Flash Memory Summit 2019 Day 2 – Western Digital

Our second day at Flash Memory Summit (FMS) 2019 was another jam-packed day. Western Digital’s activities before and at the event are so extensive that we’ve broken them out into a full detailed briefing note on their IntelliFlash products and then a detailed write up on their drive and systems technology below.

Western Digital provided Storage Switzerland with two briefings at FMS. First was an update on their flash drive business, the second on their systems business. Western Digital continues to evolve as a drive company, a systems builder, as well as a provider of turnkey systems like their IntelliFlash products. A more detailed write up of those systems is available in our recent briefing note “How to Manage All Your Flash Options”.

From a drive perspective, Western Digital’s Ultrastar is a new family of enterprise solid state disks (SSD). The new family portfolio includes the DC SN640, designed for high-performance mixed workloads typical in an enterprise’s production storage infrastructure. The drives are ideal for virtualized environments and IO intensive database applications. It’s available in capacities up to 37.2 TB and in a variety of form factors including E1.L, U.2, and M.2. Each form factor offers varying degrees of performance and capacity with the E1.L being the best at 30.72 TB and up to 720K random read IOPS. Customers can further tune the SSD for increased capacity or better endurance.

The DC SN340 NVMe SSD is a more value-oriented (less expensive) drive targeted at more read-intensive use cases like content delivery and some Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) environments. It provides a 3.3 GB/s sequential read speed and a 1.5GB/s write speed, and writes that need to be 32KB aligned for consistent performance. The combination makes the drive ideal for organizations that can directly control how and when writes to the media occur. Most content delivery and AI/ML environments have that capability.

Hardware for SDS and HCI

Two trends in the data center are Software Defined Storage (SDS) and Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI). Software drives both environments but most SDS and HCI vendors find out that their customers, especially initially, want to buy the SDS solution pre-integrated with hardware. Western Digital’s Ultrastar Serv products meet that demand. At FMS, we discussed the Ultrastar Serv 24-N four-node NVMe All-Flash Storage Server, designed for HCI and Scale-out SDS. Each 24-4N features four server nodes in a single chassis, simplifying the initial implementation and delivering denser scaling. Each node has dual CPUs with 24 PCIe lanes to six NVMe SSDs extracting the full performance potential of Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe). Each node has access to six of the SSDs and there are three x16 PCIe slots per node.

For non-scale out SDS environments, Western Digital also announced the Ultrastar24+6 which is a 2U, high-density, hybrid storage server designed for data-intensive applications. It provides 24 hard disk drive bays and six NVMe SSDs in the rear bays for data acceleration. There is also no reason that the 24 hard disk drive bays couldn’t also support 24 SAS drives. The SDS vendor could then manage the movement of data between NVMe and SAS tiers for maximum performance and flash durability.

OpenFlex – A Composable Foundation

OpenFlex is a very interesting initiative within Western Digital. It is a hardware architecture designed for the emerging Composable Infrastructure Market. Software developers like DriveScale, Kaminario and Liqid, each of whom we’ve covered in previous briefing notes and articles, are providing solutions for this new, emerging market. The OpenFlex architecture and products allow the disaggregation of storage from compute. This enables applications to share a common pool of storage capacity; all orchestrated by one of the above or other software applications. Western Digital’s OpenFlex F3100 Series Fabric Device wants to be that hardware.

The OpenFlex F3100 Series Fabric Device is a composable, high-performance, Ethernet attached storage device connected to the infrastructure via Non-Volatile Memory Express over Fabric (NVMe-oF). In addition to enabling NAND flash media access using NVM-oF, Western Digital also enabled accessing hard disk drives via the same protocol. This enables accessing all data storage in the same way.

Look for a more in-depth OpenFlex Briefing Note coming from Storage Switzerland soon.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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