George Herbert Leigh Mallory, mountaineer extraordinaire, was once asked “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?“, in which he replied “Because it’s there“. That retort demonstrated the indomitable human spirit and probably exemplified best the relationship between the human being’s desire to conquer the physical limits of nature. The software of humanity versus the hardware of the planet Earth.
Juxtaposing, similarities can be said between software and hardware in computer systems, in storage technology per se. In it, there are a few schools of thoughts when it comes to delivering storage services with the notable ones being the storageappliance model and the software-defined storage model.
There are arguments, of course. Some are genuinely partisan but many a times, these arguments come in the form of the flavour of the moment. I have experienced in my past companies touting the storage appliance model very strongly in the beginning, and only to be switching to a “software company” chorus years after that. That was what I meant about the “flavour of the moment”.
Actually, Edge Computing is already here. It has been here on everyone’s lips for quite some time, but for me and for many others, Edge Computing is still a hodgepodge of many things. The proliferation of devices, IoT, sensor, end points being pulled into the ubiquitous term of Edge Computing has made the scope ever changing, and difficult to pin down. And it is this proliferation of edge devices that will generate voluminous amount of data. Obvious questions emerge:
How to do you store all the data?
How do you process all the data?
How do you derive competitive value from the data from these edge devices?
How do you securely transfer and share the data?
From the storage technology perspective, it might be easier to observe what are the traits of the data generated on the edge device. In this blog, we also observe what could some new storage technologies out there that could be part of the Edge Computing present and future.
Edge Computing overview – Cloud to Edge to Endpoint
Storage at the Edge
The mantra of putting compute as close to the data and processing it where it is stored is the main crux right now, at least where storage of the data is concerned. The latency to the computing resources on the cloud and back to the edge devices will not be conducive, and in many older settings, these edge devices in factory may not be even network enabled. In my last encounter several years ago, there were more than 40 interfaces, specifications and protocols, most of them proprietary, for the edge devices. And there is no industry wide standard for these edge devices too.
Lately, I have been getting deeper and deeper into low-level implementation related to storage technologies. In my previous blog, I was writing my learning adventure with Priority Flow Control (PFC) and intend to further the Data Center Bridging concepts with future blog entries.
Before I left for Sydney for a holiday last week, I got sidetracked into exciting stuff that’s happening in my daily encounters with friends and new friends. 2 significant storage related technologies fell onto my lap. One is NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory express) and the other FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array).
While this blog is going to be about NVMe, I actually found FPGA much more exciting to me. Through conversations, I found that there are 2 “biggies” in the FPGA world, and they are designed and manufactured by Xilink and Altera. I admit that I have not done my homework on FPGA yet, having just returned from Sydney last night. I will blog about FPGA in future blogs.
But NVMe is also an important technology direction to the storage world as well.
I think most of us are probably already mesmerized by solid state drives. The bombardment of marketing, presentations, advertising and whatever else the vendors do to promote (and self-promote) solid state drives are inundating the intellectual senses of consumers and enterprises alike. And yet, many vendors do not explain both the pros and cons of integrating solid states into their IT environment. Even worse, many don’t even know the strengths and weaknesses of solid states, hence creating some exaggeration that continues to create a spiral vortex of inaccuracies. Like a self-feeding frenzy, the industry seems to have placed solid state storage as the saviour of the enterprise storage world. Go figure with that!