Alibaba Cloud Launches Dual-mode SSD to Optimize Hyper-scale Infrastructure Performance-Alibaba Cloud Developer Community

2018-03-21 2519

introduction: Alibaba has announced today the launch of a new system that aims to optimize the storage performance of hyper-scale infrastructure in addressing incre.
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Alibaba Cloud has announced today the launch of a new system that aims to optimize the storage performance of hyper-scale infrastructure in addressing increasing demands from usage of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing.

A new standard for cloud storage

A Dual-mode SSD (Solid State Drive), a storage device which supports both Open-Channel Mode and native NVMe mode, has been developed by the Alibaba Infrastructure Services team, and an optimal software/hardware integrated solution based on Dual-mode SSD is currently being deployed to Alibaba's internal servers. It is expected this novel storage system will lead to a 75% reduction in read latency and enhance the overall storage performance of data centers by as many as five times.


"The increasing proliferation of AI and cloud computing has led to more sophisticated demands in data centers, while traditional storage systems face severe limitation in meeting such demands.In light of these challenges, Alibaba has pioneered the research and development of a new storage system the Dual-mode SSD infrastructure. This underscores our commitment to driving the innovation and optimization of technology infrastructure in a new AI and cloud era," said Shu Li, Senior Staff Engineer at Alibaba Infrastructure Services.

"By creating and sharing the Dual-mode SSD specification, we are also working with different manufacturers on related firmware and hardware products, leading to the fast development of SSD-centered infrastructure and ecosystems ."

Limitations of traditional hardware

With the proliferation of new applications like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and cloud computing, today's hyper-scale data centers run far more diversified and complex workloads ever before. These different applications can have drastically different I /O patterns, performance or Quality of Service (QoS) targets, usage models, and sometimes require different set of features from storage devices.

Traditional storage architecture is designed around standardized hardware that provides generic block I /O interface, and software stack that is built on top of such abstract, generic block device. While this architecture has advantages of portability and backward compatibility,it is, however, facing serious challenges in today's hyper-scale data centers.

  • Standard hardware (e.g. NVMe SSD) must conform to certain specs and has limited room for customization. It is difficult to adapt to many different I /O patterns or use.
  • In traditional architecture, hardware and software are designed and optimized separately without knowing each other. This separation creates a major obstacle for further optimization.
  • Standard hardware is mostly a black box to host software - it conceals most of its internal mechanisms in order to create an illusion of “generic block device” to host software. The drawback of such encapsulation is that software has no control on performance once I /O reaches the device.

Leading the edge in cloud storage

Taking Alibaba Cloud as an example, we have numerous different applications serving our business units and customers, such as E-Commerce, Search, Online Promotion, Multimedia, Financial Service Logistic Service, and Cloud Computing. Some of our applications demand features that are not available in standard SSDs. Our application requirements also change frequently, therefore storage system must be agile and quick-responding.

Alibaba Cloud tackled these challenges with hardware/software co-design approach using the Dual-Mode SSD. We combine in-house SSD hardware with first-hand understanding of applications and use cases, and work closely with business teams to design and optimize the entire I /O stack. The result is a set of hardware/software integrated solutions that are highly optimized for applications in our data center.

The dual-mode SSD demonstrates Alibaba Cloud's consistent effort to pursue performance improvements in hyperscale data centers with hard-ware/software co-design approach. We develop the in-house dual-mode SSD that supports both NVMe device-based mode and Open Channel mode. On software side, we develop User-Space Open Channel I /O stack that closely integrates SSD hardware, firmware, driver, operation system together with our applications.

Furthermore, dual-mode SSD demonstrates the promising potential of hardware/software jointed optimization with the use case of advanced I /O scheduling. Evaluation results show the proposed dual-mode SSD deployed in hyperscale infrastructure reduces access latency by 75%, and improves 99th percentile latency by 5.8 times.

For more information about the Dual-mode SSD infrastructure and products, please refer to the link below: Alibaba Dual-Mode SSD

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