* Posts by Alex McDonald (NetApp)

7 posts • joined 20 Feb 2018

Keen for much-hyped quantum computing to finally land? Don't expect it for a decade

Alex McDonald (NetApp)

Qubits missing

Quantum grammar checker says s/cable/capable/

Prepare to have your minds blown, storage industry. 5 words: Client access Optane DIMM caching

Alex McDonald (NetApp)
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Re: IO Elimination???

Von Neumann didn't really have much to say about I/O or storage.

More relevant is what Thompson & Ritchie delivered with Unix. They decided everything (well most things) outside of memory looked like files or streams. Unix & other OSes took different kinds of incompatible block devices over which were built software stacks to make them look like uniform block devices (standardized on SCSI, and now also NMVe). Then they put a file system (there are now many varieties) over the block devices, and from there we get byte addressable files or streams.

Now we're entering an era where persistent memory is really going to change the way we deal with data; Peglar is absolutely right there. This PM stuff is fundamentally different from block based disks; it's byte addressable. We can do loads and stores on individual addresses, and we don't need the gymnastics & overhead of taking load/store memory semantics, building a layer that makes it look like a block device, then putting another layer over the top that makes it look like a stream or file. The difference is the persistence. Oh, and the performance. Although slower than DRAM it's much faster than flash.

If you want to know a lot more, go to the SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) site at https://www.snia.org/PM

In the meanwhile, the best way of using this is to employ it the way we know how right now. Making superfast low latency and high bandwdith storage devices & caches that can speed up operations by orders of magnitude is A Very Good Thing.

You lead the all-flash array market. And you, you, you, you, you and you...

Alex McDonald (NetApp)

Re: What's the value anymore?

Old saying; bandwidth is an engineering problem, only God can fix latency. Agreed, It’s all about the latency.

With flash we’re getting a factor of up to 10^3 improvement over the low milliseconds we’ve had for the last few decades. That’s a big difference.

Do Optane's prospects look DIMM? Chip chap has questions for Intel

Alex McDonald (NetApp)

Yes, the industry is aware of some of the outstanding problems. From a security perspective, JEDEC are working on a spec for self encrypting NVDIMMs. We'll have a solution shortly.

There is a huge amount of other information at https://www.snia.org/forums/sssi/nvmp (Non Volatile Memory (NVM) Programming Technical Work Group) that does technical work, and https://www.snia.org/forums/sssi/NVDIMM (Persistent Memory and NVDIMM Special Interest Group) that has a large selection of educational material on this subject. There is a regular conference on Persistent Memory run every year; more information, including all the presentations inclduing the last 2018 confernece are here https://www.snia.org/pm-summit

(Alex, Co-chair, SNIA Solid State Storage Initiative)

Big Blue plumps up storage line with filer and fabrics

Alex McDonald (NetApp)

Re: NVMeoF

I disagree. The NetApp E570 has 100µs latency; that's significantly lower than a non-NMVe front end. I can't link in a prior reply to this from John Martin of NetApp, so here's a cut & paste. Long, but a good read.


The importance of end to end NVMe to media is a tad overinflated with NAND

The difference between NVMe and SAS protocols is about 20µs, and media access on flash drives using NVMe interfaces are still about 80µs on both NVMe attached and SAS attached drives. Hence adding NVMe attached NAND media might give you about 20µs of better latency which is good, but not really worth the hype that seems to be poured all over the NVMe discussion.

With NAND, anything offering lower latency level lower than 100µs going to be accessing the majority of its data from DRAM or NVDIMM or something else which isn't NAND Flash .. e.g. 30µs - 50µs for a write is going to NVRAM .. I don't have the numbers for an EF write, but I'm pretty sure its in the same ballpark [it's 100µs as I said above].

The other advantages NVMe has is more PCI lanes per drive (typically 4 vs 2 for one enterprise SAS drive) and better queue depths which don't get used in practice and don't seem to make a difference in the vast majority of workloads. I blogged about this here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-cool-nvme-throughput-john-martin/ and here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-cool-nvme-part-3-waiting-queues-john-martin/

The big benefit of NVMe from the client to the host is that it requires way less CPU to process I/O, so for environments like HPC where you are running the CPU's really hot, giving back a bunch of CPU cores to process 1,000,000's of IOPS is a worthwhile thing. It also helps on the storage array as well because processing NVMe on the target also requires less CPU which is often the gating factor for performance on the controller, but that CPU impact of doing SCSI I/O is a relatively small portion of the overall CPU budget on an array (vs Erasure coding, replication, snapshots, read-ahead algorithms and T10 checksums etc), so reducing the I/O CPU budget is going to have a useful, but hardly revolutionary improvement in controller utilisation, and having scale-out architectures are a better long term way of addressing the CPU vs performance issue for storage controllers.

As far as the apparent fixation on needing NVMe media to get the best out of flash, even ONTAP including inline compression and deduce with FCP at the front and SAS at the back end is able to achieve significantly better latency than a certain high profile all flash array that purely uses NVMe media. Getting significant performance improvements will be more about software stacks and media types than whether you can save 20 microseconds by moving from SAS to NVMe.

So, can things go faster by using NVMe end to end .. yes, will it be a revolutionary jump, no, unless you're using something way faster than typical NAND, but if you're going to do that, you're going to want to optimise the entire I/O stack, including the drivers, volume and filesystem layers which is where something like PlexiStor comes in.

Alex McDonald (NetApp)


We think IBM is the second mainstream storage supplier to do this, and the only active one. Dell EMC did get there first with DSSD but killed the product - it was proprietary tech and customers wanted commodity NVMe technology

Well, IBM joins NetApp doing NVMe over Fabric; we've been doing it with the EF570 and E5700 since November 2017. https://blog.netapp.com/ef570-and-e5700-with-nvme-of/

Hot NAND: Samsung wheels out 30TB SSD monster

Alex McDonald (NetApp)

Re: Backup

An incremental snapshot isn't a thing. They shouldn't take forever if they are a snapshot; more like seconds to go back. That sounds more like a differential or incremental backup to me.

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