[Preamble: I have been invited by GestaltIT as a delegate to their Tech Field Day for Storage Field Day 18 from Feb 27-Mar 1, 2019 in the Silicon Valley USA. My expenses, travel and accommodation were covered by GestaltIT, the organizer and I was not obligated to blog or promote their technologies presented at this event. The content of this blog is of my own opinions and views]
3 weeks after Storage Field Day 18, I was still trying to wrap my head around the 3-hour session we had with Western Digital. I was like a kid in a candy store for a while, because there were too much to chew and I couldn’t munch them all.
From “Silicon to System”
Not many storage companies in the world can claim that mantra – “From Silicon to Systems“. Western Digital is probably one of 3 companies (the other 2 being Intel and nVidia) I know of at present, which develops vertical innovation and integration, end to end, from components, to platforms and to systems.
For a long time, we have always known Western Digital to be a hard disk company. It owns HGST, SanDisk, providing the drives, the Flash and the Compact Flash for both the consumer and the enterprise markets. However, in recent years, through 2 eyebrow raising acquisitions, Western Digital was moving itself up the infrastructure stack. In 2015, it acquired Amplidata. 2 years later, it acquired Tegile Systems. At that time, I was wondering why a hard disk manufacturer was buying storage technology companies that were not its usual bread and butter business.
That vision is now vivid and clear. Western Digital has the broadest storage components and systems portfolio in the industry.
NAND Flash galore
With gusto, the Western Digital team with their VP of Memory Product Solutions, Luca Fasoli, presented their dominance and partnership with Toshiba Memory. He went deep dive and shared about the fundamental component called a “charge trap“.
And the versatility and flexibility of this charge trap device will give Western D the ability to build their Low-Latency Flash (LLF) that performs at the microseconds range to compete with DRAM memory.
I am not the right person to write about this level of the Western D technology and I leave it to the experts and their articles below:
- Tom Coughlin (Coughlin Associates) – Western Digital Storage Strategy
- Anton Shilvo (AnandTech) – Western Digital develops Low-latency Flash to compete with Intel Optane
- Chris Mellor (Blocks & Files) – WD keeps fast flash Optane substitute in the wings
Symbiotes like Spiderman’s Venom?
But months ago, I was already fixated to the symbiotic designs touted by Western D. The concept resonated with the term I concocted called “specialized appliance subsystems” earlier, a subsystem of data ingestion, data processing, data enablement components, specifically designed for a larger appliance or ecosystem. An example of a symbiotic design could be a “purpose-built data subsystem” for a driver-less car, where real-time data from the car’s sensors, telemetry feed into the this subsystem through defined workflow and the data is processed right in the car (at the edge) and making real-time decisions for the driver-less car. Another example could be a flood emergency and response system, which has a purpose-built data subsystem to respond to the data of natural disasters in parts of the world. And I am sure there will be more as data is generated more and more at the end devices, and require real-time responses to the data.
As the world produces more and more data at the edge and end points, I forsee greater and far more integrated requirements similar to these specialized appliance subsystems, or in Western D’s jargon – symbiotic design.
The Western D Storage Platforms and Systems
Without stealing the thunder from the rest of the technologies presented, Western D now has a complete storage systems from primary to cloud and their more recent entry to the composable storage market segment, their OpenFlex line.
To date, the OpenFlex line is gaining market acceptance with the support of both software and hardware, like Apache Hadoop, Apache Spark, Apache Kafka, Apache Cassandra, Apache Mesos, Broadcom, Ceph, DriveScale, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Inspur, Kaminario, Kubernetes, Marvell Technology Group, Mellanox Technologies, Microsoft SQL Server, Percona, and Super Micro Computer. That is an impressive list given its short inception into the composable infrastructure market segment.
For a deeper concept of composable infrastructure, I have written a couple of blogs here:
My take of it all
Western D has taken a world view of data. It is no longer just a manufacturer of storage and disk components for other vendors, OEMs, partners and the likes. It has moved up the value chain to provide what they call “vertical innovation and integration“, and it is a good strategy for their present and future.
The world view of data is summarized with this slide that I took at the beginning of the session:
See how Western D see the world view as Big Data and Fast Data? Their vision makes sense because that is how the world of data is becoming to be. And I like what I see
From Core to Edge to End Points and beyond!