Memblaze is one of the largest SSD players in the world, and most people haven't even heard of them. Memblaze is the leading PCIe SSD vendor in China, which is impressive considering it isn't a fab-enabled player. Last year, Memblaze accounted for over 60 percent of China's PCIe SSD market share and shipped more than six Petabytes of flash.
Memblaze is also expanding into North American and European markets, but much of its global success will be defined by the lessons learned in the China market, where there is explosive growth and a relative lack of existing infrastructure. Unfortunately, there are also limited resources.
A few large financial companies announced cooperation in Open Compute last week, and this was big news simply because someone other than the Google, Facebook and Amazon behemoths had actually began to employ the designs. Hyperscale is a huge buzzword, but the extremely efficient data center architectures aren't penetrating downward into the smaller players at the fast clip some predicted a few years ago. One of the primary reasons is due to the expertise required to develop and deploy OCP-inspired hyperscale systems; another is the yoke of existing infrastructure.
China's explosive growth isn't as saddled with the burden of existing infrastructure, and many companies are doubling their deployments every year or two. It is difficult to source power licenses in China; in many cases, operators simply cannot purchase more power. Data center operators are forced to squeeze more compute from each and every watt they have, placing efficiency at a premium. The Chinese market faces unique challenges that create an environment ripe for efficient and innovative architectures, and flash is a key component in any new innovative data center design.
OpenPOWER is dedicated to developing an open ecosystem that provides maximum data center efficiency, and in the process, it just might help break the Intel chokehold on the server market. It's easy to see how attractive OpenPOWER will be to many of the large players in the Chinese data center scene, such as Baidu, Youku and Tencent. Memblaze has its fingers on the pulse of the Chinese data center market and is a senior member of OpenPOWER, so it isn't entirely surprising to find the company in the OpenPOWER pavilion at CeBIT.
Memblaze has its PBlaze4 series on display. These PCIe SSDs utilize Toshiba A19nm eMLC NAND. The 700 series comes in capacities of 800 GB to 3.2 TB in AIC (Add-In Card) and 2.5" form factors. Cramming 3.2 TB into 2.5" is particularly impressive, but for more capacity, Memblaze also offers the 900 Series, which tops out with a whopping 6.4 TB AIC.
The series supports the efficient and powerful NVMe 1.1 interface over a PCIe 3.0 connection to deliver impressive performance metrics. PBlaze4 provides up to 4.0/2.5 GBps sequential read/write, and 800,000/250,000 random read/write IOPS. The 2.5" form factor SSDs sport the new SFF-8639 connector, which supports hot-plugging and surprise removals.
Memblaze is the first manufacturer we are aware of that is offering psuedo-SLC (pSLC) in an enterprise SSD. pSLC designates a portion of MLC NAND to operate as SLC, which provides much more endurance and faster performance. The pSLC layer can be used as a cache, but Memblaze indicates it is only used for metadata in this implementation. SLC cache layers are used on many client-oriented SSDs, but the technique hasn't penetrated the enterprise space at the component level.
To protect data, Memblaze uses ECC, read retry and RAIN technology. RAIN (Redundant Array of Independent NAND) is a RAID-like scheme that offers device-level data protection. Micron also uses RAIN in its PCIe SSDs, and we assume the approaches are similar.
The PBlaze4 also features power fail capacitors and thermal throttling. There are a number of other interesting features we will cover when we receive a sample for testing. Speaking of which, engineering samples will be available in the early-April timeframe to key customers. Look for competitive performance analysis in our product evaluation shortly thereafter.
Memblaze has a commanding lead in the China market, and that isn't likely to waver as it expands into the North American market. I frequently speak with many storage companies, and a common refrain is the challenge U.S. firms face penetrating the elusive China market. Even getting product evaluations (such as the type we write) viewed in China can be challenging, as many U.S. websites aren't even available in China.
China is a tantalizing target simply because the growth potential is off the charts. Keep your eye on Memblaze; it has a great springboard in an explosive (and somewhat isolated) market, and it plans on bringing its SSDs to a data center near you.