Computer

This will be the storage of the future, according to Samsung

While it is true that NVMe SSDs have a higher transfer and access speed compared to hard drives, they all come with an associated problem that no manufacturer talks about and that really has nothing to do with this type of drive. We are talking about the process of copying data through PCI Express to the system RAM and vice versa, which at high bandwidths requires a great deal of power from the central processor. Something that has been solved Samsung in its second generation SmartSSDs.

We understand a copy process, the transfer of information from one memory to another, in such a way that the source memory is read and the destination memory is written. Since access to RAM is performed by the memory controller integrated in the CPU itself, it is clear that any movement of data that affects it will also affect the central unit. The problem is aggravated if an information check is necessary, which greatly affects performance if we are talking about transfers of several gigabytes per second, as is the case with the most advanced NVMe SSDs. Well, it seems that Samsung has found the solution and it is very likely that it will be standardized in the PCs of the future.

Samsung SmartSSD with embedded Xilinx Versal processor

One of the things that the new generation video game consoles have and that we have not seen on PC at the moment are support units specialized in copying data from the SSD to RAM memory. The objective? Free the central processor from said task and be able to direct its work to others. Unfortunately, this has not yet arrived in the PC world and no CPU is ready for it, which leads to having to use other alternative measures.

Well, Samsung has implemented one of those solutions in its second-generation SmartSSDs, where for this make use of Xilinx’s Versal Adaptive SoC, now owned by AMD. With that processor data processing normally carried out by the CPU is carried out within the unit. For example, data decompression processes, checking their integrity, etc. The effects on it? Well, quite positive:

  • In large databases, it can cut the information access time in half.
  • Energy consumption is reduced by 70%.
  • The load on the processor to manage the SSD is reduced up to 97%.

So that it is a DMA drive with extra features for an NVMe SSD, but much more advanced. We have to start from the fact that as the speed of the SSDs increases, it will be a way to reduce the cost of the system. Since no one wants to lose a significant portion of their system performance just to control the transfer of data from storage to RAM, especially on systems with few cores or that rely heavily on processor power.

A sneak peek into the future of NVMe SSDs

The Xilinx Versals are an example of what we call eFPGA, that is, FPGA units inside a heterogeneous processor in the same way that we sometimes have a GPU or graphics chip integrated into a processor. The purchase of Xilinx by AMD indicates that we will see this type of unit in the future. Surely as chipsets on motherboards. So Samsung’s second-generation SmartSSD may be a preview of what we’ll see in future AMD systems. There is no doubt that AMD will include Xilinx technology in its future products and this is one of its applications. The difference will be that it will be integrated into the motherboard, which will result in a performance increase when using a conventional NVMe SSD.

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