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Samsung Feeds The ODM Beast With Two Reference All-Flash Architectures

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Samsung announced two new all-flash reference designs at the Flash Memory Summit, a SAS JBOF (Just a Bunch Of Flash) and an NVMe Datacenter scale-out system. Samsung shared precious few details on the new systems, but we do expect more details to emerge at the upcoming Samsung SSD Global Summit. It is important to note that Samsung isn't building the systems itself; instead, it is merely designing and qualifying the designs and passing them on to the ODMs, who will find these designs particularly attractive.

The SAS platform utilizes 12 Gbps SAS connections via Avago switches and expanders. Samsung designed the 2U chassis to house 192 TB, 384 TB or 768 TB of flash in forty-eight 2.5" SFF slots. The system provides HA (High-Availability) features via hot-plug SSDs, and redundant hot-swap power supplies and fans. Samsung indicated the JBOF provides up to 2 million IOPS, but like all JBODs (Just a Bunch Of Disks) the system relies upon external compute for data services such as compression, deduplication, replication and snapshots.

Samsung SAS JBOF
SanDisk InfiniFlash
Rack Unit
192 / 384 / 768 TB
512 TB
Performance (company estimate)
2 Million IOPS
1 Million IOPS

SanDisk's SAS-based IF500 InfiniFlash product is Samsung's natural competitor, but there are a few differentiators. InfiniFlash utilizes 64 proprietary 8 TB custom-designed SAS SSDs, but the Samsung design can utilize any 2.5" SFF SSD. The Samsung system is purportedly faster, with 2 million IOPS compared to the 1 million IOPS provided by InfiniFlash. The Samsung incarnation is also denser, with 768 TB of flash in a 2U rack, while the SanDisk implementation touts 512 TB in a 3U. SanDisk provided far more details on its system, including power consumption metrics and throughput, at its launch, but we are awaiting more information on the Samsung offering.

SanDisk builds the InfiniFlash product, but an external Korean firm is building the initial Samsung JBOF systems. Samsung is positioning this as a reference system design, so we can expect other manufacturers in the near future.

Samsung is collaborating with Stack Velocity for its NVMe scale-out reference system. Stack Velocity is a business unit of Jabil Circuit, a contract manufacturer with $7 billion in yearly sales in the enterprise segment alone, along with an additional $18 billion in varied markets. Jabil builds the systems that other manufacturers brand as their own, and its Stack Velocity unit is operating as an ODM that sells direct to hyperscalers. This is an ominous portent for established OEMs and AFA vendors, as Samsung is signaling a willingness to fuel the ODM crowd with pre-qualified systems.

The system is powered by up to 24 PM953s. The PM953 comes in capacities of 480, 960 GB and 1.92 TB, which enables varying capacities in the Samsung NVMe reference systems. The high-density SSDs provide up to 184 TB in the 2U chassis. The NVMe spec for U.2 (SFF-8639) 2.5" SSDs supports hot plugging, which is a critical requirement in mission-critical environs. Avago provides the switches and expanders, and Mellanox throws its weight into the mix with 4x 40 GbE connections.

Getting the performance out of the box is always the main issue with SSD-powered enclosures. The systems' best performance measurement comes via FIO with 5 million IOPS, but deploying the systems at scale with the resiliency and availability of a fabric is the goal. Each approach has its own associated overhead, but the system provides 2.3 million IOPS with iSER and 1.7 million IOPS with SMB3.

Samsung illustrated the scale-out performance of the system with CEPH, which it has spent a considerable amount of time optimizing to boost system performance. The open-source CEPH is shaping up to be the popular filesystem/object-store for the flash manufacturers. SanDisk is also optimizing CEPH for its InfiniFlash system.Samsung also announced its Big Data Reference System, which works with MapR, a leading Apache Hadoop distribution for mission-critical production applications. Pairing MapR with QLogic 100 Gb Ethernet pays big performance dividends.

The system provides up to 20 GBps of sequential read throughput and 3.3 million random read IOPS with iSER, and 19 GBps of sequential read speed and 1.1 million random read IOPS with Windows SMB -- and all from only 8 Samsung XS1715 NVMe PCIe x4 SSDs. The XS1715 has been shipping for an extended period of time.

With MapR, the system can deliver 10 GBps of sequential write and 16 GBps of sequential read performance.

It is encouraging to see Samsung beginning to wade into the systems market, even if by proxy, largely because it is good for the end user as well. Keep your eyes on this space, something tells me this is just the beginning of Samsung's efforts.

Paul Alcorn is a Contributing Editor for Tom's IT Pro, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.