ZNS, the SSDs of the future are developed by Samsung and Western Digital

ZNS, the SSDs of the future are developed by Samsung and Western Digital


Samsung and Western Digital have announced a collaboration regarding the development of ZNS storage technologies. These ZNS (Zoned Namespaces) storage technologies aim to significantly improve the reliability and performance of both next-generation HDDs and SSDs. But adopting such technologies also requires considerable effort on the part of manufacturers and data center operators. Therefore, the two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at standardizing these technologies and improving their use in servers and cloud infrastructures.

ZNS SSDs allow to obtain several advantages when compared with classic block-based units. In fact, they place the data sequentially in zones and offer better control in writing, allowing you not to assign huge amounts of 3D NAND memory for overprovisioning, which is what traditional drives do. All this leads to reducing costs and energy consumption, as well as simplifying the use of NAND architectures such as QLC. Another advantage provided by ZNS technology is being able to manage large areas without performing unnecessary data collection, allowing for better read and write speeds.

Credit: Western Digital
Under the signed memorandum, the two companies will standardize and drive adoption of new generation data processing and storage technologies (D2PF). As early as December 2021, both Samsung and Western Digital had created Zoned Storage TWG (Technical Work Group) with the aim of defining common use cases for ZNS devices, as well as host / device architecture and programming models.

Samsung and Western Digital Collaborate on Zoned namespaces (ZNS) SSDs

Zoned namespaces (ZNS) storage technologies promise to greatly increase the performance and reliability of next-generation solid-state drives and hard disk drives, but ZNS adoption will need major efforts on the part of both device manufacturers and data center operators. 

Samsung and Western Digital signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Tuesday to cooperate standardize and develop zoned storage technologies in order to ease the development of next-generation ZNS HDDs and SSDs.

Both Samsung and Western Digital have released ZNS SSDs in recent years, however these drives have not been widely accepted, possibly because they are implemented differently and so act differently. Furthermore, deploying adequate drives is difficult due to the lack of a seamlessly compatible ecosystem of ZNS storage solutions. To complicate matters further, ZNS SSDs are not readily accessible from other suppliers, thus purchasing a ZNS SSD from one manufacturer practically implies entering into an exclusive supply deal.

'Our collaborative efforts will embrace hardware and software ecosystems to ensure that as many customers as possible can reap the benefits of this highly important technology,' said Jinman Han, Corporate EVP, Head of Memory Sales & Marketing at Samsung Electronics. 'For years Western Digital has been laying the foundation for the Zoned Storage ecosystem by contributing to the Linux kernel and open-source software community,' said Rob Soderbery, EVP and GM, Flash Business Unit at Western Digital. 'We are excited to bring these contributions to this joint initiative with Samsung in facilitating wider adoption of Zoned Storage for users and application developers.'

ZNS SSDs provide various advantages over traditional block-based devices. For starters, because the program understands what it is working with, they can move data sequentially into zones and have better control over write amplification. As a consequence, ZNS SSDs do not require as much 3D NAND for overprovisioning as standard corporate drives do today, resulting in cheaper prices and power consumption. This also simplifies the use of novel NAND designs, such as QLC 3D NAND. Second, because ZNS maintains huge zones rather than a slew of 4KB blocks and does not require garbage collection as often as regular SSDs, they have quicker real-world read and write performance. Another advantage is that shingled magnetic recording (SMR) hard drives are easier to handle in a ZNS software environment.

Samsung and Western Digital will collaborate to standardize and advance the use of next-generation data placement, processing, and fabrics (D2PF) storage technologies under the parameters of the MOU. 

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