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HPE Unveils Persistent Memory NVDIMMs For ProLiant Gen9 Servers

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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HPE announced that its new ProLiant Gen9 server portfolio will be the industry's first server platform to provide native support for NVDIMMs with its HPE Persistent Memory products. Persistent memory is a hot topic as the storage and memory industry reach for the next level of performance beyond flash. 

SSDs provide incredible performance in comparison to disk-based storage, and one of the attractive SSD attributes is its persistence. This means that any data written to the device will survive when power is removed from the device, such as during a power loss or a simple power cycle. There are other types of memory that are exponentially faster than flash, such as DRAM, but they lose data when the power source is removed.

The solution is to meld both DRAM and NAND (which is the key component found on an SSD) into one solution. The resulting NVDIMM serves data from the DRAM to provide the ultimate in speed and performance, but will persist data to the onboard NAND packages in the event of an unexpected power loss, thus ensuring data permanence. The devices look similar to a standard DDR4 module and are inserted into supported memory slots, and then used as either memory or a standard block device (storage volume). This allows the speedy device to satisfy a wide range of workloads, such as in-memory databases, RAID caches, analytics and OLTP applications.

The fast-moving NVDIMM segment is projected to expand to $2 billion by 2019, and there are a number of companies lining up to provide the next generation storage devices, such as Micron, Netlist, Viking Technology and PMC Sierra.

The HPE Proliant Gen9 servers employ Micron's NVDIMMs (covered here) as the persistent data store. The co-developed Micron/AgigA Tech 8GB NVDIMM-N solutions feature DRAM and NAND together on the DIMM.

There are a number of competing NVDIMM solutions on the market and all require some form of battery to flush data in the DRAM to the NAND in the event of an unsafe power loss. However,  Micron's solution is the only NVDIMM that accepts 12V power directly from the memory slot itself, while competing solutions connect via wires that are routed to tethered supercapacitors.

HPE connects the NVDIMMs to its 96W Lithium-ion HPE Smart Storage Battery directly through the motherboard to eliminate wire routing complications. The 1U HPE ProLiant Gen9 servers support up to 16 DIMMs, but there are specific DRAM population rules that apply. The increasing density of DDR4 DRAM (HPE is also announcing 128GB DDR4 memory modules) help offset any loss of DRAM capacity from employing the comparatively less-spacious NVDIMMs.

HPE is also focusing on developing a rich software and operating system ecosystem to further NVDIMM applications. The NVDIMMs work with Linux using the pmem.io driver and HPE is the first purveyor of NVMDIMMs to support Windows 2012 R2. HPE also provides an SDK (Software Developer Kit) for Linux so that developers can quickly deploy the new solutions into the application stack.

The company is also working with several standards bodies, such as JEDEC and SNIA, to adhere to industry standards. This will help foster speedy adoption of the interface among key industry players.

Micron indicated at its launch that its NVDIMMs serve as the foundation of its forthcoming 3D XPoint products, and during our conversation with HPE, the company indicated that it is already in the process of evaluating 3D XPoint for future use on its NVDIMMs.

The HPE 8GB NVDIMM will be available in May 2016 for initial support on HPE ProLiant DL360 and DL380 Gen9 servers with Intel E52600 v4 processors.  

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