NAND flash maker’s Software-Enabled Flash technology is designed to add customization to SSDs.
NAND flash maker Kioxia has expanded its Software-Enabled Flash technology to bring a greater degree of programmability to NAND storage. The move will benefit hyperscalers the most but will have benefits for enterprises and SMBs as well.
Kioxia (formerly Toshiba) first introduced SEF last year. It’s an open-source API that operates as a new kind of hardware flash controller to offload some functions to a controller, thus freeing up the CPU, while allowing large data-center environments to manage at scale.
Because the API is open source, competitors in the flash space can adopt the API and customize it for their hardware. Hyperscalers think about SSDs in terms of deploying and serving workloads at scale. Kioxia notes that cloud providers often have different types of drives they deploy for different use cases, like block storage versus file storage or ZNS.
The aim of the SEF technology is to get rid of legacy hard-drive operations, such as firmware-induced latency, the need for DRAM buffers and device-level RAID, and device-level power protection. SEF takes full advantage of the compute aspect of SSDs, as compared to mechanical hard drives, for things like enabling the host to control latency optimizations, allowing RAID to make host control decisions, power loss prevention, and giving access to full capacity of each flash die.
SEF allows spanning protocols across many physical drives, and then the customer can place workloads down to the individual die across devices and physical boxes. This allows for spreading workloads across multiple devices for scale and resiliency.
It also allows for placing workloads with the ideal controller, so specific workloads can be targeted at the best hardware. SEF also allows for targeting specific types of NAND, like triple level cell (TLC), which has higher durability, versus quad-level cell (QLC), which can be faster.
Cloud service providers aren’t the only companies that can benefit from the technology. Enterprises and even SMBs can, too. Everyone’s on-prem infrastructure is a mix of storage; very few large companies have all one type or brand of storage. So the same benefits for cloud providers apply to enterprises as well.