Diablo Technologies comes out of stealth today with an announcement on a unique new product and approach to flash that has not been seen in the industry before. The technology platform is known as Memory Channel Storage™ (MCS) and it is designed to fit into the DRAM memory channels of any server. The storage can then be presented to the system as either storage or RAM. No other vendor has approached flash architecture in this way and once it takes hold in the marketplace, latency will largely be a thing of the past – this will have a massive effect on the systems that drive big data, cloud, databases, and virtualization.
All-New Flash Architecture
This is the first SSD technology that lets you replace all the RAM memory modules inside servers with this new flash DIMM. System capacities can now utilize many terabytes of system memory and instant access to high-speed data. MCS takes advantage of its position sitting on the CPU where applications live. Other traditional SSD technologies are structured where they face distance and contention, stacked behind the I/O hub and PCIe bus. This is particularly painful in clustered environments. MCS’s data path stays within the memory subsystem for rapid, ready access. I/O Acceleration gives you fast, low latency, persistent storage with the best read/write mixed workload performance, much like Violin or Pure Storage solutions do, but reportedly at higher speed. In Application Memory Expansion, system memory can shift from tens of Gigabytes to Terabytes in scale, meaning ultra-fast paging at near DRAM performance. latency and tremendous performance advantages. The solution can also be paired with industry-standard server cache, storage-tiering software for an enhanced system solution.
“Flash SSDs boost system performance, and flash over PCIe is even faster, but the best performance will come from flash on the memory channel,” said Jim Handy, Director at Objective Analysis. “Diablo is on the right path by providing a way to plug flash right into the DDR memory buses on today’s servers.”
MCS technology is compatible with any industry-standard DDR3 memory slot. This allows deployment across the full spectrum of server and storage system designs, chassis’ and form-factors. This architecture is particularly attractive for blade servers, where PCIe slots are severely limited in availability and size, requiring costly and custom designs and reduced flash storage capacity. The memory bus is also designed with a parallel configuration. When you introduce a second MCS flash card, it means a true doubling of performance. That is not the case in PCIe SSD because of a shared bus configuration.
In a briefing with Vice President of Marketing Kevin Wagner, we discussed the emergence and timing of MCS. Diablo is a company with a long background in high performance memory solutions. Based in Ottawa Canada, they are backed by Tier-1 investors with $36 Million in recent funding. They have established an eco-system of industry partners, OEMs, ISV’s and end users in the development of MCS. The product is expected to hit the market just about mid Q4 through a number of OEMs. SMART Storage Systems is a partner and together they’ve working on implementing the technology to deliver Ultra-low Latency Enterprise SSD products. Wagner also demonstrated how a large social networking company that was running on 25,000 highly-tuned, purpose-built high-speed servers evaluated the MCS technology and found they could run the same load on 5,000 servers with MCS implemented.
The following graphic illustrates the performance advantage where a high frequency messaging application, (in this case, an automated financial trading application). If you look closely that flat, red line represents the latency of an MCS-enabled architecture, versus what is represented in blue, the comparative latency statistics of a tuned purpose-built PCIe-based configuration.
The market opportunity is huge as there are many places where ultra-low latency and high performance are required for great efficiency and this MCS architecture is well suited for the business-critical applications that fit this profile. The list of high-demand applications that would see tremendous benefits includes:
- Big Data
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
- High Frequency Trading
- Server and Storage Virtualization
MCS could well be the most disruptive flash technology launched this year. It leverages the performance of the memory channel to accelerate application performance, lower latency, and change the dynamics of flash in the enterprise. Entire new use cases could arise from this incredibly enabling technology, and it could also have a serious impact on the PCIe market. The landscape of competing flash systems offer solutions that sit on the back storage end, and competing architectures may not have an answer due to this basic architectural difference. If we had to pin which configuration would be most likely, it would be the Application Memory Extension, where enterprise applications at scale are hungry for RAM. When MCS technology hits the market it will very likely leave competing flash systems in the dust and be a major disruptive force in the high-performance computing market.
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