastern time.

    Hear from a panel of experts, including Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates, Jim Handy of Objective Analysis, Jon Tanguy of Micron, Jaren May of TE Connectivity, David Akerson of Intel, and Eden Kim of Calypso Systems.  You will leave this webinar with an understanding of the M.2 market, M.2 cards and connection schemes, NVM Express, and M.2 performance. You’ll also be able to ask questions of the experts.

    You can access this webcast via the internet.  Click here, or visit http://snia.org/news_events/multimedia#webcasts


    New SIG Formed to Accelerate Adoption of NVDIMM

    January 28th, 2014

    SNIA has just announced a new special interest group around NVDIMM to:

    • Provide  education on how system vendors can “design-in” NVDIMMs.
    • Communicate existing industry standards, and areas for vendor differentiation.
    • Help technology and solution vendors whose products integrate NVDIMMs to communicate their benefits and value to the greater market.
    • Develop vendor-agnostic user perspective case studies, best practices, and vertical industry requirements to help end user customers understand how products and solutions can meet performance, cost, and efficiency goals.

    Initial members of the NVDIMM SIG include  vendors AgigA Tech, IDT,  Inphi,  Intel, Micron, Microsoft Corporation,  Netlist,  Pericom, Samsung, SK Hynix,  SMART Modular Technologies, and Viking Technology.

    A new webpage under the Solid State Storage Technology Community on the SNIA website at www.snia.org/nvdimm provides a knowledge resource for presentations, white papers, FAQs, and  webcasts on NVDIMM contributed by SIG companies. Those interested in joining the NVDIMM SIG should contact nvdimmsigchair@snia.org.


    SSD Education Afternoon Monday January 27 at SNIA Symposium in San Jose

    January 24th, 2014

    Interested in the latest information on SSD technology?  Join the SNIA Solid State Storage Initiative Monday January 27 for lunch and an afternoon of the latest on:

    • Flash/SSD technology
    • SCSI Express
    • SAS
    • NVM Express
    • SATA Express
    • SSD performance
    • SSD Markets

    Lunch begins at noon, with presentations from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.  There is no charge to attend this session at the Sainte Claire Hotel in downtown San Jose CA. You can attend in person – register at www.snia.org/events/symp2014 or by WebEx (click here for details and the agenda).


    Join the SSSI at Flash Memory Summit August 12-15 in Santa Clara CA!

    August 7th, 2013

    SSSI returns to the Flash Memory Summit in booth 808, featuring information on updates on new tests in the SNIA Solid State Storage Performance Test Specification-Enterprise 1.1, NVM programming, and Workload I/O Capture Program (WIOCP) activities; new tech notes and white papers, including a PTS User Guide Tech Note, a PCIe SSD 101 Whitepaper, and a Performance Primer Whitepaper; and PCIe SSD demonstrations from SSSI members Bitmicro, Fastor, and Micron.

    flash memory summitAll current SSSI members attending FMS and individuals from companies interested in the SSSI and their activities are cordially invited to the SSSI Solid State Storage Reception Monday evening August 12 from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm in Room 209-210 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.   At the reception, SSSI Education Chair Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates will provide an overview of the SSD market, and SSSI Chair Paul Wassenberg of Marvell will discuss SSD performance.  SSSI Vice Chair Walt Hubis of Fusion-io will discuss SSSI programs, including PTS, NVM Programming, Workload I/O Capture, and PCIe SSD.  Refreshments, table displays, and an opportunity drawing for SSDs provided by SSSI members Intel, Micron, and OCZ will be featured.

    FMS conference activities begin August 13, and the agenda can be found here.  SSSI members speaking and chairing panels include:

    Tuesday August 13

    4:35 pm – Paul Wassenberg of Marvell on Standards

    Wednesday August 14

    8:30 am – Eden Kim and Easen Ho of Calypso Testers – PCIe Power Budgets, Performance, and Deployment

    9:50 am – Eden Kim and Easen Ho of Calypso Testers –  SNIA Solid State Storage Performance Test Specification

    3:10 pm - Walt Hubis of Fusion-io – Revolutionizing Application Development Using NVM Storage Software

    3:10 pm – Easen Ho of Calypso Testers –  SSD Testing Challenges

    4:30 pm – Paul von Behren of Intel –  SNIA Tutorial: SNIA NVM Programming Model:  Optimizing Software for Flash

    Thursday August 15

    3:10 pm – Jim Pappas of Intel – PCI Express and  Enterprise SSDs

    3:10 pm – Jim Handy of Objective Analysis – Market Research

    An open “Chat with the Experts” roundtable session Tuesday August 13 at 7:00 pm will feature Jim Pappas of Intel at a Standards table, Eden Kim of Calypso Testers at a SSD Performance table, Easen Ho of Calypso Testers at a Testing table, and Paul Wassenberg of Marvell at a SATA Express table.MESS - Final logo #2-Megan Archer

    The Media Entertainment and Scientific Storage (MESS) will hold their August “Meetup” at the Open Chat with the Experts, and also be located in SSSI Booth 808 for further discussions.

    Exhibit admission is complimentary until August 8.  SNIA and SSSI members and colleagues can receive a $100 discount on either the 3-day conference or the 1-day technical program using the code SNIA at www.flashmemorysummit.com.

     


    PCI Express Coming to an SSD Near You

    August 2nd, 2013

    There’s been a lot of press recently about what’s going on in the world of storage regarding the utilization of PCIe as a device interface.  Of course, PCIe has been around a long time as a system bus, while SATA and SAS have been used as storage device interfaces.  But with SSDs getting faster with every new product release, it’s become difficult for the traditional interfaces to keep up.

    Some folks figure that PCIe is the solution to that problem.  PCIe 3.0 operates at 1GB/s, which is faster than 600MB/s SATA.  And with PCIe, it’s possible to add lanes to increase the overall bandwidth.  The SATA Express spec from SATA-IO defines a client PCIe device as having up to 2 lanes of PCIe, which brings the speed up to 2GB/s.  Enterprise SSDs will have up to 4 lanes of PCIe, which provides 4GB/s of bandwidth.

    There was also some work on the software side that needed to be done to support PCIe devices, including NVM Express and SCSI Over PCIe (SOP), both of which are well underway.

    If you are interested in knowing more about PCIe SSDs, keep an eye on our Education page, where, sometime during the week of August 5, we will be posting a new white paper on this topic.


    New Article on SSD Security

    November 2nd, 2011

    An article by SSSI member Tom Coughlin on Self Encrypting Drives  was just published in the October edition of  Storage Networking Solutions.   Tom defines SED, discusses the advantages of a SSD SED, and forecasts the rate of adoption of this important technology.  It starts on page 17.


    New SSD Blog

    October 31st, 2011

    SSSI member Jim Handy at Objective Analysis has started a blog dedicated to SSDs.  Jim is an avid follower of the SSD market, and his blog will doubtless be a great resource.

    You’ll find the link on the SSSI Blogroll.


    PCs: Better Boost from Flash than DRAM!

    July 19th, 2011

    Objective Analysis has just published a new study with a somewhat surprising finding – that PCs get a bigger performance improvement by adding a dollar’s worth of NAND flash than by adding a dollar’s worth of DRAM.

    This finding is the result of a series of nearly 300 benchmarks in which the company tested PCs with a variety of DRAM and NAND flash sizes running industry-standard benchmarks: PCMark, SYSmark, HDxPRT, and others.

    In a nutshell the benchmarks showed that dollar-for-dollar NAND yields a greater performance improvement to a PC than does DRAM.  Once PC users and OEMs discover this phenomenon there should be a mass-migration of PC architectures to systems with paired storage (there’s a SNIA Webcast on this), perhaps in hybrid HDDs, and this will present difficulties to DRAM makers whose biggest market is the PC.

    Oddly enough, the study shows that the HDD is likely to remain in PCs for a while to come, since well-designed DRAM-Flash-HDD configurations perform nearly as fast as DRAM-SSD systems with prices and capacities that are similar to those of a conventional DRAM-HDD system.  Future PC users are likely to opt for adding NAND flash, rather than DRAM, to their systems when they upgrade.

    The report is available for purchase at http://Objective-Analysis.com/Reports.html#DRAM-NAND.

    Comments and questions are more than welcome.


    Trim: The Basics

    June 29th, 2011

    Apple recently announced Trim support for all SSD-capable Macs.  What is Trim?

    The SSSI Glossary defines the Trim command as “A method by which the host operating system may inform a NAND Flash-based SSS device about which blocks of data are no longer in use and can be erased. Such blocks may then be written without having to erase them first, enhancing SSS device write performance.”

    A drive’s internal Garbage Collection performs a similar task as Trim by erasing blocks that have been previously marked for deletion.  However, because of the way that many operating systems work, there will be some blocks that can be repurposed of which only the OS is aware; Trim addresses this issue.

    For Trim to be functional, both the SSD and the OS must support it.  Most SSDs of recent vintage support Trim, but check the features list to be sure.

    In addition to the Apple OS, anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Microsoft Windows 7 supports Trim.  And an increasing number of Linux versions support Trim, plus FreeBSD and OpenSolaris.  Wikipedia has a more detailed list.