If there’s one subject on which the New England Database Summit changed or at least clarified my thinking,* it’s future storage technologies. Here’s what I now think:
- Solid-state memory will soon be the right storage technology for a large fraction of databases, OLTP and analytic alike. I’m not sure whether the initial cutoff in database size is best thought of as terabytes or 10s of terabytes, but it’s in that range. And it will increase over time, for the usual cheaper-parts reasons.
- That doesn’t necessarily mean flash. PCM (Phase-Change Memory) is coming down the pike, with perhaps 100X the durability of flash, in terms of the total number of writes it can tolerate. On the other hand, PCM has issues in the face of heat. More futuristically, IBM is also high on magnetic racetrack memory. IBM likes the term storage-class memory to cover all this — which I find regrettable, since the acronym SCM is way overloaded already.
- Putting a disk controller in front of solid-state memory is really wasteful. It wreaks havoc on I/O rates.
- Generic PCIe interfaces don’t suffice either, in many analytic use cases. Their I/O is better, but still not good enough. (Doing better yet is where Petascan – the stealth-mode company I keep teasing about – comes in.)
- Disk will long be useful for very large databases. Kryder’s Law, about disk capacity, has at least as high an annual improvement as Moore’s Law shows for chip capacity, the disk rotation speed bottleneck notwithstanding. Disk will long be much cheaper than silicon for data storage. And cheaper silicon in sensors will lead to ever more machine-generated data that fills up a lot of disks.
- Disk will long be useful for archiving. Disk is the new tape.
*When the first three people to the question microphone include both Mike Stonebraker and Dave DeWitt, your thinking tends to clarify in a hurry.
- A slide deck by Mohan of IBM similar to the one he presented at the NEDB Summit about storage-class memories.
- A much more detailed IBM presentation on storage-class memories.
- Oracle’s and Teradata’s beliefs about the importance of solid-state memory.
Other posts based on my January, 2010 New England Database Summit keynote address
- Data-based snooping — a huge threat to liberty that we’re all helping make worse
- Interesting trends in database and analytic technology
- Open issues in database and analytic technology