I'm at the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California. FMS is the premier flash storage event, so the industry heavyweights are here in force.
And the heaviest company in NAND flash is Samsung, who demonstrated their leadership in a keynote address. They announced several breakthroughs:
- The 48 layer, 256Gbit (32GB), vertical NAND flash chip.
- The world's largest - almost 16TB - drive.
- The world's fastest - 1,000,000 IOPS - drive.
- A 2U box with over 700TB of capacity - roughly 15PB in a single rack.
- And a continuation of their intelligent drive initiative.
That last is the most important. Modern drives contain powerful CPUs that can do much more than manage blocks of bits.
Rather than shipping raw data to hosts, these CPUs could perform local processing, giving hosts only the data they need while reducing network loads and latency. Samsung engineers are working with standards bodies to develop APIs to enable device computation.
The Storage Bits take
Because flash is essentially an analog storage medium - quantum wells holding electrons - continued shrinking of the storage sites is not feasible. To increase capacity, manufacturers have to go vertical, where Samsung has a 6 to 12 month lead over competitors Toshiba and Intel/Micron.
The large and fast drives are technical stunts made possible by Samsung's vertical NAND leadership, which is their crown jewel. The intelligent drive initiative is a long-term play that will benefit hyper-scale data centers first, but which should eventually filter down to enterprise users and perhaps even consumers.
Making the data driven backend processing that our mobile world depends on more efficient is a Very Good Thing. Samsung is helping speed the rate of improvement that flash makes possible, something that benefits us all.
Comments welcome, of course.