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Greenliant eyes enterprise storage with NVMe-compliant PCIe drives

Best known for its industrial-grade embedded controllers, Greenliant Systems releases PCIe flash G-card rated for 10 drive writes per day aimed at hyper-scale data centers.

Industrial-grade flash controller maker Greenliant Systems has released a line of nonvolatile memory express-compliant PCIe flash drives in its bid to penetrate enterprise data centers.

Greenliant started sampling its G7100 Series, also branded as G-card, to undisclosed U.S. server manufacturers and hyper-scale service providers in January. The U.S. distribution follows more than a year of field testing with original equipment manufacturers in Asia.

The vendor, based in Santa Clara, Calif., said it hopes to challenge PCIe flash card pioneer Fusion-io (part of SanDisk Corp.) and nonvolatile memory express (NVMe)-based cards from Intel Corp., Samsung and HGST Inc. 

The NVMe standard uses a PCIe link instead to connect storage to CPU power. NVMe is intended to reduce latency by eliminating dependence on host bus adapters.

G-card PCIe drives geared for low latency, high IOPs storage

G-card packages Greenliant's proprietary controller and NANDrive solid-state drives (SSDs) with silicon chips deposited on a substrate. The drives include Greenliant's Flash File System, distributed error-correcting firmware and power-down protection for subsystem storage. 

Greenliant SSDs are manufactured with multilevel cell (MLC) NAND flash and preconfigured in RAID groups. The MLC is overprovisioned to spread writes across the drive in a bid to boost endurance. The vendor claims G-card drives are rated for up to 10 drive writes per day for five years.

Its onboard controller gives Greenliant a chance to differentiate in a market with room to grow, said Arthur Kroyan, its vice president of business development and marketing.

"We have very low overhead and put no burden on the host side at all. All computing is done inside G-card: wear leveling, error correction, anything related to performance enhancement," Kroyan said.

Early entrant to NVMe market, but NAND supplies could prove challenging

Greenliant was created in 2010 as a spinout when Microchip Technology Inc. acquired Silicon Storage Technologies, but it's a newcomer to enterprise storage. Its product line to date consists mainly of flash devices for embedded applications.

The company primarily focused on industrial sub-storage systems and embedded flash for consumer devices, including designing a controller specifically for Apple Inc.'s launch of the iPod Nano in 2006.

The first-generation G-card uses an ATA interface, which sacrifices sequential speed for random IOPS performance. Greenliant rates G-card for sequential reads of 875 MB and sequential writes of 850 MB. It is rated for 130,000 random read IOPS and 60,000 random write IOPs, respectively.

Two capacities are available, starting with the G7101 with roughly 20 64- GB chips for raw capacity of 1.37 TB. It provides 900 GB of usable storage following overprovisioning. The G7102 contains more than 40 64-GB chips for raw storage of 2.75 TB, of which 1.8 TB is usable.

Greenliant should be able to parlay its distribution network to establish itself in enterprise storage, said Greg Wong, a principal analyst with flash memory consultancy Forward Insights.

"The fact that Greenliant is so early to the NVMe product market is a bit surprising. There are only a handful of NVMe players and some major players haven't announced NVMe products yet," Wong said.

The challenge for Greenliant, Wong added, will be obtaining an adequate NAND supply to satisfy the demand of hyper-scale service providers.

"They probably won't be able to go head-to-head with the big NAND vendors to get volume pricing, so they'll have to pick and choose their customers," he said. "It's probably not going to include the Amazons of the world."

Next Steps

PCIe SSDs offering best flash performance

After Fusion-io acquisition, SanDisk considering expanding flash presence

Dig Deeper on Server-based SSD implementations

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How important is NAND volume pricing in choosing a PCIe card vendor?
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Volume pricing enables NAND to obtain an adequate demand from hyper-scale service providers. G-card packages come with proprietary controllers and solid-state drives embedded on a substrate. This ensures they possess error-correcting firmware and consider power down protection when handling sub-system storage. The multilevel cell NAND flash comes with RAID groups that spread writes throughout the drive to boost endurance. This differentiated masterpiece comes to a market still green and with low overhead costs.
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Since it reduces latency by reducing the dependency on host bus adapters, no load is felt on the host side, though it could be expensive.
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Hello e48489, Are you referring here to PCIe flash in general or specifically to Greenliant's flash drives?
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