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    Industry-Leading All-Flash Storage Is All-Huawei

New Horizons: You’re listening to New Horizons, the podcast channel for Huawei’s ICT Insights Magazine. Join us as we talk to innovators and thought leaders from around the world.

Well hi everyone, today we’re back with Ron Raffensperger who’s the CTO of Huawei Enterprise Storage Solutions. Hi Ron, thanks for coming back on the program.

Ron Raffensperger: Thanks for having me.

New Horizons: You bet. Today, I’d like to ask you a few questions about our All-Flash solutions. To get started, what makes Huawei’s All-Flash Storage the best in the market today?

Ron Raffensperger: I think the thing that characterizes Huawei’s All-Flash Storage is that it’s all Huawei. Other vendors, they certainly make the controller, they make the software for the storage system, but they buy the disks from other people. In the case of Huawei, because we actually create our own All-Flash disks. In fact, our chip design organization called HiSilicon, is really our secret sauce in the All-Flash array business. Not only did they make the controller for the flash disks that Huawei makes, but they also make chips that go inside of our controllers that improve the performance and really it’s all about end-to-end. By being able to control the controller itself, the software that’s in it, as well as the link that goes to the SSD disk. Here, Huawei is unique in that all of our All-Flash Dorado systems utilize NVMe, which is the fastest links technology out there that we’ve talked about before, and then the controller on the disk itself. That end-to-end allows us to do things that other manufacturers simply can’t do.

New Horizons: Are there any specific technologies that we’ve developed that kind of help us maintain our market lead in the industry?

Ron Raffensperger: All together, when you put them together, we call it Flash Link. Flash Link has a number of components. One is that it has the controller algorithms that are on the disks themselves that do wear levelling, and anti-wear levelling. There’s a BMC chip in the controller that helps with management. We’ve actually done a number of unique software things within both the controller on the disk, as well as within the controller that’s in the Dorado system, to do things that guarantee that we will have the very, very high performance and very low latency. So that even though the disks get old, even though you increase the load on them, our performance continues to be very stable.

New Horizons: I’ve read specifications that our latency is half a millisecond, to a third of a millisecond?

Ron Raffensperger: Yes, that’s right. The thing is that right out of the box of the brand new system, most all-flash systems will give you pretty good performance. Really, the proof is when they get a little longer in the tooth, because as you know, the solid-state storage, each of the storage chips has a certain read and write life cycle. It’s very critical as the systems change, and as data changes, right? Because usually you’re using these systems for database kinds of access where you have lots of reads, lots of writes. You want that speed. But what that means is that over time, the chips within the solid-state disk start to wear out. If you haven’t done a lot of work to prioritize I/O to be able to do creative things around how you store things, hot storage, cold storage, how you separate metadata, all of this will impact what’s called garbage collection, that old solid state disks do; which is to go around and reclaim space that you don’t have anymore. Huawei has done things that make that much, much faster and much more stable. It’s really the life cycle is the key here.

New Horizons: What currents trends in enterprise storage are you seeing these days? Any predictions for the future?

Ron Raffensperger: We’re already seeing what people call 3D-type of storage. A year ago, the highest density that we were shipping was a six terabyte. Now, we’re shipping a 16. Pretty soon we’ll be shipping a 32. That’s because the storage chip vendors are using new technologies that give us much higher densities and even increased speeds. These are areas that will really make a huge difference in the amount of data, and the effectiveness of All-Flash systems going forward.

New Horizons: What industries are going to benefit the most from All-Flash storage solutions?

Ron Raffensperger: The uses for All-Flash have really been evolving. Historically it was mostly about online transaction processing systems, banks, large versions that have lots of transactions per second. But we’re seeing, as the growth of big data becomes much stronger, that people need the evaluation capabilities of their big data platforms to be much faster. Particularly on the data warehouse side of things, where data warehouses are moving from being a ‘put a stack of papers on your desk every morning from the analysis,’ to giving the executives a dashboard that says, in the next 20 minutes you better make this decision. Flash is really extending its usefulness beyond just the, ‘I got real fast databases,’ to all areas of enterprise storage.

New Horizons: On our last talk we were talking about the cost differential between spinning hard drives versus solid state. Have they reached parity yet?

Ron Raffensperger: We already had reached parity for what we’re called high-speed disks. A solid-state gets compared to the traditional hard drives where you have platters that are spinning around. The fastest you used to be able to spin platters was 15,000 RPMs. Those disks have now disappeared because flash is much less expensive, same capacities. The 10,000 RPM disks, I think are going to shortly go that same way because particularly with this 3D technology, right now, it’s more expensive because the yields — it’s a very complex manufacturing process. But the things we’ve seen about silicon and Moore’s Law is once you’ve figures out how to get it on to chips, then it’s just a process problem. How do you get the yields up, how do you get the production up? We’re starting down that curve now. That’s going to have a huge impact on the spinning disk industry.

New Horizons: Any case studies that you can think of that are a good example of real-world application of our All-Flash solutions that have been deployed?

Ron Raffensperger: One interesting one we have is actually here in China, although it has ramifications outside of China, is the electric-vehicle manufacturer BYD. BYD has grown just enormously. I think they’re quite famous outside of China because Warren Buffett is one of their key investors. They have lots of different lines of business. In fact, one part of their business assembles Huawei’s smart phones. But they make very high capacity batteries similar to what Elon Musk is doing with his Giga factory for the Teslas. They are the leading manufacturer of electric vehicles. Not just cars, but lots of different kinds of electric vehicles here in China. They are a major manufacturer of bus technology, including in the US. They have a factory down near L.A.. One of their key issues is their Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP system. As they’ve grown, it’s just really been explosive growth. The number of cars that are powered by electricity in China has just exploded. Their demand on that ERP system, they just couldn’t keep up with traditional kinds of storage systems. By putting in Dorado All-Flash Storage System, they were able to speed up, I think, overall, about a ten-times improvement. They’ve been able to keep up with the demands that are being put on them. I think it’s interesting because these Dorado All-Flash Storage Systems are completely compatible with your traditional Storage Area Networks. You can just drop them in, and get an immediate improvement. That’s really helpful for businesses that are growing quickly.

New Horizons: Well it’s pretty impressive, the advancements that we’ve been able to make in just a short amount of time. Anything else you’d like to add?

Ron Raffensperger: Stay tuned. There are new technologies that are coming. The storage-class memory is another one that’s going to, in 2019 I think, it’s going to start to make an impact, where you have memory like the random-access memory that goes on server mother boards, that will become able to keep data even when the power is turned off. There are a lot of new potential applications in how you can change the way the things are stored. The other things is, and I think we’ve mentioned it on the first podcast is, there’s no reason that we need to continue to think about solid-state storage as though it were spinning disks. There are no heads. There are no sectors that you have to a have head seek to. There are no platters. The way that the software talks to disks could really change and give us another huge amount of improvement. There’s a lot of work that we’re doing in that area. Stay tuned. There are a lot of fun things coming.

New Horizons: All right, the future looks promising. Well Ron, thanks for joining us again. We’re looking forward to having you on again soon.

Ron Raffensperger: My pleasure.

New Horizons: All right, thanks.

Thanks for listening to this episode of New Horizons. For more information on today’s guest, and a full transcript of this interview, just click the link below. If you enjoyed it, please be sure and share it on social media. Once again, thanks for listening.


Ron Raffensperger is the CTO of Huawei Enterprise Storage Solutions. Based in Shenzhen, he has demonstrated expertise in marketing, sales, services and development in both large and small technology companies with a particular expertise for developing corporate strategies in emerging markets.