By Greg Schulz and Doug Rollins
This Server StorageIO™ low-latency learning piece, compliments of Micron Technology, provides guidance pertaining to nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) and how this technology can help you prepare today for the data center of tomorrow. In this piece, we look at why Micron is well-positioned based on its expertise to be your NVMe solid state drive (SSD) provider of choice. View companion pieces in this series, along with other content, at www.micron.com.
Figure 1: Application and Server Storage I/O Resources
Data Center Trends
It could be said that the latest generation of applications is too fast for traditional IT architectures. Big data, cloud, analytics, Internet of Things and other technologies had stretched disk-based systems and their associated transmission protocols to a breaking point. Users were left with abundant processing power and applications that could utilize it, but were bottlenecked by the relatively slow pace of hard disk drives (HDDs) during READ and WRITE operations.
Fast Applications Need Fast Server Storage I/O
Enabling fast server and storage I/O requires fast server processors with large amounts of fast memory and fast access to high-performance, low-latency, persistent and cost-effective nonvolatile SSD storage. This includes leveraging traditional primary server memory, such as dynamic random access memory (DRAM), along with nonvolatile random access memory (NVRAM) and persistent nonvolatile memory, such as NAND flash for SSD storage.
Fast access to server and storage memory is enabled using common standard technologies such as PCIe hardware along with protocols and drivers such as SAS, AHCI/SATA and NVMe, among others. NVMe was developed as a standard to reduce latency and provide faster performance for nonvolatile memory-based flash storage.
Micron Technology is on the forefront of these developments. The company has been involved end-to-end in the innovation and production of its DRAM and NAND flash. It is also a driving force in new technologies like 3D XPoint as well as associated access interface protocols.
Micron has been a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems for almost 40 years. Its portfolio of high-performance memory technologies includes DRAM, NAND and NOR flash. As well as being the only U.S.-based DRAM manufacturer, Micron leverages an expansive global footprint of fabrication facilities worldwide.
Micron’s nonvolatile memory products are used in SSDs, modules, multichip packages and other systems for consumer, enterprise storage, networking, mobile, embedded and automotive applications. As a result, the company has decades of experience in server/storage I/O technology and interfaces. It understands how they have evolved over time and how they will continue to evolve going forward. It is a proven leader in how to develop, access and utilize these technologies.
Figure 2: Wafer Dies Used to Produce NVM chips
3D NAND Technology
In conjunction with Intel, innovation from Micron has been instrumental in keeping flash storage solutions aligned with Moore's Law. Traditional planar (horizontal) NAND flash memory has approached its practical scaling limit. In response, Intel and Micron developed 3D (vertical) NAND technology with industry-leading density.
This new 3D NAND flash technology precisely stacks layers of data storage cells vertically, enabling more storage in a smaller space with significant cost savings.
3D NAND technology uses floating gate cells to enable the highest-density flash device ever developed — with three times greater capacity than other NAND dies currently in production. 3D NAND arranges flash cells in 32 layers to achieve a 256Gb multilevel cell (MLC) and a 384Gb triple-level cell (TLC) die. As capacity is achieved by stacking cells vertically, the individual cell dimensions can be considerably larger. This breakthrough is expected to increase both performance and endurance and make even TLC designs well-suited for data center storage.
3D NAND enables gum stick-sized SSDs with more than 3.5TB of storage. When applied to a standard 2.5-inch SSD, the result is a flash device capable of holding more than 10TB. Micron 3D NAND-enabled flash also offers a reduced cost per GB compared to regular NAND devices as well as greater I/O speeds and random read performance.
Micron’s leadership in 3D NAND development demonstrates its understanding of the complexity of small-geometry flash. It can deliver enterprise-class flash resiliency and compact form factors that incorporate NVMe technology. With expertise that spans the entire range from protocol to chip and everything in the server/storage I/O stack in between, including flash and controllers, Micron has the know-how to design in improvements from the ground up for next- generation NVMe devices.
Unlocking Server Storage I/O With Micron
Intel and Micron are on the forefront of jointly developing an entirely new class of nonvolatile memory known as 3D XPoint™ technology — the first new memory category since the introduction of NAND flash in 1989. 3D XPoint technology accelerates nonvolatile memory speeds by several orders of magnitude using unique material compounds and designs.
Its transistor-less cross point architecture creates a three-dimensional checkerboard where memory cells can be addressed individually. This opens the door to data being written and read in small sizes, which enables faster and more efficient read/write processes. The result is a memory technology that is 10 times denser, has up to 1000 times greater endurance and is up to 1000 times faster than conventional memory. This has the potential to revolutionize any device, application or service that benefits from fast access to large sets of data.
Demanding applications and higher tiers of storage are going to gravitate toward NVMe as the storage I/O capabilities of flash and other nonvolatile memory enable modern multi-core processors to complete more useful work in less time.
Micron’s unparalleled expertise in nonvolatile memory and semiconductor systems makes it the ideal partner for any NVMe-related projects. It understands the entire storage-processor-memory ecosystem and how to harness NVMe to build next-generation systems that provide all the processing power, memory and storage that modern, fast-paced applications need. Micron can help you design and fully optimize high-performance, scalable flash-based storage.
Learn more at www.micron.com/storage
About the Authors
Greg Schulz is Founder and Sr. Advisory Analyst of independent IT advisory consultancy firm Server StorageIO (StorageIO) (www.storageio.com; @StorageIO).
Doug Rollins is a Senior Technical Marketing Engineer, Enterprise Solid State Drives, Micron Storage Business Unit (@GreyHairStorage and @MicronStorage).
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