data centre

Telecommunications equipment in one corner of a small data center. © Gregory Maxwell

A new three-year research programme at the Data Storage Institute in Singapore aims to develop nextgeneration storage system technologies for data centres of the future.

With the growing use of social networking, cloud and mobile computing, data centres increasingly play a crucial role in storing vast amounts of data. In addition, data centres are involved in running multi-tasking applications in real time and managing user and application data. Used by private and public organisations such as banks, businesses, universities, internet service providers, and governmental institutions, data centres are important for secure, long term and safe data storage.

The growing pressure on data is driving an everincreasing need for reliable storage. The International Data Corporation estimates that by 2020 over a trillion gigabytes of digital data will have been created. To put that in perspective, you can fit about 250 MP3 audio files on a 1 GB memory stick.

Developing the infrastructure to deal with this massive data growth is the biggest challenge faced by data centres. Besides having to address the issue of data management, there are also concerns about the energy consumption of large scale data centres. A paradigm shift in current methods and technologies has to be put in place in order to store, protect and enable efficient utilisation of this flood of digital data.

Part of the solution to these challenges will be provided by the next generation Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) that are emerging solid state storage technologies. They exhibit the desirable characteristics of an ideal storage device – very high performance, non-volatile data retention, big capacity, low power consumption and small space footprint. They do not have limitations of current solid state technologies, such as NAND Flash, in terms of reliability (insufficient number of times for erasing and writing data before the Flash device wears out) and imbalanced performance (fast in reading but slower when updating or writing data). Although Random Access Memory (RAM), such as DRAM or SRAM, has the desired very fast response time, it is volatile and therefore loses data content when power is removed. Examples of next generation NVM include Spin-Torque Transfer Magnetic RAM (STTMRAM), Phase Change RAM (PCRAM) and ResistiveRAM (RRAM).

However, the direct applications of next generation NVM are not so straight forward as current storage and computer architectures are not designed for such low latency and high throughput device. Obtaining the maximum benefit from next generation NVM will require redesign of the computer and storage system architecture.

A*STAR’s Future Data Centre Technologies Thematic Strategic Research Programme, launched in August 2011, aims to research new storage architectures and solutions for future data centres. The research will focus on improving the performance, energy efficiency and capacity of data centre systems by integrating next generation NVM technologies to enable data centres to scale and adapt efficiently to deal with the challenges ahead.

For further information contact:

Yong Khai Leong
Data Storage Institute
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore