Category: Storage

DNA could be your new hard-drive

DNADNA could be used to store digital information and preserve essential knowledge for thousands of years.

Scientists exploring the archiving DNA conducted a test in which error-free data was downloaded after the equivalent of 2,000 years.

The next challenge is to find a way of searching for information encoded in strands of DNA floating in a drop of liquid.

Lead researcher Dr Robert Grass, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), said: “If you go back to medieval times in Europe, we had monks writing in books to transmit information for the future, and some of those books still exist. Now, we save information on hard drives, which wear out in a few decades.”

DNA has a “language” not unlike the binary code used in computers, said Dr Grass. While a hard drive uses zeros and ones to represent data, the DNA code is written in sequences of four chemical nucleotides, known as A,C,T and G.

DNA can pack more information into a smaller space, and also has the advantage of durability.

In theory, a fraction of an ounce of DNA could store more than 300,000 terabytes of data, said Dr Grass. And archaeological finds had shown that DNA dating back hundreds of thousands of years can still be sequenced today.

Grass’s team managed to encode DNA with 83 kilobytes of text from the 1921 Swiss Federal Charter, and a copy of Archimedes’ famous work The Method dating from the 10th century.

The DNA was encapsulated in silica spheres and warmed to nearly 71C for a week – the equivalent of keeping it for 2,000 years at 10C. When decoded, it was found to be error-free.

The scientists are now working on ways to label specific pieces of information on DNA strands to make them searchable.

DNA storage could be used to preserve troves of historical texts, government documents or entire archives of private companies – all in a single drop.

Currently, though, the technology is pricy. Encoding a few megabytes of data in DNA would set you back “thousands of dollars” and personal drives are a long way off.

Intel shows off high optane drive

optaneIntel has used its developer’s forum in San Francisco to show off a new form of storage device which can operate as much as 1,000 times as fast as the flash memory

Dubbed Optane drives, they have been touted as new way to store digital data that can operate as much as 1,000 times  faster than  flash.

Intel sheepishly said that the first Optane drives won’t be that much faster than today’s data storage. The early prototype shown by Intel at its annual developer conference in San Francisco yesterday was seven times as fast as a top-of-the-range flash disk drive. However Intel points out that Optane drives may perform better by the time they hit the market in 2016.

Intel’s Optane drives are based on a technology called 3D Xpoint, developed in collaboration with Micron.

Rob Crooke, a general manager on Intel’s memory project, said that they would improve gaming, supercomputers, and data analysis.

Intel says its technology is affordable enough that Optane drives will be made available next year for uses ranging from large corporate data centres to lightweight laptops.

“We expect to see breakthroughs in personalised medicine and in business analytics to allow companies, cities, and maybe countries to run more efficiently,” Crooke said.

A 3D Xpoint chip instead has a grid formed from metal wires layered over one another; data is stored by using electricity to change the arrangement of atoms inside material trapped at each junction of the grid.

3D Xpoint chips hold onto data even when powered down and while they can’t currently store data as densely, Xpoint grids can be stacked vertically, providing a route to storing more data on one chip.

The basic design is similar to HPs memristors and startups are working on similar technology. But Intel is the only company promising complete hard drives on the market next year. HP recently scaled back its memristor plans .

Symantec sells Veritas to Carlyle

CarlisleSoftware security company Symantec has decided to sell off its data storage business Veritas to private equity firm Carlyle.

It is all rumour and speculation at the moment, but the deal could be officially announced today when Symantec reports its quarterly earnings.

Carlyle is saying nothing but the deal has leaked already. Bloomberg had reported first last month that Symantec was nearing a deal to sell Veritas to Carlyle for between $7 billion and $8 billion.

Symantec has been seeking buyers for Veritas for several months, but interest from potential buyers was limited because of a tax burden associated with splitting the company.

Symantec had been planning to separate its business focused on corporate and consumer security software, which had $4.2 billion in revenue last year, from Veritas, which has about $2.5 billion in revenue.

Carlisle was a bit of a headache for Mary Queen of Scots, we hope that Symantec’s storage outfit does not meet a similar fate.

Viking Technology and Sony in ReRAM memory mashup

Viking-+-Sony-LogoViking Technology, a Sanmina Company, announced that it  is  collaborating with Sony Corporation to bring ReRAM Storage Class Memory to the NVDIMM market.

“Viking has a strong legacy developing Non-Volatile DIMM (NVDIMM) products over several generations from DDR2 to DDR4,” said Hamid Shokrgozar, President, Viking Technology. “This partnership with Sony solidifies a long term roadmap for our NVDIMM products by utilizing next generation ReRAM Storage Class Memory from Sony. This product roadmap is also very important for our customers, who are deploying this key technology in their next generation computing and storage products. It also sets the stage for future Persistent Memory module solutions not only for Viking but for the enterprise storage and server markets.”

According to the company’s announcement, “The collaboration between the companies launches a significant advance in Storage Class Memory system product development, designed specifically for enterprise computing customers. Sony ReRAM Storage Class Memory delivers performance and endurance that greatly exceeds NAND flash, while simultaneously providing the data non-volatility and module memory capacity desired for persistent applications”.

“We are excited and looking forward to the co-development with Viking Technology on the next generation of NVDIMM products,” said Terushi Shimizu, Senior Vice President and Deputy President of Device Solutions Business Group, Sony Corporation. “At this stage in ReRAM development, we are looking ahead to the implementation of this technology accelerating real-world cloud datacenter applications such as In-Memory Databases and Real Time Analytics. This will prove to be an exciting new chapter in the decade long development of our ReRAM memory technology.”

Non-Volatile DIMMs, often termed NVDIMMs, are designed to deliver high performance, endurance and reliability to next generation servers that are NVDIMM enabled. Traditionally, enterprise applications could not depend on main memory (DRAM) alone because it is volatile (loss of data upon power failure). Therefore, batteries, Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS’s) and techniques such as check-pointing have been used to ensure data durability, but at the cost of performance. NVDIMMs now enable server and storage arrays to utilize persistent memory that delivers both the highest performance and 100 percent data integrity.

The Coming out of ReRAM; a Resistive Memory Family Member

The real eye opener is the strange bedfellows that are making a sudden appearance in what can only be called the “Resistive Memory Rush”. Most in the analyst community expected such a forward thinking announcement to be coming from companies like Samsung, Toshiba and SK Hynix. That it came from Viking and Sony only makes sense if you’ve been immersed in the ruminations of the resistive universe for the last 15 years.

In discussions with Viking over the past several years I’ve asked about how they expected to position the company with the coming advent of In-Memory Database computing – this is their answer.

Of all the companies that have gone from memory modules to SSDs Viking is to date the only company to make the tie-up with a semiconductor supplier of resistive memory with the potential IMDB marketplace. Viking has set their strategy on supplying the IMDB marketplace with what might be called “Storage Class DIMMs” that support legacy DRAM with DDR4 stacked DRAMs coupled with Persistent Storage provided by Sony ReRAMs.

TechEye Take

This announcement, in no small way, adds further credence to the validation of resistive RAM as a key element in systems that will be announced in the next several days and should quiet the naysaying into obscurity.

The downside is the lack of numbers. Intel/Micron hasn’t provided any except comparison numbers but none that could be plugged into an Excel spreadsheet. Stay tuned…,

Flash memory summit 2015 thanks us for the memories

FMS15The tenth annual Flash Memory Summit 2015 opens tomorrow at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. This year’s gathering promises to not only overflow on attendance (up 33% from last year) but also on discovery of Intel/Micron’s recent announcement of 3D XPoint non-volatile memory.

Micron will be holding a special, invitation only, session on the terrace at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara on Wednesday the 12th from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. From what we’ve been able to uncover it appears that the next two weeks are going to be some of the most intense weeks in the company’s history. On Friday the 14th Micron will be convening their Summer Analyst Conference at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel beginning at the crisp hour of 8:00 AM. The company had to squeeze in their Summer Analyst Conference before more breaking news fulminating from Intel’s Developer Forum 2015 being held the following week at San Francisco’s Moscone Center West. Intel/Micron plan to further expose the world to a number of new ground breaking developments resulting from the two companies continued technology partnership – Intel Micron Flash Technology (IMFT).

There’s also this persistent rumor that an important tech company has rented the Buena Vista Center for the Performing Arts for a major announcement. Who it is and what they plan to announce has become the sport of speculators. Some are leaning toward Apple while others are laying odds on Microsoft. Will this rumor live up to anything valid? Stay tuned.

3D XPoint (3D Crosspoint Memory)

Intel/Micron’s announcement two weeks ago caused a major stir even though the event has been on Micron’s technology roadmap for the last several years. Both Samsung and SK Hynix were taken aback when they learned that the product will be in production in the fourth quarter of this year. They didn’t expect production of Storage Class Memory (SCM) also known as Persistent Memory (especially if you work the Intel side of the equation) to begin until 2017 at the earliest.

3D XPoint memory is 1,000 times faster, has 1,000 times more endurance than NAND and is 10 times denser than DRAM. It is the first new class of non-volatile memory to enter the market in 25 years. This is upsetting a goodly amount of status quo.

3D XPoint technology, though clearly indicated on Micron’s corporate roadmap, remained a well-kept secret by Intel/Micron. For those that follow such things this was illustrated by the fact that neither company participated in any of the usual technology forums reporting on the subject. Adding to the mystery, researchers associated with IMEC, the foremost semiconductor research center in Europe suddenly shifted investigations over to ReRAM and RRAM beginning in February of this Year. Collectively these events are seen as signatory markers indicating an undisclosed agreement among researchers that the technology path has now become perfectly clear.

Intel/Micron also stated that they have no plan to license the technology. The two companies will build more factories if the demand merits it. The news that they weren’t planning to play the commodity game with their new technology produced some pretty interesting reactions. The Korean producers, who have been literally caught with their pants down, are in a mad scramble to recover. This is not to say a company like Samsung doesn’t have the ability to cover this, it’s just that Intel/Micron may have just gotten lucky – they repeated that the technology concerns a “bulk change of the material” which has the entire research community outside of Intel/Micron spiked in conversation over it. One interesting tidbit is that Micron has been filing patent wrappers referring to the memory element as a “Programmable Conductive RAM”, which confused many as phase-change which it isn’t.

Confused yet? Don’t worry – everybody else is too.

Intel, on their 3D Xpoint page makes the following statements;

“This new class of non-volatile memory is a revolutionary technology that allows for quick access to enormous data sets and enables entirely new applications.”

And

 “For example, retailers may use 3D XPoint technology to more quickly identify fraud detection patterns in financial transactions; healthcare researchers could process and analyze larger data sets in real time, accelerating complex tasks such as genetic analysis and disease tracking”.

Both indicate the new memory is directed toward In-Memory Database applications expanding the memory capacity of Xeon class servers to ~64 Terabytes of accessible memory shared between DDR4 DRAM and 3D XPoint. According to one source “these statements make it clear that Intel’s intentions are solving the “Big Data” problem in the “In-Memory Database server segment with the new technology. All that’s left is for the hardware to roll out along with glowing endorsements from the usual list of suspects”.

TechEye Take

The Intel/Micron 3D XPoint announcement was somewhat rushed indicating that all the right things fell in place just in time to enable the two companies to pre-announce prior to the Flash Memory Summit and the Intel Developer Forum.

That the technology happens to fit nicely into the IMDB solution set is not happenstance – this is the result of a long and arduous planning process coupled with what appears to have been a long period of research and development to obtain a ‘Goldilocks” formulaic – just right to enable the 3D XPoint technology.

Intel captures a solid Tier1 order book for their high margin devices and both companies will be providing XPoint memory enabled DIMMs to fill up those 64 Terabyte servers. This is what their competition is really upset over, the loss of technological face in full view of the customer.

Of course there is much, much more but that’s the top of the headlines list – and the line-up of shows begins this week at the Flash Memory Summit.

UK government to expel the Oracles

Consulting-the-Oracle-JWW-1884The UK government has decided to purge its systems of Larry Ellison’s Oracle software.

The UK Cabinet Office has reportedly asked departments and agencies to try to find ways to end their reliance on Oracle software.

Seemingly there are a large number of Oracle licences currently supported within the U.K. government and some of departments already pay for licences of their own as well as separate software versions.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) alone has paid $2 million per year for some two million Oracle licences, or about 200 licences per staff member.

Part of the problem is that Oracle keeps putting its prices up and the company is not interested in providing discounts. The government is also to blame for not having a coherent software buying policy.

What might keep Oracle’s foot on the throat of the UK government is that its software is embedded it a way which makes its removal difficult.  However the ruling could mean that Oracle loses out on new contracts.

Intel-Micron announce 3D XPoint SCM technology

What-is-3D-XPointIntel and Micron announced their jointly developed 3D XPoint technology at an analyst meeting today in Santa Clara, California.

Rob Crooke, Senior VP & GM of the Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) Solutions Group, Intel Corporation and Mark Durcan, CEO Micron Technology took the stage to present the jointly developed 3D XPoint memory technology. The 300 mm wafer shown in the presentation was produced at Micron’s Lehi, Utah fab. The new devices are debuting as 128Gb, 2 Layer, Byte Addressable devices that use “bulk material property change” process – availability is limited to what’s “in (joint) production facility today” though 2016 was stated by Durcan.

The 3D XPoint technology is 1,000 times faster than Flash, 1,000 times the duration of Flash and 10 times the density of DRAM.

The new technology has been widely circulating as “Persistent Memory” and “Storage Class Memory” until now and has been widely speculated upon. One interesting quote, “no other competitors have the technology” indicates that Intel-Micron has scooped their competition in the cloud access storage marketplace.


3D XPoint Innovations

Cross Point Array Structure
Perpendicular conductors connect 128 billion densely packed memory cells. Each memory cell stores a single bit of data. This compact structure results in high performance and high density.

Stackable
The initial technology stores 128Gb per die across two stacked memory layers. Future generations of this technology can increase the number of memory layers and/or use traditional lithographic pitch scaling to increase die capacity.

Selector
Memory cells are accessed and written or read by varying the amount of voltage sent to each selector. This eliminates the need for transistors, increasing capacity and reducing cost.

Fast Switching Cell
With a small cell size, fast switching selector, low-latency cross point array, and fast write algorithm, the cell is able to switch states faster than any existing nonvolatile memory technologies today.

Fast Switching Cell
With a small cell size, fast switching selector, low-latency cross point array, and fast write algorithm, the cell is able to switch states faster than any existing nonvolatile memory technologies today.

Byte Addressable Data
3D Xpoint technology allows data to be directly addressed at the byte level. Access to DRAM and 3D Xpoint memory uses the same addressing model greatly simplifying the CPU interface to data and enables Near Data Processing within an In-Memory Database system.

TechEye Take

This announcement was evidently rushed in order to beat the pre Flash Memory Summit press announcements next week – and they “blew the socks off the competition” according to one analyst source. Over 100 engineers have been involved in these well camouflaged developments which indicate the companies have spent in the billions of dollars on this program. Oh, and 3D Xpoint use Micron’s planar process indicating that the technology is near term to production. There is no mention made of TSV stacking but from all indications this technology will enter the market as stacked devices. From what we can ascertain this technology is in “rollout” – we expect production volumes ramping much sooner than might usually be expected. 

The “bulk material property change” provides no indication about process details. Connecting the memory elements with their bit-lines remains unclear – whether it’s a diode switching element or an Ovonic Switch remains to be revealed. In fact all the good questions remain unanswered – more fodder for later.

Storage market hit by currency swings

EMC storageAlthough enterprises are buying more external storage systems than ever before, fluctuations in currencies are wreaking havoc with the figures.

IDC said that’s particularly true in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) where the market fell by six percent in the first quarter of this year, with revenues of $1.7 billion.

But while the value fell during the quarter, capacity grew by 16 percent during the quarter, amounting to 2.9 exabytes.

There are some underlying trends in EMEA, in common with other regions, however. “High growth segments such as cloud and flash have been spared by the drop in investments,” said Silvia Cosso, a senior research analyst at IDC.

The growth in data volumes means European enterprises are adopting flash arrays, because they are fast to respond and have high performance. IDC said the number of flash units shipping increases every quarter. Economies of scale are driving prices down.

Aside from the weakness of the euro, longer IT buying cycles and enterprises moving to cloud storage also accounted for the decline in the first quarter.

The top vendors in EMEA were EMC, NetApp, HP, IBM and Dell – with EMC having the clear lead with 25.39 percent of the market. However, the “others” – which includes original design manufacturers (ODMs) had a 24.69 percent share, bucking the declines suffered in the quarter by the multinational names.

World faces Zombie data centre crisis

zombieIf global warming was not enough, it seems that the world is waking up to the fact that it has a plague of zombie data centres.

A new study says that 30 percent of all physical servers in data centres are comatose, or are using energy but aren’t doing anything useful.

According to Jonathan Koomey, a research fellow at Stanford University, the problem has been around for a while, as the percentage hasn’t changed since 2008.

He used data collected by TSO Logic, an energy efficiency software vendor, from nearly 4,000 physical servers in customer data centres. They decided that a server is considered comatose if it hasn’t done anything for at least six months, which would be an interesting definition if applied to a human.

Koomey said it was not a technical matter as much as a management problem but  more work is needed to confirm or refute those numbers.

IDC estimated the number of physical servers worldwide last year at 41.4 million; that figure is expected to grow to 42.8 million by the end of this year.

A study last year by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), with the help of major vendors, estimated that in the U.S. alone data centres used 91 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical energy in 2013.

That use is expected to increase 53 percent by 2020.

It estimated that electrical usage could be reduced by 40 percent by getting rid of zombie servers and improving energy efficiency. That figure represents only half of the technically possible reduction in energy use.

It is the smaller data centres which were the problem rather than the big clouds.

Samsung SSD TRIMs data

Samsung-SSD-ActivatedSamsung may have inadvertently trimmed their sales. A story on StorageServers yesterday suggests that Samsung’s SSDs “could be wiping data” due to the SSD Controller’s improper functioning of the TRIM command.

The TRIM command allows the Operating System to inform a Solid State Drive which blocks of data are no longer considered in use and can be erased. The Trim command was introduced soon after SSDs started to become an affordable alternative to traditional hard disks.

Because low-level operation of SSDs differs significantly from hard drives, the typical way in which operating systems handle operations like deletes and formats resulted in unanticipated progressive performance degradation of write operations on SSDs.
Trimming enables the SSD to handle garbage collection overhead, which would otherwise significantly slow down future write operations.

According to StorageServers, an engineer with Algolia claimed to have discovered the bug in the way in which the drive reallocates blocks of data. Instead of zeroing areas which contain previously deleted data as they are supposed to, the drives appear to be deleting 512 byte blocks in “random locations on the drive” resulting in corruption of large file systems and near total erasure of small files. Hope of recovering the data was reported as “a tedious task” at best.

Samsung SSD models confirmed with the problem are:

  • Samsung MZ7WD480HCGM-00003(SM843TN)
  • Samsung MZ7GE480HMHP-00003(PM853T)
  • Samsung MZ7GE240HMGR-00003(PM853T)
  • Samsung SSD 840 PRO Series
  • Samsung SSD 850 PRO 512GB

Samsung recently issued a firmware update to fix problems with the 840 EVO SSD which exhibited slow read speeds. A new team has been assigned to look into the TRIM data erasure/corruption problem and will be issuing an update shortly.

TechEye Take

Samsung does not like stains like this and will break out the reserves to not only fix the problem but also ensure that it does not re-occur.

We are trying to find out whether any of the affected drives contain any of Samsung’s 3D NAND-Flash devices.  They are not indicated as having any part in the reported problem.

It will be interesting to see whether this will have a positive effect on their competitors ‘share price on Monday’s market open…,