Diablo Narrows the Performance Gap Between Flash and DRAM

Posted on August 06, 2014 By Pedro Hernandez

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Diablo made a splash last summer when it unveiled its Memory Channel Storage (MCS) technology. Today, the company unveiled the platform's first major update, called Carbon 2, during the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, Calif.

Rather than plug solid-state drives (SSDs) into an application server's storage subsystem or PCIe bus, Diablo's flash storage slots directly into a server's high-speed DIMM sockets like a stick of DRAM. The result of sitting so close to the CPU is a massive reduction in latencies, 3 to 5 microseconds compared to 25 to 28 microseconds for PCIe SSDs.

"With Carbon 1, we started the move toward memory convergence from the hardware perspective," said Jerome McFarland, principal product marketer for Diablo. The tech also caught the attention of SanDisk, which offers MCS under the ULLtraDIMM SSD banner, and IBM.

The IT giant announced in January that it would begin offering an eXFlash memory option based on MCS on its X series enterprise x86 line of servers. Soon after, Lenovo announced that it was making a $2.3 billion bid for IBM's x86 server business.

The deal, which has yet to close, hasn't affected Diablo's partnership, said Jerome McFarland, principal product marketer, who described the company's dealings during the transition as "business as usual."

Now, the company is busy laying the groundwork for Carbon 2.

Whereas Carbon 1 supported DDR3 memory interfaces, Diablo's Carbon 2 takes the next step up. "Now we're enabling DDR4," McFarland told InfoStor, a move that extends full compatibility with today's advanced server architectures.

Carbon 2 also marks the debut of NanoCommit, software that further blurs the line between high-speed server memory and the company's flash-based MCS modules. "We're now accessing and treating flash more like DRAM," said McFarland. "Now we're really closing that gap."

NanoCommit behaves in a "CPU cache-like" manner than PCIe or SATA/SAS SSDs. The technology "allows you to perform very small writes to flash at high transaction rates," he added, enabling hundreds of millions of transactions per second.

Finally, the company announced its Carbon 2 Reference Design Kit for OEMs and SSD vendors, which includes a DDR4-compatible MCS chipset. The kit also supplies firmware and device drivers for popular Linux distros, Windows Server and VMware ESXi.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.


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