All Flash Arrays – Your Days Are Numbered

A series of circles with lightning, hard drive, and tape symbols inside them.

Posted on Friday, May 19, 2017

As Dell EMC World draws to a close with a number of high profile, all-flash products launches, HPE engineers have gone and changed the game again. In an effort to help businesses come to terms with big data and the vast amount of processing and resources required, the team has built “The Machine”.

A memory-driven prototype

The Machine differs from other supercomputers in that it is fitted with 160 terabytes of memory. One estimate suggests that’s enough to hold the entire Library of Commerce five times over – in RAM.

The prototype machine shares RAM across 40 physical nodes, so The Machine has all the resources required for building a neural network and accelerating machine learning. Most importantly, by holding the entire dataset in RAM, these operations are super-fast – nothing needs to be pulled from lower-performing disks.

And that’s just the start

Pleased with the success of initial tests, HPE believe that The Machine can go further still. According to the engineering team, total RAM capacity could be increased relatively easily to 4,096 yottabytes (1 trillion terabytes).

IB Times tries to put that capacity into context, claiming that “would be enough for a computer to access every single piece of data from Facebook, all the data generated from every single trip on Google's Street View self-driving cars, every single piece of data ever generated by Nasa for space exploration.”

All of that information held in high performance RAM, significantly improving IO speeds, and therefore the usability of the data.

The disk drive death spiral begins

Obviously it will be quite some time until The Machine bears offspring ready for the mass market – not least because of the enormous cost of deploying 160TB of RAM. However we can expect to see memory-driven computing services arrive in the public cloud eventually, allowing cash-rich businesses to take advantage of the performance gains without capital outlay.

As for the humble spinning and flash disk families, there time is rapidly drawing to a close – at least for mission critical applications. But in the meantime they continue to serve an important purpose – and may even last as long as magnetic tape drives.

In the meantime, why not give us a call to learn more about our support and maintenance services for your post warranty disk arrays?