Seagate announces new flash drives for hyperscale markets

Beyond adding more capacity, Seagate is doing something interesting to improve performance.

Seagate announces new flash drives for hyperscale markets
Seagate
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The Flash Memory Summit is taking place in Santa Clara, California, this week, which means a whole lot of SSD-related announcements headed my way. One already has my attention for the unique features the vendor is bringing to an otherwise dull market.

Seagate is expanding the Nytro portfolio of SSD products with emphasis on the enterprise and hyperscale markets and focusing on read-intensive workloads such as big data and artificial intelligence (AI). It has some of the usual areas of emphasis: lower power requirements and capacity that scales from 240GB to 3.8TB.

Also being updated is data protection via Seagate Secure, which prevents data loss during power failure by enabling data inflight to be saved to the NAND flash. The DuraWrite feature increases random write performance by up to 120 percent or provides maximum capacity to the user.

DuraWrite also has the added benefit of compacting the data as it goes through the controller. Some databases are compressable by as much as 50 percent, while media content, which does not lend itself to good compression, can be reduced by 5 percent.

New Nytro drives use SATA

The surprising aspect of the Nytros is they use the SATA interface. SATA is an old interface, a legacy from hard drives, and nowhere near capable of fully utilizing SSD’s performance. For true parallel throughput, you need a PCI Express or M.2 interface, which are designed specifically for the nature of how flash memory works.

“People keep expecting SATA to go away, but SATA is lingering. It’s a very easy way of using your bits. It’s simple, it replaces hard disk drives and still give 30 times faster performance with the same security and same management [as PCI Express drives] and gives our portfolio a no-brainer for our customers,” said Tony Afshary, director of product management for SSD storage products at Seagate.

But there are also PCI Express drives, and they bring new features to the table, as well. The new Nytro 5000 for hyperscale data centers doubles the read and write performance of the previous model while adding some NVMe features such as SRIOV for virtualization, additional name spaces, and support for multi streams. And it cuts the power draw from 25 watts from the old model to 12 watts in the new one.

The new Nytro drives use 64 layer 3D stacking, and the company is sampling 96 layer NAND from Toshiba, its NAND partner. The company also plans to announce quad-level cell (QLC), which greatly increases capacity, but it will be for consumer drives. QLC doesn’t meet all the cooling and power specs for the enterprise, said Afshary. “It will be limited in enterprise and for people who know exactly their cooling and power budget,” he said.

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