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DCIG’s Top 5 Takeaways from SC23

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Silence represents just one more reason to purchase Nimbus all-flash arrays.

Photo of Thomas Isakovich in the SC23 Exhibit Hall
Thomas Isakovich, Source: Ken Clipperton, DCIG

I (Jerome) had the opportunity to catch up with Nimbus Data’s CEO Thomas Isakovich at this week’s Supercomputing Conference (SC23.) In meeting with him, he showed off the forthcoming release of Nimbus Data’s ExaFlash storage array. The booth also demonstrated how quietly and efficiently an all-flash Nimbus Data storage array operated.

These attributes were in stark contrast to the storage array running next to Nimbus Data’s booth. The noise from the fans on the competitor’s storage array were so loud that, at times, it became for us while talking in Nimbus’ booth. Whether this provider used SSDs or HDDs, I forgot to check. However, it was evident to those of us passing by that it needed to do something about the jet-powered fans (exaggeration for effect!) that it used to keep its drives cool.

Nimbus Data’s 100 TB, $40,000 portable ExaDrives sold out through the end of 2024.

Picture of Nimbus Data ExaDrive 100TB solid state drive
Source: Nimbus Data

In 2020 Nimbus Data announced the availability of its ExaDrive, a 64TB SSD with a SATA interface. While Nimbus has increased the capacity of a single ExaDrive to 100TB, I have heard little more about Nimbus’ success in selling its ExaDrives. In talking further with Nimbus Data’s Isakovich about the ExaDrive, Nimbus Data only mentions them in passing because they are sold out. Like through the end of 2024 sold out. Though ExaDrives sell at a significant premium to other SSDs (40 cents/GB versus the more common 8 cents/GB,) some organizations need highly dense and performing SSDs. He cites use cases such as satellites, submarines, and soldiers in the field.

Arcitecta helps companies minimize paying the data management tax.

Arcitecta MediaFlux network image
Source: Arcitecta

Global file and object management providers have burst onto the scene in the last few years. Enabled by significant technology advances and intellectual investments and driven by explosive data growth, data orchestration software finally makes sense. However, one differentiator between them remains their approach to licensing.

Many license their software using per TB capacity licensing with annual renewals. This becomes problematic for those organizations that add PBs of data per quarter or even per month. This may result in them having to determine which data to manage and which to leave unmanaged. Arcitecta MediaFlux uses per user licensing. This approach mitigates how data growth impacts the bottom line for organizations so more data no longer equals more data management costs.

“A wave coming that we are not ready for.”

Image of ICEOTOPE liquid-cooled 2U server on exhibit at SC23
ICEOTOPE Liquid-cooled 2U server with GPU and CPU. Source: Ken Clipperton, DCIG

David Hall, VP of NVIDIA Solutions at Lambda said that, “A wave coming that we are not ready for” during a panel hosted by VAST at SC23. I (Ken) was intrigued by his comment, so I spoke to him after the event to learn more. He observed that the power designs for many data centers were based on 15kVA/15kW racks. Today, 40kW racks are becoming common on our way to racks requiring more than 100kW.

As I noted in my reflections on SC22, much of this increase is driven by advances in CPUs and GPUs. The next generation of GPUs and CPUs require even more power. These CPUs, and the racks that support them, will require liquid cooling.

According to David, this presents a number of challenges, including:

  • Only 0.7% of the world’s data centers are ready for even 70kW water-cooled racks, much less 100+kW racks.
  • In many regions, power companies are quoting 18-24 months to deliver new data center power circuits. The pace of an organization’s increasing demands for power may outstrip availability.

Many organizations are embracing workloads that depend on GPUs to derive more value from their data, drive discovery, and accelerate innovation. Many of those will find that the power available in their data centers will not support the addition of these high-density power requirements.

Innovations in storage on display at SC23 can change the balance of power

Traditional storage systems based on HDDs consume a major portion of the power in the data center.

Picture of Nimbus Data ExaFlash array
ExaFlash 2U AFA, Source: Nimbus Data

However, innovations in storage are driving down its power requirements. For example, the Nimbus Data ExaFlash array pictured here can supply 768TB of raw storage capacity (before data efficiency techniques are applied) while consuming no more than 700W, yielding 1.09PB/kW, or 1.09TB per watt.

Innovations in storage software such as Swiss Vault’s Vault File System also deliver improved TB/W and other sustainability benefits, even for HDD-based storage systems through flexible and efficient erasure coding.

While these storage innovations do not obviate the need to prepare for liquid cooling in the data center, they do enable more work to be accomplished per Watt and tile.

CXL Advances Coming to Market Within Enterprise Infrastructure Planning Timeframes

Significant advances were on display at SC23 from companies participating in the CXL Consortium–such as MemVerge, XConn Technologies, Micron, and many more–that will soon bring the benefits of this rising interconnect standard to the marketplace. My next article will describe these advances in more detail, along with some musings on the implications for IT infrastructure planning.


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