Alibaba discusses five ways flash memory fails to impress

Posted on Thursday, Aug 07 2014 @ 13:01 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Speaking at the Flash Memory Summit, an R&D manager from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba discussed the current failings of NAND flash memory. The company bought at least one percent of world's enterprise flash memory in 2013 and is increasing its use but Wu Peng, a chief technologist in Alibaba's datacenter group, said there are still five core areas where flash needs to be improved.

Among the top issues, Peng says flash vendors need to cut the cost per gigabyte, lower power consumption, decrease latency and increase consistency on performance and life.

He laments that flash makers are too focused on boosting IOPS and too little on lowering latency, and notes Alibaba has had trouble with RAID controllers generating problems in error correction and battery-backup when used with flash. Peng also added that they're encountering a lot of degradation in performance specs and that they're seeking more stability an certainty in life cycle performance. Full details at EE Times.
Alibaba started exploring flash five years ago. It now uses all-flash databases and significant amounts of flash in its content distribution networks and app severs. The e-commerce company hit records last year of completing 188 million transactions in 24 hours and 15,000 transactions/second.

To reliably keep the pace, applications need more information about the health of flash memories they depend on. "Failures cannot be avoided, but the best thing is to let the system now when the hardware will fail, when should I use caution and when I should shift to back up," he said.

Alibaba wants to streamline both the hardware and software to easy the job of letting apps know the state of underlying flash. The datacenter giant wants to handle provisioning and data redundancy issues itself. "If the app knows a lot it can do a lot," he said.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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