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Mega Euro storage show: Players talk tech on objects, tape and flash

Tape vendors seem perky... maybe TOO perky

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Scality

Here's a thing: object storage can do primary data storage. Scality is supplying its Ring object storage to consumer mail service suppliers such as Time Warner (20 million email users), Comcast (30 million users) and Libero (10 million users). CEO Jerome Lecat thinks Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL provide something like 30 per cent, maybe more of consumer email services and use their own SW and storage.

The rest of market, the bulk, is represented by service providers using third-party software like OpenWave (TimeWarner Cable), Zimbra (Comcast) and Critical Path (Libero). The Scality Ring has been certified as a storage medium for these third-party SW products. We understand Time Warner Cable only buys Scality Ring for its mail storage now, and Comcast and Libero are transitioning to a Scality-only policy.

Openwave Messaging will bundle and resell Scality’s RING storage as part of its Universal Messaging Suite. Bill Webb, Time Warner Cable's VP for systems engineering said about this: “The Openwave Messaging and Scality [bundle] puts us 18 months ahead of the market.”

He believes the bundle will provide two things he must have: an always-on capability and the ability to support variable peak loads. Object storage used for a high-performance and critical app - who would have thought that possible?

The Scality Ring is, we understand, the only object storage used for primary storage as well as nearline and archive repositories, the more traditional object storage use cases. The Ring uses erasure coding to ensure no data is lost and has scalability attributes that mainstream block and file storage array products cannot match, according to Lecat.

Now we have two object storage products that are fast: the Ring for IOPS and the AmpliStor for GB/sec.

TMS

IBM's TMS, Texas Memory Systems as was, will become, we understand after talking to a person familiar with the situation, the flash storage division in IBM storage, and continue supplying its PCIe RamSan 70 and networked RamSan 700 and 800 series of products, with the bulk of these being Fibre Channel connected. It's anticipated that the integration of TMS inside IBM will be a little faster than that of XIV.

There are integration opportunities, particularly with IBM's Pure systems line of converged devices. The PCIe RamSans may well become a commodity product and it's in the shared flash arrays that greater flash storage value resides and where TMS's main focus is to be found. Thus the 700 and 800 series products will be enhanced with 16Gbit/s Fibre Channel being a likely addition, much we suppose to Emulex's delight.

There is not much demand for any server flash card software than caching. Our contact thought that take-up of added flash software capabilities like cut-through memory access (Fusion-io) was low. Caching software will migrate into hypervisors and the operating systems, becoming less attractive as a separate product.

We could see the Storwise V7000 products having TMS flash added to their controllers. much like NetApp's FlashCache. TMS flash could perhaps be used as storage memory, an adjunct to a server's DRAM, as a storage tier and a caching medium. Perhaps it might appear on the motherboard.

TMS flash already works with IBM's EasyTier, its automated data tiering and movement software and TMS flash could be integrated into IBM's storage infrastructure as an EasyTier storage tier. We can be fairly confident it will be. Such integration could be the incorporation of a TMS flash enclosure behind a storage array controller and in front of the disk shelves. Or, we think, it could be as a networked array between the servers and IBM networked disk drive arrays with EasyTier providing a single logical tiered environment and, perhaps, embracing PCIe TMS RamSan cards in servers; this is our speculation.

There is a clear potential for the integration of TMS flash with the DS8000.

Looking ahead, flash may only have five years before NAND geometry shrinks stop due to falling performance and lower lifetimes. Raw three-layer cell (TLC) flash can re-written about 500 times before it dies. It might even be said that TLC flash is dead in the water before it has even started as an enterprise storage medium - but we said that and our conversational partner did not disagree. TMS is actively looking at post-NAND technologies and acquisition by IBM brings Big Blue's Racetrack and phase-change memory technologies into play. We're reminded that TLC could make a great WORM (Write Once Read Many) storage medium though.

Our belief is that the IBM acquisition will start working its effect on TMS's products next year and we should see "interesting" announcements.

SMART

SMART (background here) has announced it is supporting 19nm flash, known as 1X NAND. Currently it uses 24nm NAND dies from Toshiba, and that's where the 19nm stuff will come. Inherently smaller geometry NAND is slower than a larger geometry and has a lower endurance, the number of P/E cycles (Program/Erase) it can support before wearing out.

Mike Lakovicz, SMART's VP for sales and marketing, and an experienced disk guy, says that the company's Guardian flash controller software has many algorithms, including signal processing ones, like those of Anobit, the flash controller startup acquired by Apple. Because of this it can enhance consumer grade 24nm MAND's endurance 14 times and, Lakovicz said, can be extended further to deliver a 50X raw NAND endurance improvement.

We should expect SMART 19nm Optimus brand NAND products to start appearing in the first quarter of 2013. The current Optimus MLC NAND performance levels - 100,000 random read IOPS, 50,000 random writes, and 500MB/sec sequential read and write bandwidth - should be attained with the new products. There will be value versions of them using a SATA interface and a performance line using SAS.

The base 24nm NAND PE cycle number is about 3,000. SMART is still evaluating the PE cycle rating for 19nm product but it could be down at the 2,000 level. A 14X improvement would take that to 28,000, lower than the 24nm Optimus' 40,000 PE cycle rating. But, Lakovicz said, over-provisioning could extend endurance up to current Optimus levels aided by, we suppose, some Guardian algorithm tweaking.

X-IO has selected the current Optimus SAS drive as the flash storage inside its Hyper ISE 7-Series storage product by the way - a nice OEM win.

Regarding TLC flash, Lakovicz pointed out that applying Guardian's anticipated 50X raw PE cycle enhancement to its raw 500 PE cycle number would deliver 25,000 PE cycles; a useful enough rating for potential use cases. This contrasts with the more pessimistic TMS view of TLC flash described above.

Overall this look at some SNW Europe product trends shows tape edging forwards into iSCSI, but flash and object storage powering ahead. It's ironic that, as they do, the tape industry is involved in an Active Archive Alliance effort to raise awareness of tape's archive capability. Tape does not have the wow factor of flash and objects. Could tape get it, become exciting again? LTFS will help. Read about DDFS from BridgeSTOR tomorrow. That could help too. ®

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