Your occasional storage digest, featuring Micron, SK Hynix, Swiftstack and Dropbox

Some enterprise storage snippets for your delectation, filleted for ease of digestion. Let’s start with Dropbox.

Dropbox puts cold data in a Magic Pocket

Dropbox has added cold storage to Magic Pocket, the exabyte-scale storage infrastructure developed in-house as a replacement for AWS services.

The new storage tier is optimised for less frequently accessed data and is not marketed as a standalone service.

The cold storage tier uses the same Magic Pocket storage infrastructure, including SMR drives, as main or warm data “but saves costs through innovatively reducing disk usage by 25%, without compromising durability or availability”, Dropbox wrote in a blog post. “The end experience for users is almost indistinguishable between the two tiers. “

This accomplish this, the company has devised a way of writing files into storage blocks with less replication across geographic regions. Instead of fully replicating files regionally, the new method divides a block of storage into fragments and stripes these across three regions. Read requests are sent to the three regions and the fastest response from two regions is used to build the block for the user.

This takes a little longer than the time needed for warm data.

Data is tiered automatically – it is not under user control. Dropbox must log file activity and transfer little-accessed data into a cold storage state.

Amazon has a separate Glacier cold data storage service and infrastructure, and Azure and Google offer similar services..

Micron costs for buying out Intel JV

Micron has confirmed it will pay $1.3bn to $1.5bn to buy out Intel’s interest in their joint IMFT venture and its flash and 3D XPoint fab in Lehi. The JV will end on October 31, 2019. The price to pay and date of closure is detailed in an SEC regulatory filing by Micron.

Micron will continue to use the Lehi plant and the two suppliers will then compete and separately sell and market XPoint devices and, potentially, media. This should widen the XPoint market and hopefully bring prices down.

SK Hynix dances the quad-level cell 96-layer dance

SK Hynix is shipping samples of 96-layer 3D NAND chips to SSD manufacturers.

The Korean semiconductor giant currently ships 72-layer 3D NAND chips and the new product will keep it in the race with 3D NAND competitors which already have 96- or 90-99 layer-tech (Samsung is coy about the precise layer count).

The chips use CTF (Charge Trap Flash) technology and are formatted as quad-level cell (QLC) flash with 4 bits/cell. SK Hynix said CTF “has reduced the area to less than 90 per cent of the existing 3D-based QLC products”.

These SK Hynix chips have 4 planes for data access, providing 64KB bandwidth. As well as shipping samples to SSD suppliers, SK Hynix is developing its own QLC NAND controller and code.

Han Joo Na, VP and Head of SK Hynix’s NAND development strategy office, said: “We plan to launch our own QLC-based SSD from next year when demand for enterprise QLC NAND is expected to become meaningful.” The company is looking at the enterprise SSD (eSSD) market, with 16TB or larger drives replacing 3.5-inch disk drives.

SK Hynix cited IDC forecasts that QLC will increase from three per cent in the NAND flash market in 2019 to 22 per cent in 2023. The eSSD market will grow at a compound annual average growth rate of 47.9 per cent in GB unit terms, according to IDC, which, SK Hynix said, means QLC flash will rapidly replace disk drives.

SwiftStack goes Splunk

Object storage software supplier SwiftStack has announced a software appliance with “1click Application Profiles…to configure a ready-to-use storage system tailored for the specific application”.

The company’s first application profile is for Splunk Enterprise with SmartStore and it has made the SwiftStack Software Appliance nitially available for Cisco’s UCS S3260 storage server, with Cisco offering a 3-chassis UCS S3260 configuration with 672TB of usable storage capacity.

More application profiles and supported storage servers are on their way, the company said.