The future of storage is lightning fast

We have entered an age of information. Concepts like driverless cars, smart trash disposal systems, cognitive intelligence, blockchain are reaching masses but multi-national companies and innovative start-ups are embracing transformative concepts in day-to-day activities. From power grids to water systems in hospitals and public transportation systems, the growth of real-time data is remarkably high. A data from the year 2012 from International Data Corporation predicts that more than 40 Zettabyte data will be produced by the year 2020. The boom in high-speed internet now have forced us to relook into new estimates, IDC now predicts that more than 100 ZB data will be produced by 2020.

Our current method of storing data, namely Hard Disk Drive and Solid State Drive will be exhausted in just a few years. Data is exploding. Pre-historic DVDs are no match to store 4K content. In the entertainment space, there will be a drive from traditional storage spaces to streaming content. Data storage companies need to constantly upgrade to store new and new data. At this moment while reading this article, data is being transmitted from data centre to your device. With the continuous flow of data, our existing data storage infrastructure is at risk as it may fail at any moment. Recently, a power supply issue in British Airways data centres grounded flights at Heathrow and Gatwick airport, London.

The fastest growing technology in the storage industry is the Solid State Drives. The story of SSD is as old as the evolution of computers. In 1977, Micro memory launched MM-S100 – a non-volatile RAM card at $650 which had a capability to store only 8Kb data. In 1991, SunDisk (now SanDisk) launched world’s first flash SSD to IBM with 20Mb storage capacity at $1000. The hunger for storage improvement soon got its success in 1996 when SiliconDisk II with 1.6 GB capacity was introduced to the newly developed computer market. But it took 10 years for Samsung to use SSD in its Windows run NoteBook. SATA SSDs was introduced in 2007 by Micron and Toshiba.

On SSDs, cells are arranged in such a way so that they could fit the most on the die. More the cells, more the capacity of SSDs. The most basic technology in SSDs is SATA storage drives, the ones which most of us use on our laptops. SATA has key limits which make them less-usable for large data storages. SATAoffersr plenty of bandwidth but when it comes to lightning speed transfers, they lack in performance. In 2010, Intel and Micron announced 25nm NAND flash storage which was considered to be the most advanced technology in semi-conducter industry. 25nm process produces 8 gigabytes (GB) of storage in a single NAND device, creating a high-capacity storage solution for consumer gadgets. 2D NAND flash was soon replaced by 3D NAND flash. With 3D precisioning, it gave the power to store more. In 2015, Samsung began the production of 3TB hard-disk for consumers with 3D Nand flash technology. Now with developments in storage infrastructure, NVMe and QLC flash are today considered to be the gold standard for the future of lightning-fast storage.

NVMe stands for Non-Volatile Memory Express. NVMe has been designed from the ground up with more and deeper queues, supporting a larger number of commands in those queues. This in turn enables the SSD to better optimize command execution for much higher concurrent IOPS. NVMe will co-exist along with SAS, SATA and other server storage I/O technologies for some time to come. NVMe will be at the top tier of storage as it takes full advantage of the inherent speed and low latency of flash. NVMe storage provides efficiency, flexibility, compatibility and latency.

Toshiba and Western Digital announced QLC flash memory storage in Q2 of 2017. QLC NAND flash stores 4 bits per cell. Both the companies said they will introduce 1.5 TB device soon. QLC flash may embark an era large data storage for less money. Soon we would get multiple TB MicroSD cards with QLC flash tech making large data storage possible on consumer electronic devices like Mobiles, SmartTV and Home Automation.

Nutanix and HPE are currently the leaders in hyper converged infrastructure (HCI). HCI is a term coined by Steve Chambers and Forester Research to describe a fully software defined architecture that visualizes all the elements of traditional hardware defined systems. Hyper convergence is able to solve various problems in IT. The emergence of hyper converged systems has revolutionized the way data centers operate. By integrating storage and computing units the entire system becomes more manageable and flexible. Hyper converged infrastructures vashines the use of separate data infrastructure. All you need is to run your firmware on the stack and you can deploy a simpler platform in just days. With improvements in core performance of devices, the future of storage will be indeed lightning fast.

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