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The needs of the embedded enterprise boot drive are not what you think

Storage modules are an indispensable part of consumer, industrial and enterprise systems. The unique workload and challenges of these markets determine the design and components of the system. As we all know, storage systems designed for the enterprise sector place great emphasis on achieving significant endurance rates. The rack-mounted server SSDs of the server farm are designed to achieve daily speed, low latency and maximum drive writes. Their performance should be second to none. However, although we associate data centers with high-performance SSDs, we must admit that for servers to function properly, a second type of storage is required.What is often overlooked is the contribution of the boot drive to these data cities.

Storage modules are an indispensable part of consumer, industrial and enterprise systems. The unique workload and challenges of these markets determine the design and components of the system. As we all know, storage systems designed for the enterprise sector place great emphasis on achieving significant endurance rates. The rack-mounted server SSDs of the server farm are designed to achieve daily speed, low latency and maximum drive writes. Their performance should be second to none. However, although we associate data centers with high-performance SSDs, we must admit that for servers to function properly, a second type of storage is required. What is often overlooked is that boot drives are critical to the success of these data cities.

Drives for operating systems and bootloaders account for about 2% of the total number of drives for enterprise storage solutions. The boot drive is designed to ensure safe startup and shutdown of the server under all conditions. Their use cases are unique because they don’t start frequently, but when they do, it must be efficient and reliable. Their design requirements are completely different from the rack-mounted server SSDs that constitute the mass storage part of the server cluster. Sometimes, the boot loader is separate from the actual operating system and usually takes the form of a USB flash drive or SD card. Those who need to perform reliable procedures to ensure safe and reliable startup, verify usage patterns and power-down robustness in all situations. In other cases, Boot SSD is used to support the boot loader and operating system. These drives are often protected by RAID1.

The flash controller and FTL ensure that the system is fully optimized for its usage and unique workloads. In addition, there are significant differences in the controller requirements between SSDs and boot systems for rack servers.

The needs of the embedded enterprise boot drive are not what you think

Boot storage requirements compared to enterprise data drives.

The server farm is known for its enterprise durability SSD. However, their boot system contains more modules, including BIOS (Basic IO System), boot loader and boot driver. These have a unique set of requirements. Since the boot system acts as the server’s gatekeeper, these drives should be as reliable and safe as possible, and will not affect power failures or data retention issues. As the quantity and value of processed data increase, the quality and reliability of the guiding medium will also increase. The best system is only as good as the weakest part of the chain.

BIOS (Basic Input Output System) has been stored on NOR until now, and is used to configure basic boot functions, configure the system and boot sequence. NOR seems to be suitable because of the relatively small capacity requirements, the reliability of NOR and the good read/write speed of a small number of updates. However, alternative embedded storage media such as eMMC, eUSB or eSATA may become a reliable substitute for elements such as NOR combined BIOS, boot loader and basic operating system. Bootloaders are usually stored in NAND flash-based USB drives and SD cards. The advantage of SD cards and USB flash drives for boot loaders is that they can not only boot quickly and safely, but also provide the necessary storage capacity that NOR does not have.

The needs of the embedded enterprise boot drive are not what you think

The boot drive storing the OS requires a larger storage capacity. Although it is not uncommon for bootloaders and drives to run on two different media, some manufacturers have begun to connect these two processes in a single, more reliable solution. NAND-based solutions have been widely used in boot loaders and boot drives. However, what is often overlooked is the function of the flash memory controller and its role in managing and optimizing the boot system. Reliable startup procedures are the key to data center operations. The quality and performance specifications of flash media and controllers should be the main discussion on this type of system architecture.

The importance of flash memory controllers in NAND-based boot storage.

When it comes to booting with NAND flash-based modules, the flash controller chosen is very important because it determines the reliability and speed of the entire process. RAID can be a solution to achieve reliability. Industrial-grade flash memory controllers and systems can add value and reliability, and can be perfectly adjusted to optimize the startup process. The controller can enable a secure authentication process and anti-tampering measures to ensure that the operating system is not compromised. The controller can enable multiple security functions, such as secure boot, redundant firmware, authorized in-place firmware update, device binding, anti-cloning, write protection, confidentiality and data integrity checks.

Although fast startup, authentication and security are essential in the boot drive, it can be said that the most important requirement is power-off safety under all conditions. Generally, RAID1 and mirrored boot drives can ensure a certain degree of reliability. However, accidentally shutting down the system can still have serious consequences for drives that are not prepared or designed to handle such processes. Data may be lost, and in the worst case, the backbone of the server-the operating system may be compromised. Finally, the failed drive needs to be replaced, which increases service costs. Since the boot system manages the operation of many other drives, their reliability is greatly limited and should be as robust as possible. Flash memory controllers are like brains, with different IQ levels. This means that compared with another controller supplier, the controller supplier’s handling of damaged power can be quite different. Guidance requires first-class power failure management to ensure that the server will not be threatened in the event of a power failure.

Exchange space and its need for a reliable foundation

The swap space is often overlooked, and it is an area in the server that requires a reliable foundation. Swap space requires some storage, which is usually part of the boot drive. When the RAM demand is high, this space will be reserved for the operating system as an overflow.

Since the server does not restart too frequently, most of the read/write usage on the boot drive is usually performed by memory swapping. This means that increasing speed will also improve the performance of heavily loaded servers. As the corporate sector pays more and more attention to performance, the demand for RAM in servers is high. This in turn makes swap space an indispensable and growing part of the server that requires proper consideration. In addition to meeting the requirements for fast startup, authentication, security, and power-down safety, memory swapping in the server also requires reliability to be considered when designing the boot drive.

The needs of the embedded enterprise boot drive are not what you think

Why there should be more discussion about the life span of enterprise storage.

Durability and longevity are the main issues in the industrial field. In some cases, storage systems must be implemented for more than ten years, and compatible replacement drives must also be used for traditional interfaces for extended periods of time. In order to minimize the cost of recertification and software migration, it is also necessary to consider the longer life of boot drives than data drives and the durability and lifespan of some server systems. Purchasing an industrial-grade flash memory system can not only achieve the necessary safe and reliable startup process, identity verification and robustness of power failure, but also ensure that the system has a longer service life and more stable.

The overall enterprise is known for its performance requirements, but the reliability requirements of its startup system are often overlooked. The bootloader is an important part of enterprise storage and must be designed to safely start and shut down the server. They must ensure a safe boot and prevent the operating system and data from being damaged by accidental power failures. The key component of the storage system to ensure that the storage module is fully optimized to start storage is the flash memory controller. The flash memory controller varies from vendor to vendor. Although controllers designed by some manufacturers are very suitable for consumer storage, Hyperstone focuses on industrial-grade flash memory controllers, which are ideal for startup storage in enterprise server rooms.

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