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Chinese vendor Memblaze enters U.S. market with NVMe flash

Chinese storage vendor Memblaze flashes NVMe storage line at U.S. enterprises; adopts NVMe spec to take on Fusion-io, Intel.

Chinese flash storage vendor Beijing Memblaze Technology Co. Ltd., will move into the U.S. market with the release of its non-volatile memory express (NVMe)-based PBlaze4 Hardware Flash Accelerator card this year and an NVMe controller in 2015.

Memblaze had its U.S. coming out during the Flash Memory Summit last week in Santa Clara, Calif. Memblaze was founded in 2011 but has focused exclusively on selling its PBlaze3 PCIe cards to hyper-scale computing organizations in China. The PBlaze4 device, scheduled for general availability by the end of January 2015, will be released in the U.S. It is also Memblaze's first flash accelerator to support the NVMe specification. PBlaze3 is compatible with a PCIe 2.1 interface.

Memblaze is also planning to release FlashRAID NVMe-based PCIe 3.0 controllers next year. Memblaze said each FlashRAID controller will support up to 12 solid-state drives to provide the equivalent of 1,200 NAND flash memory dies and use global wear leveling to tolerate up to 50 die failures.

Memblaze FlashRAID Solution will be available in three capacity models: 4 TB FlashRAID I, 8 TB FlashRAID II, and 16 TB FlashRAID III.

Memblaze said it adopted the NVMe spec for PBlaze4 to reduce dependency on host memory and differentiate its flash drive from leading PCIe card manufacturer Fusion-io, which was acquired in June by SanDisk Corp. for $1.1 billion. The NVMe standard enables solid-state drives to use a PCIe bus more efficiently by directly connecting storage to CPU power.

Memblaze's PCIe drives use "device-based architecture" that includes an embedded CPU to manage flash metadata. The company claims its technology consumes fewer system resources when accelerating the performance and reliability of storage.

"We chose to put our memory on the PCIe card rather than the system, so customers can capacity-plan their memory in advance of procuring their systems," said John Baskett, who joined Memblaze in July as vice president of North America business development.

Memblaze's customers in China use custom kernels to design hyper-scale storage systems. With the U.S. launch of PBlaze4, Baskett said the plan is to sell to the enterprise data centers through OEM partners.

In addition to taking on Fusion-io, Baskett claims the PBlaze4 will compete with Intel Corp.'s DC P3600 and DC P3700 line of NVMe-based PCIe cards, which were released in June.

"We're not trying to take down Intel. We just know NVMe is going to be a big part of our future. There aren't a lot of NVMe suppliers, though, so they have the challenge of going up against Intel, too. We believe partnering with [suppliers] will help us garner some market share," said Baskett, although he declined to elaborate on potential OEM deals.

Pblaze devices available in 38 capacities, include MLC, SLC NAND flash configurations

The PBlaze devices are available in 38 capacities using Memblaze's Pianokey technology to add memory in 50 GB increments. PBlaze cards include multilevel cell (MLC) NAND and single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash configurations. Pianokey enables the MLC-based drives to expand to 2.4 TB capacity, while the SLC drives top out at 1.2 TB.

The PBlaze3 product family includes four models: the PBlaze3H MLC and PBlaze3L MLC, the PBlaze3H SLC and the PBlaze3L SLC. The PBlaze 3MH MLC features the highest capacity, starting at 1.2 TB and expanding in 50 GB increments up to 2.4 TB. It is rated for read bandwidth up to 3.2 Gbps and write bandwidth up to 2.2 Gbps, with 750,000 random read IOPS and 260,000 random write IOPS.

The PBlaze3L MLC ranges from 600 GB to 1.2 TB with read bandwidth up to 2.4 Gbps, write bandwidth up to 1.1 Gbps, 615,000 random read IOPS and 130,000 random write IOPS.

The highest-capacity SLC model is the PBlaze3H SLC, ranging from 600 GB to 1.2 TB, with read bandwidth up to 3.5 Gbps, write bandwidth up to 2.5 Gbps, 800,000 random read IOPS and 280,000 random write IOPS.

The PBlaze3L SLC ranges in capacity from 300 GB to 600 GB with 2.5 Gbps read bandwidth, 1.3 Gbps write bandwidth, 630,000 random read IOPS and 155,000 random write IOPS.

Baskett said the FlashRAID devices are designed to adapt to the characteristics of redundant array of independent disks (RAID) systems to flash storage, giving offering performance superior to RAID 0 latency, with erasure coding properties of RAID 5 and RAID 6.

Memblaze last week also received $20 million in Series C venture funding to develop its technology from a consortium of institutional investors led by Bertelsmann Asia Investments.

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