HPE Intros 'Persistent Memory,' Combining DRAM Speed With NAND Flash Persistence

Hewlett Packard Enterprise on Tuesday officially rolled out a new type of server memory it said combines the performance of DRAM with the persistence of traditional SSDs or spinning disk.

The new technology, dubbed persistent memory, is scheduled to be available starting in early April, initially as an option in new versions of HPE's ProLiant Gen9 DL360 and DL380 servers -- possibly featuring new Intel Broadwell processors -- which the company is slated to introduce this Thursday.

The unveiling of persistent memory came via a meeting between HPE and a small group of journalists and analysts, including CRN.

[Related: HPE Unveils Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Based On ProLiant DL380 Servers]

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With persistent memory, HPE is combining standard DRAM along with NAND flash memory and a micro controller with an integrated battery on a module that fits in a standard memory slot, said Tim Peters, HPE's vice president and general manager for ProLiant rack servers, server software and core enterprise solutions.

In its first implementation, the NVDIMM, which is short for "non-volatile DIMM," will pair 8 GBs of DRAM for pure speed with 8 GBs of NAND flash for persistence, Peters said. Future versions will be available in different capacity points, he said.

HPE 8-GB NVDIMM modules will be list priced at $899. This compares with about $249 for a standard RDIMM module, he said.

The NVDIMM modules will be first available with updated Gen9, or ninth-generation, ProLiant DL360 and DL380 servers slated to be unveiled Thursday, Peters said. The servers support up to 16 NVDIMMs per server.

HPE did not go into much detail about the updated ProLiant DL360 and ProLiant DL380 servers. But one of the presenters let slip that the new servers might include the new Intel Broadwell Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors. Peters said, however, that that is assuming that there is such a processor, after an HPE spokesperson noted that Intel does not like partners talking publicly about unreleased products.

Intel did not respond to a request for more information about the timing of the release of its new Broadwell processors by publication time.

NVDIMM is going to be an amazing new option for business-critical infrastructures, said Dan Molina, chief technology officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and longtime HPE partner.

"This will be key to running important data in memory and knowing that the data can't be lost," Molina told CRN.

Customers with mission-critical applications such as Oracle and Microsoft SQL databases would like to use persistent memory to run those applications, Molina said.

"If they are run in memory that acts like storage, they will run dramatically faster," he said. "Customers could also fit part of an application like transactional logs in persistent memory, which would still provide important performance benefits."

NVDIMM persistent memory is less a product than it is an entire system, given that it was developed using industry standards and in conjunction with IT communities and technology partners, Peters said.

It was designed to help customers solve the challenge of making fast decisions based on data while ensuring that such data is not lost, and as such is a way to maximize the value of the data, he said.

"With the convergence of memory and storage, you can take advantage of [that value]," he said.

With traditional DRAM, if the memory loses power, the data inside is lost, Peters said. But because of the integration of DRAM and NAND flash, a loss of power will not lead to lost data. "We're combining the speed of memory with the persistence of storage -- hence, the name persistent memory," he said.

With persistent memory as a tier of storage, the IT bottleneck shifts from the hardware to the software, Peters said.

Based on HPE benchmarks, persistent memory provides 34 times the number of IOPS compared with standard SSDs, with 16 times the bandwidth and 81 times lower latency, he said.

NVDIMM will not be available as an option for previously sold servers, but will be available across new servers in the future, including HPE Synergy composable infrastructure solutions, Peters said.