Insights

SDD or HDD: which is best for your business needs?

A large proportion of Exertis Hammer business relates to drives, and we have long-standing, direct relationships with all of the leading drive manufacturers, e.g. Seagate, Toshiba or Intel, giving our customers access to the broadest range of HDDs and SSDs. Our unique understanding of technologies and markets, backed by our unrivalled service and support, ensures we can meet their drive requirements today – and help drive customers’ business tomorrow.
SSDs for Finance
Access to business-critical data is an ever-growing need within IT; systems must store massive amounts of data quickly and retrieve it e¬fficiently. Enterprise SSDs are uniquely suited for Financial Analysis, Online Transaction Processing (OLTP), Predictive Risk Analysis, Risk Management and Business Intelligence, with their low-latency and high IOPS performance. As more and more business functions move into virtualised environments or cloud-delivery platforms, any bottleneck in storage becomes a mission-critical concern. Whether as a HDD replacement or an enterprise-class ultra-low-latency PCIe storage solution, SSDs provide the speed, capacity, durability, and power advantages required to meet today’s demanding data challenges.
HDDs for Surveillance
Increasing security caused governments, organisations of concerns have businesses and all sizes to invest video surveillance systems. Drive-based surveillance systems are now the norm, enabling users to store higher resolution content 24x7 and back them up. Standard desktop-class hard drives are designed for 8x5 operation, whereas a DVR or high-end surveillance system typically runs all day, every day, recording simultaneous video streams; therefore requiring a drive that meets the 24x7 workload and performance requirements. Exertis Hammer has a range of drives suited specifically for surveillance market solutions and also offers our SecuriStore range of servers designed for IPCCTV and security.
When it comes to drives, Exertis Hammer has the answers... all backed by a service that counts. If you want to know more about the different type of drives and how they can meet your needs, speak to your Exertis Hammer account manager or visit www.hammer-drive.com.

AI: The smart side of surveillance

Surveillance is not simply security CCTV keeping track of people’s movements. It’s a lot more than that; it’s about tracking traffic, trends and transitions. And it’s not just relating to safety. Surveillance is increasingly used by businesses seeking commercial advantage, by councils to improve public services efficiencies and by the utilities to help address global issues such as climate change via smart energy use.

This is surveillance – the recording and storing of images - with artificial intelligence tagged on allowing fast and superior levels of analysis and reaction. With AI, surveillance systems are leading to greater insights across many sectors.

In retail, for example , footfall and browsing pattern analysis allows shops to change pricing or product positioning based on real-time customer movements. In smart cities – those that are connected and communicate data among a range of services - can use AI and surveillance to improve traffic flow, for example, by changing traffic light phasing in response to real-time activity. The finance sector can quickly spot irregular activity to minimise fraud. The options are almost endless and these responses are being undertaken by computers – not humans.

If you think about it, AI is the obvious match – and evolution – for surveillance. We’ve been capturing images for years with banks of screens where humans watch and respond. Now, with AI, these images can be analysed quickly with suitable responses created and implemented.

All good, but it means that, with AI surveillance, there is much more data that needs to be stored and analysed. It means surveillance systems have to be quicker, deeper and smarter. It’s no longer a case of storing video streams, the data has to be extracted and interpreted.

Exertis Hammer vendors such as Seagate and Intel are leading the pack on this. Seagate’s Skyhawk AI is a purpose-built hard drive for AI surveillance with extra capacity and robustness.  SkyHawk AI hard drive is the first created specifically for AI-enabled video surveillance solutions.

SkyHawk AI handles the intensive computational workloads that accompany AI work streams. It provides unprecedented bandwidth and processing power to manage always-on, data-intensive workloads, while simultaneously analysing and recording footage from multiple HD cameras.

Seagate has released a video explaining what AI is and why you need the technology for intelligent surveillance systems. You can view it here

Intel has Optane memory, a smart technology that accelerates computers' responsiveness which, while still in its infancy, is expected to be mainstream in four years or so.

If you want to know more about the systems and structures behind AI surveillance, speak to your Exertis Hammer account manager.

Price drop sees NVMe move into the enterprise market

If speed and capacity are the holy grails of data storage, then the latest developments are about to take the sector to a whole new level.

NVMe (non-volatile memory express), a relatively new protocol for accessing high-speed storage media, is now becoming mainstream following a rapid drop in the price of Flash. Because it is Flash-based, NVMe is faster than SAS or SATA and uses less power; offering five times the bandwidth with transfer speeds of around 3GB/s.

Until now NVMe has been the protocol of choice for high volume customers. Lower volume users stuck with the more cost-effective SATA, which has served the enterprise sector well as a legacy standard even though it wasn't designed with solid state storage in mind.

Now though, as datacentre NVMe nears price parity with SAS/SATA, vendors such as Intel, Samsung, Toshiba Memory and Western Digital are gearing up their SSD NVMe offering.

Unlike SATA, NVMe is specifically optimised for NAND Flash. “Over the years, CPU and DRAM speeds have increased, but mechanical drives and interfaces used to connect them have not kept up. The NVM Express Work Group, made up of leading technology manufacturers, developed NVMe to narrow the growing gap between fast DRAM and slow storage,” said ATP.

In fact, analysts IDC said NVMe flash storage - a market currently worth $500 million - will account for half of all storage revenue within two years. We are already seeing that trend at Exertis Hammer. “Today, half of our shipments are NVMe, and this is almost exclusively to big datacentres,” said General Manager Nick Powling. “But as we approach price parity, we expect many of our enterprise customers to switch from SAS and SATA to NVMe.”

Heat or microwave… which one will win the storage capacity race?

Two technologies, which have been developed over the past few years, have recently broken onto the market. Both promise to deliver a rapid increase in hard drive capacities, but can both be sustained, or will one emerge as triumphant?

Heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) is being developed by Seagate while Toshiba is investing in microwave-assisted magnetic recording (MAMR).

MAMR is also being developed independently by Western Digital after it switched in 2017 from pursuing HAMR. “MAMR is one of two energy-assisted technologies that Western Digital has been developing for years. The company recently innovated a breakthrough in material and process that provides the required reliable and predictable performance, as well as the manufacturability to accelerate areal density and cost improvements to an estimated average of 15% per year.

“Developments in the other energy-assisted technology, specifically HAMR, present new material science and reliability challenges that are not a factor in MAMR. Only MAMR demonstrates the reliability and cost profile that meets the demands of datacentre operators.”

As the name suggests, HAMR uses heat to increase the amount of data that can be stored on hard drives. The drive surfaces are heated during writing, making them more receptive so allowing data to be stored on smaller segments.

As Mark Re, Seagate’s Chief Technology Officer, stated: “HAMR is a technology designed to enable the next big increase in the amount of data that can be stored on a hard drive. It uses a new kind of media magnetic technology on each disk that allows data bits, or grains, to become smaller and more densely packed than ever, while remaining magnetically stable. A small laser diode attached to each recording head heats a tiny spot on the disk, which enables the recording head to flip the magnetic polarity of each very stable bit, enabling data to be written.”

Seagate says it is already shipping HAMR drives and according to The Register “Seagate has set a course to deliver a 48TB disk drive in 2023 using its HAMR technology, doubling areal density every 30 months, meaning 100TB could be possible by 2025/26.”

MAMR is a much easier technology to implement than HAMR, says solutions engineer David Wachenschwanz. Thanks to MAMR, WD predicts that we will see 100TB drives in 10 years or so.

The fact that Seagate has pegged its future to the HAMR mast, with Toshiba pursuing a MAMR alternative is interesting. That WD switched from one to the other really poses the question which one will win the storage capacity race; heat or microwave? Crucially, what will all this mean for the future of the HDD market?

One thing that is for sure, Exertis Hammer will be keeping a watchful eye on the two technologies and will be best placed to offer insight and advice. Talk to your account manager today.

 

 

NAND, Flash, SSDs and HDDs - what's happening?

It was only a year ago that a shortage of NAND, due to high demand from smart phone producers and a restructuring of manufacturing, meant SSD prices remained high, too high for many to consider them an alternative to HDDs for data storage. How times have changed. We now have a global over-supply of NAND, and it’s a supply that’s growing by 15% a year.

Intel’s fabrication plant in Dalian, China is doubling its capacity. Samsung is increasing the output of its Chinese plant in Xian, due to come on stream next year and the firm’s new plant in Korea began production this year. There are many others coming on stream soon.

As it costs in the region of $10bn to open a NAND fabrication plant, those suppliers splashing the cash are clearly serious about continuing supply at this level and must, therefore, expect to see demand continuing to grow. But will it?

True, demand is currently growing by 5% a year. As the network of connected devices grows - the Internet of Things - demand for data storage rises and the very nature of the instantaneous, fast retrieval needed by IoT means NAND will be the method of choice. But that’s still some way behind the current growth in supply.

SSD prices are expected to start to drop as the producers’ strategy to get the price down to a comparable point to challenge HDDs kicks in. Few, however, expect we will see parity.

HDD providers are responding to this sector development by enhancing the advantage disks have over Flash; capacity. Storage density can be increased, for example, via the use of SMR (Shingle Magnetic Recording) where data is stored on overlapping grooves.

Seagate and Western Digital are both investing heavily in HDDs, which is evidence that there are no immediate concerns that cheaper SSDs will steal the HDD market. While speed is the USP for Flash, it’s capacity that gives the disks their edge. As there will be no profit is selling, say, 4TB disks, the future lies in high capacity. Seagate is predicting we will see 100TB HDDs by 2025, using HAMR technology. Western Digital is putting its faith in the alternative technology MAMR.

This innovation is much needed. According to IBM, the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. And as this opinion piece from Exertis Hammer shows, there is some high level innovation taking place in the industry to ensure data storage continues to meet this fast-growing demand.

Do you have the connectivity and storage to cope with AI?

With artificial intelligence and machine learning, computers can match – even surpass – the cognitive skills of humans. Out goes the need for humans to conceive every possible scenario, in comes the ability for the machines to learn and reason for themselves, in super-fast time and based on masses of real-time data that they, and other connected machines, collect and share.

It still poses the question, is AI still just a concept in development, or will we start to see it moving into the mainstream? In reality, it’s already here; planes flying on autopilot, the Waze real-time traffic congestion app, email spam filters, Google search terms, shopping recommendations on Amazon and face recognition on Facebook are all examples of AI in action. Gartner has stated that AI will be one of the major trends which will shape future technologies.

Underpinning this are the dramatic improvements in storage and connectivity. Everything is faster and more powerful meaning functions can now be performed that were not possible 10 years ago. That’s why connectivity is key. CIO.com states: “Extreme volumes of data must be collected and processed in real time. Networks built as recently as 10 years ago weren’t required to collect, route, and process this vast amount of data at real-time speeds. Typical networks [are] far too cumbersome to handle today’s AI and machine learning applications.” The answer to become AI-ready is to have AI-ready networks as well as the storage capacity.

At the heart of AI lies analytics. “AI is high performance computing. It can go from GPU to GPU (graphics processing unit) without going through a CPU. Everything is HPC based,” said Exertis Hammer’s Tom Cox. “AI and ML are major innovations that will impact every sector.  While they are all data heavy, the key aspect is the ability to retrieve information instantly.”

Whatever happens, you can rely on Exertis Hammer to be informative, unbiased and at the forefront of market changes.

Link to main feature on EH website

 

-October 2018