Samsung’s newest SSD is unlike any you’ve come across before

Samsung Electronics has lifted the lid on the second iteration of its SmartSSD, an enterprise-focused drive capable of much more than just data storage.

The new SSD is classified as a computational storage device (CSD), which means it handles data processing on-board, thereby minimizing bottlenecks created by the need to pass data between storage and the CPU, GPU and RAM.

Powered by a Xilinx SoC from AMD, the second-generation SmartSSD is said to cut processing time for heavy database queries by 50% and energy consumption by up to 70% as compared with traditional non-CSD configurations.

Is computational storage the future?

Computational storage has been billed by market players as one of the next big things in computing for a number of years now.

There are two types of such systems: those that incorporate processors into the storage device itself (as with Samsung’s SmartSSD) and those that pass compute operations to a storage accelerator located close to the storage drive.

Although computational storage is not appropriate for every use case, it has the potential to dramatically accelerate applications that are limited by I/O performance rather than compute.

“There is clearly a broad class of applications that benefit from offloading compute functions from a main CPU to a more efficient processing engine that is more suited to the specific problem of interest,” said Richard New, VP of Research at Western Digital, in conversation with TechRadar Pro last month.

“In the context of storage, we can think of applications like video transcoding, compression, database acceleration as falling into this category. A video transcoding device closely paired with a storage device can allow a video server to more efficiently stream content at many different quality levels while minimizing unnecessary I/O and data transfers throughout the system.”

However, developing an effective CSD has been no easy feat. Typically, SSDs are already using 100% of their power and cooling budget to serve their primary function, and the comparatively low-performance cores capable of being integrated into storage have been nowhere near capable of matching the performance available with a regular CPU.

But courtesy of advances at a processor and software level, Samsung appears to have overcome these barriers, at least to a workable extent.

The company launched the first version of the SmartSSD back in 2020, and has since supplied the drive to a number of “global IT companies”. Over the next few years, the South Korean firm expects the market for CSDs to expand dramatically.

“Commercialization of the first-generation SmartSSD, in collaboration with AMD, established that the computational storage market has great potential,” said Jin-Hyeok Choi, Executive Vice President and Head of Memory Solution Product & Development at Samsung.

“With the upgraded processing functionality of the second-generation SmartSSD, Samsung will be able to easily address increasing customer needs in the database and video transcoding sectors, as we expand the boundaries of the next-generation storage market.”

It is not yet clear when the second-generation device will come to market.

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