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SATADIMM SSD Breathes New Life into Old Servers

Many IT departments would welcome an opportunity to deliver more performance from their existing servers, especially if it could be done without being forced to rework existing storage setups. SATADIMM from Viking Technology provides exactly this opportunity by packaging an SSD in a useful DDR3 form factor. Since most servers have open DIMM slots and unused SATA headers, SATADIMM provides a simple, inexpensive, and non-disruptive way to add SSDs to an existing server.
I ran across SATADIMM in the exhibit hall of the recent Storage Networking World conference. Although Viking Technology markets SATADIMM primarily to the companies that build servers and storage systems–thus their presence in the exhibit hall–they were more than willing to talk to someone who represents enterprise IT. My IT career has included being the IT Director at three different private universities, and I immediately thought of several ways that SATADIMM could be used as a cost-effective server capacity and performance multiplier.

INNOVATIVE FORM FACTOR

Before discussing SATADIMM use cases, I want to explain its innovative form factor. SATADIMM is the size and shape of an industry-standard DDR3 memory DIMM so that it can use the DDR3 DIMM socket to provide it with power. A SATA cable is attached to one end of the SATADIMM. Plugging the other end of the cable to an available SATA or SAS header provides the data connection.

satadimm_ssd_illustration.jpg

Simple Installation

Part of what makes the DIMM form factor innovative is the simplicity with which SSD storage can be added to a server. The concept of using a DIMM slot to hold and provide power to an SSD can be a bit difficult to grasp at first. To help demystify the concept and demonstrate how simple SATADIMM is to install, Viking created a couple 2-minute demonstration videos that are available on the SATADIMM product page.

Enterprise SSD

Viking builds SATADIMM using the same enterprise-grade LSI SandForce controllers and MLC, eMLC or SLC NAND flash memory that they use in their 2.5-inch SSDs. The performance of SATADIMM exactly matches the performance of their other enterprise SSDs, including sustained read/write bandwidth up to 520 MB/s and up to 60,000 IOPS per SATADIMM over a 6 Gb/s SATA connection. The resulting device is both high performing and highly reliable, with advanced flash memory management and wear leveling for a 5 year endurance rating.
As an Enterprise SSD in a DIMM form factor, SATADIMM can function as a cost-effective server capacity and performance multiplier in at least three different use cases:

  • Internal boot drive
  • Application accelerator
  • Tier 0 primary storage

USE CASE #1: INTERNAL BOOT DRIVE
SATADIMM gives enterprise server administrators a simple way to add a fast boot drive to a server that is superior to the two approaches I had always taken with server boot drives–two small HDDs in a RAID 1 set or a USB memory stick.
SATADIMM is superior to traditional RAID 1 HDD boot drives because it provides a faster boot when a reboot is needed–and when it comes to getting a server back online, sooner is definitely better than later. Once a SATADIMM becomes the boot drive this also frees up two drive bays in the server for file server storage. If desired, the old boot drive bays can be reused to boost both the capacity and performance of the primary HDD RAID array.
SATADIMM is superior to using a USB memory stick as a boot device because it is far less susceptible to accidental removal or theft, has greater capacity, and offers higher performance. Although physical access to server rooms is generally limited, the USB key form factor still makes me a bit nervous. SATADIMM offers not only better security than a USB key, but greater capacity and higher performance to boot because the SATADIMM is an enterprise SSD.
SATADIMM is available in capacities from 120GB to 480GB, and is priced at less than $2 per GB. The combination of innovative form factor, capacity and price provides an inexpensive and straightforward path to fast and secure server boot up that also boosts everyday performance as a low latency paging/swap space for the operating system.

USE CASE #2: APPLICATION ACCELERATOR

SATADIMM can improve application performance–for far less than the cost of adding a PCIe SSD of similar capacity. Some applications make heavy use of index and temporary data files. Configuring these applications to use a low-latency local SATADIMM as the storage target for this “hot” data or as a secure cache for all I/O operations can significantly boost application and database query performance.

USE CASE #3: TIER 0 PRIMARY STORAGE

Most servers have more DIMM slots than drive bays. SATADIMM provides a simple way to boost storage density and performance in existing 1U and 2U servers. Any server with multiple open DIMM slots and an equal number of empty SATA or SAS headers is a good candidate for new Tier 0 storage capacity.
For example, consider the popular HP DL 360 G7 1U server. The DL 360 G7 includes 18 DIMM slots, a P410i storage controller with 8 SAS/SATA headers, and 4 drive bays (a second set of 4 drive bays is optional). A typical DL 360 will have at least 2 to 6 open DIMM slots and 4 unused SATA headers, making it a great candidate for 2 to 4 SATADIMMs that can provide nearly 2TB of flash storage.

CONCLUSION:

SATADIMM offers server administrators a simple, inexpensive and non-disruptive way to add SSD boot drives, cache drives, or Tier 0 primary storage to existing servers. These three use cases are not exhaustive, but hopefully do serve to demonstrate that SATADIMM is a uniquely cost-effective and easy to implement server capacity and performance multiplier that leverages an otherwise unused server resource to achieve a zero-footprint upgrade.
Viking sells SATADIMM to OEMs and to system integrators. Enterprise end users can request their VAR or integrator of choice to contact Viking, or make arrangements to purchase SATADIMM directly by contacting Viking at 1.800.338.2361 or ssd@vikingtechnology.com.

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