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Unveiling the Future of Memory and Storage: Insights FMS2023

Flash Memory Summit is the world’s largest storage industry event featuring the trends, innovations, and influencers driving the adoption of flash memory and other memory-related technologies. 

FMS2023 logo

Despite the economic downturn that hit the memory providers hard this year, the 2023 edition of the show attracted more than 3,000 energetic participants. And I do mean participants. Many of the people at this event are the innovators who are engineering the future of memory, storage, and related technologies enabling the AI era.

Hi, this is Ken Clipperton, Principal Storage Analyst for the Data Center Intelligence Group, reporting in from Flash Memory Summit 2023, with a few takeaways from the event for those of you who didn’t have the opportunity to attend.

FMS2023 Enthusiasm Despite the Economic Downturn

First of all, although the economic slowdown has been frequently mentioned at this event, there are huge amounts of enthusiasm nonetheless. More than 3,500 people registered for the event, and it looks like a lot of those people actually showed up.

The Artificial Intelligence Age

A key theme of the conference is artificial intelligence. I think it has been mentioned in every session I have attended, and every keynote. This makes sense at a flash memory or memory-focused event. AI requires lots of memory and storage with high performance at scale.

Sustainability

Sustainability was also mentioned in nearly every presentation and conversation. The economic slowdown is causing businesses of all types to sharpen their focus on containing costs. And as one presenter said, sustainability done right, can lower costs. For example, many of the flash memory advancements on display at FMS2023 deliver improvements in energy efficiency, greater capacity density, and performance density. This combination increases the work a company can complete using the same amount of expensive data center space and power.

For example, SOLIDIGM, the SK Hynix subsidiary formed when it acquired Intel’s SSD business, is displaying its recently announced D5-P5336 61.44TB SSD. A standard 2RU server with 24 of these drives provides 1.47 Petabytes of raw storage capacity — 735TB of all-flash storage per rack unit!

Picture of server capacity with SOLIDIGM SSDs

But the sustainability picture is bigger than that. A Seagate representative mentioned they are recycling more than a million hard drives annually. In the process, Seagate is capturing as much of those rare earth materials as possible and recycling them since disposing of them is bad for the environment, and it is costly to get them in the first place. So, again, sustainability has many faces.

Compute Express Link (CXL)

CXL is a key enabler of memory at scale. CXL runs on top of PCI Express, and it is an open standard for high-speed host-to-device connections. An early application of it is to connect Large pools of memory, whether that’s DRAM or persistent memory, via the PCI bus both inside and beyond the box.

Multiple companies in the exhibit hall are showing real products based on that open specification. For example, Xconn Technologies was showing their CXL switch that enable CXL fabrics, and Lightelligence offers optical technology that enables CXL connections to extend to 10 meters via optical fibers.

CXL is more than hardware. Software plays an important role, too. MemVerge collaborated with SamsungH3 Platform, and XConn, to create a 2TB Pooled CXL Memory System. Here is what they had to say, “Samsung led the creation of the world’s first CXL memory module. MemVerge developed Project Endless Memory, the world’s first elastic memory software that can scale memory capacity on demand. XConn delivered the industry’s first CXL switch and H3 Platform integrated the hardware and software components. The four companies co-engineered a 2U rack-mountable system with 2TB memory capacity that can be dynamically allocated to computing hosts to meet the demands of modern applications.”

Very high performance. These are real products that are being delivered now and solving real problems.

CXL 2.0 rides on top of PCIe 5.0. I saw many products implementing PCIe 5.0, which doubles the bandwidth from PCI 4.0. Thus, a lot more performance can be driven in the same amount of space. When PCI 6.0 devices arrive, probably a couple years from now, those will double the bandwidth per lane yet again.

So the big takeaway is that for things that really matter, there is huge collaboration going on across the tech industry. The CXL Consortium has now more than 250 member technology companies participating in the standard development process and implementing the standard.

CLX had its first kind of interoperability lab in January, so there’s now a set of products that are proven to interoperate. And they have another round of interoperability testing coming up in October, where a bunch more devices are likely to pass that interoperability testing.

So there are real products that early adopters can go out and choose now. For those, who are not quite as aggressive in terms of having problems that big memory could solve, it is likely about 12 to 24 months, before we see these products integrated into mainstream solutions. But they are certainly coming.

CXL: The standard is robust. The collaboration is robust.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Hammerspace, a DCIG client, won the Best of Show award for “Most Innovative Memory Technology” at FMS2023. Congratulations to the Hammerspace team!

FMS2023 – A Harbinger of Good Things to Come

And, so again, lots of energy at flash memory summit, 2023. Despite the economic slowdown, #FMS2023 remained a hub of energy and positive developments. With 3,000+ attendees, the industry showcased its dedication to collaboration, sustainability, and innovation. Kudos to all the visionaries working tirelessly towards a greater, greener future! 🌿

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