Get in the zone, SK Hynix tells data as it drops veil on ZNS SSD

NVMe standard for parking different data types in different zones for faster access

Korean chipmaker SK Hynix today announced its Zoned Name Spaces (ZNS) SSD, which stores different data types in different parts of the drive, and said it would start shipping products in the first half of 2020.

The vendor – which said its development work on the SSD would be complete by the end of the year – also quantified how much the emergent architecture (which is becoming an NVMe standard expected to be seen all over world+dog's data centres) would speed access and extend its drive's working life.

The target market for the SSD is – as you'd imagine – data centre servers involved with AI and big data.

The firm said it had demoed its ZNS SSD with open hardware folk at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Global Summit – which took place in San Jose earlier this month – showing the device storing data with similar usage and frequency access patterns in different zones of the drive. Three data types were identified in an SK Hynix blog as music, video and images. A standard SSD stores any kind of data anywhere in the drive.

It was talking about a potential increase in access speed of "up to 30 per cent" and an extension of the SSD's work-life – when compared to a "traditional SSD" – of "over four times". How the Korean vendor came about those numbers was not explained.

Hynix's ZNS SSD features 2TB of 72-layer TLC (3 bits/cell) 3D NAND using 512Gb dies. It comes in an M.2 gumstick card 22110 format with an NVMe 1.2.1 interface running across a PCIe gen 3 link.

Microsoft's Lee Prewitt, a principal hardware program manager, presented on ZNS at the Open Compute Project event, pairing it with disk drive SMR (shingled magnetic recording), and said both SMR and ZNS were good methods of managing large-capacity drives.

Youtube Video

Lee Prewitt presents at OCP. The ZNS part starts at 8min 50sec

The ZNS technical proposal is currently being mulled over by the NVMe workgroup, which is developing an industry standard for these types of interfaces. The idea is that the host system application software writes data sequentially into an open zone on the SSD. It can be read randomly from any zone and zones are deleted as a whole.

This makes any write amplification due to the garbage collection process (rescuing valid data from a set of blocks about to be deleted and rewriting it elsewhere in the drive) close to zero. That helps to extend the drive's endurance.

El Reg expects other drive manufacturers to be on roughly the same schedule and looking to ship their ZNS efforts next year. ®

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