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Pillar rejigs Axiom for flash

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Pillar is redesigning its Axiom storage array technology to use NAND flash memory better, with disk drives used for commodity storage.

Pillar CEO Mike Workman has blogged "A trend toward SSDs over HDDs will cause all storage arrays to be re-architected. Today’s arrays are not built properly for maximum utilization of the performance benefits of SSD. This will affect everybody in the business.

"Pillar’s advanced Axiom architecture is already under development. This will be fun."

Currently flash is used in drive arrays as a faster hard drive, as in EMC's Symmetrix. Pillar itself uses Intel solid state drives (SSDs) in this way. The flash sits in a hard disk drive slot with a hard disk drive interface; Fibre Channel, SATA or SAS.

It is also being given a role in storage array controllers as a cache, with NetApp's PAM (Performance Acceleration Module) a prime example.

A view is emerging that future storage arrays could be two tier, with hot data in flash and less-needed data in bulk capacity SATA drives. An intervening array would have a middle layer of Fibre Channel or SAS drives, faster than SATA but holding less data.

If the array was built to use a flash enclosure loaded with, say PCIe-connected flash, alongside disk drive enclosures, there would be no need to split the flash up into hard disk drive-like units with disk interfaces. We would have a flash enclosure with its own controller running inside Axiom alongside disk drive enclosures. In Pillar terminology we would have flash Bricks running alongside disk Bricks with the Slammer controllers moving data to and from the Bricks.

If this route were the one chosen by Pillar then the Slammer controllers might need modification to talk to the flash Bricks. When will we hear more? Since the CEO is talking about it now we'll probably get more information by the end of the year. ®

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