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Western Digital to meet cloud challenges with HDD and SSD


Friday, May 13, 2022

Western Digital Corp.’s (WD) latest batch of new storage products is a reminder that hard drive technology isn’t going anywhere as customers of all sizes grapple with exponential data growth and raise their performance expectations of storage media.

The company kicked off a day–long series of announcements by starting with its latest hard disk drive (HDD) offerings — the 22TB and 26TB UltraSMR HDDs are aimed at hyperscale cloud customers and leverage several of WD’s propriety technologies, including the recently announced OptiNAND and its enhanced shingled magnetic recording (SMR).

Ashley Gorakhpurwalla, EVP and GM of the company’s HDD business unit, said WD is on track to deliver a 30+ TB solution with energy–assisted perpendicular magnetic recording (ePMR), which allows for scaling beyond legacy PMR. Along with OptiNAND and UltraSMR, it is the foundation of WD’s HDD roadmap to meet capacity demands and support the evolving economics of data centers and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

“Capacity and density are still going to have the fundamental proportional, linear relationship to value for many of our customers’ TCO,” Gorakhpurwalla said.

He said the data growth that must be handled by data centers is being driven by unstructured data that’s pumped into recommendation engines, advertising engines, content filters, and AI/ML algorithms.

“Going forward is we’re just a few years away from having to deliver multiple zettabytes in one year in order to keep up with the cloud challenge in front of us.”

WD’s OptiNAND and UltraSMR solutions

OptiNAND is a new drive architecture that uses NAND flash to enhance the traditional HDD by embedding it with an iNAND embedded flash drive. By using OptiNAND with proprietary firmware that leverages HDD system–level hardware advancements, the new UltraSMR technology introduces large block encoding along with an advanced error correction algorithm that increases tracks–per–inch to enable higher capacity.

For the 26TB Ultrastar DC HC670 UltraSMR HDD, it translates into 2.6TB per platter and 18% more capacity for cloud customers optimizing their stacks to take advantage of the benefits of SMR. One of those customers is DropBox, which runs a hybrid infrastructure that includes public cloud and private cloud.

According to Ali Zafar, DropBox’s head of hybrid infrastructure, “Dropbox has over 700 million registered users and all of those users rely on our infrastructure to provide the best–in–class performance, reliability, and security.” He said partners such as WD enable the company to plan, operate, and scale out its infrastructure to meet those expectations.

DropBox stores more than 800 billion pieces of content that are being stored in DropBox, and the nature of that data has changed, explained Zafar. “We have a lot of richer media.”

SMR technology enables DropBox to scale efficiently and rapidly, as well as optimize TCO to lower both operating expenses and capital expenditures because it requires fewer racks and less space, reduces impact on networking, and reduces power. “The cooling has been amazing,” Zafar said.

Targeting hyperscale customers with Ultrastar NVMe

WD is also addressing data center demands and TCO with its new Ultrastar NVMe PCIe 4.0 solid–state drives (SSDs) for select hyperscale customers, particularly public cloud deployments where infrastructures are increasingly disaggregated to provide elasticity, scalability, and predictability. Rob Soderbery, EVP and GM of WD’s flash business unit, said disaggregating storage from compute also enables a new segment of high–capacity data center NVMe SSDs that improve storage utilization and increase data center rack densities for virtualized and multi-tenant environments.

“We’re also seeing an increasing specialization and evolution of enterprise SSDs for the cloud,” Soderbery said.

While HDDs make sense to meet the capacity demands of content storage, he expalined, there are different dynamics at work with SSDs due to increased disaggregation of compute and storage, and more virtualization at the storage layer.

Different workloads are driving different SSD characteristics, said Soderbery. The scale of the cloud today allows for specialization of the entire infrastructure stack to deliver optimized performance for various user experiences catered to by hyperscalers — whether it’s a more general enterprise workload or a big data workload. He said the recent announcement with Samsung around zoned storage plays into this focus on specialization, as does WD’s latest SSD offering.

The new Ultrastar DC SN650 NVMe SSD family includes a 2.5–inch form–factor for traditional infrastructure, as well as and the slimmer E1.L form–factor, which significantly increases rack storage density and thereby reduces TCO. Both feature capacities up to 15.36TB, next–generation BiCS5 3D TLC NAND, and a PCIe 4.0 interface.

These SSDs increase the number of virtualized hosts per SSD and consolidate larger application datasets to improve storage resource utilization. Soderbery said the Ultrastar DC SN650 focuses on addressing challenges in the cloud, and the portfolio will expand to cover further compute and storage use cases.

Even as WD focuses both HDD and SSD efforts on enterprise and cloud opportunities, the surge in remote work over the last two years as well as gaming has created healthy demand for client SSDs.

“It’s been an amazing couple years in the client business that has been driven by work from home by consumers and employers having realized now that the PC is the critical anchor point for your knowledge worker,” Soderbery said. “We’re even seeing the PC refresh cycle accelerate, reversing a multi–year trend.”

WD also unveiled its new SanDisk 2 Professional PRO–BLADE Modular SSD ecosystem aimed at media professionals. The company claims the ecosystem can not only save hours on transfers as well as money for equivalent capacity, but it can also reduce the volume and weight of their gear, as well as provide two new SSDs within its WD_BLACK gaming portfolio.

By: DocMemory
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