In terms of storage, flash is not the end of the road. New storage and memory technologies will continue to come to market. The next step in storage will have the attributes of RAM but add persistence.
Isn’t Flash Perfect?
Flash is not a perfect technology, far from it. There is the well-known durability concern as well as its less than stellar write performance. For now, all of these issues are still a big improvement from the hard disk era.
A better technology is DRAM. It’s write and read speeds are essentially identical. It does not generate the durability concerns flash does, and while more expensive than flash it is coming down in price. It does have one annoying “feature”, if it losses power it loses data, all of it.
A Better DRAM
The next step is DRAM that survives power loss. There are several technologies that offer this capability today, MRAM and RRAM among others. The result is very high capacity, very durable storage and memory technologies that deliver very high performance across all types of workloads. The problem is its density is nowhere near as good as flash memory and it is still expensive.
The Use Cases For Non-Volatile Memory
What are the use cases for very fast, very durable and very expensive storage? The most obvious are applications, especially write intensive ones, that will benefit from this type of performance. Imagine millions of write IO IOPS on a single PCIe card with incredibly low latency.
A more likely use case is all of the flash storage system builders wanting to improve the write performance of their systems and get away from having to use regular RAM with capacitors or batteries. A 32GB NVM cache should easily cache all in-bound writes and reduce wear on the flash media.
A third use case is servers. Imagine a server that would not lose data in memory if power goes down. Instead, it goes into a sleep mode much like a laptop does today.
The New Hybrid Array
Eventually NVM pricing will become more affordable and densities will improve. As that happens NVM will follow a similar, albeit more drawn out, adoption trajectory as flash when it moved into the market. The first step with be a hybrid system that is 3% NVM and 97% flash. Eventually, we’ll see an all-NVM array. But by the time that happens, a new memory competitor will be on the drawing board.
The place to learn about non-volatile memory is the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, CA August 8 to 10. It is one of the most educational events of its type. Whether you are developing the next great flash technology or a data center manager looking to understand how to best leverage flash, there are tracks for you.