NexGen Storage has unveiled its vision to provide value-driven data management solutions, which align the cost of storing, accessing and managing data to the business value of the data. Recently spun-out from SanDisk, the newly independent company is well-positioned to deliver on its vision, the cornerstone of which it unveiled with the announcement of a new portfolio of third generation flash storage solutions that deliver best-in-class PCIe flash utilization as well as new prioritized active cache software capabilities.  

According to a recent 2015 IDG Survey, “Understanding the Business Value of Data,” the vast majority of IT professionals cited the need for value-driven management solutions. Traditionally, storage solutions are configured to treat all data the same, however 86 percent of IT professionals recognize that different data has different value. In addition, the survey findings include:

  • Improving the end user experience is the #1 business objective for 2015, cited by 86 percent of respondents; and
  • 94 percent of respondents reveal the desire to align the costs of managing, storing and accessing data to the business value of the data.

“Our vision and roadmap for re-architecting the data path for PCIe flash using Storage QoS to ensure predictability for high-value, mission-critical data is more relevant than ever,” said John Spiers, founder and CEO, NexGen Storage.

By combining a purpose-built software architecture to manage PCIe flash, low-cost capacity, and Storage Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities, NexGen enables customers to prioritize each of their application workloads and data sets according to their individual business priorities. This process ensures that applications with mission-critical data always have the performance required to deliver the most predictable and consistent end user experiences, while at the same time providing lower-cost capacity across less critical applications and data sets, such as snapshots and replication copies for disaster recovery.

“Different application datasets and workloads have different levels of business value, and our NexGen solution allows us to prioritize them accordingly,” said Michael Frank, manager of the IT services group at NCS, a financial services company. “With NexGen, we’re able to assign specific priorities to each application, change them in real time, move a particular data set up into a higher service level for a few days when it’s critical to the business, and then move it back down when that task is complete. We love the incredible flexibility and bottom-line results the NexGen solutions enable us to deliver.”

“The accelerating rate at which humanity is creating information is challenging - and threatening to outpace - our ability to effectively manage, access and store it. To address this it is becoming essential to have IT infrastructures that can align and manage data according to its business priority and value,” said Mark Peters, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). “NexGen had the foresight to clearly recognize - and address - this requirement and is thus a leader, helping to drive this next wave of IT infrastructure innovation and value-centric data management.”

NexGen Storage was recently spun-out from SanDisk and is a new, stand-alone company. The move allows NexGen to accelerate investment into the delivery of new, innovative technologies and solutions to customers. The company is poised to aggressively invest in sales and marketing, bolster its channel partner program, and execute on its value-driven data management vision across all storage media types, including RAM, NVDIMM, flash, disk, and cloud, among others.

“With the strength of an intact founding and core NexGen leadership team, hundreds of satisfied customers, and a strong product portfolio and roadmap, we are excited to advance the emerging trend of value-driven data management with priority-driven PCIe flash storage solutions,” added Spiers.

Experiment and theory by comparison: the PSI researchers’ Dutch colleagues were able to illustrate the magnetic structures generated by laser beams effectively in computer simulations.

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland have succeeded in switching tiny, magnetic structures using laser light and tracking the change over time. In the process, a nanometre-sized area bizarrely reminiscent of the Batman logo appeared. The research results could render data storage on hard drives faster, more compact and more efficient.

Supercomputer hard drives store data magnetically. In order to capture larger amounts of data on smaller hard drives, researchers and developers are endeavouring to make the actual size of the magnetic bits and bytes increasingly smaller. With this in mind, researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) rely on the combination of a micro-structured surface and a laser beam. 

The surface consists of a regular arrangement of tiny squares made of a magnetic material. In the researchers’ various tests, these squares had a side length of between one and five thousandths of a millimetre. Every square and even a part of a square can be seen as tiny magnet and could thus be a storage bit one day. 

Micromagnets reversed with light

In the second part of the unconventional approach, the PSI scientists are able to reverse the magnetic direction of the squares specifically using a laser beam. In today’s hard drives, the magnetic switching and thus the storage of data occurs with a small magnetic head, which glides over the hard drive like the needle on a record player. 

The researchers at PSI teamed up with colleagues from the Netherlands, Germany and Japan for the project. Two years ago, the international research team already succeeded in demonstrating that a short, intensive laser pulse can switch micro-magnets hundreds of times faster than a magnetic head. And the laser is lower in energy and thus more cost-effective, too. The trick evidently lies in the fact that the laser light heats up the tiny magnets very quickly and is thus able to convert them into the other state. “Using light for magnetic switching clearly works. But why exactly it does is still the subject of debate in the research community,” explains Frithjof Nolting, the lab head on the PSI study. 

Snapshots of the reversal

To gain a better understanding of this magnetic reorientation process , the researchers have now developed a time-resolved measurement that enables them to observe the lightning-quick changes one step at a time using x-radiation from the Swiss Light Source (SLS) at PSI. They managed to produce a series of snapshots that were only 70 billionths of a second apart – in other words, at a frame rate per second that is almost 600 million times higher than in motion pictures. 

In their series of shots, the scientists were able to observe how the direction of magnetisation changes, i.e. how the tiny magnets are reversed. Initially, their north pole points “upwards” and the south pole “downwards”. In the end, however, it is the other way round. 

A substructure from the comic world

Their astounding observation: although the magnetic squares are so small that the laser pulse used irradiates many squares at once, the magnetisation is not reversed across the board. Instead, substructures form within the illuminated squares. The researchers’ imaging displayed one direction of magnetisation in black and the other in white. When the researchers observed squares with a side length of five micrometres, i.e. five thousandths of a millimetre, they saw a very peculiar magnetic substructure: suddenly, a tiny black Batman logo appeared on a white background. 

However, the researchers do not see this as a secret comic message or a problem, but rather as an opportunity. They put the Batman figure down to the effects of the diffraction and interference of the laser light – in a nutshell, the interplay between the light and the micro-squares. More laser light was absorbed in some areas of the squares than others, which is why the magnetic switching only took place there. “We have discovered a fascinating interaction,” sums up Nolting. 
PSI researcher Frithjof Nolting (left) with first author of the study Loïc Le Guyader on the x-ray microscope at the Swiss Light Source, where the magnetic structures were depicted in temporal resolution. (Paul Scherrer Institute/M. Fischer)The hard drive of the future: smaller and faster

Thus, differently shaped magnets could be used to create other figures than the Batman logo. Consequently, not only could every minuscule magnet be used as an individual, writable computer bit, but even only part of one. “This could be the way to store even more data on even smaller hard drives one day,” says Loïc Le Guyader, who was also involved in the PSI experiments, and is now working at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin. 

However, the researchers did not only record remarkable readings in the tiny size of the substructures, but also in the speed of the magnetic switching process: thanks to the light switching, this reorientation process occurs at lightning speed and is complete in less than 100 billionths of a second. 

Smaller and faster – including a small storage bit size and a high magnetic switching speed: the two features that really count in the hard-drive industry. The researchers at PSI may have shown the engineers a way for future developments. 

By this new and easy to use edition primary storage can be employed more efficiently by archiving inactive data to secondary storage systems.

The Archive Edition of PoINT Storage Manager is available from now on. By this new and easy to use edition primary storage can be employed more efficiently by archiving inactive data to secondary storage systems. Thus the higher archiving requirements are fulfilled and at the same time high investment costs can be avoided. By supporting versatile storage technologies the software manufacturer, PoINT Software & Systems GmbH, ensures the independence from specific hardware manufacturers. In addition consistent usage of standards provides an investment protection.

The extreme growth of unstructured data leads to an increasing challenge for companies. Due to economical or corresponding technical reasons this cannot be solved by only extending primary storage systems. As an alternative, companies are able to archive inactive data (so called cold data) and data to be archived to secondary storage systems especially designed for long-term archival by implementing PoINT Storage Manager - Archive Edition. The archiving process can be automated on basis of pre-defined policies or manually by a protected web client.

PoINT Storage Manager - Archive Edition offers three archiving methods: Copy Mode, Data Mover Mode and HSM Mode to archive files transparently to secondary storage. Access to archived files is possible at any time through standard operating system primitives.

Depending on different requirements multiple storage technologies, like hard disk, tape and optical, can be applied to use their particular strength optimally. There is no need for additional software as the PoINT Storage Manager - Archive Edition supports these storage technologies natively.

Furthermore by the Archive Edition of PoINT Storage Manager files can be replicated in an automated manner to storage systems of the same or a different storage technology.

The arrows on the Fe sites indicate the atomic magnetic moments. The coexisting spontaneous electric polarization (P) and magnetic polarization (M) are both along the same crystal direction.

New family of materials for energy-efficient information storage and processing

Switching the polarity of a magnet using an electric field (magnetoelectric memory [MEM] effect), can be a working principle of the next-generation technology for information processing and storage. Multiferroic materials are promising candidates for the MEM effect, due to the coexistence of electric and magnetic orders. On the other hand, the coexistence of spontaneous electric and magnetic polarizations is rare in known materials, which hinders the application potential of the MEM effect. This article briefly reviews a new family of multiferroic materials—hexagonal rare earth ferrites—that have been demonstrated ferroelectric and ferromagnetic simultaneously by experiments. Both the ferroeletricity and ferromagnetism in hexagonal ferrites originate indirectly from structural distortions, resulting in so-called improper ferroelectric and ferromagnetic orders. Naturally, structural distortions may mediate the coupling between the electric and magnetic polarizations in hexagonal rare earth ferrites, causing the MEM effect, as predicted by theory.

The possible MEM effect in rare earth hexagonal ferrites is particularly useful for information storage and processing because the non-volatile nature of the magnetic polarization avoids the energy cost of constant memory refreshing and a constant flow of current. The polarity of magnets are used to store information, for example, in the hard disk of computers. The information is modified by "writing" the polarity using a magnetic field, which requires a flow of current that costs significant amount of energy. If the polarity can be switched using an electric field (the MEM effect), the energy-efficiency will be greatly improved, because the generation of the electric field intrinsically needs less power than for generating a magnetic field. The fact that the electric field can be easily localized also suggests application in miniaturized devices.


This graph depicts measured signal during a reading operation for all eight possible states of a 110-nm, 3-bits, self-referenced MRAM cell.  Credit: Quentin Stainer

A France-US research team's new spin on MRAM technology led to a multi-bit storage paradigm that may rival flash memory storage

 Interest in magnetic random access memory (MRAM) is escalating, thanks to demand for fast, low-cost, nonvolatile, low-consumption, secure memory devices. MRAM, which relies on manipulating the magnetization of materials for data storage rather than electronic charges, boasts all of these advantages as an emerging technology, but so far it hasn't been able to match flash memory in terms of storage density.

In the journal Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, a France-U.S. research team reports an intriguing new multi-bit MRAM storage paradigm with the potential to rival flash memory.

Increasing the density of memory devices is highly desirable and can be accomplished via a variety of methods. One way is by reducing the patterning dimensions, which leads to an increased number of memory cells per unit surface. Another approach involves increasing the storage capacity of each individual cell -- aka "multi-bit storage."

"Multi-bit storage is typically achieved in MRAM technology by measuring the multiple voltage levels corresponding to various magnetic configurations," explained Quentin Stainer, lead author of the paper and a Ph.D. student at SPINTEC/CEA, a research institute for electronics and information technologies located in Grenoble, France, and also affiliated with Crocus Technology, a France- and U.S.-based firm that develops magnetically enhanced semiconductor technologies.

At the heart of the team's work is Crocus Technology's proprietary Magnetic Logic Unit (MLU) technology, which enables the researchers to remotely control a sensor to probe these configurations. "By identifying key features of the electrical responses we obtain, typically known as 'extrema points,' we can infer the stored information," Stainer said.

The highlight of their work was the "unambiguous demonstration of the feasibility of our method, with as much as 3 bits per unit cells, and recently up to 4 bits, obtained on 110-nanometer-wide devices," he noted.

It's also worth noting that the team says their storage paradigm should be able to provide an increased robustness and tolerance to process variability, which will make it easier to produce devices based on this technology for industrial applications.

"Our work will enable the development of products for a wide range of applications including, but not limited to, secure data storage for connected devices -- such as smart card, content-addressable memory for Internet routers, as well as high-performance, high-density, and high-temperature memory," Stainer said.

The team's next step? Developing a fully functional multi-bit MLU memory product to further demonstrate the industrial viability of their storage paradigm. "New memory paradigms derived from this work are also under development -- with potential multi-bit capacities of up to 8 bits per single cell," he added.

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