Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is adding a new category of memory support to its server portfolio that combines the speed of RAM with the non-volatile nature of storage to deliver a boost to mission-critical workloads such as online transaction processing or big data analytics.
HPE Persistent Memory was disclosed at the firm's HPE Discover event at the end of 2015, and is set to be a portfolio of products. The first of these is a non-volatile DIMM component, the HPE NVDIMM, which fits into a standard memory slot on a server motherboard.
The HPE NVDIMM is set to be available over the coming weeks in updated versions of HPE's key server models, and is offered initially in an 8GB capacity. However, it actually comprises 8GB of DRAM and 8GB of Nand flash memory, the latter of which is used to store the contents of the DRAM in the event of power being lost.
The NVDIMM fits into a DIMM slot and is therefore accessed via the high-speed memory bus, but it is treated as if it were 8GB of block storage, according to HPE. This means that the servers in question - updated versions of the popular ProLiant DL360 and DL380 models - effectively gain a small pool of super-fast storage.
HPE claimed that this can deliver up to 34 times the number of IOPS than an SSD connected to a SAS interface, with much lower latency as well.
This speed is designed to give a boost to applications such as databases and online transaction processing, big data and searches, but for critical applications customers need the assurance that data will not be lost in the event of a power glitch or if the server goes down, hence the flash backup.
"The technology is NVDIMM-N, which is a JEDEC-defined standard. It's actually a DIMM form factor, so it looks and feels like a regular memory DIMM," said Richard Slyfield, HPE's server options category manager for EMEA.
"On one side of the DIMM it has 8GB DRAM that provides the performance, and on the other side is an 8GB Nand flash that provides the persistence, so in the event of a power failure, any active data will be dumped to the Nand flash rather than being lost."
The latter works in conjunction with HPE's Smart Storage Battery feature that can provide enough power for the server to close down gracefully in the event of a power outage.
HPE is not the first to see the potential of putting non-volatile storage onto a DIMM. Smart Storage Systems (now part of SanDisk) launched an UlltraDimm product a few years ago that used flash memory instead of RAM.
However, HPE is seeking the backing of key software vendors to support its NVDIMM, including Microsoft, Linux developers such as Red Hat and Suse and big data firms such as Hortonworks.
"We're working with Microsoft's SQL Server team heavily to make sure we have drivers in the box for that, also for Windows Server 2012 R2," Slyfield said.
HPE also aims to have drivers ready for Windows Server 2016 that will provide byte-addressable access to the NVDIMM rather than treating it as a block storage device, he claimed.
"The sort of application and workloads where we see this perfectly fitting are big data workloads, analytical workloads and cloud workloads where faster performance is needed for faster SLAs," Slyfield said.
HPE sees this as just the first product in its Persistent Memory portfolio, and future products will further blur the boundary between memory and non-volatile storage, the firm said.
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