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HPE launches NVDIMM, NVMe Persistent Memory products

Gen9 ProLiant storage servers are the focus of HPE's Persistent Memory product launch, including an 8 GB NVDIMM module and a family of PCIe NVMe flash drives.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise today previewed the first products in its HPE Persistent Memory category, unveiling nonvolatile server-side storage optimized for HPE ProLiant Gen9 server hardware.

An 8 GB nonvolatile DIMM (NVDIMM) card and a series of NVMe-compliant PCIe solid-state drives are the first products launched by the HPE Persistent Memory product group, which was created last December. The HPE Persistent Memory products will be used with HPE ProLiant storage servers, including DL360, DL380, DL550, DL580 and ML350 models.

HPE said its Persistent Memory technology provides memorylike speed, with battery-backed flash for storage persistence.

HPE NVDIMM device uses battery-backed NAND

HPE's nonvolatile dual in-line memory module (NVDIMM-N) combines conventional DRAM with NAND flash. The NVDIMM-N is presented to applications as a block storage device, but the flash is not available for consumption. The battery-backed NAND is used exclusively to create a nonvolatile backup layer for workloads served by ProLiant storage with DL360 and DL380 server models.

The HPE ProLiant Gen9 servers, also introduced today, are standardized on Intel's E5-2600 V4 processor, code-named Broadwell. HPE wired the ProLiant motherboard to automatically use HPE Smart Storage Array battery technology to send transactional writes to flash for persistent storage in the event of a power loss.

We aren't saying NVDIMMs will replace SSDs, but they are a complementary technology.
Bret GibbsHPE's Persistent Memory product manager

A 96-watt Smart Storage battery sits directly behind the server's drive cage and supports up to 16 8 GB NVDIMM devices per ProLiant storage server, for 128 GB of memory storage. The battery requires no supercapacitors or wires for power. HPE's Integrated Lights-Out health monitoring provides information on battery life to help combat single points of failure.

Bret Gibbs, HPE's Persistent Memory product manager, said the clustered HPE NVDIMM-N devices provide enough capacity to accelerate large-scale database workloads and other big data analytics applications.

"We aren't saying NVDIMMs will replace SSDs, but they are a complementary technology," Gibbs said. "We have a sample use case in our lab, where we put our NVDIMMs as the front-end cache to SSDs and moved a lot of write latency off the flash. You get a double benefit of faster performance and potentially extending the life of your SSDs."

Vendor-specific Persistent Memory drivers on the drawing board

HPE developed the specs for its Persistent Memory line in conjunction with industry standards bodies JEDEC and the Storage Networking Industry Association. HPE has written its own driver code for Windows Server 2012 R2, while its in-house Linux engineering team has produced an HPE Persistent Memory software development kit aimed at Linux application providers.

Martin Reynolds, a vice president with IT analyst firm Gartner, said HPE Persistent Memory technology overcomes hardware hurdles associated with DRAM architecture.

"We've had nonvolatile resistive RAM systems that run right next to the processor for a very long time, but they are always complicated," Reynolds said. "They've got big batteries, and the software is always a mess. What HPE has done is create a system that takes most of that pain away [associated with] the hardware level. If the system is going down, it copies the DRAM [data] to flash, and then shuts the system down. When you bring the system back up, all of your data is still there and it's all still good."

Gibbs said HPE plans to partner with operating system and application vendors, including Microsoft, Linux, Red Hat and Hortonworks, to support HPE Persistent Memory storage.  Microsoft is expected this week to announce in-box drivers to support ProLiant storage with HPE Persistent Memory products. A byte-addressable SQL Server driver is anticipated from Microsoft later in 2016.

The HPE Persistent Memory NVDIMM is expected to be generally available in May at a list price of $899 per device. Gibbs said support for Persistent Memory NVDIMM will be phased in across the HPE ProLiant ML server line, HPE blades and forthcoming HPE Synergy platform.

Persistent Memory NVMe drives expand PCIe-based ProLiant storage

HPE also released a series of 13 product SKUs for HPE Persistent Memory-based, PCIe-attached NVMe flash drives for read-intensive, write-intensive and mixed-use workloads. The drives are natively persistent. The HPE Smart Storage Battery is only used for backing up data from DRAM to flash on the HPE Smart Array controllers, and for providing the backup power for NVDIMMs to move data from the DRAM to flash on the NVDIMM.

Projected use cases include big data analytics, business intelligence, online transaction-processing applications, virtual desktop infrastructure and Web-scale cloud data centers.

HPE Persistent Memory read-intensive NVMe drives are available in 400 GB, 1.2 TB and 2 TB capacities, and rated for up to 150,000 read IOPS and up to 26,500 write IOPS. 

The write-intensive and mixed-use HPE Persistent Memory NMVe drives come in 400 GB, 800 GB, 1.6 TB and 2 TB capacities. The write-intensive drives are rated for up to 155,000 read IOPS and write performance up to 150,000 IOPS. The mixed-use drives are rated for up to 140,000 random read IOPS, and write IOPS up to 67,000.

The HPE Persistent Memory flash drives are designed around the NVMe industry protocol, which enables SSDs to use the PCIe bus more efficiently. NVMe eliminates host bus adapters to connect directly to flash storage via the PCIe link, which potentially reduces latency and power consumption.

HPE started shipping branded NVMe add-in cards in 2015. The latest batch of HPE 2.5-inch NVMe drives attach directly to HPE ProLiant DL360, DL380, DL560, DL580 and ML350 Gen9 server hardware. The SSDs are accessed from the front server panel via an optional bundled Express Bay Enablement Kit.

Depending on the server model, customers can install from two to six HPE PCIe NVMe SSDs for scalable ProLiant storage up to 38 TB per system, said Thomas Brooks, an HPE senior product marketing manager for SSDs.

Brooks said the NVMe devices are tailored for consolidating enterprise databases to reduce licensing costs.

"NVMe is a ground-up specification that allows HPE and our suppliers to deliver better efficiency, scalability, performance and error correction. Another advantage is our standard in-box drivers that make it easier for customers to use and maintain the drives," Brooks said.

The next piece of the puzzle will be lining up the software ecosystem, which Gartner's Reynolds characterized as "a long-range thing." He said HPE has a head start by scripting its own storage driver.

"They've created a driver that makes the extra memory look like a disk drive," he said. "Now, you have an impossibly fast SSD sitting right on the memory bus. It lets HPE bring the benefits to a lot of applications, without the applications needing to know anything."

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