Android Car System Mercedes W203 C180

The project

The car has had a professionally fitted Alpine Stereo (iPod attached in glove box) with a Nokia CR-7w hands free kit for about 9 years – the iPod is on it’s last legs as has suffered from leaving it out in the cold and getting hot and cold has made it fail.  I’ve had it repaired (while in Taiwan) but it won’t power on automatically when I get in the car.  I often have to take it out and go charge it in the house (it is supposed to charge through the car).

I went and bought the following on Ebay

 

 

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Alpine Unit removed – wiring mess

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The Nokia CR-7W worked fine but this bad boy will replace it. I wanted to use the mic though – but it has a tiny connector as opposed to the mini jack required on the back of the Android unit.  So I cut it off the loom and wired the audio output connector from the CR-7W which was a Mini Jack – this enabled me to use the mic which is all routed nicely in the car

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CR-7W no longer needed

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CR-7W mic

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Fitted device – nice

 

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Full Android capability with Hands free, Sat Nav (GPS installed – to be shown), later to fit reversing camera

 

Solidata Crator Series – the most reliable SSD yet?

Crator M600 (MLC)

Crator S600 (SLC)

   

Solid State Disks have taken a bit of a beating lately with the demise of OCZ (purchased by Toshiba).  Talk focussed on reliability and the high failure rate of the consumer side of the OCZ brand let them down.  It seems that the strive for speed at a low cost is not acceptable when they then fail and you lose it all.

Look back to the early days of the USB pen drive, a technology that eventually lead to the birth of the Solid State Disk (SSD), and just pulling the USB drive out without cleanly closing the device within Windows, could cause the device to lose all that was on it.  How can this be?  It’s plug and play right? Well the answer is in the write phase.  As a Flash drive writes, it first needs to erase, this action and the writing of the data takes longer than the user notices as it is queued up within the drive.  Pull the USB out before this has finished and you could corrupt the whole index which the drive uses to reference where all of the data is located.  Faults can occur where on the next insertion of the USB pen drive shows an empty, unformatted drive where all data is lost.

The same can happen with Solid State Disks where they disappear from the system that they are installed in.  A lost index can mean a lost SSD.  Sudden loss of power can cause such a problem.  Crashed operating systems and blue screen of death that require a hard boot while the SSD is writing can be catastrophic. 

Solidata’s Novachips Power-loss Protection Mechanism

Solidata are a small but very professional Solid State Disk manufacturer based in the tech city of Shenzhen in mainland China, just next to Hong Kong.  The focus of their products is to focus on the niche market, finding solutions through product development to meet the needs of the industrial and military market.  They were the 1st to introduce a 2TB SSD in 2.5 inch format and one of the first to bring 1TB to market using MLC rather than TLC technology.

Introducing the Solidata Crator Series – there are 2 ranges available using MLC and SLC NAND Flash.  Using a SATA III interface, these drives have great performance at 470/470Mb/s Read and Write speeds with Max Random IOPS of 55000/60000 these drives offer consumer SSD type speeds but with the additional benefit of using a super capacitor which can provide up to 20 seconds of 3.8v power to the drive following abrupt power loss.

20 seconds of power!

That is many many times more than what is required, here’s the clever bit.  In very cold conditions (even as low as –40 deg C) when a capacitor decreases in performance of typically 10% for every drop of 10 deg C in temperature.  Therefore at even –40 deg C the capacitor will still work at 40% of its capability equating to 12 seconds of sustained voltage.  The drive will never need more than a couple of seconds to safely write the buffer and flush the data from the write bus.

This means that these drives will not only provide 100% power los protection, but they are able to do that even if used in extreme conditions.

The capacitor only gets used when power is lost from the drive and can be charged and discharged 500,000 times.

This Industrial Grade super capacitor is a physical part of the system board within the SSD and so is not built in by firmware or software.  It is ideally designed for military and high end industrial applications requiring 100% power loss protection and great read/write speeds.

Is this the most reliable SSD out there?  We think so.

Get in touch if you would like a quote or to ask any further questions. Get in Touch

Heathrow Expansion–To expand or not to expand–that is the question!

Living right next to Heathrow in Ashford Middlesex, there are plenty of direct advantages to living close to an airport, but the indirect advantages will far outweigh the direct ones. 


View Larger Map

In this blog I am going to set out my opinion on the matter…  

Noise Pollution

Ashford is far enough from the runways to not be directly affected by the noise and is one of the reasons I chose the town to live in, having lived previously in Kew near Richmond which is directly on one of the flight paths.  Plane noise in Kew was far louder than Ashford due to the fact that the planes are coming in to land at that point.  So in summer months when windows are open, you can hear the plane’s engines in your dwelling.  During that period while Concorde flew the noise from it’s engines were really loud and while this passed my flat I would be unable to hear the TV until it had passed.  This took around 3 seconds from starting to hear it at a loud level, till it had passed and the level dropped enough to be able to hear the TV once again.  It happen twice a day (once during the day and once at night) but not every day – depends on the chosen flight path into Heathrow, I believe is either over Windsor/Slough or via London (Kew, Isleworth) approach.

Then they decommissioned Concorde, this overtly loud plane, was the only real source of annoyance.  The other planes, just fade into the background noise and after only a very short time of living there, I just didn’t notice it.  If you ask anyone who lives next to a railway line, if noise becomes an issue, and most replies would be that after a short while, “you get used to it”.

Air Pollution

Heathrow airport was built in the 1950’s after the 2nd World War and most of the towns that have expanded to the extent that they have, have done so due to the close vicinity of Heathrow airport.  Aeroplanes produce air pollution, there is no doubt that is the case, although the industry is working to reduce this in more efficient plane and engine design, if you live close to an airport, the air will be more polluted than an area that is not close to an airport.  BUT! Planes do not dump fuel before they come in to land unless in a true emergency where the pilot believes he may have to crash the plane and so will dump the fuel (which is very expensive) and so lighten the plane.  Check out http://www.berlin-airport.de/en/company/environment/air/kerosene-dumping/  or any other Google query on “Heathrow fuel dumping”.  Adding another runway will add a little to the polluted air in car/cargo traffic and plane activity, but this should not be a good reason to protest against the expansion of Heathrow.  If you are of the viewpoint that we should not expand anywhere, then, in my opinion, you should just go and live in the woods, if you buy your food from supermarkets, your clothes from shops, live in a house with electricity and/or gas, and you pay for this yourself, then believing that the UK should not expand it’s infrastructure to compete with the world, then it shows that you have no concept of the world that we live in.

Capitalist Rules

Whether you have decided the way that we live is right or wrong, “WE” decided it in voting terms.  That may not be right – politicians set out a set of planned policies in a manifesto before their party gets voted in and they then may make decisions once they are elected that may contravene those policies, be “WE” have the choice to vote them out 4 years later.    Most people do not read the manifesto, instead vote the way their family have always voted.  Most people vote the way The Sun newspaper tells them to vote in their “loony lefty council” headlines or in 1997 they switched to “Tory Toff loony scandal” headlines where everyone then voted Labour.  In fact most people don’t even vote! The fact is that we live in a society which is surrounded by large PLC corporations driven by continued growth.

Continued growth! What is that? What has that got to do with Heathrow airport?  Once a company goes from being privately owned, to publicly owned it has to be seen to make more profit this year than it did the year before.  Why?  Because if it doesn’t make more than it did the year before, then the owners of the company, the people owning the shares, will sell them and go and put their money into another company, one that is making continued growth.

Who are these people? Who are fickle and do not show loyalty to a company?  They are US!  We are the ones who have pensions, mortgages, investments.  “But I only have a mortgage!! I don’t buy shares!”  – you may say – or “I only rent”  – the company you work for may have borrowed, or invested, everyone is involved.

The whole system is intrinsically linked. 

The whole banking system works on the market place of shares.  They take your money and invest it in companies that make more profit each year, that profit allows them to lend it back to you at a rate higher then what they make, which makes the bank a profit.  Nobody does anything for free! If they do – then the profit the bank makes will be less than the year before and so their share price value will drop.

What has this got to do with Heathrow Airport expansion?  Every company that we buy products from, has to buy or make the product and either bring it in to the country, ship it to their shop or shops, unbox it and put it on the shelf, or send it to you via a courier or postal service. 

Heathrow plays a huge part of importing product from all of the world – companies use it to ship those products.

The Human side

Due to inequalities in the world, there are people in other countries who will work for much less than people in the UK will work for.  It’s a fact of life and has always been that way.  We cannot change that fact.  There has been a lot of focus in the press, lately, over the amount of benefit people receive and the current government have worked hard at making people go back to work.  The fact is, virtually everyone lives more comfortably here in the UK than in some countries, where there is no running water, electricity or heating.  Only our homeless live like that.  Throughout history, mankind has exploited these under-developed countries for their workforce.  We used to call it slavery, though conditions have no doubt improved for most people working in the world to produce product for the western consumer, to the point where the “slavery” term is not used for someone working 12 hours a day for £2.

The fact is that the amount of people in the world has shot up in the last 20 years including the UK, and so there is a greater demand for product.  For a company there are 2 main choices in selling to the market.  Sell it cheap and sell lots of them, or choose to sell higher quality at a higher price.  Both have their own risks.  To sell cheap means you need to buy cheap in the first place.  The only way to drive the price of a product down, is to buy a lot of it. Or buy it from a place where wages are low enough to keep the price low. So supermarkets, buy product in large quantities and sell each one for a small margin.  They have huge floor space, and so stock large amounts of products.  This has proven to work and this business model was followed by the clothes industry (TK Max, Primark) and even car industries (with car supermarkets). 

These products are usually made in countries where the cost of living is low enough, for the product to be made at a low enough price in order for the company buying the product to sell it at a low price.  If you buy 5x pairs of socks from a supermarket for £1 – you should not complain that Heathrow is to be expanded.  To supply you the pack of 5x socks for only £1, the cost of producing them, and shipping them to the store has to be kept as low as possible.

If they are delivered instead to Frankfurt, and then another flight from Frankfurt to Heathrow – the cost of supplying those socks will rise as well as Frankfurt benefitting from the extra jobs, extra business.

If that flight had gone directly to Heathrow – We, local to Heathrow benefit and so does the nation.

The Advantages of Heathrow Expansion

There are 2 ways to look at it – local advantages and national advantages. 

Locally

It will create more jobs, not just directly working in the airport, but for every local business.  More workers at the airport, means more needs for food, clothing and everything else.  If you live locally, whatever job you do, the company will no doubt benefit from having a higher number of people to sell to.

House prices will actually rise due to a higher demand to live close to work.

Nationally

The need for expansion will make Heathrow Airport a major hub for Europe, this will mean more people coming to the UK for business or holiday – some of them will stay and spend their money. 

Business

For the businesses importing product, it will make transport cheaper for cargo.  The more flights there are, the cheaper it will be to ship or at least keep it at the current price.  This allows the business to make more profit, helps with continued growth as well as cheaper products for the consumer (“you and I”).

 

The Alternatives

For those contemplating alternatives to airport expansion

a) They don’t want any expansion – just does not make sense – as other airports around Europe expand – the business of shipping goods will go there.  If we don’t expand – we lose that business.

b) They want it at another airport in the UK (Luton, Stanstead, Gatwick) – This will benefit people living in those areas instead of those living around Heathrow – their house prices will rise, they will have more jobs, their local businesses will benefit.

c) They want to build another airport on the Thames Estuary – What a waste of money, we have 90% of what we want already at Heathrow, building another runway and terminals is much cheaper than a whole new airport.  Also for the reasons mentioned above, the people living around the new airport will reap the benefits.  What would happen to Heathrow?  It would, no doubt,  turn into a barren wasteland for years while planning and development was fought over.  Jobs would disappear from the area as companies would move to the new airport, Heathrow workers would either have to commute to Essex or move there.  Selling your house, in an area where there once was an airport and now there isn’t would be a challenge for anyone, and selling it at a price that enabled you to buy one in a new area where a new airport has just been built just does not make sense.  Everyone in the Heathrow area would lose out.

The Downsides, negatives of Heathrow expansion

There would be disruption to those living in the location of the chosen runway.  They would have to move house.  If they are paid a fair price, that would allow them to buy another in a favourable location, I really don’t see the problem.  Sure people don’t like change, but losing the small villages like Sipson or parts of Stanwell (especially the Moor) seems a smaller price to inconvenience some people, than affect everyone else. 

There are far more people who would lose out to no expansion (the whole country).  There are far more people who would lose out if Heathrow didn’t get expanded, than those few affected by having to move.

If it does go ahead, there may be some more pollution in the local area – as long as expansion goes ahead somewhere, then the pollution will still happen.  So to argue that you don’t want it on your door step, but happy it goes somewhere else is not really a good argument for the environment.

Change the World

So due to the fact that we live in this world, driven by the price and profit margin, in order for our companies to show continued growth, and therefore keep our stock market buoyant, allow our banks to prosper (they all took a beating in the last few years for trying to make too much profit), which in turn keeps our interest rates on borrowing (ie your mortgage) low, we have to give them the best advantages in transport.

We cannot change the world! We cannot reverse this system that we live in.  Accept it and work with it.

What has that got to do with Solid State Disks?

We are one of those companies who are located near Heathrow – and so we see the benefits!

Stonefly – An Affordable Modular Storage solution

Have you ever wondered how much data you will store on computers throughout your life?  I started my working life with the humble 1.44MB floppy disk drive. This made me very choosy about what I saved and what I deleted.

Those days are thankfully well past us and now, we are given, what seems like, an endless amount of space at our disposal to store everything we ever do.  We then get into the mind set that we can keep multiple versions of files and snapshots of our systems in case we need to go back.  For the average PC user, many don’t backup at all, but this post is about explaining the benefits of a modular approach to storage provision as opposed to the fixed appliance method available to the marketplace today.

Modular Decision making

As an IT Manager of any company knows, the choice of hardware to use to provide the employees with systems to run the company is huge.  The question of buy today, for today’s needs is a tough one – nobody can really predict a company’s growth.  Buy today for today, may leave egg on the faces of IT decision makers and even lead to dismissal if the wrong choices are made.  Servers can easily be upgraded, rather than replaced, as technology improves each year, with processor and RAM improvements.  Servers have a modular nature in software too, with clustering and load balancing options available to many large scale products.  This makes upgrading or “Scaling Up” an easier path for server farm growth.  The choice of servers in a hardware purchasing decision does not usually lead to a wrong decision where the company quickly grows.

Storage systems create a different problem.  Most all in one storage appliances from the large suppliers (NetApp, EMC, HP) provide a shelf full of disks, with dual controller and PSU capability.

Here we can see a typical SAN device – it could be 2U, 3U or 4U high and have provision for 8, 16 or 32 HDD or SSD.  This gives a total storage space defined by the number of drives slots and the type of RAID chosen.

These appliances often cost as much as $100,000 or £60,000.  For the purposes of this post we will assume that the device has 16x 300GB spinning HDD giving a total of 4.8TB and 3200 IOPS and has dual 10GB Ethernet ports per controller – each controller has a single CPU and 32GB or RAM.

When the decision to purchase this piece of kit was made, the requirement was defined and this item from a well known vendor was chosen and matched the company’s requirement.

This device typically serves as a SAN appliance to the server farm.

What happens if it’s not enough?

This question has a couple of additional caveats to it – What happens if it’s not enough space?  What happens if it’s not got enough performance?  Well the simple answer is to buy another one.  This approach to storage provisioning is expensive and often does not address the performance issue.

Can I not just upgrade the SAN appliance?

With today’s software and server requirements using SAN appliances for Virtualisation as well as Block storage – the SAN appliance is now faced with a myriad of demands placed on it:

  • Snapshots
  • Mirroring
  • Async-Replication
  • Sync Replication
  • De-duplication
  • Encryption
  • Thin Provisioning

Each task demanded of the appliance will cause a degradation in performance.  This puts a strain on the storage infrastructure and performance inevitably suffers.  Most vendors of SAN Appliances do not offer an upgrade path – The systems are built on SBC (Single Board Computer) controllers using simple and low power hardware. 

When new technology and advances in processor, RAM and networking transfer technology appears on the scene, there is no opportunity to apply this to the Storage Architecture.

Introducing Stonefly’s Modular approach to SAN Storage

Stonefly’s Modular approach to SAN Storage starts with their Storage Concentrator.  This is effectively a server that does all of the processing and IO required for communication with the actual storage devices whether they are HDD, SSD or PCIe based SSD.  These devices have dual PSUs. Two of them are required for a system to provide redundancy.  The CPU, RAM and communication technology (card interfaces) are all upgradable and fully interchangeable.  There are 1U , 2U and 3U options and have increasing number of card slot and CPU numbers, RAM capacities as the U goes up.

The Base unit can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 4U and can accommodate SATA-6G, SAS-6G or SSD in 2.5 inch format as well as PCIe.  The Base unit takes care of the RAID configuration and is defined through a very simple web interface from the SC. 

This setup can also act as a SAN as well as a NAS within the same device by connecting servers either to a file share for NAS or by block for SAN.  All can be configured from the simple web interface.

Here’s the Modular part. To expand on the system you just need to purchase additional expansion units.  These are inexpensive units and allow for growth in a natural modular way without loss of performance.  In fact the growth of the system improves performance in a Scale Out method where adding additional storage produces higher IOPS and greater performance.

In fact a single pair of Stonefly Storage Concentrators (SC) and a Base unit can be expanded by a further 6 chassis.

It doesn’t stop there

Truly Modular Storage

Adding 2 additional Base units and the full compliment of Expansion chassis provide a huge amount of storage real estate and amazing performance at a fraction of the cost of the competition.

It doesn’t actually stop there.  To expand on this you just add 2 additional Storage Concentrators and a Base unit and the required number of Expansion chassis.  There is no limit to this and can be added to endlessly.

Stonefly upgrade path

Now here is the cool part (although the start is also quite staggering when you compare it with the competition).  Soon to become available is 12GB SAS as well as 40GB Ethernet.  To upgrade a traditional system would involve changing the entire controllers  within the appliances as a minimum.  It is likely most vendors will not offer an upgrade path and to get this extra throughput will require replacing the architecture.

Not so with Stonefly products which are all fully upgradeable.  If you need more RAM or a faster CPU, a quicker interface for faster Ethernet – you can just change the items in each device that requires it.

This provides a much safer purchasing strategy for any Infrastructure build project and is the ideal method for providing storage.

Affordable Cloud Storage through modular design

Cloud storage is the latest in services offered to the world, storing large amounts of data connected through the web is an attractive service offered by many companies to individuals and companies alike.  They often offer unlimited Cloud Storage due to the same reason that I started this post.  Nobody wants to buy xx GB of storage – what if you need more?

Stonefly offer a truly modular method for storage infrastructure and all products are available through Future Storage.

If you are looking for an affordable solution to your SAN Storage project – get in touch

327TB of SSD Storage in a Future Storage 4U device – interested?

327TB of SSD storage all within a raided 4U appliance with 1.1million IOPS and 11.2GB/s read and write speeds – we have plans to bring this device to market very soon.

Does your project need such a device? 

Get in touch for more info on this exciting stuff!

DoM Disk on Module

What is a DoM?  Putting simply, a DoM (Disk on Module) is an SSD of up to 32GB in size and uses either a PATA/IDE, SATA or USB interface.  These devices provide storage to a device where space is a premium.

They come in either a naked PCB or within a small case (little more than the size of the interface).


PATA/IDE DoM


SATA DoM

PATA/IDE DoM come in 44 or 40 pin interface sizes and are either vertical or horizontal mounted.  Some are supplied with an extra power cable built in.


PATA/IDE Vertical DoM


PATA/IDE Horizontal DoM


PATA/IDE Vertical DoM with Power cable

DoM devices are available in SLC and MLC, 1 or 2 Channels.

Industrial SSD – Industrial DoM

The choice of whether to use an SSD or DoM falls down to either speed, operating temperature and available space.

Choosing SSD

  • If you need fast R/W performance or high IOPS (Input, Output per Second)
  • Space within the PC System is not an issue – SSDs are not available in 2TB sizes within a 2.5inch SSD
  • If you need a wide operating temperature range

Choosing DoM

  • R/W Speed is not an issue – A fast SATA DoM achieves 51/30 MB/s vs SATA III 550/530 MB/s
  • Space – DoM drives are up to 32GB only
  • Price – If you need a small (GB Size) drive <=32GB and are not concerned on speed – DoM are much cheaper than SSD

Many Industrial systems use a very simple, but reliable system that has no GUI – these often fit on small storage devices of around 4GB to 8GB. 

 

Typical DoM Disk On Module uses

This is a simple list of uses for DoM – Disk On Module devices

  • Ticket Machines
  • Factory controlling systems
  • Automation Systems
  • Vehicle monitoring systems
  • Inflight Entertainment Systems
  • Mining Monitoring Systems

Get in touch to discuss our many options for Disk On Module (DoM)

Introducing the Greenbytes IOOE Solution

Greenbytes have been busy improving their solution to Desktop Virtualization performance.  They listened to customers and developed the HA-3000 into a truly amazing product in the Greenbytes IOOE.

The solution consists of what is called an IO Offload Engine which is 2x IO Controllers and an all SSD based Storage unit with 24x 200GB eMLC Solid State Disks giving 4.8TB of SSD Storage capable of 200,000 IOPS!

These units connect together to form the Greenbytes IOOE.

  

Greenbytes IOOE

The above units can store 1000’s of desktop virtual machines ! What? I hear you gasp!  How is that possible?  Well ok – I’ll explain.  The 2x white coloured processing units do all of the processing of the IO and the black unit at the bottom of the stack stores the data.

You still need Hypervisor Hosts (i.e. Servers running VMWare ESXi, Citrix XenServer or Windows Server 2008 (inc Hyper-V) or Windows Server 2008 R2 (inc Hyper-V)) to actually host the Virtual Machines but these servers connect to the IOOE using either iSCSI or Fibre Channel with MPIO.

The Hypervisor Host servers running one of the host operating systems listed above, will host the amount of VM’s based on the capability of the hardware.  It is generally accepted that you can host 10 to 12 desktops per processor core, therefore on a dual socket hex-core server you can fit up to 120 standard desktops (for more heavy processor hungry users this number would need to reduce).  Therefore for 1000 virtual desktops,  would require around 10 ESXi hosts.

We discussed the problem of high IOPS required for virtualized (or virtualised in English) systems and the problem with spinning disks, just not cutting it back in 2011, in our blog The Virtualisation journey .  Seeing that each desktop OS requires at least 40 IOPS in order to run comfortably (Windows 7) and that a spinning disk can achieve around 200 IOPS – you would need many more disks than is economically viable to achieve the amount of performance we are talking about when we get towards the sort of VM’s we are talking about here (1000+).

In comes the Greenbyes IOOE which can achieve as high as 200,000 IOPS (two hundred thousand)! This gives enough IOPS for 5000 desktop VMs requiring 40 IOPS each.

So how does it work?

Greenbytes IOOE

The Hypervisor Servers are connected to the Greenbytes IOOE as well as the traditional SAN.  In the above diagram you can see that the VM is connected to Greenbytes VIO and it is where the Desktop image files sit.  Any user data as well as the profile c:\users\<username> can be stored on the traditional SAN.

Windows 7 requires 1 to 2GB or RAM with the same size swap file required – this sits on the Greenbytes IOOE.

This allows the Greenbytes IOOE to give incredible performance to the infrastructure and leaves the traditional SAN to store data rather than suffer the tremendous IO storm that a virtualised infrastructure would demand of it.  In fact the limitation of the Greenbytes IOOE system is limited only by the network bandwidth required, with 4 x 10GbE SFP+ or 4 x 8Gb FC (redundant with failover) – 1000’s of VMs running on such hardware reaches the limit of the bandwidth offered by these interfaces.

Therefore this setup works with any existing Server, SAN, Network infrastructure and and is an essential option for datacentres looking to provide true desktop virtualisation to large user communities.

Get in touch if you would like to know more – or for a quote.

Industrial SSD – What is the difference?

There are a myriad of Solid State Disks or SSDs available on the market from many different manufacturers.  How do we split them and how do they differ?

Putting it simply, there are 2 main markets – The consumer and the rest.  Samsung, OCZ, Crucial, Corsair and OWC are battling out for the consumer market.  This targets the home or office user where they replace their HDD with a super fast SSD.  Typically these drives will have a SATA III interface (available in the latest motherboards) for the laptop or desktop user.  These drives are designed for speed to give a Windows, Linux or Apple Operating System the best experience.

Benefits of a Consumer SSD

Boot times are reduced
Software Load times are greatly reduced
Vibration, Sound and sometimes heat, are all reduced or eliminated
MLC or TLC chips are used producing higher GB Storage volumes for less cost
Low cost – prices have consistently gone down for this area of the market

Negatives of a Consumer SSD

As they get faster, they can get hotter
They are mass produced and so the failure rate can sometimes be higher than expected (there are plenty of websites with people complaining of SSD failures)
They have often been smaller in GB than required for the cost – compared to it’s father product the HDD
They do not have UPS or power down protection
Do not have a write duration focus – so service life is lower

 

Choosing the SSD by controller

There are a number of SSD Controller chip manufacturers – Sandforce, Indilinx, Hyperstone and Novachip are the main ones.

Sandforce based SSD (Now LSI)

Sandforce SF2281 based SSD

Benefits of the Sandforce SF2281 based SSD

  • These currently offer the fastest R/W performance for an SSD
  • Ideal for Server applications that require the highest speeds

 

Negatives of the Sandforce SF2281 based SSD

  • Sandforce SF2281 suffers from a drop in performance over the lifetime of the SSD
  • Uses large power consumption which causes the drive to get very hot
  • Sandforce offer no customisation to support a particular requirement of the SSD

 

Sandforce SF1222 based SSD

Benefits of the Sandforce SF1222 based SSD

  • Sandforce SF1222 has very fast R/W and IOPS performance
  • Ideal for Server applications that require speed
  • Power consumption on the SF1222 is very good and so is ideal for large capacity SSDs
  • Can also be used for wider temperature SSDs
  • The Data can be easily and securely wiped, by wiping the data mapping table

Negatives of the Sandforce SF1222 based SSD

  • Sandforce SF1222 suffers from a drop in performance over the lifetime of the SSD
  • Sandforce offer no customisation to support a particular requirement from the SSD
  • The Sandforce SF1222 is due to go EOL (written on 3rd April 2013)

Sandforce SF1565 based SSD

Benefits of the Sandforce SF1565 based SSD

  • Sandforce SF1565 has built in power loss protection
  • Can be used in wider temperature applications
  • Built in power overload protection
  • Ideal for Enterprise or server applications

Negatives of the Sandforce SF1565 based SSD

  • Not the fastest in performance
  • Sandforce SF1565 suffers from a drop in performance over the lifetime of the SSD
  • Sandforce offer no customisation to support a particular requirement from the SSD

Hyperstone Based SSD

Benefits of the German produced Hyperstone based SSD

  • The Hyperstone Controller is a very stable and reliable
  • This gives a constant speed throughout the SSD’s lifespan
  • Hyperstone offer full custom support so manufacturers can tailor the SSD performance to your needs
  • The Hyperstone Controller uses very little power
  • Has built in power-loss protection making it ideal for military and high end industrial applications
  • Can have a secure erase function applied which writes a 0 or 1 to every cell on the disk

Negatives of the German produced Hyperstone based SSD

  • Does not offer the fastest R/W speeds in comparison to the competition
  • Does not offer the fastest IOPS in comparison to the competition

Indilinx Based SSD

Benefits of the Indilinx Barefoot based SSD

  • Provides great stability and a high quality product
  • Very low failure rates

Negatives of the Indilinx Barefoot based SSD

  • Does not support sudden power loss protection
  • Is not designed for Server Applications with heavy processing and writing
  • The Indilinx Barefoot Controller is due to go EOL soon (written on 3rd April 2013)

 

Novachips Controller based SSD

Benefits of the  NVS 3600A (Novachips) based SSD

  • Novachips Controllers are developed by fromer Indilinx employees and offer improvements over the Indilinx Barefoot Controller
  • The NVS 3600A can be used as a direct replacement of the Indilinx Barefoot
  • Good reliable and stable performance with low failure rates

Negatives of the NVS 3600A (Novachips) based SSD

  • These are new to the market so time has not allowed for the list of negatives to be completed.

Conclusion

Listed above are the main controller manufacturers, which are used by all of the SSD manufacturers.  They take the controller and design their own circuits around the controller’s parameters as set out by the controller specification.  They tweak this to give the varying Read/Write IOPS values, employ the extra functions such as power loss prevention etc.

So the important thing is to choose your drive based on your requirement.

  • Will your SSD be in an environment with a common risk of power loss (inside a mine or oil platform) ?
  • Will you SSD be recording vital data sequentially and the loss of the data is critical to your application? This is different to just running an Operating System where the only loss is a swap file and where the OS can recover lost data in the event of sudden power loss.
  • Do you need to completely wipe the data using secure and proven methods?
  • Will your application be conducting extreme writes to the SSD over sustained periods?
  • Do you need multiple years of availability to give a consistent product through the lifespan of your project?
  • Is R/W or IOPS the most important factor or do you need stability and consistency throughout the product’s life?

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss this document or need advice on which SSD is best for you.

Supertalent Supernova SATA III SSD

 

Introducing the Supertalent Supernova SATA III 2.5 inch Solid State Disks.  These great products are available in 128GB and 256GB sizes and come with a 3 Year Warranty.

Supertalent Supernova SSD

These drives have been built to last with an MTBF of 1.2 million hours!  Although MLC in construction, these are designed with Enterprise level reliability, using highly prescreened ONFI Synchronous NAND chips.  They use S.M.A.R.T technology for high level reliability.

You can get all of the specs at Supertalent’s site http://www.supertalent.com/products/ssd_category_detail.php?type=SuperNova

Performance specs are 555/525 Sequential R/W amd 90K/80K R/W IOPS (4KB block) it’s impressive stuff.

Get in touch if you’d like a sample before you order one for you whole company!

The Basics of an iSCSI San setup

 

For this entry, I will set out to describe the basics of an iSCSI SAN (Storage Area Network).  This is basically a set of disks connected together in a device and often raided together to create 1 lump of storage.  This storage device is connected to PC devices (usually Servers) over the network using very fast, large bandwidth, connections (shown below in orange).

iSCSI IP SAN Setup

iSCSI SAN Connected in a basic Network setup.

iSCSI SAN in the Virtualised World

These days, environments are being virtualised using platforms such as VMWare or Citrix XenDesktop or Microsoft’s Virtual PC.  Below is a very simple view of 2 Virtual PCs with access to Volumes stored on the iSCSI SAN.  Using a host platform such as VMWare ESX, the actual Operating System and entire “C:\” drive can run on this volume.  The Virtual Machine runs on the SAN (in terms of storage).

iSCSI IP SAN Setup with VM Hosts

Simplified view of 2 VMWare Hosts running on a single physical server.

Here the devices, both physical and virtual hosts have separate network connections for Network communication and iSCSI Data traffic.  This is to give the PC/Server the best performance when shuffling lots of data around between the host and iSCSI SAN.  Separate Network switching is often used to prevent bottlenecks and slow network performance.

Stonefly SCVM iSCSI Demo

It’s not essential to have separate network connections and for simplicity in the following parts of this blog, I have setup a simple demonstration using just a single IP Address and connection per host (these share the same network as the conventional network connections).

Below shows how I have installed 3 VMWare Hosts onto my Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit Desktop PC.

iSCSI IP SAN Setup Demo

Simple setup for this iSCSI SAN demo

The first is a Redhat Enterprise Linux 5 64-bit Virtual Machine with Stonefly’s SCVM available as a free trial from http://www.stonefly.com/products/software/scvm/ more on this later. The other 2 VM’s are Windows 2003 server.

All versions of Windows from XP upwards are capable of connecting to an iSCSI SAN using the iSCSI Initator Software available to download from http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=18986 though it comes built in, with all Windows Systems since Vista. This software creates the connection to the SAN.

Stonefly’s SCVM software is provided via an ISO file which I used to install the Red Hat OS into my VM.  Of course, the idea is that you use a server with a lot of storage to install this Operating System and software.  For enterprise solutions, the server would ideally have a 10Gb Ethernet card and be connected to a 10Gb Network Switch (shown in orange in my graphics).  The server would also have a 10/100Mb network card, which it would use to connect to the management of the software through SSH or the web browser (shown in green in my graphics).

For the demo my Windows 7 PC has an extra 1TB Spinning Disk mounted to drive E:\ (I also have a Future Storage 240GB SSD as my C:\ Drive).

I installed all VM’s into E:\VMs folder – I also created a 20GB Virtual disk in the settings for the SCVM Virtual Machine which I will use to store the Volumes, and 2 Bridged Network Cards.

VMWare Player SCVM

Stonefly SCVM and two Windows 2003 servers created in VMWare Player

SCVM VMWare Settings

Stonefly SCVM VM Settings

I’m just using VMWare’s Player – downloadable from http://www.vmware.com/products/player/

This is simplicity itself.  If you’ve not used this before you just load the iso file (CD Image) into the virtual CD/DVD and when you turn the VM on it boots from the iso as if it was a CD/DVD.

Start SCVM Virtual Machine

VMware Player

Once the VM has started the OS should install within just a few minutes – it will reboot and be left with the screen similar to below – the IP address defaults to 192.168.0.254 but you need to change it to suit your own network.

SCVM Loaded

Stonefly SCVM Loaded

Here you can login using the default username: console and password: cons100o – once logged it to the console you can adjust the Network settings to suit your installation.  Once this is complete, using the simple DOS style menu (select option 2 – Network – enter the corresponding numbers for each value to change – 6 to save – q to quit).

Once back at the above screen you can then configure everything from the web browser. In my example by going to https://192.168.7.59/.

This should show the following screen:

Stonefly SCVM Web Interface

Stonefly SCVM Front screen viewed in Google Chrome Browser

Login using the default username: stonefly and password: stonefly (these can be changed within the system once logged in).

The next step is to use the iSCSI initiator on the host to connect to the iSCSI Server.

This can be found the the control panel (if not it can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=18986).

iSCI Initiator

Clicking the Discovery Tab allows you add the IP Address of the iSCSI SAN as a Target Portal.

iSCSI Initiator - Add Portal

iSCI Initiator - Add Target Portal

Default port is 3260.  Once connected – the hosts will then appear within the Stonefly SCVM web interface.

Stonefly SCVM Volumes

The next task is to carve up the available storage into Volumes (the available storage is the 20GB Hard Disk 2 created before the VM was built).  These volumes can be assigned to the hosts on the network.  It really is simple to do by clicking on Volumes –> Create New Volume:

Stonefly SCVM Add Volumes

SCVM Create Volume

Here, you name the volume, enter Notes and allocate an amount, or all of the Available Space to the Volume. Once created – you have the opportunity to allocate the Volume to a Host.

Stonefly SCVM Select Host

SCVM Allocate Volume to Host

Once added the Volume can have a partition added to it and assigned a disk drive.  To do this right click My Computer or (Computer Manage in Windows 7).  Select Disk Management.

iSCSI Volume - Disk Management

My Computer –> Manage –> Disk Management

Create a Basic Disk – and Initialize.

iSCSI Volume - Disk Management - Initialize Disk

iSCSI Volume - Disk Management - Initialize Disk 2

iSCSI Volume - Disk Management - Convert Disk

iSCSI Volume - Disk Management - Primary Partition

Assign a drive letter of your choice (I chose letter I:\). The disk then appears as a Hard disk in your My Computer listing

iSCSI Volume - Partition Created - Disk Loaded

SCVM Volumes Completed

Once the Volumes have been setup on the SCVM System and on the hosts you can see the details of this within the SCVM interface.

Stonefly iSCSI SCVM Volume Summary

Viewing the details shows

Stonefly iSCSI SCVM Volume Details

You can also see the iSCSI Server’s Resources via the Resources Menu.

Stonefly iSCSI SCVM Resources

iSCSI IP SAN from Stonefly SCVM

So there we have it – We have turned our Windows 7 Desktop PC into an iSCSI IP SAN using a VM created in VMWare Player (running Redhat 5).  We then served 2 volumes to 2 Virtual Machines running Windows 2003 Server.  We have not included any security setup using CHAP, nor covered replication using Synchronous or ASynchronous technologies (these are for further posts).

Buy Stonefly SCVM from Future Storage

If you are interested in this technology and would like to try before you buy – there is a 45 day free trial available at http://www.stonefly.com/products/software/scvm/ and licences can be purchased through Future Storage – Please get in touch via 0845 299 0793 or email at http://www.futurestorage.co.uk/web-enquiry-16-w.asp