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HPE's hybrid DRAM/flash a first in new memory family

Posted: 31 Mar 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:DRAM? flash memory modules? persistent memory? servers?

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is moving into a new tier of persistent memory of servers with the recent release of the NVDIMM-N hybrid DRAM/flash memory modules. The new kind of persistent memory is seen to bolster the performance of computer systems.

HPE has started shipping the 8Gbyte NVDIMM-N boards, which are fitted with its new Broadwell-based Proliant DL360 1U and 380 2U servers, the first in a planned family of persistent memory products. The cards supplied by Micron embed an FPGA controller between 8 Gbytes DRAM where all processes run for best performance and a parallel 8 Gbytes NAND used for storage.

By using a 96W lithium ion battery rather than supercapacitors for backup power, HPE claims it will be able to pack enough modules in a 1U system to deliver 128 GBytes memory. The NVDIMM-N modules will list for a whopping $899 compared with about $249 for a standard 8 GByte RDIMM, promising significant profit margins for a cost-strapped server sector.

Moving work to the memory bus from solid-state drives (SSDs) on a PCI Express interconnect will deliver 2-4x performance boosts on some database and analytic jobs due to lower latencies and higher data rates, HPE claims. For example, SQL database logs run on SSDs achieve 970,000 transactions/minute with a 372 microsecond latency, but on the NVDIMM-N cards they deliver 1.08 million tpm with 181 microsecond latency.

NVDIMM-N modules

Figure 1: HPE claims NVDIMM-N modules will deliver significant performance benefits. (Image source: HPE)

The advances are just the beginning. Next-generation cards using new approaches and memory types including the 3D XPoint chips from Intel and Micron are expected to deliver at least twice the capacity and an order of magnitude greater performance.

"We want to have the broadest and deepest portfolio of persistent memory in the industry," said Bret Gibbs, a persistent memory product manager for HPE's servers.

The rise of new kinds of persistent memory in servers such as 3D XPoint "will revolutionise computing in 5-10 years and XPoint is just the tip of the iceberg," said Alan Niebel, president of Webfeet Research (Monterey, Calif.).

In a new report on the sector, Niebel predicts XPoint sales alone will represent a new billion dollar business in 2018. Intel has already shown 512 GByte versions of the cards. Meanwhile startup Diablo Technologies is preparing a 256 Gbyte version of its NAND-based NVDIMMs.

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