Due to a proliferation of innovative digital technologies and applications stemming from AI/ML, IoT, the edge and the cloud, we are now producing colossal amounts of information daily. Moreover, all signs indicate that demand for digital storage will continue to grow at unprecedented levels for decades to come.

To provide greater storage efficiencies and value for customers managing data at scale, Samsung Electronics and Western Digital, two of the world’s largest storage providers, have recently partnered to help usher in the standardization of next-generation data placement, processing and fabrics storage technologies (D2PF), including Zoned Storage.

The two companies believe the adoption of next-generation storage standards is the most effective way to ensure that hardware and software can be effectively combined within the system stack to maximize performance and functionality while reducing costs. In bringing this vision to fruition, Samsung and Western Digital are encouraging a wide-ranging industry collaboration among storage stakeholders. Through collaboration, the companies can help assure customers that storage ecosystem vendors support the new technology standards and system architectures for efficiently handling today’s data workloads as well as tomorrow’s.

The Reality of Today’s Data Infrastructures

We are well into the zettabyte (ZB) era, a period characterized by quantities of data so vast that understanding it has become trickier than ever. The mind-numbing amounts of data being produced today emphasizes the urgency of rethinking how data centers and cloud infrastructures are designed and operated.

Amid this backdrop of hypergrowth looms the potential for fragmentation around standards and systems that could delay the ecosystem’s efforts to meet growing storage demands.

“We have entered into a golden era for data consumption, analytics and storage. One of the surest ways to undo all that good would be if the industry were to implement conflicting systems and standards,” said Cheolmin Park, Vice President of Memory Global Sales & Marketing at Samsung Electronics. “From AC versus DC in the old electric wars to Betamax versus VHS, history teaches us that industries which lack clear standards and formats see periods of missed opportunities and wasteful spending. The adoption of effective standards will minimize complexity, drive out inefficiency and reduce the cost of products and services, which benefits vendors and end-users alike. If data storage is to meet the future needs of end-users, what the industry needs now is broad consensus on Zoned Storage.”

Focusing on the Future of Zoned Storage

As part of Samsung and Western Digital’s agreement, the companies are focusing their initial efforts on creating a healthy ecosystem and solid application support around Zoned Storage.

Currently, large-scale data infrastructure relies on tens of thousands of solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard-disk drives (HDDs). With such massive scale and the vast amounts of data that these systems manage, even the smallest data placement inefficiencies in system architecture or storage devices can result in burdensome costs.

Zoned Storage is an open-source, standards-based initiative that enables data center storage infrastructure to scale efficiently and effectively. For hyperscale cloud and enterprise vendors, some of which possess ZB-scale storage needs, Zoned Storage will help to improve asset utilization, lower latency and reduce costs.

Zoned Storage is comprised of two technologies: Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) in HDDs and Zoned Namespaces (ZNS) in SSDs. At the core of Zoned Storage are devices such as ZNS SSDs. These drives divide their address space into distinct zones, streamlining the drive architecture by equipping the host with the ability to place data in the appropriate zone.

Future-Forward Technology for a Data-First World

As an innovative storage solution, Zoned Storage has unconventional data-writing rules. Zones can be written sequentially starting from the beginning of a zone, and the data within a zone cannot be arbitrarily overwritten. Therefore, it is highly important that the industry aligns around the host software stack that enables storage systems to optimally leverage the power of Zoned Storage. This host-device model alignment is a crucial theme of the overall initiative. Samsung, Western Digital and other ecosystem partners are committed to contributing required software components that will enable Zoned Storage to thrive via the open-source community.

Implementing Zoned Storage on the host allows system software and hardware to work in unison with much greater efficiency. ZNS reduces the need for over-provisioning and can eliminate difficulties connected with Quality of Service (QoS) variability and write amplification. As a result, the solution can increase capacity thanks to a higher device density and provide sustained performance even when a device is close to full capacity. Furthermore, ZNS boasts greater endurance than traditional storage methods as the data does not need to be constantly rewritten.

Whether a device is SAS-SATA (HDD or SSD) or NVMe SSD, Zoned Storage can be highly effective, and will enable more efficient system-wide performance management for everyone’s benefit.

“The implementation and continued development of Zoned Storage will empower the storage industry to strike a balance between cost, latency and performance through the use of intelligent architectures,” said Wim De Wispelaere, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at Western Digital. “As an industry, we are at a point where we must align around the technologies and systems that will drive data storage in the near future and for decades to come — in the most intelligent and efficient way possible.”

For the Benefit of All

This collaboration between Samsung and Western Digital reflects both companies’ belief that critical new standards are needed for the storage sector to keep pace with data demand.

The two companies have already launched an initiative involving Zoned Storage devices including ZNS SSDs. As part of an effort to enable open and scalable data center architectures, they founded the Zoned Storage Technical Work Group, which SNIA approved in December 2021, and are working with the Linux Foundation to set up a similar project workgroup. Within these industry organizations, Samsung and Western Digital will help to define high-level models and frameworks for any innovative Zoned Storage technology.

ZNS is the first of numerous D2PF collaborations designed to pave the way for innovative new data centers and cloud services. Samsung and Western Digital are committed to enabling a high degree of cooperation among key stakeholders in generating storage solutions that nicely suit a data-first world, along with everyone in it.

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