New Memory Technology Ready to Tame the Federal Data Maelstrom

Extreme close-up of data center.

Extreme close-up of data center. CasarsaGuru/iStock

Presented by Intel

Intel's Optane DC Persistent Memory can help government chief data officers manage the astronomical amounts of data agencies have to contend with today.

A new, faster-than-ever technology promises to be a disruptive force in tackling the government’s ever-growing information overload problems. It’s also uniquely positioned to help chief data officers navigate their end-to-end data management as they race against time to meet the goals of a sweeping mandate that requires federal data to be leveraged as a strategic asset.

The June 2019 release of the Federal Data Strategy shone a light on the importance of a data-driven government and empowered agency chief data officers with a blueprint as to how their agencies can best use data to advance their missions. But implementing the policy is a tall order, even without its tight deadlines.

The federal government is one of the biggest producers of data, with many agencies housing several petabytes. Managing these huge quantities of data can easily become an overwhelming task for chief data officers, with information lifecycle management being a top obstacle, said Darren Pulsipher, Intel Corp.’s chief solutions architect. 

“The No. 1 challenge is when to get rid of data,” he said. “The sheer amount of data that chief data officers have is just astronomical.”

Introducing Optane DC Persistent Memory

Intel’s solution to that storage dilemma is an innovative memory technology called Optane DC Persistent Memory. This workload-optimized technology is 100 times faster than a typical solid-state drive, 1,000 times more dense and 1,000 times more durable, but at a much lower power envelope. Being faster and denser allows massive amounts of data to be stored persistently at near Dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) speeds — while also being more cost effective and having a lower energy footprint. 

Optane’s memory is also encrypted by default, which means organizations with highly secure or classified data won’t have to worry about someone physically stealing their digital crown jewels. Even if a bad actor gets physical access to the device, they won’t be able to remove information or data from it.

“Those memory keys for encryption are tied directly to the machine,” Pulsipher explained.

Optane can also help organizations go from the edge to the data center and deploy infrastructure for new missions in mere minutes. The technology comes in a form factor of persistent memory, which means an organization can store the whole operating system in that structure.

“None of it has to fit on a drive anymore; it can fit just in this persistent memory,” Pulsipher said. “When you turn on a machine, it comes on pretty much instantly.”

Data ingestion from edge devices to the data center is done with enhanced speed using the Optane technology, and always placed in perfectly sized chunks, eliminating a potential bottleneck. Typically, without Optane, this ends up being a problem because oftentimes the data coming in needs be stored persistently for reliability and recovery.

“What most people do typically is they use temporary storage on file systems, which ends up being a bottleneck in many applications,” Pulsipher said. Optane, however, allows for 10 times the performance improvements — or 10 times faster than a normal SATA hard drive.

These operational benefits mean improved performance, better security and enhanced capacity for government agencies. The persistent memory can even be used as a new type of storage. This new Optane memory is available at a lower cost than typical DRAM prices, which makes this new storage medium extremely attractive.

Optane Changes Data and Data Centers 

“To me, Optane is a game-changer,” Pulsipher said. “We can move away from the traditional servers with several tiers of storage data and into a flatter storage architecture where I can actually see servers that have no drives at all, just persistent memory.”

It also changes dramatically how IT teams think about systems architecture, Pulsipher added, because it enables them to look at things differently.

“That can be a little unnerving at times,” he added. “We have to look at how this technology is going to change and shape the industry as a whole. I think it will have a profound impact.”

What could also shake up the marketplace is a novel approach to data centers. Intel has dubbed it “a data center without walls,” a concept that eliminates an organization’s need to move all its stored information to the data centers to be processed. 

“We're finding that there's too much data now to move into one place and your data is instead scattered all over,” Pulsipher said. “A data center without walls means that I can move your typical management that you have of your data outside of the boundaries of your data center walls and out into the cloud and edge devices.”

That revolutionary concept means that a data center doesn’t have to live in one physical location. Instead, it’s management plane can be extended into the edge, public cloud, or even into a partner cloud. The benefit of that partnership means several agencies could potentially share resources or take advantage of each other’s assets.

Out with the Old, In with the Optane 

What does a data center without walls mean for chief data officers specifically? It’s really about a mindset shift: Instead of migrating all data to one place to control, data practitioners can create a more distributed information management plane.

What once was the norm in data processing and storage is now considered an outdated way of thinking. And this evolution means yesterday’s obstacles to taming the information deluge no longer exist, Pulsipher said.  

“That traditional way that we think about the data center is changing,” he said. “We can start talking about managing data beyond the physical limitations that we've had in the past.” And that glorious future begins right now with Intel’s Optane DC Persistent Memory.

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