HPE adds power-fail-protected NVDIMM tech to servers

Gen9 ProLiants get battery-backed memory/flash DIMMs

HPE's ProLiant Gen9 servers now support Persistent Memory, non-volatile memory, enabling customers to expand in-memory app usage and get faster analytics and database processing by avoiding disk and SSD IO.

HPE says it will provide up to two-times-faster SQL Server database logging performance and up to four-times-faster SQL cluster replications in block store mode. There is an up-to 63 per cent improvement in exchange speed, again on block mode.

The hardware uses 8GB non-volatile DIMMs designed around industry-standard NVDIMM-N technology, and protected from power loss by HPE's Smart Storage Battery, meaning a 96 watt lithium-iron battery. This supplies power to move DRAM data contents to flash when the external power supply fails, and can support up to 16 NVDIMMs, meaning 128GB.

The benefit of this is that you can cache stuff in memory, up to 128GB of it, and be sure it won't be lost whenever a power outage happens. It means you don't need to cache it in SSDs or PCIe flash cards with slower-than-DRAM access.

These NVDIMMs don't use technology from SanDisk, Diablo Technologies or Netlist. HPE says it has a better-performing NVDIMM than those available from SanDisk/Diablo and Netlist.

Server vendors Lenovo, Huawei and Supermicro have a relationship with SanDisk for its Diablo Technology-based ULLTraDIMM flash DIMM, which has all-flash in a DIMM socket, not battery-backed DRAM and flash.

Our understanding is that HPE is using Micron's 8GB NVDIMMs. These have 8GB of DRAM for processing data, 8GB of NAND for storage, and an FPGA to handle tasks like the data transfer to NAND when power fails.

Micron has 16GB and 32GB NVDIMM designs under development, and its NVDIMM technology has block-addressable and bit-addressable modes.

HPE is working with SanDisk and Diablo on possible future NVDIMM and memory technologies.

It's also working closely with Intel on implementing 3D XPoint memory in the future. This is alongside the alliance with SanDisk around ReRAM; HPE saying it believes in having and offering choices to its customers. Micron will utilise its NVDIMM format to ship XPoint NVDIMMs.

HPE says it's working with operating system and app software suppliers to get their products supporting HPE Persistent Memory use, and these are Microsoft (Windows), Red Hat and SUSE (Linux), and Hortonworks.

We understand HPE will write driver code for Windows and the two Linux distros.

ProLiant Gen9s also support Intel's new Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors (what was called Broadwell) with their up-to 22 cores, and HPE says it's achieved several server benchmark wins, such as the TPC Express Benchmark Big Bench (TPCx-BB), SPECjbb2015-Composite, SPECjbb2015-Distributed and TPC-H.

They support DDR4 2400MT/s memory, which is available in a variety of capacities, starting at 8GB. HPE's 128GB LRDIMMs offer extra-high density, and NVMe SSDs are also available with up to 2TB capacity; all three intended to make the servers fly.

The Gen9s have had TCG Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 specification 1.16 added for smarter authentication through a tamper-resistant environment. This supports Microsoft's BitLocker for secure password and encryption key storage.

A downloadable NVDIMM driver for Windows Server 2012 R2 should be available in April. A native driver should be delivered with Windows Server 2016, and with updated Linux distros.

HPE hopes that byte addressability will come with new drivers and increase speed again.

The 8GB NVDIMM will be available in May for ProLiant DL360 and DL380 servers fitted with Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors. Its list price is around $899, which compares to about $300 for an 8GB DRAM DIMM. There is no other capacity point at present. ProLiant Gen9 server option prices vary with model and configuration. ®

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