What’s Hot in Storage? NVMe over Fabrics, SMR, PMEM and more! Highlights from SNIA’s Storage Developer Conference 2015

October 2, 2015

Author: Stephen Bates (@stepbates)

Introduction

Last week I had the opportunity to attend and present at SNIA’s Storage Developer Conference (SDC). This great technical conference is organized by storage developers for storage developers. SNIA asked me for a commendation for this conference and my reply was:

“I am very excited to be attending this year’s SNIA Storage Developers Conference. It is a fantastically strong line-up of speakers covering critical areas for next generation storage systems. Shingled Magnetic Recording, Software Defined Storage, Scale-Out Storage, RDMA, NVM Express and many other topics are well represented and get to the heart of what storage architects are working on and want they want to hear about.”

This captures the spirit of the event very well.

The Highlights

A friend of mine likes to say:

“The CTO looks at the differential of the revenue curve, the CEO looks at the revenue curve and the CFO looks at the area under the revenue curve!”

SDC is maniacally focused on the differential of the curve. Most of the topics discussed have little to no revenue today but have massive growth ahead of them. At the same time, some topics that make lots of revenue today were not discussed. The things I saw included:

  1. NVM Express over Fabrics. The NVM Express Working Group is making great progress on this standard and we can expect a version 1.0 of this standard very soon. Talks by Mellanox, Chelsio, Aperion, PMC and others demonstrated that several vendors are aligning product with this launch.
  1. Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR). SMR is a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) technology that allows us to cram more data on each HDD, which reduces cost. However, SMR HDDs talk a different language than non-SMR HDDs (you can’t random write to them). There were lots of talks from HGST, WDC, Seagate, Huawei and others on how we can introduce middleware (in the HDD, in an adaptor, in the OS or in the applications) to accommodate SMR HDDs.
  1. Persistent MEMory (PMEM). This is SO COOL ;-)! I spoke at length about some of this work in a previous blog but things have advanced so much since then. Intel has gone public with their PMEM plans around Optane, SNIA’s work on the persistent memory programming model continues to evolve and Intel (and others) are pushing tons of amazing code into both user-space and the Linux kernel. Here at PMC we are leveraging lots of this code for our Donard project to enable PMEM for IO Memory. I plan to do an update blog on that work very soon.

The PMC Talk

My talk at SDC was titled “Donard: NVM Express for Peer-2-Peer between SSDs and other PCIe Devices” and summarized the work we been doing to enable peer-2-peer communication between:

  • NVMe SSDs and GPGPUs from Nvidia.
  • NVMe SSDs and NVRAM cards.
  • NVMe SSDs and RDMA NICs.
  • NVRAM cards and RDMA NICs.

I talked about how this work can reduce latency and CPU loads in applications like next-generation storage arrays, scale-out storage and hyper-converged systems. It was a fun talk with a lot of great questions and comments from the audience.

Donard Platform

Conclusions

SNIA has done a great job with Storage Developer Conference and stayed true to the “by Developers, for Developers” tagline. It’s a great event to get a feel for what’s hot and what’s not in storage and to hob-nob with architects from many of the companies that matter in the storage space. Congrats to SNIA for putting on such a cool event and I look forward to attending again next year!

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