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The Next Wave of Flash Storage in the Data Center—Can it Be Client?

By Iri Trashanski, Vice President SSD Business, Marvell

SSD Data StorageWhat happens in an Internet minute?  According to the amalgamation of research by Intel, more than six million Facebook messages are sent, 34.7 million instant messages, 4.1 million Google search inquiries, 138,889 hours of video are watched on YouTube, 23,148 hours of video watched on Netflix and more than $133,000 in Amazon sales. In fact, the total of all digital data created reached four zettabytes (ZB) in 2013. (1ZB = 1,0007 bytes.)

The tens of billions of mobile devices now connected to the Internet will continue to grow as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a reality, leading to exponential growth needed for data storage. In fact, according to IDC, data storage is predicted to increase 50-fold, from 0.8 ZB in 2009 to 44ZB by 2020.1 It is also predicted that 32 billion IoT devices will be connected by 2020, 40 percent of the data will be touched by the Cloud, and enterprises will have liability and responsibility for 85 percent of all data.  So how will enterprises keep up?  At Marvell, we believe that in the next four years, the majority of non-client SSD volume will be used in hyperscale public and private cloud deployments.

Hyperscale computing refers to the facilities and provisioning required in distributed computing environments to efficiently scale from a few servers to thousands of servers. Hyperscale favors a stripped-down product design that is extremely cost effective, with a minimal level of investment in hardware and more emphasis on software. In other words, companies will be willing to invest more time to save money versus more money (in hardware, SW and support) to save time. We also believe this trend will continue in data center storage as data centers continue to move toward lower-cost client SSDs to carry the load. This will be achieved with the high-speed PCIe interface.  In fact, with the right high-performance PCIe client-based SSD, we believe more than half the SSDs sold for data center will be PCIe by 2018.

The hyperscale model will be different from the current enterprise.  Hyperscale will focus more on software-oriented growth, huge capacity growth, CapEx and OpEx efficiencies and interactive applications support.  SATA SSDs are successful in data centers because they can be very cost-effective and use client-proven IP.  They are also easy to install in the storage infrastructure. But the SATA interface has been completely saturated, even in client applications.  PCIe SSDs offer 6x the bandwidth, 4x IOPs and 8x improved latency. On top of that, NVM Express (NVMe) has the benefit of very low command and driver overhead. NVMe also enables solutions to connect NAND storage to servers without the need of protocol translations.

Further, hyperscale will require the continuous lowering of the cost of NAND, such as triple-level (TLC) NAND, which requires advanced error correction technologies like low-density parity check (LDPC).  So  squeezing the cost out of SSDs, will take a certain kind of PCIe SSD controller. Marvell’s recent announcement of its next-generation high performance PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD controller, the Marvell® 88SS1093, advances data center and client solid-state storage with Flash-optimized architecture and performance that will help once again push the price/performance curve in the data center and support the trend toward client SSDs in the data center.

Supporting up to four lanes of PCIe 3.1, the Marvell 88SS1093 SSD controller is suitable for full 4GB/s or 2GB/s end points depending on host system customization.  In order to fully utilize the high-speed PCIe connection, Marvell’s groundbreaking NVMe design facilitates PCIe link data flows by deploying massive hardware automation without compromise. Highly efficient data flow management eliminates legacy host control bottlenecks to finally achieve full flash storage performance.

The Marvell 88SS1093 also integrates Marvell’s third generation NANDEdge™ error-correcting LDPC technology for higher reliability and endurance boost that can support 15nm TLC and 3D NAND, resulting in the enabling of low cost SSDs.

These types of progressions in SSD technology support future trends in the data center that will rely on a distributed, efficient, reliable, scalable and economical architecture.  Hardware will be more commodity-based, using client SSDs and open source software.  So when we look to the next wave of flash storage in the data center, we believe it will be client and that technology is here today.

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1 From EMC-sponsored report, “The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things,” with research and analysis by IDC.

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