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To 40 ZB and Beyond… Samsung’s New PM9A3 is Ready

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The global growth trend of data volume over the last 15 years has been staggering. From 0.16 ZB in 2006 to 40 ZB in 2020, our evolution to a data-driven society is well underway — landlines, vinyl records, and Encyclopedia Britannica volumes are firmly behind us. Remarkably, in just over a decade, we’ve managed to develop technology to store all this data, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. For starters, it can be quite painful (and costly) to lose data, and this loss can happen for all kinds of reasons, from hardware failures to power outages. So reliability is perhaps the most important feature of a Solid State Drive (SSD) and a key reason why NAND flash memory devices have replaced Hard Disk Drives as the drives of choice in data centers and PCs. With each new generation of SSD, reliability, speed, capacity, and power efficiency have been improved upon. But every so often a technological leap is made that truly qualifies as an “innovation,” a word we hear all too often in this industry. However, with PM9A3, Samsung may have earned the right to use it. As put by Ross Stenfort, Hardware Storage Engineer at Facebook, “Innovations … are important to solving today’s data center challenges. Samsung … is focused on delivering superior thermals, performance, and serviceability compared with today’s solutions. Deploying storage at scale is very challenging and Samsung’s support for next-generation industry-leading technologies … is a great step forward.”

Innovation Takes the Lead Let’s take a closer look at some of the “industry-leading technologies” that Ross is talking about. Samsung’s new PM9A3 SSD is built using several innovative technologies. To begin with, the PM9A3 leverages the PCI Express 4×4 hardware interface, which runs at 16 GT/s – twice the speed of the decade old Gen 3 models. Using hardware accelerators, the PM9A3 has 2X the read and 3.5X the random write performance. In addition to hardware acceleration, the PM9A3 also uses firmware to triage services. The firmware prioritizes sustained random workloads to keep the most important and consistent tasks running smoothly. It does so by intelligently suspending flash erase and program operations to prioritize incoming read requests. Therefore, the PM9A3 keeps the processes that operate continuously running smoothly and prevents the processes that need to run less frequently from interrupting. Putting Security at the Forefront PM9A3 checks the safety box with multiple layers of protection. It uses hardware-based encryption, managed using the Trusted Computing Group (TCG) Enterprise standard. Meanwhile, the SSD also has a secure boot feature that verifies every firmware image prior to execution. Perhaps the most dangerous threat to data security is attacks on the SSD firmware, and the secure boot feature nullifies this threat. The PM9A3 brings with it both reduced power consumption and built-in protection against power loss. As to power consumption, the benefits of the PM9A3 actually come with no added power requirements. For power loss, the SSD has both the standard power loss protection (PLP) feature and added internal safeguards. Preventing Data Loss Due to Power Failure Even a short drop in access to data due to power failure can bring business to a halt. Not only that, but a sudden and complete power loss can destroy any internally cached data on the data center drives. To combat this, the PM9A3 has the built-in ability to detect a power failure and can actually draw the remaining energy in the PLP hardware to write cached data into flash memory. Not only does it provide the standard protection from gradual power loss but it also provides a means of saving data in the event of unexpected total power loss. PM9A3’s innovations are arriving just in time to enable our 5G enriched lives — with the speed, reliability, and cost savings that data center architects require. As Cheolmin Park, vice president of Memory Product Planning at Samsung Electronics, puts it: “Wider 5G deployment and accelerating growth in IoT devices are fueling a hyperconnected lifestyle, driving the demand for more sophisticated hyperscale data centers. Providing an optimal mix of performance, power, reliability, and firmware, we believe our new PM9A3 will help advance today’s data center storage technologies and expand the market for OCP-compliant SSDs.” With its newest PM9A3 SSD, Samsung aims to exceed the expectations of modern hyperscale data centers. And with its industry first innovations in security, reliability, and firmware, PM9A3 is ready to take us beyond our 40 ZB world and into the triple digits.

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