Lenovo crams 48TB of SSD storage on a board

The company's upcoming storage board has multiple drives on it

Lenovo is developing an SSD storage board with a monstrous 48TB capacity, and the company plans to release it by the middle of next year.

The board is basically a collection of high-capacity SSDs. It provides an efficient way of cramming more SSD storage into computer slots, instead of using individual drives.

The 48TB storage capacity will fit in a space for two standard 2.5-inch storage drives. That's significantly more storage than available in two Samsung PM1633A SSDs, which are now the largest capacity SSDs at 15.36TB and will fit in the same slots.

Lenovo, known more as a PC and mobile device maker than a storage company, is developing the board in its research labs. Companies like Seagate, Toshiba, NxGn Data, and Amphenol are helping Lenovo develop the technology, part of a program called Project Spark.

There's a race among storage SSD companies to raise the capacity. Before Samsung released its 15.36TB drive in March, Akitio shipped a 13TB SSD in January.

An early prototype of a Project Spark SSD -- the size of a DRAM module with 6TB of storage capacity -- is being shown at the Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, California, this week.

The board is not targeted at desktops but at servers that run applications like databases and analytics, said Jonathan Hinkle, senior researcher at Lenovo.

Lenovo and its partners are researching ways to tune performance and power consumption of multiple SSDs on the card for server applications. 

A database application may require faster performance, which could drive up SSD thermal requirements. SSDs are power efficient, but an excessive number of drives could overwhelm the cooling resources of a server. The goal is to slow down the performance and power consumption of a drive so more storage could be put on the SSD boards and servers.

It may be possible to add more storage capacity beyond 48TB on these boards, depending on their design and types of flash chips, Hinkle said.

There's a growing demand for more storage in servers and flash arrays. SSDs are used for long-term storage or for cold storage, temporary storage where data is held until it is sent for processing.

The Project Spark SSD performance has measured at higher than 1 million IOPS (input output per second) for read and write capabilities, but that number could drop depending on the power consumption. The power requirements fluctuate depending on the performance, and it's important that the storage controller be designed to meet application requirements, Hinkle said.

Lenovo is achieving 12GBps (gigabytes per second) for data transfers in all the drives via PCI-Express 3.0 slots, Hinkle said.

Lenovo couldn't provide a price for the 48TB SSD card.

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