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The storage industry's first enterprise Flash module: HDS Malaysia

AvantiKumar | Nov. 19, 2012
Interview: Hitachi Data Systems’ battle to find the next generation storage technology marks another milestone with the launch of its new Flash Module with optimised rack form factor.

Hu Yoshida, VP and CTO, Hitachi Data Systems modified

Photo - Hu Yoshida, VP and CTO, Hitachi Data Systems.


Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) new high capacity SSD Flash module is the industry's first enterprise ready solid-state drive solution and another milestone in the company's path to develop next generation storage solutions, said the storage solutions provider.

During a recent visit to Kuala Lumpur, HDS vice president and chief technology officer, Hu Yoshida, said sales of flash have slowed down despite its advantages. "The acceptance of flash in the enterprise faces three main obstacles: firstly, it is still expensive, about 10 times the cost of HDD [hard drive disk] storage; the second issue is its lack of durability; and thirdly, performance is not consistent - IOPS [input/output operations per second] can drop from 100,000 to less than 100 due to 'garbage collection,' which reduces the write-rate by 94 percent."

"While enterprise storage demands consistent performance, it is actually the cost that has been the primary barrier so far, as SSD vendors have focused on the volume market - PC sectors - rather than enterprise, which means SSD comes mostly in the shape of single core, single threaded SSDs," Yoshida said.

"IT organisations have been forced to make tradeoffs in performance and capacity to reach the cost points that their shrinking budgets can accommodate," he said. "Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage fundamentally changes this model by eliminating these tradeoffs and answering customer demands for high capacity and performance at the lowest cost per bit. It changes the model by leveraging advanced Hitachi controller technology to increase the performance of MLC [multi-level cell] flash to levels that exceed those of more costly SLC [single-level cell] flash. It also extends MLC flash endurance to enterprise levels.

"Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage delivers the performance, cost points, capacity and environmental characteristics that customers desire and that alternative solid-state storage options cannot match," said Yoshida.

"This new flash module is built specifically for the most demanding enterprise-class workloads," he said. "Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage features a custom-designed, rack-optimised form factor and innovative flash memory controller technology from Hitachi, Ltd."

"These features let the module achieve higher performance, lower cost per bit and greater capacity compared to conventional solid-state drives (SSDs) on the market today," said Yoshida. "Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage is available now for the industry's leading enterprise solution, Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP). Now customers can realise a superior return on their flash investment with lower operating expenses."

Struggle for next generation storage solutions

"Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage is the first product to incorporate the recently introduced flash memory controller from Hitachi, Ltd., and this announcement marks the next phase of the Hitachi Data Systems flash strategy and roadmap first announced in August," Yoshida said.

"The disk business is struggling to realise the next major development to catch up with information storage demands. Media costs are not going down, while there the demand for performance continues to increase," he said.

Research by different providers focused on access density of the storage medium, he said. Shingle magnetic recording (SMR) research is also being supplemented by writing on genomes at Harvard University as genomes have a long life, while IBM is looking at recording onto atoms."

Hitachi's studies include etching dots onto quartz. On 28 September 2012, on his HDS Blog, Yoshida discussed Hitachi's plans to store data for few hundred million years. "Hitachi researchers have announced a method to store digital data on slivers of quartz material, which should be able to store this data indefinitely under almost any environmental condition without any degradation."

"The quartz prototype is a 2 cm square by 2 mm thick piece where data is recorded in four layers of dots, which can hold 40 MB per square inch," he wrote. "This is not much compared to the 1 TB per square inch that will be available from HDD HAMR [heat-assisted magnetic recording] technology. However, Hitachi researchers believe that adding more layers to increase density is possible.

"Hitachi researchers have announced a method to store digital data on slivers of quartz material, which should be able to store this data indefinitely under almost any environmental condition without any degradation.

Improving ROI on today's flash investments
Yoshida said the Hitachi Data Systems flash roadmap spanned across servers, storage and appliances to allow compute acceleration, caching and high-performance storage media use cases. "Hitachi Data Systems will continue to expand its roadmap with additional flash-optimised solutions that are highly efficient, available and resilient. These new solutions will improve customers' return on flash investments and lower operating expenses compared to alternative or single-purpose flash products."

"Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage fits into a new 8U flash chassis. Each enclosure can scale from 6.4TB up to 76.8TB of flash storage, giving it two times greater density than the largest MLC SSD available today. Up to four flash enclosures can be housed in Hitachi VSP [virtual storage platform], enabling more than 300TB of flash per system," he said. "Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage is the first flash device that is optimised for the performance and reliability required for mission-critical applications. These applications include OLTP databases, ERP, financial data management, metadata and indexing.

"Because of the innovative multi-core flash controller technology from Hitachi, we are able to use multi-level cell [MLC] flash in enterprise applications by extending MLC endurance and exceeding the performance of single-level cell [SLC] flash. The result is the lowest cost per bit of any enterprise MLC flash solution on the market today."

"By raising high capacity, we can get price down to about 46 percent less than MLC SSDs, which is down to about four times better performance [from 10x the cost of high performance HDD]," he said. "By 2015, flash and HDD could be at parity."

Yoshida said the Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage was fully compatible with all Hitachi VSP features, including Hitachi Dynamic Tiering [HDT]. "This capability lets the system automatically optimise data placement by putting the most active data on Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage when the highest performance is required, and placing less-active data on cost-optimised, lower performance disk." 


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