This is a guest post from Mike Montemorra, who is a technology guru with long and successful career in computer industry. Mike keeps an eye on the latest developments in computer and storage technology and publishes his observations weekly. Below is his brief summary of what was important in the past week.
What did we learn last week?
Western Digital sponsored a ‘Tech Field Day’ yesterday and elaborated on their HDD, SSD and datacenter strategies. Nothing too earth-shattering was presented, but the video presos are worth a look if you have time. They remain bullish on 97mm disks and MAMR for 16 and 20TB HDD’s, but were rightly questioned about performance and reliability issues around dual-actuator HDD’s (actually 2 drives inside a single enclosure). I particularly liked their datacenter N-series architecture as it seems to be a low latency, extensible approach to storage management.
This is what 1TB looks like nowadays – MicroSD (HDD folks, eat your hearts out)! The products were announced this week at MWC ’19 by both Micron and SanDisk. Micron is using QLC flash so beware your write duty cycle on this one. At 90-95 MB/s write speeds and even faster read speeds, these little devices are fast enough for consumer products. Next year… 2TB is likely!
However, later this year, we should begin to see products using the new MicroSD Express protocol (an PCIe/NVMe derivative) which will have up to 985 MB/s write speeds. Now that is speed! (Note this new SD spec allows backward compatibility with today’s SD/MicroSD cards.) Too bad most phones and other peripherals won’t soon have all the associated drivers to take advantage of this speed… yet!
As we enter the IoT era, it is going to be critical to have processors with some amount of non-volatile memory onboard. This proof of concept chip brings it all together: Very low power CMOS processor, SRAM and ReRAM. Switching times between power modes is incredibly fast… 2 clock cycles. The ReRAM also demonstrated 5 distinct resistance levels and 2.3 bits/cell which may also be useful for AI and other neural network applications in a more analog storage regime…
Since hot trends in memory is mostly solid-state these days, it is fitting that a few papers on storage were presented at the recent ISSCC (Int’l Solid State Circuits Conf). Jim Handy did a great job summarizing key flash papers from Toshiba, Samsung and Western Digital as well as highlights on SRAM and DRAM developments. The highlight from these papers was (to me at least) the capability of selecting either SLC, TLC or QLC configurations depending on the quality of the die. This capability is going to be a huge breakthrough for device yields. Now all they need is user programmable capacities using this capability – like ‘host managed’ HDD architectures (and I am sure they are working on that)!
Here’s a great article on how memory architectures are changing with the use of Storage Class Memories like MRAM, ReRAM and others. It’s nice to see fab capital equipment makers like LAM Research beginning to integrate memory fabrication into their mainstream equipment. These new designs will accelerate growth of IoT and edge compute in the 5G wireless era!
… and memory prices are way down, reflecting the current market glut conditions, but it is always darkest before the dawn and hopefully a recovery will begin in the second half of CY19.
… and a new entrant to the IoT and edge compute world (Syntiant) with an interesting low-power AI neural-net chip. The only thing this needs is some non-volatile storage class memory to deal with the eventual loss of power at the edge… I’m sure there will be more devices like this as the TAM is going to be huge in coming years!
This new development in DNA research has a lot of potential for massive data storage (and better understanding of how extraterrestrial life might form), but don’t get overly excited about its use in mainstream data storage… DNA storage is slow on both the writing and readback side and, of course, it will crisp up if you get it too hot.
Is molten salt the answer to our next generation nuclear power plant design? It looks like there is activity on this front after many years of churn. Although this design is not ready for commercialization yet, it would be great to see one of these units powering our HDD factories or a giga-fab or ??